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:

Batshit.

You have to get your configuration down.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

New King

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She was a long time coming, but i’ve finally finished my new King Skull for the shop.   She’s available now and I’ve already been shipping them to some happy skull ring collectors.  Each one has detail custom carved per order so, like all of my skulls, although she starts from a base template that sets the lines and general silhouette, no two rings are alike and they’re cast in solid sterling silver as a single piece.

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A pet peeve of mine: skulls with a hole through the top of them called “skull rings” because, technically, yeah, you can slide it on your finger.  This is not that.  Like all the best skullsmiths (and you know who you are because I follow all of you on Instagram), I work the skull as a sculptural dialogue between the planes of the skull and the shape of the finger that has to pass through it.   The result is a skull that looks good in 3/4 view and compliments the extended form of the hand.

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And while there’s nothing I dig more than a shiny skull, more and more I’ve been pushing for the brushed finish.  I think it helps clarify the planar differences of the form.  Just look at the image above.  C’mon man, don’t tell me that brushed skull to the left doesn’t looks absolutely badass.  As I said, this one is all about looking good from the side and 3/4 angle: the way MOST people, including yourself, actually SEE the damn thing.

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Details are up at the shop.  Drop me a line and let me know if you want me to carve one up for you.  Teeth can be knocked out and I don’t charge for simple carving in the forehead.  Brushed or polished is up to you and I can pair her with my torque if you want to do a full right hand special.

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If you’re not connected to me on Facebook and Instagram, grab me there too.  I occasionally announce specials and deals and if I get my mits on special gemstones, I usually announce them there.  In the meantime, stay tuned as I finish up a new Tiki ring for the summer.

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Jade: Not just an amazing David Caruso movie.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

Jupiter in Jade and a stoney-eyed Madman. And a new King is coming.

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I’m really digging this recent pair of custom orders.  Skull rings with gemstones?  I’ve got two unique takes here: one a Jupiter and one a Big Voodoo.

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Both are fully sugared up – the Jupiter with jadeite eyes and a full sugar aztec theme around the rest of the ring.  The other has a central image of an owl and then yellow and black stones for the eyes.  I’ll be putting more shots of both of them up on my Instagram page.  If you dont follow me there, you should.  It’s where I put most of my special sale announcements and show a lot of progress.

I’ve done a few custom Jupiter skull rings recently. The form is so classic that we can really go nuts with the surface and still get something with a lot of structure to it.  Setting gemstones in it is a bit of a war.

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But this one turned out great.  See a few more shots below.

I’m very proud of this ring, obviously.  Weird to make a piece of art that I’m actually happy with, but the last few rings I’ve done have just turned out so f’king well.  I DID fuck up a Tiki that I’m currently re-making for a client.  Sorry about that.   This one and the Tiki are my toughest sculpts so the chance of me totally laying an egg is a bit higher.

I set out (like seven years ago or  something) to make the best skull ring you could get.  Standing on the shoulders of giants like Courts and Hackett, Tony Creed, CrazyPig, and Ruby Crush, I wanted to make the largest, solid-but-wearable skull ring on the market – at least in the United States.  Like the man said, “If your’e going to try, go all the way. All the way.”


So did I do it?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  I think what I realized when I made the Jupiter was that there is no “best” ring.  There are simply levels and at the top of the levels is this little bar.  And leaning on the bar are these badass skullsmiths like Julian Lamb, Tony Creed, Courts and Hackett, the Deadringers maniacs, and Armand at Crazy Pig and a few other guys like John Mettier at JM Customs Skull Rings and Demitri Bakogiorgis who makes so much freakin’ product I don’t know how he has time to eat.  The ghost of Dave at Dave’s Custom Skullrings  is there who probably wins the award for craziest website.  Josh Warner is there, but but good luck getting one of his skullrings nowadays.  (He designed this amazing Club Ring which is taking the world by storm, and rightly so.)   Every day, more people make it to this bar and they all have the same realization:  it doesn’t stop.

Because the guys sitting next to you are still learning and you’re still learning and everyone still feels like there’s so much more to do.  Everyone is inspiring too.  Somebody drops a new piece and everyone says “damn, I have to up my game.”  When I see Into the Fire Jewelry put out these badass blackened skull that look like they were carved out of obsidian or Ruby Crush drops this fucking amazing gemstone ring…….

So…..

I’m going to design a new jawless skull ring that will replace the King Skull as THE fucking jawless ring on the market.  Just sit tight and you’ll see progress throughout the year.  I hope to have it live for Xmas, but you know me.  I’m slow as shit.  I’m going to retire the current King model and redesign it.  I love it too, but it’s time for a change.

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If you’re the owner of my classic King Skull, hang onto that puppy tight because it will soon be ‘out of print’ so to speak.  I love this fucking ring.   I could keep making them, sure, but i kind of like the idea of the piece being completely retired out of respect and given over to the ages.  Makes it more of a collector’s item and preserves the purity of the design.

It’s also with a heavy heart that I announce that the Gentleman ring is officially out of pre-orders and will be going live on the site in a few weeks.  Stay tuned for more of that as well.  Look at that freakin’ master wax:

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So I’ll leave you with an inspirational video.  What?

The Red Devil

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I’ve had a few requests for skull rings with gemstone eyes recently and I have a pair that I wanted to show off because the results were just so cool.

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This bad boy is a fully customized Little Voodoo with a pentagram centered on the forehead and a little bit of sugar around the shank.  Yet another example of how the Little Voodoo can be customized despite the small surface area.

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This is a small skull ring, dig?  Or at least it’s small for my line.  It does best with one central image and then some minor ornamentation to support it.  Sometimes i get clients who request a smaller ring but have a ton of imagery they want to include.  If this is YOU, then you should really spring for the Big Voodoo.  Don’t worry about being able to ‘pull off’ a bigger ring.  It’s all about how you wear it.

Speaking of bigger rings.

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Another red-eyed demon – this one a Jupiter with the stones set DEEP in the socket.  Fangs as well.  Pretty slick, right?  This was a tough one to build.

And then there’s this:

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This is a Jupiter Skull ring with blue sapphire eyes.   Kinda hard to see in the photos, but there’s even a starburst specular highlight in the stones.  This is another example of the Jupiter ‘sugared up.’  Yeah, its a big ring, but we can fit a lot more imagery on the surface too.

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I’ve also had a few requests for a smaller, more understated ‘realistic’ skull like the King Skull or the Jupiter….something about the size of the Voodoo, but with the classic lines of the realistic series.  I’m eventually going to do something like that, but I haven’t finished the Gentleman yet either and I have to take one thing at a time.

Still on the waitlist right now, but I’m taking new orders in late August so hang tight and stay tuned.