April 10, 2007
Recent SCAD graduate David Creamer creates beautiful, unique jewelry, including pieces inspired by objects many might find anything but inspirational. This article discusses Creamer's views on materials and describes the process he used to create a provocative bracelet that represents societal elements.
Bright, energetic, articulate, 23-year-old David Creamer just graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), and he's hoping that the adage "Do what you love and the money will follow" is correct.
Creamer's specialty—and passion—is jewelry-making (Figure 1), but when he first entered SCAD, he was interested in sculpture. "I have always been pretty good at additive sculpture and assemblages, so I decided to take a jewelry class to see what it was like. I found that I enjoyed making jewelry, because it demands the precision and attention to detail that I was missing in sculpture. Some people just make these giant sculptures with no thought for concept or craftsmanship. I feel that in jewelry, it is harder to 'fake it,' because so much time and care are involved in constructing a piece," Creamer said.
Creamer uses gold, silver, and platinum to make his jewelry. "If I am making a huge, sprawling neckpiece or a large piece of runway jewelry, I use sterling silver. Making such pieces out of gold would force me to sell my car to pay for materials, and to make them out of platinum, I probably would have to sell a kidney. So I use gold and platinum when I make small, delicate pieces."
Commenting on the differences in working with the various metals, Creamer said, "I think that any jeweler will tell you that gold is the most fun to work with. I don't know what it is about gold, but it does what you want it to do. It sort of strokes your ego because it behaves so well.
"Platinum, on the other hand, can be like a stubborn child. You have to use a completely different set of files, sandpaper, and buffs, because the metal is contaminated easily by other metal particles.
"Platinum has to be heated until it is white-hot before it solders, and this requires a propane or natural gas torch, because the metal does not like oxygen. The price of platinum is about twice that of gold, so I don't use it frequently. However, the luster that can be put on a piece of platinum is a rich steely gray that is unsurpassed, even by gold."
Creamer also uses better-quality stones (Figure 2) when working with gold or platinum, "because if I am using such highly valued metal, it would be foolish to use badly cut gems."
He also refrains from using gold and silver on a single piece. "When one does this they are sort of disrespecting the gold by combining it with a metal of lesser value. Instead, I would make the necklace out of gold and white gold (Figure 3), so that the metals are equal in value. It is a weird hierarchy that actually has nothing to do with the actual dollar amount of a piece, but with respect for one's materials."
Creamer primarily uses soldering to make his jewelry. "I use a solder that is about 95 percent silver and 5 percent lead. The lead puts the melting temperature of the solder just below the melting temperature of the metal, so the trick is not to melt your piece while building it.
"The metal is soft enough to be formed with a hydraulic press and hammers. Forming is a technique I use to make large objects, such as serving trays and teapots. Forming involves striking the metal at an angle with a hammer to slowly move the metal into a desired shape. In this way, a flat metal disk can be raised into an elegant container.
"Knowing how to manipulate the metal is crucial. If you see a tiny hinge or clasp on one of my pieces, I had to fabricate it."
Creamer cast the bracelet in Figure 4from silver. "The links are inspired by repulsive or dirty things, such as cockroaches and can pull tabs. In casting, anything organic can be burned out of a mold, which means that you can put a seashell or a pinecone in plaster, throw it in the kiln, and create a perfect impression of the object. This method preserves intricate texture.
"In making this piece, I wanted to cast real cockroaches to represent the poverty and despair of the area where I lived. The natural details of the cockroaches are perfectly preserved.
"The other links are made of can tops to represent pollution; the clasp is made from a cast crack vial top, which represents the prevalence of drugs in my town."
Creamer described the process he used to create the bracelet in Figure 4. "To actually make the piece, I started by taking the bugs and vial top, weighing them, and then putting them in a plasterlike substance called investment. The pull tabs do not readily burn out, so I had to make a rubber mold of them so that wax facsimiles could be produced. These wax can pull tabs then were put into containers of investment.
"I then put all of the investment containers in a high-temperature kiln and cooked them at 2,000 degrees for a few hours. The sustained heat caused the objects inside the investment to burn out of the containers, leaving an empty space.
"When the kiln temperature dropped to 900 degrees, I took the container and placed it in a centrifuge next to a crucible. The amount of silver needed to fill the cavity was calculated by multiplying the weight of the original pieces by the silver's specific gravity. I melted the raw silver in the crucible next to the container and pulled the catch to cause the centrifuge to spin. The centrifugal force caused the crucible to sling the molten metal into the mold, filling the hollow spaces with silver.
"I then took the container and quenched it in water to get rid of the investment. The excess metal was cut away from the pieces and jump rings were soldered to them and connected together to form the bracelet.
"After the bracelet was formed, it was sanded and polished. Stones were set in the heads of the cockroaches to elevate their intrinsic value from worthless to desirable. The links made from the cockroaches were exposed to a surface treatment that causes the metal to turn a shimmering black."
Creamer learned all of his jewelry-making skills at SCAD, where his first teacher, Taweesak Molsawat, stressed creativity over actual appearance of the work, and his second, Jay Song, taught him the precise technical skills needed to produce well-constructed work.
Creamer also knows gas metal arc welding, gas tungsten arc welding, oxyfuel, and plasma welding and cutting techniques. He sees no difference between his art and something that is commercially welded. His studies have taught him that "welding is an art in and of itself, and its practitioners have learned to notice and appreciate the subtleties of a good job."
Founded in Savannah, Ga., in 1978, SCAD states its mission is to provide an excellent arts education and effective career preparation for students in the visual and performing arts, design, the building arts, and the history of art and architecture. Creamer's banking on that mission, his creativity, and his passion for jewelry-making to earn a living and build a fulfilling career.
Jewelry-maker David Creamer can be reached at email@example.com.