The Road

Remember this?

 

Well, I had to start over and finish it right.  But it was worth it.  It’s a Gentleman ring I dubbed “the Road Agent”  for a client with a custom-shaped gold obsidian stone.  It turned out great and has this amazing subsurface gold highlight when the light hits it.

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This whole thing brings up the point of mastery, which is something I am constantly talking to my artist friends about.  What is it and are we (or is anyone) that thing?  The skullsmithing industry is a small community.  We all pretty much know each other and most of my instagram is occupied by makers that I follow.  Everyone seems to be a true master of the craft.  But the truth is that I know for a fact that we all regularly and frequently screw up multiple aspects of projects.  Problem with social media is that you don’t see that stuff, usually.  And I get it.  You don’t want clients thinking you’re incompetent.

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But the more I think about ‘mastery’ the more the prospect of imperfection comes to light.  Because the more I learn, the LESS CONFIDENT I become in the craft.  I’ll knock out what I think is a series of absolutely awesome pieces and then screw up something as simple as a stone setting or a comfort fit.   Take that along with discussions I’ve had with other artisans that have what I’d call “mastery” and I’d say that mastery and humility come hand in hand.  In other words, if you’re walking around thinking that you’ve GOT THIS then you’re probably a journeyman at best.  If you’re walking around thinking “holy shit there is so much to learn and all of my contemporaries are so inspiring” then you might be approaching legitimate mastery.

I think this is why most artists I know walk around thinking that at some point they’re going to be ‘found out’ and everyone’s going to realize they don’t know they’re shit and it’s all going to come crashing down.  What’s actually happening is that they’re reaching that peak.  Mastery.  And to call it a ‘peak’ is actually yet another fuck up of mine because I don’t think “mastery” is a place.  I think it’s a path.

So, I’ll leave you with a custom skull ring (full jaw) I finished for a client a few weeks ago that might be one of the finest sculpts I’ve ever made.  Path to mastery, right?

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…and then…..

I completely screwed up a wax for a totally similar piece that I should have been able to do perfectly.  This is for a client who is getting multiple pieces from me.

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Luckily, I’ve been able to send him finished pieces while we begin remaking this one.  In the meantime, yeah, whooops.

So yes, I’m a master skullsmith.  Yes, I screw up all the time.  Yes, I will end up putting a perfect piece in your hands at the end of it.   Here’s to all the other skullsmiths out there and the next time your silver throws too cold and totally destroys your wax tree, remember that we’re all in the same boat.  I’ll leave you with this shot of a skull I put together in Zbrush.  I’ll be casting this soon to begin working on a new Deaths Head line that will be uber-realistic skulls set in slightly smaller rings:

In my hands I hold the ashes……

It’s taken me months of design, carving, redesign, recarving, and redesigning yet again, but I’ve finally finished what I consider to be the ultimate square gemstone ring.  The Leonids master cast is finally finished and set with kingman turquoise straight outta the mouth of the mine.

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I’ve talked about the design in the previous post, so I’ll just get straight in to how proud I am of the final product.

She’s going to be for sale in January, though I have sold a few pre-orders that will be shipping in the next three or four weeks.  Running at $495 a pop, she’s sporting a full 28mm in height and features two hand-carved skulls on either side of the shank.  We can knock a tooth out or two if you want them to look banged up or we can round out the eyes for more of a sugar skull look.  Room on the foreheads of each for initials or whatever else you want.

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On the back of the shank, I’ve put in a single eye and a bone crossbar.  Kind of morbid?  Maybe, but this bad motherfucker is the sculptural embodiment of some of the themes of Blood Meridian (probably my favorite novel)  and I wanted it to be as elegant as it is brutal.

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Like I said before, I’m getting the stones direct from the mine, so turnaround time is a little slower than usual.  I’ve sold 6 of my first batch of stones in pre-order and I’ll probably sell the next group just as quickly before these finally go up on the site in January.  Color and inflection of the stones will vary and I’d caution you guys to be careful with these.  They’re tough as hell, but turquoise is a more delicate stone and if punching things is a regular part of your routine, I might suggest ordering a Jupiter from me instead so you don’t crack and screw up these gorgeous baby-blues.  Or at least take it off first.

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Cleaning out my jewelry box

2 Comments

I’m a jade guy.  I wear a lot of it.  But I USED to be a turquoise guy and I have to say it’s still my favorite stone to set in a skull ring.  But I have too many pieces I don’t wear anymore and something’s gotta go.

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So I’m going to sell these two puppies.  Polish ’em up, clean ’em up, and sell them.  The Big Voodoo is a size 11.5 and that Little Voodoo is a size 9.  Solid sterling, of course.

