Work in the Studio

Currently, Karen Britt is polishing stones for her unique jewelry. Each stone is found by her or her husband and then painstakingly hand shaped and polished for each original jewelry design.

 

 

The work begins with a bucket or bag full of stones we've found all over Oregon. The first sorting of the stones is for good candidates for polishing as found or a great looking stone to break apart for smaller jewelry sized pieces. It's really all I can do not to start this process in the bus on the way home from gathering. A large part of the fun to explore the new goodies, get a better look at them, and discover the pleasant surprises you ended up with. 


Soaking in water and washing with a toothbrush are part of the 'get a better look' process so the selected pieces are clean for the next stage. Sorting stones depending on size, color, beauty, etc. happens next. Because I work with the natural shapes of the stones, I need a lot of material to find such things as two matching pieces to make into earrings. In addition, only a small number of the stones end up being of quality and interest to be worth the time investment of polishing. Only the superstars make the cut of the hours of cleaning, breaking, and sorting.

Of course I try to make those hours of sorting as pleasurable as possible (as seen above). You can see that much of the material breaks in fantastic natural geometric shapes. Those organic lines are the cues I take when polishing the stones so every one is a truly unique piece. These Moss Agates (below) are currently on the polishing table at the Ozone. The big red stone on the left in the dish has been broken to create several new pieces in progress. The smaller elongate piece between the two bigger red pieces is now on the NEW JEWELRY  page as well as the piece smack dab in the center of the dish. See if you can find them.  

Who is next for polishing depends on a few variables. Typically, I will break and polish a certain kind of rock, therefore having a number of that kind available through a certain time. If that's the only rock of its kind that I found, like the Purple Wonderstone, then when that is gone, it's gone forever (until I maybe find more). If it's the Golden Bouquet Plume Agate  or Green Moss Agate , then I will have more when it comes back up on the polish cycle and I do more of that rock.  

The Lapidary (shaping and polishing the stone by hand) is a time consuming art form that I inherit from my mother and my grandfather. Traditionally, one either mounts the stone on a stick (called a dop) or holds the stone on the grinding or polishing surface until the desired result. I primarily work with Agate which is a 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs hardness scale (a diamond being a 10). Its hardness makes it wonderful for all manner of jewelry for its durability but takes up to 7 different wheels on this flat lapidary machine to accomplish a gemstone shape and shine. That commitment of time to the stone creates an intimate relationship with every individual piece that I've polished. Often by the end of the process, I can already envision the style of setting I want to create for it.  



The pleasure of finishing a batch of stones (I usually can do only a handfull at a time) is having a 'painters palette' of shiny beauties to work with. Some are stand-outs to be hung individually as a necklace, ring, or bracelet. Others suggest a harmony with other stones and beg to be paired in the 'Stacked Stones' or an application that even further stretches my jewelry design creative edges. 

 

"The Art has already been accomplished by Nature. It's my joy to collaborate with it, to bring what is already beautiful to a new fruition, and to share it with those that delight in that beauty as well".

 


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