While Rio Grande’s Catalog In Motion was underway here at Rio Grande, I spent a day with Bill Fretz, creator of the Fretz line of metalsmith’s hammers and miniature stakes. The inspiration for the miniature stakes that launched the line came from a quantity of unusually shaped tourmaline that came to Bill to be set. Having to create custom bezels for the stones, Bill found that none of the traditional forming tools were as fine as he needed them to be. What is a craftsman to do? Create his own! He designed a set of stainless steel miniature bezel-forming stakes that allowed him to create the crisp, clean corners and curves he needed—even tapers, underhangs and triangles. Custom work, economically quick.
The step from the bezel-forming stakes to the forming stakes was practically a no-brainer. Crafted in stainless steel, these delightful, diminutive tools are perfectly sized for jewelry-making. Here is every conceivable curve for whatever direction a design might take you.
I watched Bill use these stakes to form one convex-shaped bracelet and one concave-shaped cuff bracelet using the cross-peen and planishing hammers from the line of Jeweler’s Hammers he created. These hammers are beautiful tools, comfortable in the hand, perfectly balanced, and weighted to make the hammer do the heavy work while resting lightly in the palm the hand. I didn’t want to put it down!
During Rio In Motion, Bill taught a classroom of folks how to make these two bracelet forms. Maybe not terribly difficult on the face of it, but a professional result depends on skill, on a steady hand and on a sure, light touch with the hammer. And to carry these skills into the realm of artistry is where all the fun is. Nevermind all the technology and automation out there, you can start with a simple strip of metal, a hammer and a stake and create a brilliant piece of art, one hammer blow at a time—and see it take shape under your hand, at your direction. The pleasure of the process lives in this ancient technique and these well-crafted tools. And they’re both right at your fingertips. Whether you could make it to Rio In Motion this time or not, watch out for more education opportunities in the months to come—and for sure plan to join us at the next Rio In Motion event!
Are there tools and techniques you’ve been wanting to try your hand at? If there’s not a class on them at Rio already (check here), you could sow the seed of a brand-new class . . . what’s your pleasure?