Part one of four

Follow the making of one of Kent’s most rewarding and challenging art pieces to date!

The beginnings of a major project

I was contacted in early 2015 by a new client that wanted to commission a major piece, and her only request was that it be designed around the theme “Vanishing Illusions”, a Buddhist concept about the impermanence of things. Well, I’m almost always up for a challenge, but this one really stumped me. After months of waiting for some kind of inspiration, I was still nowhere, and the client started to get restless. Finally, an idea that I liked came to me. She had had a beautiful garden created at her home, with rocks, water, and fire elements, and I had been perusing the photos.

Then, in a dream, I saw a crystal form, and behind it was a moving object…

and through the crystal you could see the distorted and reflected elements of the object. When I woke up, the idea of a prayer wheel rotating behind an aquamarine crystal came to me. When it was being worn, the rotation of the wheel would always change, thereby creating a new and distorted visual every moment – impermanent and distorted – just like the reality we live in, always changing, and always subject to our limited perceptions of reality. What eventually emerged was a vision of an etheric and beautiful cityscape, which reminded me of Rivendell, from Lord of the rings.

I called my colleague, master gem carver Glenn Lehrer, and sure enough, he had the perfect aqua crystal in his private collection. We met with the client, designed the cutting needed for the piece, complete with a waterfall and a cutout in the back to fit the prayer wheel. We were on our way!

Thus began one of the most arduous projects I’ve ever undertaken…..

I was creating something that was well beyond my comfort zone – not only was it asymmetrical, exceptionally complex and technically challenging, but it was also executed at a time when I was struggling with my health. It took over a year to complete, and there were several major setbacks during the process.

In the beginning…… There was a vision in a dream….

First Steps

Once I received the carved Aquamarine from Glenn, the first step was the making of the removable prayer wheel. As one of the two major elements in the piece (crystal city and wheel), it was necessary to create it before starting the building of the world around the stone. I made the cylinder and caps of the wheel to fit into the curve carved in the back of the aqua. It needed to be the exact height so the caps would barely overlap the bottom and top flat surfaces of the crystal. It was important to fit the wheel closely into that cut so that the details of the surface would reflect out toward the front of the crystal when worn together.

Aquamarine crystal with waterfall carved by Glenn Lehrer, along with the gold ingot made to create the Prayer Wheel.
The gemstones for the removable Prayer Wheel have been selected and laid out. The cylinder created for the body of the Prayer Wheel is lying next to the gemstones.
The Prayer Wheel has been fabricated and ready for stone setting and granulation
Granulation completed!
Stones have been set, and the fabricated Prayer being inserted into the Prayer Wheel.
Stone setting now complete on the Prayer wheel, beautiful!
First look at the Prayer Wheel behind the Aquamarine crystal. The jewels flash color through the crystal, as I saw it in my dream.

I laid out stones to be applied to the surface of the wheel. The whole surface needed to be covered with different colors of gems, styles of setting and gold patterns, so the reflections within the crystal would always be changing with the rotation of the wheel.

The settings were made and fused to the surface of the wheel, and a prayer inscribed on silver was inserted before capping the cylinder. A spindle was made on which the wheel rotated, and at the bottom of this wire was a pointy bullet cabochon sapphire, facing down. The idea was that the cab would snap into a cage connected to the bottom half of the crystal world. Nice idea, easier to imagine than execute……….

Making the prayer wheel was a piece of cake compared to the next bit of work….

Next I had to fabricate complicated platinum caps for both top and bottom sections, including the cage housing for the removable prayer wheel. In the next installment, we will see what went into that!



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