An interview with Sarah Lewis – a metalsmith and lapidary artist – and owner of Adorn, a new jewelry shop in Northern Liberties
1.Please introduce yourself – tell us who you are and how you view your work.
Hello! My name is Sarah Lewis, and I love to make jewelry! I work mostly with sterling silver, glass, and stone. I see my work as stylish and unique, funky, and bohemian.
2.You are a metalsmith and a lapidary artist – and you create the most amazing geode rings using faceted glass. Could you describe your process to us?
Sure, the rings are quite a process, but I’ll do my best! Some styles are all blown glass. For these, I first create the inside design. This can be almost anything, but my common designs are my “honeycomb”, “imploded flower”, and my sparkly dichrioc “galaxy”. I then usually top this with a clear lens, and then build up layers of glass powders and frit around it. The layers of glass colors are inspired by natural geodes, and that is why I call these styles my “geode” rings.
I then form the ring band. All of this is done molten using a big torch, and many tools. I am literally playing with fire and with a liquid in the air, using gravity and centripetal force. I also have developed, over the years, an understanding of how to work the glass color – how each will react to different types of flames, to get the effects that I want.
After the hot work is done, my “geode” rings must cool in the kiln, and can then be cold worked. At this stage, some styles have stones fused into them. My current collection features ammonite, labradorite, and crazy lace agate. I use my lapidary wheel, to grind the surfaces of the glass and stone flat, and chemically bond them together. All styles – both the all glass – and glass/stone – are faceted using my lapidary wheel. This is an extremely tedious process. I use a diamond grit wheel to remove most of the material, and get the general shape that I want. I then must grind each face of the facet, with four different wheels. Each higher grit wheel will remove the scratches from the previous wheel. Finally, I use a cerium oxide compound to get a nice final polish.
I recently have added another feature – electroforming and gold plating the ring bands! Electroforming is an electro-chemical process that builds up a layer of copper on the glass. I then must plate the copper layer with nickel, and then plate the nickel with gold. I am a little obsessed with combining glass and metal, so this is really exciting for me. And, I do all of this in my studio, right in back of adorn! p.s. – this will all make sense if you check out images of these pieces on my website – www.sarahlewisjewelry.com.
3. You’ve recently opened a store in Philadelphia with Jaime Melfi and Greg Droggitis called “Adorn”. What made you decide to open your own store and why did you choose Philadelphia?
Well, I actually moved to Philadelphia about a year and a half ago for a job, designing accessories for another company. I was laid off last summer, and it was actually a blessing, because it gave me the push to do my own thing. I absolutely love Philadelphia, and especially my neighborhood, Northern Liberties, so I knew I was already in the right place! Philadelphia is supportive of small businesses, and has a great art and craft community. It has always been my dream to open my own shop, and develop my jewelry into a business, so I am really excited to finally be doing it! With the help of my business partners Jaime Melfi and Greg Droggitis, I am able to keep store hours, while filling my wholesale and custom orders, and running my website. Adorn has only been open since January, but we have had a great start, and have big plans for our future. It has been a lot of work, but we are learning so much, and we love every second of it! Please come visit us!
Reported by: Carrie Biegler – aka: bud and branch www.budandbranch.etsy.com
I became an admirer of Sarah’s work as soon as I stepped into her store and it was a pleasure to interview her. I wish her much success with her new shop.