Category Archives: always learning

“Entra en el Teatro”- course with Carles Codina / part 1

At the beginning of this month I had the pleasure of attending a course with the renowned jeweler and teacher Carles Codina i Armengol. He came to Escuela Crisol last year, and I could not attend unfortunately, so I was very happy to be able to make it this year.
Carles and Jordi (my teacher) go way back, as they studied together at Escola Massana, one of the leading art and design schools in Europe. They are still good friends, and lucky for us in Costa Rica, they decided to collaborate and bring amazing courses across the Atlantic.

Last year the classes were mostly practical, and I hear they learned how to make mokume-gane, among other cool and complicated techniques.
This year the plan was different. The approach was focused on the conceptual part of jewelry design, geared specifically to the design of a piece of jewelry to be sold at the gift shop in the Costa Rican National Theater. We were to design a piece inspired by the theater itself, to serve as a souvenir to whichever target group we were to choose (habitual opera fans and theater buffs, or in-and-out-in-five-minutes tourists), and in turn choose a price point to correspond with the spending habits of each group. The piece had to include packaging, so it could be displayed in it, and be packed quickly upon purchase, and hopefully, the packaging would be appealing and special enough to draw the consumer in and add value to the piece itself. It was a tall order for a class that would last less than 10 days- but we did it!

To begin the whole thing we all visited the Teatro Nacional to take pictures. I have to confess that I hadn’t been there in years (probably since elementary school). This theater is considered one of Costa Rica’s architectural jewels, and it was built in the 1890s with money earned by the country through a tax imposed on coffee export (one of CR’s major industries still to this day). The style of the theater is very interesting, as it mixes European influence with images of Costa Rican agricultural images- more specifically, the Alegoría del café y el banano (Allegory of coffee and banana), by artist Aleardo Villa.

Here are some images from our visit:

floor pattern and the group looking up / mirror detail / numbered seats

the Allegory of coffee and banana: image on our ¢5 bill / lady picking coffee

elaborate doorknob / ceiling light fixture

foyer / wall detail in the foyer, 1890

floor pattern made with national precious woods / cool floor tile / big lamp in the theater

Though I didn’t get any pictures of the outside, it’s very beautiful as well, so google it :). Until the next installment.


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Words by Carles Codina / 2

“You have to exploit your neighbor as you would exploit yourself.”

This is a very interesting and important point Carles made during class: take advantage of your resources and of others around you as well. Cultivate an environment of sharing, of exchange, and let go of being secretive.

This really resonates with me since it is one of the reasons I started this blog, and sharing information with fellow jewelers and designers motivates me to do better and go beyond technique alone. Anybody can learn to follow instructions and see a process through; what really matters is the idea behind the piece, and the personal touch you infuse your work with.

And from another point of view, it is also important to learn to rely on others, ask questions, interact, delegate, and your work will be the better for it. Very often we ‘makers’ feel that we should be able to do everything ourselves, and our work (and profit margin in some cases) might be compromised for thinking this way.

No man is an island, right?

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Wise words by Carles Codina

“Don’t confuse abstract expressionism with a poorly made piece.”

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Sebastian Deterding: What your designs say about you

Found this interesting TED talk this morning. Definitely something to think about when releasing any type of design into the world.

What does your design say about you? How much responsibility do you take for the work you are putting out there? This is something I often think about since the jewelry world is controversial in many aspects. Food for thought.

Via SwissMiss.




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Gemstone and jewelry museum visit

While in Rio, we went to a museum/jewelry store called H.Stern. They’re a very well-known company and they mine stones in Brazil and sell jewelry all over the world. If you’re in Rio and want to visit, they will arrange to pick you up at your hotel and drive you back.

I really enjoyed the museum part, as we got to see everything from rough gemstone specimens, to jewelry designs and actual pieces.

Below is a map of all the mining regions in the whole country and the gemstones that are extracted in each place.

Stone cutting stations:

In order to cut the stones, the piece of mineral is attached to a stick with the red gooey thing called shellack. Shellack is melted using the alcohol lamp seen here and when it cools it gets really hard.

Sanding wheels. Notice how all these have basins to hold water. Stones have to be wet at all times so the friction and heat don’t make them crack.

Imperial topaz: Cut stones on top, bruted (overall shape cut) in the middle, and rough on the bottom.

Faceting wheels. Once the stone has been bruted on the sanding wheels, the stone cutter has to add the facets. Water is always involved and the wheel is covered in diamond dust.

Here you can see the different abrasive compounds used when faceting and how the cutter can hold the stone with the help of the wooden stick.

Another gentleman cutter (they were working while museum visitors stared at them through a window, not awkward at all).

Amethysts cut in different styles.

Their gemology lab. Gemologists are always consulting books.

Gem lab equipment.

Microscopic images of synthetic emerald inclusions and natural emerald inclusions. They look exactly the same to the naked eye, beware!

The jewelry design artists!

Beautiful hand painted earring design layout.

Necklace design.

Finished necklace and framed designs.

Mr. Jeweler and his tools.

Diamonds laid out for a necklace, earrings and ring ensemble.

Different diamond cuts (very hard to see in this photo).

Emerald rough and cut stones. All stones have to be color matched in order to be used in a piece of jewelry together. It’s important that they are as close as possible in hue and saturation.

All in all, a very instructional afternoon. Did you learn anything new?

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Playing with fire, part 1

I took a very very cool class at the school this weekend: low tech casting. It’s just as exciting and fun as it sounds. It pretty much involved playing with fire, burning stuff and looking at the amazing results.

Safety first!

Melt your metal of choice. We used brass to go easy on our pockets. And it’s very pretty too.

Experiment #1: lentils.

Pan it out. Make sure the metal has already cooled down because the green thing is made of plastic.

The result!

Second try: flax seeds. Very slimy.

We had other organic stuff lined up for the metal.

After I poured in the brass (which went straight down to the bottom), it kept boiling and burning for a good minute. That’s why we used steel cups. This flax seed experiment burned the bottom of this little cup, so you see how plastic would’ve caused a nasty foot burn.

And a mushroom was the result. Of all people, the mushroom had to be mine.

Lima bean experiment.

We all had some great fun I have to say. This class is sooo much fun. And it’s always good to experiment with new techniques with other people who enjoy it too. Thank you to Julieta our teacher!

This is only one of the techniques we learned! Stay tuned for the next batch of photos soon.

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Seeds and beans in bags

Lima beans, lentils and flax seeds in water overnight.

Preparation for a class I’m taking today at the school, Crisol. Curious???

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