Argentium Silver and Petrified Peanut Wood Pendant by Kaelin Design

Petrified Peanut Wood, Argentium Silver, Sterling Silver

I have met many different kinds of people in my life, and invariably when we discuss what it takes to be successful in life, they say things like: “You must be driven to succeed”, “Have a dream and pursue it!”, or even “All you need is heart, and you’ll succeed!” Then when I say, “So if I have heart, a dream, and drive- what’s the next step?” That’s when the flow charts come out, and the rigid scheduling of every conceivable business possibility. “You must have a spread sheet for everything!” “You have to know to the minute and penny what time and materials you spend on a project!”
If I started a clock when I started a project, and metaphorically listened to it ticking away while I was trying to create art jewelry, I probably wouldn’t finish any projects…and I would hate what I was trying to create!

Oh, I know I should be streamlined and efficient while I work, and a certain amount of scheduling and thought has to be given to projects. If I can move my anvil next to my soldering bench so I only take 3 steps instead of 20, that’s more efficient. I get that. Do I really have to keep track of how many penny’s worth of solder I use to create a bracelet? Does all of that information really have to be entered into a spreadsheet with 4 different kinds of color coded graphs in order for me to be successful?

Celtic Inspired Blue Lace Agate Silver Pendant by Kaelin Design

Blue Lace Agate, Argentium Silver, Sterling Silver

When I consider all the paperwork and scheduling deemed by the faceless majority to be essential to my success, I want to abandon my tools and run screaming into the night. Yes, there are artists who thrive on the rigid creation of beautiful objects. They create stunning masterpieces of engineered elegance, and I am awestruck by the precision of their creations. Yet, I could never even consider using their precise processes in my creations. It is not that I am incapable of such precision- at one point I was able to visually sight an object to within a .0001 tolerance! But the ability to do such a thing is, to me, a cold calculated activity. I firmly believe that nothing even remotely akin to that could result in the lithe organic forms that I love to create…

So, in spite of all the well-meaning advice and admonitions that I receive- I embrace spontaneity. I strive to look for the unexpected. I explore alternate options for every design I create. And just because I start out with a drawn design that I love, doesn’t mean that’s how the design will end up once I’ve actually created it! I will add and remove lines of forged metal, gemstones, and even completely scrap a piece in the works if I think that it isn’t the way it should be… Of course, the flip side of that, is that when I am working on a new design I usually visit my drawer of discarded pieces. Looking at them anew through the distance of time passed, I often find the perfect curvature or embellishment for a current work in progress. I am sure that other artists do this as well- but I would be highly surprised if any of them started a piece with the click of a stop watch or worked to a color coded pie chart….

Crazy Lace Agate Filigree Silver Pendant by Kaelin Design

Crazy Lace Agate, Sterling Silver


Many people I meet seem to be under the impression that tarnish is something that can’t be avoided. They are embarrassed when a piece of theirs if tarnished, and that really, they should take better care of their jewelry, but simply can’t find the time to combat something that happens anyway.

If you’re like me and the majority of the people who own my jewelry, you will have a small mountain of jewelry that you own sitting in a box somewhere in your home. Most people know that if you wear a piece of jewelry every day, it won’t tarnish as much as quickly as a piece sitting in a box. This is because the oils in your skin will actually coat the jewelry slightly, helping to protect the silver from interacting with the oxygen in the air, which is what forms tarnish. Moist, humid air will increase the production of tarnish, and if you wear lotions, you will also coat your jewelry with lotion, causing it to be dirty and perhaps have a layer of lotion-grime, but that’s a different problem entirely.

Here is where I will tell you a secret. I don’t have any more time to clean a mountain of jewelry than you do.

When I make a piece, I really only want to clean it once, to remove any and all residues that are left after the creation process. I do NOT have time to go back and clean it again in a week, or a month, or even six months. So I don’t do it. What I do instead is when I have finished a piece, I thoroughly clean it, then I put it away in it’s box and don’t think about it again unless I show it to a client. Whereupon it comes out just a beautiful and sparkly as the day I put it in the box.

