Of all the collections I carry, my "Shatter" series is by far the most tedious to make. And yet, the results are so beautiful that I just can't help but make more of them!
I was introduced to this technique when I was studying with a family of jewelers in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. I was introduced to this family entirely by chance: I had just begun a lengthy backpacking trip through Central America, with no real destination or itinerary in mind. After a couple weeks of beaches and ancient ruins, I headed inland and discovered San Cristobal, a city full of music, art, and a complex political back story. I wandered the streets, only to discover a main thoroughfare lined with artisans shops. I went from one to the next, gaping at all the beautiful handmade goods that were far too large/heavy/expensive for a backpacker to purchase. Then I happened into a shop selling stunning silver and gold jewelry. I snuck a peak into a back room and my eyes lit up -- there was a fully stocked jewelers bench!
I wanted more than anything to learn some new techniques and, after a few weeks away from my jewelry tools, I was already missing them terribly. So I began scheming how I might convince these artists to let me study with them. The only problem? I didn't speak any Spanish. I returned the following day with a Spanish-speaking friend and he negotiated a sort of work-study that would last for several weeks.
I loved every minute of my time studying with this family. We kept a Spanish/English dictionary on hand, and when I wasn't working with them, I was teaching myself Spanish. When we would reach a language barrier, we would try to mime it out, laughing the whole time. On my first day, they wanted to test my skill level, so they traced a few patterns onto a sheet of brass and had me saw them out, while they stood over me. Luz, the matriarch of the family, watched silently, eyebrow raised. I was nervous -- what if i strayed from the lines? Would they cut me loose? Luckily, I sawed each pattern perfectly. When i finished, Luz said, "Very good. But slow." Haha. I think of her teasing me for my slow technique every time I have a batch of work to saw.
It was Luz and her son Manuel who taught me the "Shatter" technique. It's a process that requires a lot of patience, because it involves slicing hundreds of shards of silver from a larger sheet and, one by one, soldering them onto a back plate. The shards are tiny and lightweight, so the heat and the flux tends to make them jump around, which means you always need to be nudging them back into place. It can take hours to create a piece that has a surface area of only and inch or two. But the end result is stunning -- a textured piece that resembles (in my mind) shattered glass. Each one unique, each one begging to be picked up, worn, and loved.
After a month in San Cristobal, I moved on. It was hard to leave; there was so much more i wanted to learn!! But, even four years later, I still use many of the techniques I learned in San Cris.