Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Doug D'souza, Jewelry Designer, Tells His Story

My journey as a maker started with first being a breaker. As a child, I was fascinated with technology and had a deep desire to understand how things worked. I would meticulously take my toys apart to satisfy my curiosity, then try to reassemble them. I was mostly successful and learned early on that my hands could make things.

I was born in Mumbai, India where I experienced cultural and religious diversity, and rich colors and textures that would later influence my work. I moved to the US in 1980 to pursue my education and career in engineering mechanics. 
After graduation I started working for BMW, a job I enjoyed for almost a decade. Then one seemingly ordinary day, a high speed rear collision changed the course of my life, and at the same time turned on a creative light that has shone bright ever since. 
After the accident, I could no longer physically do the work so I set out to nurture my creative side with a course in Graphic Design. This led to an internship in a local studio where I learned how to etch and carve glass. I created edge-lit sculptures, lamps and room dividers using hand-fabricated copper to frame the glass. Unfortunately once again, another accident would change my direction. A back injury during an installation forced me to shrink my canvas to a more manageable size.
I was always drawn to metal. Already familiar with copper, I learned jewelry metal smithing through books and video tutorials. It all seemed to come quite naturally to me. The process of designing, sawing, shaping and soldering metal is very meditative by nature. I spent hours sitting at my bench totally in the zone practicing various techniques to achieve my desired results.

Mixed Metal Copper/Silver Resin

I started creating small wearable sculptures as pendants and earrings using copper, silver and pigmented resin. They were hollow forms that were inspired by seed pods. They started out as flat sheets of metal that were textured or embossed using various methods, then shaped using forming tools and pierced with a hand saw. Silver accents were sometimes added to them and back set with pigmented resin over silver leaf, a self-taught technique that I still use today.

Symbols Bracelet

While growing up in India I was exposed to many religions. I was raised Roman Catholic, but my friends were Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Jains, etc. I was curious about other faiths and always kept an open mind. To me religions were cultural, like ethnic food, and India offered a smorgasbord. They basically all had the same message . . . just be nice, and try to get along. It doesn't matter what discipline you subscribe to, as long as it makes you a better person. 
In that spirit and an interest in numerology, I designed a collection of symbol pieces that evoke messages of love, peace, and tolerance.

Rustic Wedding Bands

Over the years I have received many custom requests, including wedding bands. One particular request was for a men's mixed metal rustic style wedding band. Since I was already working with mixed metals and I love textures, I combined them to make my first rustic band. 
I was quite pleased with the outcome, and began designing a collection of them. These rings are not mass-produced, but are completely hand-fabricated and start with strips of contrasting metals. The lining is sterling silver, and the textured insert is copper, or gold. I have recently started offering copper and bronze with surgical stainless steel linings for those who are sensitive to silver. 
The majority of my customers are quite happy with the textures I offer, but some request something more personalized. For example, I received a request from a firefighter who liked the overall look of the ring but wanted flames around the band, and a personalized message engraved inside. I feel truly honored to create something so meaningful that symbolizes the love shared by two people. They are available in custom widths and combinations of non precious and precious metals including rose, yellow and white gold.

Enameled Pendant

What I love about the jewelry industry is how multi-faceted it is. There are so many areas to explore and processes and techniques to learn, that you're almost guaranteed to find your niche somewhere. About a year and a half ago, I met a talented enamel artist in town. Her beautiful work was inspiring, and I found myself  purchasing her video tutorial, equipment and supplies. I was subsequently off on a journey of fusing glass to metal and discovering the joy and frustration of enamelling. It was challenging, addictive, and very satisfying. 
Suddenly my color palette had exploded, and now offered over a hundred and fifty colors of powdered glass to play with. By combining familiar colors that I was exposed to in India, I could now express texture and design in color. Being a metal smith has some advantages. I can cut and shape metal before applying enamel to it, fabricate settings for focal pieces, and compliment them with stones. 
All stages in the process of enamelling are exciting, from design to preparation of the metal, applying layers of powdered glass, to watching it melt and fuse. One big lesson learned is that it's extremely important to write down and follow every step of the process to recreate a specific look. For some of the textured pieces, the techniques I use only give me about seventy-five percent of control over the final outcome, the rest is in the hands of the enamel gods, who can be quite temperamental. 
Just a few seconds in time, and a few degrees in temperature can also make a big difference in the result, which can only be seen after it is removed from the kiln and cooled. This can be very exciting and suspenseful . . . perhaps another reason why I'm drawn to enameling.

Carved Inlaid Stone

In my years as a metal smith, I have set many stones in silver, most of them were bezel set. I was playing with the idea of reversing those roles . . . setting metal in stones. That meant carving the stones and inlaying them with metal. I started with a river rock, and a piece of textured brass that I had sawed out in the shape of a splash. I added a small Malachite stone for contrast then carved the rock so the splash fit perfectly. I liked the look and feel of it, but wanted more contrast between the metal and the rock. The next one was carved deeper with the silver splash sitting below the surface of the tear drop shaped Bloodstone, and was accented with a Ruby.

Modern Vintage Ring

I originally designed the Modern Vintage rings in mixed metals of aluminum, and brass, copper or bronze. They were adjustable cuff rings made of a thick gauge (food grade) aluminum, but were extremely lightweight. I also offer them in silver and stainless steel as cuff or closed rings with contrasting metals.

MFA Egyptian Show
It was my honor to participate in the Museum of Fine Arts Egyptian Erotica show in St. Petersburg, Florida. Using an image from a Nineteenth Dynasty Turin Papyrus, I created a bronze and leather adjustable bracelet that was featured on one of the models.
I work out of my home studio in Gulfport, Florida, and sell online through my website and Etsy store.
I should be content with where I am, but there's currently a new piece of equipment sitting in my studio to cut and shape stones . . . so stay tuned!
This is Week 26 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Doug's story today. To connect with Doug and see more of his work, please visit the following links:

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