No, I don’t have a maid to do my polishing for me. If I did my house would be a whole lot cleaner!

What I have is a little sachet in my jewelry boxes. Inside each sachet is a little pile of silica crystals. Magic you say? No…The crystals are not some arcane form of jewelry magic, but instead were designed by some anonymous scientist to absorb moisture from their surroundings. When I had more time in my life, I used to dry flowers. The procedure was fairly simple: take a flower, put it in the silica crystals, take it out again when all the moisture was absorbed.

The silica crystals in the sachet actually absorb all the moisture in the box with the jewelry piece, significantly delaying the onset of tarnish. Pretty nifty, huh? The really cool thing is that the crystals are reusable. About once a year, I take out the little satchets, bake them in a toaster oven for about 20 minutes to remove the moisture from them, and then pop them back into their boxes.

Now, this is not a new idea. I am not the genius that came up with this method. This idea has been around a very long time, and there are lots of different products on the market that are designed to do this for you. 3M actually has several different paper strips and blocks that will do the same thing, and nearly every new item you buy has a little stachet marked “Do not eat this” that is filled with a similar product. Now to be sure, this will not take the place of actually hand polishing certain pieces from time to time. Your pieces will still eventually tarnish, but it sure helps cut down on the amount of polishing you have to do in the long run!

In case anyone is curious, I get my silica crystals from a craft supply store, and I pour them in little ready made drawstring favor bags from the wedding/party section of the same store.

So there you have it- straight from the jeweler’s mouth. Don’t submit to unnecessary polishing! Stand tall, and look fearlessly at a future where your jewelry stays beautifully shiny with nearly effortless ease!

Once upon a time, on a sunny Tuesday about 6 months ago, I had a great new necklace design idea. This idea was so perfect in my mind’s eye, that I could see how the hammer marks would refract the light, and I could visualize the feel of how the metal would move and flow under my hammer. I knew with absolute certainty the speed and weight at which I should swing my hammer and the angle at which to hold the silver.

I was sadly mistaken.

The metal did not flow amiably under my hammer, but instead fractured and fought against me. My hammer marks didn’t refract the light in a beautiful shine, but rather were dull and lifeless. The lines of the metal didn’t flow in a clean sweep of gorgeous beauty, but were stilted and awkward. So much for perfection. After trying to force the project for about three hours, I gave in to the obvious. This was not the right design for this particular day and piece of silver. With reluctance, I shelved the necklace design, and turned the silver in to several bangle bracelets instead.

Hand Forged Argentium Bangle

Argentium Silver Bangle

The bangles were very well received, and after thinking about it, I felt that I had a more perfect understanding of how silver flows and is shaped. Surely my misadventure was simply a fluke. I had learned anew how to shape silver according to it’s properties and my will, and this time would be so much better. I was nearly 85% positive. So about three months ago, I tried again.

Same results.

I have been forging various kinds of metals for over 10 years now, and I have come to the realization that I still have ALOT to learn, but this time around, I was extremely frustrated. I knew this design would be truly beautiful, as well as being a stunning piece, and it would be a wonderful sculptural adornment. I sighed deeply as I turned the silver into several pendants and a series of bracelets.

Hand Forged Argentium Silver Pendant"

Argentium Silver "Simply Elegance"

About this time, and in an unrelated fashion, I managed to injure my wrist. As this wrist was the one I had broken several years ago, it is prone to re-injury, and as smithing is extremely hard upon one’s body, I reluctantly agreed to a period of convalescence. During this period of enforced rest, I started to entertain the notion that my perfect design wasn’t so perfect after all. I am only human, and am quite prone to mistakes, after all. So several weeks ago, after being cleared to return to work, I tried again.


