Some projects lie close to the heart from the inception, and form more as an act of joy than anything proscribed or pre-meditated. This may well be the piece of artwork with the longest gestation period of any in my career.
Sixteen years ago I made a promise to my then-newborn daughter Mira: on your sixteenth birthday, I will make a wearable work incorporating your baby teeth. So I worked diligently in collaboration with the Tooth Fairy, collecting the tiny jewels as they fell like ripe fruit from her little mouth.
The years have flown by, and I find myself in the delightful situation of locking myself in Studio Stuffsmith to actualize this long-held promise.
My generative impulse kicks into gear as I choose for the opening gesture an implement of eating: this beautiful Art Nouveau serving utensil set made from an early plastic called Pyralin Ivory. The fork is particularly pleasing as my housing, and I set upon it.
The bowl is separated from its handle with a quick cut from the jewelers saw.
The raw end is now shaped to a decorative terminus as I opt to have that end as the bottom of the piece.
Scooped from behind,
...and polished. The visual and textural similarity to tooth enamel is striking, and prompts the first tooth out to play.
Although some have been squeamish of the idea of using teeth in jewelry making, there is a long and venerable history of the practice throughout the ages and in many cultures, all the way to the present day.
I have always felt that teeth are the most jewel-like parts of the human body; sheathed in enamel and resistant to corrosive forces. The key for me here is to avoid the piece becoming too macabre or ponderous, while indulging Mira's aesthetic leanings towards Gothic fashion.
The substantial molar takes center stage here, as I choose the placement. This also marks the back of the fork as the front of the piece. I'm chuffed by the color integration of these jarringly different materials.
Now, Dentistry, Lo Bue-style.
A circular 'bezel' is drilled into the center of the molar to affix a jewel later.
Now to hollow out a recess for the molar to inhabit.
Wet work with a diamond bur.
The shape made, it is now decorated with radiant lines and pierced with setting holes.
Now an aperture is decided upon and drawn in place. I cast the lens to the left from resin.
Despite the respirator during this sawing, the scent of camphor fills the studio as the early, organic plastic gives way.
I decide at this stage to create a solid body that will fill the cavity (pun intended) of the fork. Keeping my children close, I choose this slat from my younger twins' crib to perform the function.
Join me next time as I set Mira's teeth on edge, as it were!