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.

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 11.11.33 AM

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.

Screen shot 2013-07-02 at 6.18.25 PM

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?

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 11.16.49 AM

…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.

Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 12.02.40 PM

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:

Batshit.

You have to get your configuration down.

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 11.23.18 AM

Only certain equally unstable people will understand what I’m talking about (and perhaps those tolerant few who are currently shacking up with those people) but I can promise you that the configuration is a thing.  The wife watches me stand in front of a small black cabinet and strategize about how I’m going to handle a neck,  two wrists and ten fingers worth of jewelry.  Sometimes I’m going to a club in downtown ATL, sometimes I’m going to Costco for deodorant and dip.   Either way, the pieces of jewelry I’m going to wear and how I’m going to wear them is a decision point that I dread every day.  Why would a grown-ass-man worry about something like this?  Well…if you’re asking that question, congratulations, you’re not batshit crazy and you probably have your priorities in order.

Not me, jack.  I care deeply about this stuff and I know a few of you out there are the same.  Why?  Because I’ve made bracelet and ring combos for so many of you.  To be honest, the torque is one of my most popular pieces now and I’ve done a mess of recent projects that have featured awesome torque and ring combinations.

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 11.16.03 AM

I really think the torque is a great companion piece for the rings because it is the ultimate supporting character.  It isn’t overly flashy or jingle-jangly.  It just sits there – the strong silent type – ready to kick ass and take names if people look closely enough or when they hear it CLANG against the bar top like a cathedral bell when you’re a few shots in.  It’s like having Gary Oldman on your hand.  Then, you’ve got the lead characters – the highly-detailed sculptural rings that get all of the attention (at first.)

Like this series I did for some clients who wanted a torque to roll with a pair of custom Leonids rings.

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 11.16.29 AM

What a config, right?  You can see the blue and black next to each other over that solid-ass torque just flashing around some juke joint.  Now this gets into wearing sculptural rings side-by-side, which is its own topic of debate since they will inevitably wear on each other.  But I know plenty of people who don’t care, consider it a natural part of wearing custom jewelry, and rock a ring/pinky combo or a middle/ring combo like this.

I’ve done 4 or 5 King Skull and torque combos for people and this is still one of my favorite ways to do a full right hand.

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 11.16.16 AM

Honestly I just like the contrast.  I dig the simplicity of the torque and the detail of the skull ring together. Also, there’s something about the bulbous shape of the forehead and how it goes with that ball-end on the torque.  It just fits.

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.42.20 AM

Maybe not as literally as this epic Mystery Cave and custom torque combo.  This is from an earlier post, I know, but I’ve had a bunch of questions about it.  See, I can carve into the ends of the torque because they’re not soldered on.  The rings and bracelets are all cast as one piece, so the silver can take a lot of hacking.

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 11.37.17 AM

To counter the problem of wearing rings side by side, I usually recommend rolling with a pair of rings that provide for a naked finger between them to prevent them rubbing up against each other.  Here, we have a pinky ring (my classic Little Voodoo) and a full size King Skull designed for the middle finger.  That way, the ring finger remains naked and works as a sort of buffer.   This is how I wear stuff.  I tend to go ring/index or middle/pinky.

Then it’s matching all of this stuff to the crap I’m already wearing.  Let’s not forget – most of us have to wear clothes to leave the house.  I realized, as I was thinking about this the other day, that I actually design shit around the clothes we put on in daily life.  For example, the gentleman ring was put together for a suit.  No question.  Can’t you see this peaking out of a nice wool single breast in a meeting somewhere?

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 11.45.36 AM

But then there’s my T-shirt and tattoo sleeves getup.  Big, chunky, and stoney-eyed with two torques and jade beads to back up the pair of jade stones in the eyes.

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 11.44.59 AM

Yeah, I could go on and on.  Today’s the fourth, though, so I have meat to grill.  You all stay safe out there and hit me up if you’re interested in getting something made this summer.  I’ve got new tikis on the way soon.

Jade: Not just an amazing David Caruso movie.

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 11.28.22 AM

What, you haven’t seen Jade?   Spoiler alert: it sucks.

Let’s talk about another type of jade.   I just finished a beautiful custom gemstone ring for a client who had me special order a badass piece of creamy jadeite and pair it with my solid sterling silver Torque bracelet for a “Full Right Hand Special, something I used to do for clients who wanted a ring and bracelet pairing.   This particular client already has one of my Kingman turquoise Leonids rings, which has a different style altogether.   We’d identified a really beautiful stone – a big gob of jade shipped right over to the shop to have a ring built around it.

Screen Shot 2017-12-30 at 3.19.06 PM

And build it we did.  I like the way the round cabochon sort of echoes the round forms of the torque.  Repeating shape patterns is an important thing when you’re figuring out a ‘configuration’ (For lack of a better word) to wear.  Jewelry addicts will know what I mean.