Hand Forged Argentium Necklace

Argentium Silver "Ribbon Necklace"

It was my design that was the problem after all. Where I had visualized a convex curve, what was really wanted was an anticlastic concave curve. Truly an easy mistake to make. Really. And if anybody believes that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you….

Oh well.

As I live and learn, I will probably create more designs, but I hope that I have learned to be more flexible about creating those designs. I am one of those people that has little scraps of inspiration and quotations in unexpected places, and I have now placed “YOU ARE NOT PERFECT” on a label on my hammer. Just a friendly little reminder to myself, as I am awfully stubborn sometimes.


Argentium Silver, Sterling Silver, Druzy


Druzy stones like the one I used in the piece above are the result of a stone cooling more quickly on the outside than the inside when it is formed from it’s near molten state. Nearly every stone that exists has the potential to have a small section of “druse”, or “druzy” in it’s matrix. I have seen even precious gemstones such as emerald and black diamonds that have druse areas in their matrices. Many druzy stones are naturally colored due to the inherent qualities of the stone, like the black druzy pendant pictured below:


Forged Fine Silver Filigree around Black Druzy.


Occasionally, however, the stone in question, while having excellent druzy crystal structure, lacks the beautiful colors that appeal to many people. In this case, a stone artisan will take the cabochon and a piece of mineral or metal such as silica, titanium, gold, or platinum and vaporize the mineral/metal which will then permanently deposit itself onto the surface of the stone.


Sterling Silica Druzy Pendant


When using silica, the artist is depositing a stunning iridescent layer to the stone, like this stone above, but when using a metal like titanium, which is shown in the stone below, the stone artist can control the resulting coloration by the type and amperage of electrical current he uses to vaporize the metal. Some of the variations possible in titanium include blue, purple, gold, green, and every combination in between.


Sterling Silver, Titanium Druzy, Patina


Of course, precious metal coatings like this one in 14k Rose gold are as incredibly stunning as they are rare:

Rose Gold Druzy Filigree set in 14 Karat with a white Sapphire accent.


The vapor-deposited coatings of both minerals and metals are extremely durable, and will not chip or flake in any way. The only way to mar the coating is to abrade the surface crystals with directional force, such as knocking a ring against a table, or by cleaning the surface with a rough substance, like sandpaper or baking soda.

I really love all things druzy, and even prefer it to many other cabochons and gemstones in my work. Every piece is hand cut, and custom colored, which I find only appropriate to showcase in unique, handmade, custom created pieces like mine.

I hope you enjoy them as well!


Many artists are inspired by their surroundings. How many paintings of the canals of Venice have you seen? How many poems have been written about Spring? For all those artistically minded people who wondered where I receive my inspirations…. Here are just a few of the reasons behind my pieces.

Space Dust Druzy Art Pendant

“Space Dust” Titanium Blue Druzy, Sterling Silver, Patina

When I saw this stone, my immediate thought was that a piece of the heavens had fallen to earth and lay sparkling before me. I still envision this stone flying through space, trailing motes of light and twinkling in the heavens.

Agate Filigree Art Pendant

“Agate Filigree” Sterling Silver, Crazy Lace Agate

When I think of a new design, I am most strongly influenced by the play of linear elements. It always seems as though I am sculpting both the positive silver lines, and the negative space they embody. When I can sculpt these spaces and lines around a stunning stone… All I do is smile.

Agate Filigree Art Pendant

“Rain Fall” Sterling Silver

One of my favorite activities is watching the rain fall on a misty day, where beads of moisture trickle down a window pane in shimmering silence. To capture in silver such an ephemeral moment of beauty is truly a rewarding experience. I created Rain Fall pendant in an attempt to share that feeling.

Smoke and Mirrors Silver Art Pendant

“Smoke and Mirrors” Sterling Silver, Patina, Cubic Zirconia

Once when I was camping on a cool clear night, I watched the smoke from our fire rise above the tree tops and twine itself amongst the stars. This Smoke and Mirrors pendant is the result.

