I always enjoy spending time at our Rhode Island workshops with the talented craftspeople who begin with a ladle of molten pewter. Watching as that metal is poured into a mold, hardened, polished, plated, and finally ready to be adorned with enamel and stones is fascinating.
Rhode Island has a heritage of producing jewelry. The process we use to make our designs is very similar to how earrings or brooches might be made. The biggest difference is in the scale; our designs are big, complex and continuously push the boundaries of metal making.
The standard black rubber molds, normally an inch high, are now stacked to 6-8 inches to accommodate the depth of the new peacock bowl, angel stand, and pagoda box roof. Rooms are set aside to store hundreds of these archival molds.
The metal is poured into these spinning molds, filling all the carved-out areas. I watched as these men struggled to pull the hardened metal out of these molds, sometimes taking two men to work together on one mold!
The metal is at first rough, and needs to be polished and shaped. Often, separate parts need to be soldered together to form the whole design.
At this point the raw pewter can be plated, by applying a coating of gold or silver to the surface. Each piece is individually wired on racks and slowly put through a series of baths to apply the metal finishes.
The design is now ready for enameling and individually setting each crystal (“stoning”). While most of this adorning is completed in Union Springs, New York, some of our more intricate designs are worked on by a group of artisans in Warwick, Rhode Island. I have been very fortunate that many of them have worked with me for over fifteen years. Last week I watched as they began stoning Alexander, our wonderful new camel figurine.