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Fabrication charges or wax vs metal

I am a new poster but have been lurking for a long time…I was once
at a show and upon the lady showing me the piece she quoted that the
peice wasnt cast it was hand made. She said it like it was a bad
word. I was thinking that someone has taught her this. This could be
just how she markets her product. I thought that maybe casting was
looked down upon. So I was wondering if your looking into using wax
as your medium, does this put a dark cloud over your head because you
chose to work in wax?. I can see where you could go buy a bunch of
patterns an sling the stuff like cotton candy. The lady at the show
got me wondering though. I also tend to go to myspace. A girl said
she liked one of my pictures and saw that I was a caster. I was taken
back a bit as that piece was melted pressed flat and carved with
diamond burs as I didnt have time to cast. The lady was going to
leave town and I would have missed the sale. I was wandering what you
guys thought. Is it now pretty much you are negated as an artist
because you chose wax as your medium.


I also do not use casting except for miniature sculpture which is
not possible to do in repousse’. The reasons are many, and it is not
possible to go into all of them here. Primarily, the metal structure
of hand worked piece is far superior, the piece can be made lighter
and stronger than with casting. Due to improved metal structure, the
jewellery retains polish much longer, ( formation of Beilby layer is
easier ) Gemstones are held with more security. Support structure can
be design to absorb shocks which jewellery encounters in daily use,
and etc. The total appearance is more elegant and refined.

Casting, even when done carefully, falls short on all these accounts.
The only benefit is casting can be done cheaply.

However, it does not mean that casting should not used in jewellery,
provided that limitations are recognized and dealt with. Metal
structure can be improved with chasing; do not design pieces which
require polishing; do not use casting for jewellery which must be
light a.k.a earrings; setting which utilize metal elasticity should
not used as well. The list of do and don’ts is quite long. The main
point to keep in mind, as an artist working in metal, you must be
very familiar with the properties of the metal and design your pieces
accordingly. Outside of that, you can let your imagination roam free.

Leonid Surpin


You ask a great question, actually.

To me, looking “down” on a specific technique is usually the mark of
someone who is fairly new at their work or who knows only one aspect
of their work. Folks who have been in the business of handmade
jewelry for a while realize that the important thing is the design
and how it works in and of itself. Frequently, pieces that you see
(high end) are done using multiple techniques… some casting, some
fabrication, possibly some lapidary, maybe some turning or milling,
sometimes all in the same piece. Folks who are PROFITABLE in the
business of handmade jewelry know that whichever technique produces
the desired result/quality in the shortest time and using the least
materials is usually the best technique for that piece.

Where casting does sometimes get looked down upon in the artisan
jewelry arena is when it’s used to replicate pieces for a production
line (the same piece, over and over, without change). It’s possible
that the woman was simply indicating that the piece was
hand-fabricated (i.e., one of a kind) to contrast with that and that
was her inept way of communicating that.

I usually find it better to work to educate my potential customers
so that they look at things a little differently. For example
"Actually, that piece started out as a wax carving, which then gets
encased in plaster and burned out at 1400 degrees before the molten
metal is poured into it…", etc. I always have samples illustrative
of the process (a wax or two, a little flask, a small silver tree
just out of the flask, etc.) with me in the booth so people can
visualize it. THis also lets me clearly demonstrate that casting
isn’t always about replication but can as easily be about one-off
work. It’s amazing how engaged they become in the process and how
differently they look at the work.

I do not in any way think you are negated as an artist because you
incorporate casting into your work!

Karen Goeller
No Limitations Designs
Hand-made, one-of-a-kind jewelry

Shawn, Cast vs fabricated should be viewed in context of the piece
in question. There are times when one would choose one way or the
other as superior but it would be for a specific reason related to
the application. As long as the finished product does what you ask of
it, what more could anyone want?