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 11.32.01 AM

 

This pair is one of my favorites because it really just walks that line between something you can wear into a board room and something you’d see a rock star wearing as he’s being pushed into a squad car after burning down a hotel.

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 11.32.17 AM

You can see the sub-surface scattering of light in the jade (and unfortunately a little extra polishing compound that I stupidly forgot to buff away before snapping my photos.  Smart.

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 11.32.24 AMT

I wear a jade gemstone very much in the same color family.  That super lime green stuff is just not my thing.  I like it pale and mostly opaque or otherwise that forrest green nephrite stuff like I tend to set in the eyes of my old King Skull.

Screen shot 2015-10-14 at 8.47.35 AM

Either way, you have to be careful when working with jade because so much of the material out there is not actually REAL jade.  It’s glass, dyed quartz, or even plastic.   I’m a fanatic about getting the real stuff (as many of you know who’ve followed my jade and amber exploits in Hong Kong and elsewhere.)

Screen shot 2016-04-03 at 6.25.48 PM

Speaking of King Skulls, the new King Skull is nearly finished.  With the help of my man David and his mold-making crew, I’ve finished waxes for my first 10 pre-orders and they’ve come out beautiful.   Like the previous model, all of the details are hand carved on each template so no two rings will be alike.  For me, it’s the perfect jawless skull ring.  I’ll always love the original, but I’m retiring her from the line to make it extra special for those clients who own one.  All of my work is limited run and they all have an expiration date on them.  So let’s say goodbye to the old King and welcome to the new.

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 11.58.59 AM

I’m about a week or so away from finishing the silvers on the first batch.   This piece isn’t available in the shop yet, but I’ll be making a big announcement once I’m ready to actually release her, so stay tuned.

2017 can kiss my sterling silver ass

2 Comments

Yeah, eat a Cleveland steamer, 2017.

I’m not going to complain.  I’ve got it out of my system.

But I’ll say this:  between my own health stuff which forced me to literally decimate my incoming orders, legal and other junk, and some horrible shit that happened to a few of my regular clients, let’s just say it’s been one of those years that makes you aware of how freakin’ fragile our lives are.

Then again, good stuff too.  I’ve got a new company called Black Rainbow to handle all of the animation and mixed-media work I’ve been doing.  (Went into business with the wife, so we’ll see how deep THAT water gets).    I also saw Guns and Roses in Madison Square Garden which was a life-changer.   And how many times did I see Blade Runner in IMAX?  Five.  I went and saw that bad boy five times and I would have seen it again if I knew how reduced the experience was on the regular screen.  If you missed that shit, you just flat-out missed it.  Don’t get it on iTunes and watch it on your little smart whatever and then post on whateverbook and talk about how you don’t know what the big deal is.   I also saw the restoration of Suspiria on the big screen in ATL.   Go Synapse Films!  Oh, and Phantasm.

And Zima came back.  Which is awesome because it reminded me of drinking it in college.  But it also sucks because it reminded me that it sucked.

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.45.43 AM

That didn’t stop me for buying like 8 cases and drinking them all while listening to GNR’s Use Your Illusion double disc.

Enough rambling, let’s talk turkey.

Another great thing about 2017 was some douchebag ripped off my tiki design.  Remember this one?

screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-1-33-02-pm

Well, I made a new custom Tiki for Ed with extended teeth and a badass green gemstone in the forehead.  So get busy, assholes, you got a new one to steal.

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.44.18 AM

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.40.46 AM

It’s a one-of-a-kind and even has a cool ‘wood’ type texture on the finish.   Ed wanted it BIG and he sent me a shot of it on his hand (which, by the way, Ed, looks like you’ve used to punched the crap out of some people, so I’m glad you were happy with it.)

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.41.26 AM

Ed did this one full custom with me.  Can’t be duplicated, but I’ll be making a new similar Tiki at some point for pre-orders for those of you that dig the tiki thing and want to get one.  Keep in mind, I’m still rocking the ORIGINAL Tiki Tattoo.   Here they are side by side.  The gemstone is a custom addition, but the standard Tiki ring is here.  I’m going to make 3 more this season, so let me know if you want one.

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.41.14 AM

I also had a client order a custom skull ring and torque combo set in the Mystery Cave style.  This is one of those cartoon skulls that I’ll carve up for people on occasion.  They had the awesome idea of making the ball-ends of the torque into additional cartoony skulls and I thought it was a great call.  One of those orders I hated to send out and would have much rather worn myself.

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.42.39 AM

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.42.10 AM

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.42.20 AM

I’ll still do these cartoon skulls every one and a while.  If you’re interested in one, drop me a note and we can talk.  (Jenna, I know I owe you one.)  I’m interested in doing a few of these and continuing to explore the skull as a reduced shape.  I’ve been tooling around with a wax, in fact, that will probably end up being something once I finally figure out what I want to do with the eyes.  Thinking about a vertical shape, maybe.

