Monday, February 25, 2013

The Modern Locket

Modern Locket in Aluminum
Aluminum is an amazing metal. It's uses are endless...from cookware to industrial applications...this metal at one time in history rivaled platinum. Its discovery in the early 1800's has transformed our daily lives. Today, aluminum jewelry is gaining in popularity due to its carefree quality and likeness in color to silver.

I love lockets. The idea of a secret message for the wearer or photos that only the wearer treasures is fascinating. My next several projects will focus on creating different locket designs. I'll share the basics of how I make these modern lockets.

For my first locket project, I decided to cut my own discs. The process involves using a disc cutter with different sized holes and a big hammer. The sheet metal is inserted into the disc cutter and the cutting cylinder is inserted in the hole. I use a big hammer to "whack" the cutting cylinder. It takes some muscle, but isn't too difficult. The edges of the disc are deburred with sandpaper or a file and the disc is sanded to a satin finish.

This locket is for my mother-in-law, Yei. I recently planted flowers in her garden and decided on flowers as a design element.  The secret message on the inside will be "My Boys."

Aluminum is so easy to hammer and the front disc is given a hammered finish. I love how the light glitters in different directions with this finish. The metal is very soft and requires very little effort to hammer the piece.

The basic steps are:
1) lay out the design directly on the metal with a permanent marker
2) practice on a scrap piece of metal or sometimes a thick cardstock. Check spacing.
3) stamp piece
4) align and punch holes
5) clean off marker with acetone
6) final polish
7) assemble

I like the look of this piece and will create variations of this design for future lockets. Every piece I make is created with an attention to detail using traditional metalsmithing techniques I've acquired over the past 25 years.

My work is available for sale on and Like me on Facebook at Lisa Miwa Jewels and Stampologie to receive special offers.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Inspired by Metal Stamping

Anodized Aluminum Pendant
"Keep Calm . Carry On"

My latest endeavor is creating jewelry with handstamped sentiments. This hot trend in jewelry parallels our desire to embrace our individuality and memories. I've seen thousands of beautiful pieces on Etsy, where I have my new shop, Stampologie by Lisa Miwa and Susan Morishita.

I researched metal stamping before embarking on this new endeavor, reviewing many videos on technique, looking at various artists and their styles. This information was very helpful, but no amount of studying can replace the act of doing. Now I know this looks pretty easy, right? Well, there is a technique to stamping. 

Some of the things I had to learn include:

1) How hard do I stamp the metal? Well, it depends on the hardness and thickness of the metal. Practicing on aluminum is different that stamping on nickel silver which is very hard.

2) How do I space the letters? Each font style is different so adjustments in spacing need to be considered. And, what can I say except that practice makes perfect? For each blank I stamp, I practice first before stamping on the final product. And, sometimes that isn't enough.

3) Lastly, working with aluminum is an adjustment for me. I use separate tools for aluminum so my sterling silver work is not contaminated. And, because I am very finicky about the final finish of my pieces, it took me a while to understand the properties of aluminum. Now, I have to confess, I really like it. It's bright like silver and very easy to care for because it doesn't tarnish. Aluminum is also very lightweight, so you won't feel the weight of a large pendant.

This piece "Keep Calm . Carry On" reminds me to stay focused on my creative journey by putting one foot in front of the other.