Email me at matt@mtmaloney.com or message me on twitter @MT_Maloney and let me know if you want to buy one or both.  $125 for the big one and $100 for the little guy. Call it $210 for both. Shipping on the house.  I used to wear the big one on my ring finger and the little guy as a pinky ring.  

Pinky rings are badass anyway and a skull ring pinky ring is almost drop-the-mike time.

Apologies to my international clients, but I can’t send these overseas with shipping costs.  

The Shield.

Took me about two months to finish this one.  Had a hell of a lot of detail to work out and I wanted to make it exactly perfect or Patrick, my awesome client. Screen shot 2015-02-19 at 10.10.45 AM This was all about the badge.  We worked a design together that would be definitively NEW YORK for the shank and wouldn’t compete with the shape of the badge.  It’s a big ring, like I like ’em. Screen shot 2015-02-19 at 10.11.15 AM I’ve been toying with the idea of offering a shield line of rings for cops and other law enforcement agencies, but the problem has always been that for the most part you can by cheaper, mass-prodcued rings depicting simple agency shields and insignia.  But Patrick’s idea was so personal and his emphasis on the badge looking substantial was such that I couldn’t pass on this project. Screen shot 2015-02-19 at 10.10.57 AM We also worked in his service years onto the side and his initials on the back.  The result is a super heavy piece unlike any other cop rings I’ve been able to find out there.  Solid sterling too. Gonna please, I can tell you that.

Back in action

 

 

Yes, I’m back on the bench.  Happy to be back, too.  Got a lot of projects wait-listed from motorcycle club rings to wedding bands to full custom jobs to the good old fashioned custom skull rings.

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A couple of things will be changing in 2015.  I’m going to pace myself a bit better, not rush multiple jobs or take on more clients at one time than I should.  I got into this business to focus on individual clients and when I’m knocking out 20 or 25 rings at a time, that just isn’t happening.  So don’t be disheartened if you contact me to place an order and I ask you to hang tight for a few weeks.  I’ll get to you.  I just think your project deserves my full attention.  If you doubt my intentions, know that I was invited to create rings for the Sons of Anarchy season finale event and I declined because I wanted to deal with individuals like you guys.  Yes, I’m Jerry Maguire.

Speaking of individual clients, this post is largely for Dylan who has asked me to make a custom Tiki ring with a gemstone.  I’m feeling the amber.

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I picked up these stones on Lamma Island a while ago, but I only have a few left.  I still have one of the bright yellow ones from the far left and the four transparent stones on the right.  This isn’t cheap amber.  Not that resin, assembled shit you get in the states all the time.

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This is Lamma.  I get off the ferry here after about a 45 minute ride from Hong Kong island.  It’s a tiny little fishing island and I hike right over the mountain to Yung Shue Wan to visit the Lamma Island Amber Shop.

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Cool right?  This shop is tiny and set into a dark corner of this tiny little road called “Main street.”  I’ll usually swing by this great joint called Lamma Grill for a whiskey and the closest thing to a great American cheeseburger you’re gonna find and then find this shop which is practically GLOWING like a gemstone.

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The place is run by Udo and his wife.  That’s Udo below selling amber in Tibet in ’92.

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I freakin’ love this place.  I spend a lot of time looking through their stock and their finished jewelry.  I’ve made a few skull rings with their amber set into the eyes.  Just a great place.  I wish I could just import from these guys regularly, but the demand for amber just hasn’t quite caught-on in the US yet.  So what I usually end up doing is swinging by to pick up gifts for family and friends.

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So yeah, if you’re ever in HK, catch the ferry at pier 4 to Lamma and visit them.

So Dylan – let me know what wer’e gonna do.  Drop me a line.  And I’ll catch the rest of you cats in the next week.  Stay tuned.

Torc and beans.

9 Comments

I am so sick of this shit.

I didn’t ask for much.  I just wanted a solid sterling silver men’s torc bracelet.  It’s a great modern look.  If you don’t know what a torc is, its not your fault.  It’s also called ‘torque’  and the most common incarnation today is worn around the wrist.  Back in the day, though, the Celtic people would wear giant versions around their necks.   Badass.

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David Yurman did a great one – made traditionally with woven cables of metal (which is where it gets its name)

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Awesome, right?  Well as often happens with awesome work – there are about 10,000 hacks out there right now doing the exact same thing that Yurman did.  They all have twisted wire, but now sport cheesy gemstones at the caps and are made of shitty metals instead of silver or gold in an effort to sell jewelry to people who don’t want to pay for jewelry.