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 12.18.56 PM

On the realistic skull ring front, I’ve had a few requests for a King Skull and I’ve  been telling clients to hold off as I’m working on a new sculpt.  I’ve been threatening to retire the current king skull and I’ve finally done it.  I love her and she’s one of my favorite designs, but like the McRib, I think these models work best when they are exclusive and in limited editions.  The new jawless skull will be introduced soon, I hope.   Right now, I’m busy with Gentlemen.

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.41.59 AM

The Gentleman ring.  (Seen here with a black lace agate which looks freakin’ great in there).  I’ve just started working on a new custom ring for a new client who wants it done in beautiful high-dome Burmese jade.  I wear a jade ring like this and it’s my absolute favorite gemstone.  Look at this massive jade cab I got my mits on for this beauty.

Screen Shot 2017-12-30 at 3.19.06 PM

That’s over 50 ct of REAL jade.  So many so-called “jade” gemstone rings I see out there are completely fake.  There are a number of ways to tell that I won’t get into here.  A great way to start is that real jade isn’t cheap.  Now in Asia, the high rollers wear a very, very brilliant deep green stone that looks almost like green plastic.

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 12.27.52 PM

First – most of this is fake.   If you didn’t get a nosebleed when you paid for it (and usually a certificate of authenticity as well) you bought “not jade.”  Or maybe you bought a lower quality jadeite that has been dyed.  Now even if it is real, it’s expensive and frankly I’m not crazy about the look.  Because, yeah,  it looks like plastic or even chrysoprase, which is, in my humble opinion, a much better-looking stone and costs about 10% as much.

Some other jade fans wear this stuff called Nephrite.  Which, I will say, can be awesome if it’s used in the right context and size and it is actually jade.  I’ve done a few skulls with Nephrite eyes and they look badass.

Screen shot 2015-10-14 at 8.47.35 AM

The color is deep, forrest green and I dig it, BUT if you buy cheap nephrite it just looks like frozen spinach soufflé.  You’ve got to check the stones in good light to make sure they don’t have too many occlusions.

Me?  I’m a Burmese jadeite man.  I like the lighter, creamy jadeite jade which hasn’t been dyed at all.  It’s still pricey, but nowhere near the level of the candy-green stuff.

Screen shot 2016-04-03 at 6.25.48 PM

Yeah, that’s my set I wear MOST days.  Those beads are made by Jason Walz over at Custom Mala Shop, but the rest is me.  I get my stones from Hong Kong, usually, or order them from one of my trusted vendors when I can’t catch a good flight over there.

This new Gentleman client of mine spotted my full custom jade ring with the buddhist knots in either side and asked if I’d make him something in the same aesthetic vein.

Screen shot 2014-08-15 at 2.34.04 PM

His Gentleman will be a bit larger, actually.  It’s going to take me a while to get the stone lined up and the additional custom carving done in the wax, but I’ll post pics soon.

Meanwhile, how about a SPECIAL?  This is for 2018, so I call it, the

DARK DAYS OF WINTER SPECIAL

img_7173

I found this freakin’ beautiful black obsidian gemstone with a bit of gold highlight.  You know obsidian, right?  Called “dragonglass” in a very popular, yet litigious and unnamed book series and television program starring orgies and dragons.   If you’re more like me,  you’ll be more interested in it because it’s also what the man’s wife uses to kill herself in Cormac McCarthy’s  soul-crushing novel “The Road.”

Check this stone out:

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.58.44 AM

Right?  Awesome.

So I’m curious if anyone is interested in a Gentleman with this gemstone.  I’ve only got one, so first paid, first served and I’m only doing it with this stone because I think it’s awesome.  But if your’e into it, I’m going to do it up in a Gentleman ring for $420 delivered to the US.  Gonna name her the “Road Agent.”  I’d vote for her in a gunmetal finish, but high-polish would look great too.

Well, that’ll do it.  I’ll leave you with a shot of a recently completed Leonids ring with that beautiful Kingman turquoise.  I’ve only got one more stone left, so let me know if you want her.

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 11.43.29 AM

So, seeing as how this past year went, like most of you, I think I’ll not WISH for a happy new year because that shit doesn’t work out.  Instead, let’s MAKE this fucker happy.  We’re gonna beat 2018’s ass so hard that 2019 might just not show up at all.  Have a good one and stay safe.

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 12.55.43 PM

Modern Skullsmithing

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 8.52.03 AM.png

I’m making a few pieces this August.  If anyone is interested, time to visit my new site and see what’s what.   The Film/Animation side is still very much under construction.  More on that later.

I’ve gotten some tremendous feedback and support as I’ve been dealing with health stuff. I’ve been reassessing what I wanted to do, the kind of projects I want to work on, etc.  Basically it’s come down to working with the right people on the right projects within the right timeframe.  A modern strategy for skullsmithing.

