Richard Salley – The Metal Man

I am a big fan of Richard Salley, which is pretty clear from the number of his workshops I've attended. I've gone to a number of his workshops in the States, as well as a few down at the truly cool Hacienda Mosaico, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Many of you know Richard – or know him by reputation – from his brilliant work with metal. He started in 1969, as an assistant to metal sculptor Malcolm Moran, and he's been doing incredible things ever since! Vivi Magoo has a good profile of Richard and some of his work in their catalog – check it out, if you get a chance.

To see more of Richard's work, which ranges from base to fine metals, from found objects to precious gems (& everything in between), check out the galleries on his website.

Richard taught a few workshops at Bead Fest Philadelphia this summer. (His assistant was the lovely and talented Erin Harris. Check out her website.) I signed up for his "Balance Beam Bracelet" workshop. It's a project that I've admired for a long time, but just couldn't work out the scheduling before this. Plus, I'd get to learn how to tube set stones. Here's Richard's version:

It's a multi-step process, of which Richard has fortunately worked out all the details. The result is a hinged bangle, with a tube set cubic zirconia and a torch-fired enameled decoration.

Pretty, right?

I learned a lot in this class – which is a nice way of saying that it wasn't easy for me. Because, if you're me, when you try to solder the second side onto the housing for the enamel piece, you unsolder the first side. (Yuh-huh. "Unsolder" is so a word.)

And, if you're me, when you try to solder the tube for the cubic zirconia in, it takes 9 tries to get it. You read that right. NINE.

And, if you're me, when you cut the slot for the hinge, you cut the tube... and the adjacent bezel cup.

Here's an in-progress pic of the "balance beam" half of the bracelet, and the enameled plate in black, white, transparent Van Dyke brown, bitter green, and orient red.

In the end, all the struggle was worth it. I not only learned a lot, but I made a piece that I'm really pleased with. Is it perfect? Nope. But am I proud of it? And does it fit my wrist perfectly? Yup.

To find out where Richard is teaching next this year, check out his workshop schedule. And, to some of you, see you in Puerto Vallarta next January!!!

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