In most cases, the last piece finished is the prime source for the next piece: the evolution of a body of work. My artistic ability is primarily effective in the balance of line and proportion in a limited space. Give me a defined, small area with a line or two drawn through it, and I can join them in a pleasing manner: balance, conjunction and the flow of various design segments within four or fewer square inches. My personal method of achieving this is more akin to free-form jazz than anything else. The only artistic intention is to express beauty in each piece. Other than that, I just do what occurs within the limits of ability. Creating a bunch of controlled volume, I think about this, think about that, and then start doing something. I sketch a lot but almost never a piece I actually make. I find it difficult to relate a two-dimensional pencil sketch into a three-dimensional object. The silhouette of hummingbird or flower is nothing but a line defining one area from another, no different from the squiggle of an abstract line or a geometric curve. In the limited space, one line follows the last, juxtaposed with its predecessor and remaining area in a pleasant manner. In short, I pretty much wing it as I go along, trusting my ability, intuition, and history.

The Process

Starting out with a flat sheet of metal, the artist places it in ‘pitch’ and traces the design onto the metal. Whether done with a pencil or a lining tool,the design elements are transferred to the metal then, from the back of the piece, volume is added. This is Repousse, a French term meaning “to push back,” indicating the process of pushing out the gross shape and details from the back of the piece. Once the overall contour and essential shapes have been established, the piece is turned over in the pitch and the fine detail, surface textures, and various levels are then “Chased” out. The term Chasing is based on the French word “chassuer,” meaning “one who pursues”: in practice, the chaser is tasked with manipulating, or chasing, the created volume into its proper alignment and levels within the desired design and the application of various surface textures to allow the design to stand out. These two steps can easily take up to three to four hours per square inch. A bracelet 1.5 inches wide by 5 inches long is 7.5 square inches or approximately 22 to 34 hours to complete. No molds of any kind are used; all work is free handed.

Chasing Tools

For an artist in metal, the combination of these two techniques – Chasing and Repousse – offers an unparalleled method to create one-of-a-kind works using the simplest of tools: a pitch bowl, a small hammer, and Chasing tools (which are really nothing more than metal rods with specific shapes, angles, and finish on the working end) are all that is needed. However, the drawbacks are substantial, requiring not just significant time in making a single piece but also actual years of practice to become proficient. Of all methods in metal smithing, Repousse and Chasing, for me, has been the most satisfying and the most difficult process to master. I can think of no other skill in smithing that offers more in the way of either challenge or results.

No molds of any kind are used, all work is free handed.