I’m taking requests for pieces year round, but I’m only going to work on select projects during certain times of the year.   I’ll be offering specials and concept pieces via Facebook and Instagram (find me there through my social media links) .  For an awesome core group of regular clients who’ve sent me encouraging messages and with whom I’ve worked in the past – you know who you are – you can always get a piece made at the front of the line.

Given that my time is limited, I’ve broken things down between how I want to spend my time and how I don’t.  You all ever do this?

What I want to do:

  • Make clients happy.
  • Take more time to make pieces for clients.
  • Make the perfect jawless skull ring.
  • Get into bangles a little bit.  Something badass is waiting to happen here.
  • Get into beads.  I have no fucking idea how to do this.
  • Make clients happy.
  • Learn to set silver into stones like all-around badass and ring-making legend Alex Streeter.  Not going to duplicate his work, but I need to get some gold lightning bolts into some black stones.
  • Balance jewelry with sculpture, digital media, and the other artforms I work with.
  • Make clients happy.
  • Get some better packaging.

What I don’t want to do:

  • Make adjustments for people who didn’t size their fingers before ordering or tried to size it themselves to save a 5 minute trip to a jewelers to have it done right.
  • Talk concepts with people who can’t afford a piece to begin with.
  • Rush.  The rings are done when they’re done.  4 weeks is standard. Sometimes a week less, sometimes a week more. Don’t like that?  Get some pre-fabricated tin-filled shit from Ebay and have a nice shitty life.
  • Explain how veins in a stone aren’t cracks.
  • Discuss projects with people who can’t spend 3 minutes looking at the website to see what kind of work I do.

Sounds like I’m being a snob, right?  Well, think about it: maybe we need to be a little more snobby.   Think about how awesome it would be if you could strip the bullshit from your own life and focus on doing things that matter to you and only interface with people who make your day-to-day life better instead of worse.  That’s what I’m doing.

So, if you’re into it, send me an email at matt@mtmaloney.com and let me know what kind of work we should be thinking about.  Meanwhile, stay tuned for updates here, on Facebook, and on my tiny little Instagram page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

R&R

6 Comments

As some of my clients are aware, I’ve been suffering from some health problems recently. As a result, I’m sorry to say that I’m not taking any jewelry orders right now. The skullworks is getting shut down for the time being so I can focus on recovery.

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-12-50-14-pm

I certainly intend to re-open in the future, but how and when that will occur is unclear. If you already have a project underway with me, rest assured I’ll be finishing out those pieces. All club members: if I’m doing club rings for you, please contact me at matt@mtmaloney and I will still be able to fill those orders.

It’s been an amazing first act and I appreciate all of you checking out my work. You can still connect with me on Facebook and Instagram for updates.

In the meantime I thought I’d leave you with something fantastic.  Or rather….not so fantastic…

screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-1-33-02-pm

That’s right.  One of my awesome clients – Jim – pointed out that a feeble attempt to ripoff my Tiki ring has been posted to Ebay.  Stainless steel, hollow-backed, and lacking any planar variance at all int he design, this epic turd had me and mine laughing our asses off for a few hours.

Here’s the original.

Screen shot 2014-04-08 at 4.48.53 PM

So I’ve been asked a bunch of times whether or not I’m pissed off about this.  No, of course not.  I think if it were remotely close, it might be different.  But the chump who wants a 20 buck crappy-looking (and dishwasher safe) Tiki is not the same person who wants to get something custom carved in precious metal.   Custom is custom and…well…sculptural ability doesn’t grow on Chinese trees.

But I am sad to be signing off for now.  When I get my feet back under me and I can reassess things, I may very well start taking a few orders here and there, but I don’t really have any plans right now.  I have to feel things out.  You know how us artsy-fartsy types can be.

matt02

MT’s skull.

 

Gentlemen and the Leonids

It’s so great to finally see the Gentleman in all of its glory.

img_7173

I wanted to make a city ring.  Something you could wear on a pinky or ring finger in the board room that JUST walked that line between safe and dangerous.  (Isn’t that what a pinky ring is all about?)  Of course, they’re really big enough to go on ANY finger.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-8-56-44-pm

I’m working my way through the first order of 5 right now and they’re just about ready to go online.  Once I get a few more variations done, I’ll ask my web wizard to throw them up for sale.  I have all kinds of stones for these.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-8-57-07-pm

The ring is well-balanced and solid, not hollow backed.

And yes, it still features a small pair of skulls for those who want to look.   I have so many projects that I’m behind on but this thing just HAD to finally see the light of day.  It’s been a long time in the making.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-8-55-49-pm

Also, check out the Leonids with the red stone.  Client-provided that and it looks great.   I wish I had a better shot of it.  Oh well.