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Catherine Gruntz

Metal / Mandeville, LA

Artist Statement

I began my journey to a metals craftsman by trying my hand at beading. This was enjoyable, but the first time that I held a torch in my hand and watched that solder flow, forever binding those two pieces of silver together, I was hooked.

My favorite material to work with is Argentium silver, which is a special form of sterling that shines up beautifully and holds that shine for a long time. I will also occasionally work with gold filled for a bit of variety or add beads or kilned fired enamel pieces as the mood strikes.

I use a lot of various size wire in most of my work. I enjoy bending and shaping the wire into flowing, curvy designs that are feminine and classic. Barrettes, cuff bracelets and lots of earrings are my most common pieces. These are hard soldered, with an acetylene torch, for stability. Then latches, clasps and finishing touches are added, also by soldering. I hand file, hammer and rough polish each piece, but my steel shot tumbler is one of my most used tools to give everything that high polish shine that represents my work.

I also enjoy low tech casting. One method that I use is charcoal casting. I will use a file or other metal tool to carve out a design in a charcoal soldering block. The carving lines and the charcoal give the finished piece and interesting texture. Then silver is melted in a crucible, poured into the mold, and a second block is quickly used to press on top to force the molten silver into all of the spaces. Because these molds deteriorate very quickly from the hot metal, they are only good for 1 or 2 pours. So, I will than take the original and sand cast to produce multiple pieces. The sand casting method that I do, uses a sand product that presses nicely into two molding rings. The original piece to be cast is pressed into the sand and removed to leave an impression. After cutting a sprue, or tunnel for the silver to flow, I melt the silver and pour it into the mold. This technique is surprisingly accurate and I use it for any small objects that I want to cast in silver.

I am always trying out new techniques so that I can improve my skills and better get my ideas to translate into jewelry. I have recently begun roll printing textures and designs onto sheet silver using a rolling mill. This has really allowed me to create some beautiful designs that I can incorporate into my pieces.

Learning metal smith as a trade has been a wonderful experience. I never know what great new idea is just around the corner.

Biography

I was raised in Mandeville, LA a hop skip and a jump from the lake. At our house, there was always some project going on. Sewing, candle making, arts and crafts or tree house building (when Dad would come home with some scrap wood). A motto that I liked to put to our creativity, “If we wanted something nice, we had to make it ourselves”.

All of those experiences stayed with me, so now that I’m an adult, I still like to make nice things. I enjoy candle making, batik, herb gardening and costume making, of course. I do live near New Orleans, after all.
But, nothing stirred me like making jewelry. There’s just something magical about taking a piece of silver and turning into something beautiful.

I am mostly self-taught, with the exception of guidance and the occasional lesson from some other talented local jewelry artists.
I am always trying out new techniques so that I can improve my skills and better get my ideas to translate into jewelry.

And like most Jewelry Artists, I am a self-professed tool junkie.