As much as I love clothing, anyone who knows me knows that I am an avid collector of jewelry. Over the years, I have seen the emergence of an incredible array of silversmiths such as Foxtail Jewelry, Noniko Jewelry, AmiRa Jewelry, and Pigeon Heart (just to name a few), but one of my favorite local silversmiths has a small, independent operation called Adams and Alchemy. Her rings, in particular, make my heart skip a beat.
Jewelry by Adams and Alchemy is not only created with beautiful hand hammering, carving, and soldering; the precious stones themselves are part of Adams' process. Adams and her husband are “rock hunters.” Scouring coastal and Eastern Oregon, they seek out beautiful Jaspers, Agates, and other stunning rocks that imbue all the geological radiance of the Pacific Northwest. Collecting bags and bags of what may look at first like run of the mill rocks, Adams tumbles and polishes the rocks for weeks until they are buffered into beautiful treasures. Getting to see this process first hand was an incredible experience. I certainly won't look at rocks the same anymore.
I asked designer, Jessica Adam's to share some information about her process.
How did you get your start as a silversmith?
Adams: I fell in love with metal work while studying sculpture at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco where I started exploring expressions of sculpture using anything I could get my hands on; clay, paper, rubber, plaster, wood, and steel. My course of study eventually led me to my first small metal arts class. That first class and several thereafter is the foundation for all of my work today.
What types of materials do you primarily work with?
Adams: Fine silver is my metal of choice.
Can you explain a little bit more about your process with the medal work?
Adams: I've always been an explorer, collector, and maker. My process is simple in that I use objects that I have collected to create pieces. I look closely at what I want to work with and visualize what the finished piece will look like. After I have a general idea of where I want to take it, I let automatism take over and just enjoy creating.
Can you explain a little bit about how you discovered "rock hunting?" Where do you usually look? What are you looking for with the rocks?
Adams: I guess it just happened naturally... I've always been fascinated by minerals and "rocks" and nature's ability to produce such intricate beautiful things. Since I was a child, I've had an obsession with discovering things yet to be unearthed. I would tear up the back yard looking for some evidence of lost civilizations but would be totally satisfied when I found pretty rocks or the random buried penny.
Rock hunting is the best of both worlds. I get to explore in nature and look upon and collect these beautiful natural treasures.
Rule number one: a rock hunter never reveals their spots. It's akin to the secrecy that surrounds good mushroom hunting spots. I will tell you that we are lucky to live in a state that has an abundance of Agate, Petrified Wood, Fossils, and Jasper which can all usually be found in areas where the river runs into the sea. Areas where the Basalt cliffs contribute to the rockiness of the shoreline and the rivers that run into it.
I like to collect pieces that are a workable size or can easily be tumbled. Nothing bigger than 2 inches or so and something that is relatively flat, with not too many pits. Other than that, I look for unique color palettes, patterns, and textures.
Can you describe a bit of the process for polishing and preparing the rocks to be set in your inlays?
Adams: The pieces I collect are all separated according to color and type. Next, they are rinsed and put into the tumbler. Starting with a coarse metal powder, they are tumbled for about one week to take off any rough edges . The second stage requires a rinse, a finer grit, and a weeks time. This process repeats itself for a total of 3-4 weeks, eventually working down to super fine grit and polish. When they are done and polished, they are ready to be set in fine silver.
Is there anything you want us to know about your company and/or product?
Adams: I create responsibly and mindfully. Let's face it, metal is a limited resource and the very act of extracting it is damaging to our environment. While it is impossible to use materials that are 100% recycled, MOST of the metals I use are recycled and re-purposed and all of my trimmings, metal saw dust, and unusable fragments are melted down and returned to be recycled.
Do you have any exciting new designs or collections coming out?
Adams: Yes! Keep an eye out for my Spring 2014 collection of rings and other objects of fancy. It is inspired by the luscious colors and textures of Oregon and features minerals, fossils, and gems found along my journey down the coast and through the Umpqua Valley.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!