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Carrier Pigeon

Posted by Dessa on July 14, 2014

Ahem. (Taps mic.) I’m here today to proudly announce that I’ll be working with Lauren Neal. She’s the artist behind Carrier Pigeon, an independent jewelry studio in Northeast Minneapolis.

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What exactly will our partnership entail? Like most Doomtree initiatives, Lauren and I are just sort of making it up as we go, communicating primarily via late-night text message. I like what she does, she likes what I do–that seemed like enough to go on. I visited Lauren’s studio last week to learn about casting (it got real Mr. Rogers for me), a more exacting process than I imagined.

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Most of Lauren’s designs start with a block of wax. And a knife. This piece of wax is a hollow tube; a thin slice is the starting point for ring design.

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Lauren doesn’t sketch out many of her designs, she instead goes straight to 3-D, using files and fire and all sorts of specialized tools to shape the wax into the form of the ring or bracelet she’s imagined.

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This tool is called a doming block. Holding it made me feel like a she-wizard. (Not sure if wizard is gender-specific, I checked.)

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If she plans on making a few bracelets or rings at once, she’ll replicate her wax form. To do this, she makes a mold of her form in silicone. She’ll then inject hot wax into that mold to set in the exact shape of her original. (I’m using lay terms here, so if you’re with the silversmithing union or something, you might as well log off now, reading further is only gonna drive you nuts.) I took special delight in the fact that the necessary temperature of the wax-injecting machine is “pork” on a meat thermometer.

Next she  secures her wax form in a little heat-safe container (think of a coffeemug that could survive the apocalypse) and pours a clay-like substance called investment over it. When the investment sets, she puts the whole shebang into a little kiln-type-thing. The original wax form melts away, leaving a hollow space in the investment into which she’ll eventually pour silver, gold, bronze.

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Lauren uses recycled metals whenever she can. Here she showed me a little jar of silver shavings that will be melted and reused.

photo 2I took a special liking to a pair of earrings that she created using a process called organic casting. Instead of starting with a wax mold, Lauren started with a couple of wooden matchsticks (she has to buy boxes from the 50s to find the strike-anywhere kind). She poured the investment right over the matchsticks, put the whole thing in the kiln-thing and let the 1250-degree heat burn away the matches. When she shook out the ashe, she was left with a  perfect impression, woodgrain and all, into which to pour molten silver. Pretty rad.

If you’d like to check out more of Lauren’s designs, you can do so here. Otherwise, stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted on whatever it is we’re in the middle of scheming up.