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Beautiful and sustainable jewelry made with care in San Francisco. Edgy and unique styles to wear everytday. We have everything from tiny platinum stud earrings to Moissanite engagement rings made from recycled gold and fashion jewelry from solid sterling silver.

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Filtering by Tag: Student stories

Student Profiles - Alissa Bailey of AB Positive Jewelry

Sharon Zimmerman

This begins a new series of blog posts. Each week or so, a new student will be featured with parts of their story - why they fell in love with jewelry-making, what inspires them, and what they get out of each class.

This week, Alissa Bailey of ab positive jewelry is on deck! Little known fact - Alissa was my first jewelry assistant and worked her tail off producing a lot of the most essential pieces in my collection. She is also the primary model of a lot of my jewelry all over this website. So if you were thinking that she looks familiar, it’s because you’ve seen her all over my lookbook.

Alissa learning more advanced wax carving techniques

How long have you been making jewelry, and how did you get started?

I’ve been metal smithing for about 5 years now.  

While living in LA I was employed as a server and pursuing an acting career - I like to say that jewelry found me. Over the years acting had become more of an obligation rather than a passion, so I began to explore my interest in beading. I went to the nearest bead shop gathered all the pretty little things that I could afford, and the next day I came to work wearing my newly designed and handmade necklace. It was that night that I sold my first piece of jewelry. From that point forward I was selling to more and more co-workers which then trickled down to people that would be dining there, and so on. That was the true birth of my business. It was also the time that my identity as an actor was slowly fading into jeweler. When it came to deciding what the next career choice would be for me the answer was super clear - I wanted to learn to work in metal, and hopefully one day be my own boss with a full-fledged line of fine jewelry. I always tell people that I feel so lucky to be able to continue a career path that still allows me to be creative. Since acting lost its appeal for me,  I will forever be extremely grateful that I found another creative outlet to pour my heart and soul into. 

Why did you want to take the Intermediate Wax Carving Class?

I was recently asked to make my first engagement ring, and my clients decided to use this beautiful center stone. Creating a setting for this stone is out of my current wheelhouse, so I decided to take Sharon’s class so that I’d be able to fully fabricate the ring myself. I did this instead of finding someone else who could do it for me. I’m super excited that I now have one more skill to add to my ever growing arsenal of skills as a jeweler. 

wax carving for a princess cut stone setting

What is your favorite material to work with and why?

As of right now I’m a big fan of working in sheet metal. Specifically Argentium Silver Sheet. My work contains a lot of hand-sawed pieces. Silver sheet feels like you're sawing through butter, and then on top of that Argentium keeps the fire-scale* at bay! 

Alissa took an intermediate wax carving class to advance some of her skills, but even if you have no experience, you can start with a Wax Carving Basics Workshop, or contact us to find out what class would be best to kick off your jewelry-making adventure.

*What is fire scale? Fire scale is something that happens during the soldering and heating process when working with sterling silver. It brings some of the copper that is present in sterling to the surface, and must be removed or it makes your silver surfaces splotchy-looking. It’s a tiny bit of a PITA, and a lot of jewelers have switched to a kind of silver called Argentium. This kind of silver doesn’t have this same problem.

Student Profile - Michelle H.

Sharon Zimmerman

Michelle came back to wax carving after a hiatus from jewelry-making. She had a specific idea in mind for what she wanted to make, so we set up a private lesson for her to achieve her design. We laughed, we chatted, and she finished this impressive square statement ring in wax. Michelle has made jewelry before, and it was so fun to talk about tools, tricks and tips for getting the best results for her special project.

Give us a little background on yourself- was this your first jewelry class?

”Since 2007 I have taken formal classes at community colleges, the Otis Art Institute and Farrin - O'Connor jewelry studio. I started making jewelry in 2007 beginning with earrings, necklaces and bracelets using wire-wrapping and metalsmithing techniques. So this was a return to jewelry classes for me.”

What inspired you to take this wax carving workshop?

”During a second semester class in jewelry making at El Camino college I had a unit (2 weeks) devoted to the art of lost-wax casting. I was so intrigued by the class and what seemed to be an ancient process taught through the ages for jewelry artisans. Even though I learned the process of wax casting from beginning to end, I did not master the art of crafting refined pieces so there wouldn't be bumps and scratches in the final outcome. I really wanted to master sculpting the wax model but realize that will take practice.

What inspired me to take the wax carving class was an Instagram post from San Francisco jeweler Colleen Mauer. She posted a pic from her learning session at your studio while creating a wax model for a ring. I've been wanting to create a ring for myself. It is difficult to find rings that fit my short stubby fingers, so I have to make my own or have them custom made.

After checking out Sharon’s website, I saw that she teaches classes on an independent basis. Although I haven't been on the bench for some time the muscle memory is still there and I thought I'd give it a try and take the class. I'm so glad that I did.”

What was your favorite skill that you learned in this workshop?

“Learning how to notice crooked edges, surfaces and how to smooth down with specific grits of sandpaper and files.  Learning about little things like how to use the purple wax that Sharon showed me and the Kate Wolf tools to smooth out indentations. Learning the tricks at the end to smooth out surfaces and get a sleek finish. The emphasis placed on using files and sandpaper to smooth out surfaces rather than relying on different drill bits and the flex shaft. Using the manual caliper to measure size.”

Making this wax carving class into a private lesson meant that Michelle had lots of time to develop her specific design and vision. In most wax carving workshops, students all work on roughly the same project - a pendant that they then work a design into. But in a private jewelry lesson, students can work on their own ideas directly, and really let their creativity flow.