Hello Shawn,

I also tend to say when people look at my work (or in the written
descriptions of my work) that “I don’t cast, except when noted”. I
also say, by the way, I don’t use molds or forms, except when noted.
I don’t mean it to be a slam against casting (or molds, or forms),
just that it means that each piece was created from scratch, by
hand, and there is therefore the work involved in doing that. I
mention it because I want people to know that the pieces are totally
unique, created only by hand. I’m certainly not against casting,
though, although I’ve only ever done it a couple times as of this
date. I’m sure I’ll do more, though, over time, although certainly
only on a small scale. I made a piece a few years ago that involved
very detailed enameled beads, As I completed the creation of the
first one (pre-enameling), I realized it was unrealistic for me to
make each one by hand. Not only did I not have the patience to repeat
that process enough times, but the cost of the piece would be too
high because of the time it would take. I made one, then cast the
bead halves & took it from there. There was still plenty of work to
be done! I also made a setting once for a square stone of a standard
size, and my teacher suggested I make a mold of the setting so that
I could use it again in the future without starting all over again.
The original was mine, of my own design, and as I don’t do things in
mass production, I still feel good about it. I think there tends to
be an idea out there that casting means there isn’t much work done by
the artist. This can certainly be the case, of course. One could have
something cast 1,000 times, and even cleaned up, ready to go, then
maybe add a small part & slap their label on it. That’s certainly
what the people are looking down upon. Education is very important
no matter what type of piece your selling, whether or not it’s cast.
I actually have people ask if my Russian Filigree pieces are cast. I
assure them they aren’t, then explain in as much detail as they’d
like all the steps that go into making the pieces. If you make a
piece that people might rightly assume is cast, but is in fact
carved & shaped by hand, make sure they know that, loud & clear!
Don’t let the potential customers assume anything, be proud of the
work that went into the piece. If it was cast, then tell how you
designed & carved the original from wax, then made these few castings
to create this piece, or whatever is appropriate for that piece. If
they still question it, make sure they know the reasons why that was
a good idea- you needed them all the be exactly the same, you needed
to make so many that the cost would be a lot higher if you didn’t
cast them, whatever it is. Make sure they know, too, the work that
still went into the piece, eventhough part of it was cast.

For what clothier did I grow up hearing, “An educated consumer is
our best customer”. Wise words, I do believe!

Designs by Lisa Gallagher


First -your lady at the show probably couldn’t afford a casting
machine…so she conferred (it sounds like effectively!) doubt in
your mind that casting is an inferior method…

That is complete nonsense…How one makes a piece is a matter of
choice- and available methodology…and what is best to construct the
piece, or the versatility that say, tree casting, offers production
jewelers…Casting is one of the most ancient methods of jewelry
making and has been discovered- well, technically uncovered!!! in all
but Mayan, Amazonian and some pacific rim tribe’s jewelry arts.
(although there is evidence that suggests that some central and south
american indigenous peoples melted copal -Liquidambar Styraciflua (
the exudate of a variety of sweetgum trees )and embedded things in
it, much like the amber with scorpions flooding the market at the
moment, or you could consider it an early form of intarsia, or
gemstone and mineral based mosaics…as adornment)

You are an artist… have no guilt!

Have NO remorse over what you make or how you accomplish it. Do what
you wanna do!

Don’t let people at shows, in particular, dictate any
reconsideration as to how you choose to execute a piece, which
materials you chose, or how you have priced it…

You can never be negated as an artist… If you are an artist, then
an artist you are… if you perceive yourself as “maybe i’m an
artist”, then maybe you are an artist…

Your self-definition can be as flexible as the mediums you use to
create various pieces in various styles. Don’t doubt your self or
reproach your work ( unless you alone think it is substandard)!

Second, as for the sale you would have missed…If someone makes an
incorrect statement, no need to correct them- chances are you’ll
never see them again, and If making a sale depends on the perceived
form, let them believe what they want to believe If you need the
money. ( or why else would you be at the show?)- After collecting
money you may want to explain the process but the main thing you
need to get across if you have the need to get anything across
regarding your techniques is: “glad you liked this piece. I used a
variety of methods to fabricate what you selected”. Bag it and send
them on with a business card, or not, tucked into the bag.

R. E. Rourke