I am considering adding another weekly post about artistic inspirations, so if you enjoyed learning about my motivations, I would love to know about it! This possible new post would be open to all artists, so if you would like to be considered, please comment either below or on my studio’s Facebook Fan Page.

…when I was fifteen, I learned to weld and forge steel and copper sculptures. I discovered the joy of creating art with metal, and the satisfaction of creating something inherently beautiful. It wasn’t exactly what my guidance counselor had in mind, I think, but it made me very happy. I made sculptures of all shapes and kinds, and ended up with a welding degree just in case this art thing didn’t work out. I went off to college where I discovered that the people at art schools were more interested with the “meaning” behind the pieces I was making and less interested in the actual accumulation of skills and techniques. I left, went home, and dived into life. I got married, had my children, but still the lure of forging metals called to me.

When you wake up in the middle of the night with the most perfect idea for a new forged sculpture, you know you’re in trouble.

This time around, however, I couldn’t just set up my forge for a day of welding, I also had to teach my kids their letters, and make lunch, and do the laundry. You know- actually living life, instead of locking one’s self away in an academic workshop…. I decided that there weren’t enough hours in the day to create art, and raise my kids, and do all the other things I wanted to do, and so I would wait until the kids grew up and either went to school or moved out. Unfortunately, my designs weren’t leaving me alone. They kept knocking on my mind’s door, and distracting me while I waited in line at the grocery store. When I realized that my grocery lists were no longer readable because of all the design ideas drawn on them, and that I was waking up every night with frustratingly uncreatable design ideas, I gave in…. if only so I could get some sleep!

I decided that perhaps there wasn’t enough time in the day to forge sculpture with my big anvil and forge. But…..perhaps… there was enough time to forge lighter sculptural adornments. So I’ve carved out space in my garden bench for the soldering set up. I’ve filled a little rolling toolkit with all the handtools I might need, and I’ve stashed the pockets with bits of silver, and lots and lots of sheets of designs, and a very large notebook with a flashlight next to my bed.

My designs are in order now. They wait patiently until I have time to sketch them out, and my sleep is no longer disturbed with a design I don’t have time to create- only with those that absolutely can’t wait until morning. I now have enough design ideas to last me the next ten years, but I can foresee a long and happy future making pieces that I love.

I suppose that’s the long answer to how I got started, but my “start” did cover over 10 years….. and every day I wake up happy knowing that I am doing something I love.

What is art?

When I was in college, this philosophical question was hotly debated in the halls, over meals, and shouted about in the classrooms. I was never really interested in taking part in these debates, as I was more concerned about learning all the fascinating techniques. Art, I felt, is something that is created by the artist without any interference from any busy-body know-it-alls who pontificate for hours about the subtle variations of white.

This last remark in no way references anyone I have met. Really it doesn’t.

As I have gone through the years, however, I have come to realize that no one person has the same definition of art. My own definition is as follows:

Art- 1)an individually created piece that reflects the personality of the artist 2) an individually created piece that reflects the beauty of the world as seen through the eyes of the artist.

I have been told- sometimes at great length- that this is a naive definition, fit only for preschoolers and the art-impaired. I don’t take it personally, because I know people spend a great deal of time and money debating and exploring this topic to the fullest. I have also come to realize that art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

People have tried to tell me that in order for a piece to be considered art, it has to have a deeper meaning, something that dredges the very depths of human existence. I try not to laugh when I think about myself creating pieces with that in mind.

Of course, every piece I create does have some reason or other behind it’s design. Most of the time, it’s simply for the sheer creative beauty, but all of the pieces I create that are named have a story, or something that I was thinking about while I created them. I might try to capture the way bubbles rise in the air, or a vine’s tendril curls, but I will never talk about the subtle variations of black versus black that are intended to echo the depths of the human existence. I would probably hang up my hammer first.

But what about you, my reader? What do you say art is?