All due respect to Yurman’s design, I wanted something solid.  Something kind of like this:

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….but maybe a bit thicker and heavier.  I have an average sized wrist and I thought a 7mm wide band in sterling couldn’t be too much to ask.

Wrong.

Nobody….I mean NOBODY makes one of these in the US.  I spent time on every freakin’ shopping site I could find.  I even got a freakin’ ETSY account, okay?  Nobody makes this.

Sure there are a couple dozen good makers in the UK, but I didn’t wan to get killed on the currency change and shipping.  I also found thousands of examples of sterling silver plated versions of cheaper metal….you know….just in case I want it to rust off of my hand in a few years, or better yet, snap like it’s made of fucking plastic when I’m trying to get it on my wrist.

Get it on my wrist?  That’s right.   Because almost every single one of these is about 2 freakin’ inches in diameter.  None of them would fit a grown man who doesn’t want the circulation cut off in his hand from the spandex-tight fit of these shitty dime-store trinket versions I found all over Amazon, Ebay, and Etsy.

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SWEET!  This one has magnets in it!  In case I was failed by my public education and I think this jewelry will make me healthier.  I’m telling you, these were all over the place.  I also found some sculptural  stuff that was pretty cool, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

I found actual quality sterling silver torcs on Etsy, but these dudes were making them 3mm in diameter.  WAY to thin.  I even had a maker respond to my question about band diameter with “they’re 2.5mm thick.  Perfect weight for a bangle.”

“Are you shitting me?” was my response.

“No, they’re already real heavy.”

I’m telling you, this interest in lightweight and inexpensive product has fucking ruined men’s jewelry in the United States.  You know what else is inexpensive and lightweight?  Paper.  Why don’t you wear a fucking paper bracelet and a yarn ring to match.  Or a ring pop so you have something to eat.

I know the grass is always greener, but the UK gals and guys are doing it right.  You can find good, solid sterling pieces over there with clean, classic designs.  Not just torques (torcs, or torqs) but solid bangles and linked chains.

You know, I encountered the same thing when I first started looking at skull rings.

All the best makers of realistic non-death metal rings were in the UK and New Zealand.  So I hooked up with Dana Ruth and learned how to make jewelry and just fucking made my own.  Enough people liked it that I started making them for other people.  Enough people wanted them that I opened up my custom studio.  Turns out, I wasn’t the only person looking for a ring like that.

 

 

 

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So the question now becomes, am I the only person who wants a solid, badass, men’s torc made in the USA and sized to fit an adult in sterling or gold?  The balls on either side need to be at least 14mm and the band should be 7mm at the thinnest.

We’ll see.  I’m going to make mine.  Then, I’m coming back for you.

 

 

What’s in a Sugar Skull?

No NEW work here, but finishing up John’s Purple Gaze ring got me thinking about all the sugar skulls I’ve done recently.  Figured they’d need a post all to themselves.  

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Yeah, we all get that this comes from that Day of the Dead aesthetic, but it goes way beyond that for me.  A good chunk of my sugars don’t even use that particular style.  “Sugar Skull” has come to classify really ANY ornamentation to the surface of the skull, in ANY style.

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Sometimes we go detail-heavy, sometimes we keep it simple.  Sometimes the style is Latin, sometimes it’s Japanese, sometimes it looks like a microphone or a mess of thorns……

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The only thing these suckers have in common is that the ornamentation is kind of riffing on the sculptural planes of the skull itself.  In other words, the trick isn’t to ignore what the surface is doing, but rather respond to it.  I’d say “kinda like jazz” if I knew anything about jazz.

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Keep in mind that ANY of my rings can get this sugar treatment.  

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Done all kinds of line work and central imagery.  Thick, thin, wobbly, sharp, clean, cragged…..

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But these rings work best with some kind of central imagery as an anchor.  A cross, a star, whatever.  It keeps the surface from looking too busy.  When I work with a client on a sugar skull, they tend to have specific ideas about what that central image should be.  The rest of the treatment is built around that and frames it up nicely. 

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Okay, enough for now.  This could go on and on and my intent here was to create a post where I could send people who had questions about how the sugar treatment looked.  Remember, this is not to be confused with the Boss Voodoo which is carved from scratch from a block of wax for each client. The result is equally ornamental, but the process (and price range) is totally different…..

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Those are examples.  HUGE ring.  Heavy too.  Just like the sugar, they’re very detailed and work best with gemstone eyes. 

We’re a few weeks away from the new Jupiter Skull, so stay tuned.