The One Of A Kind Malaia Garnet Ring In 14k Gold 2020

I have created engagement rings before, and I have created many works that pushed at the limits of what I thought was possible, but this ring is the crown jewel of breaking through barriers for me. A very beloved friend and fellow artist reached out wanting a truly special, truly one of a kind, spectacular engagement ring for his most beloved lady. He had an idea of what he wanted, and honestly, I thought there was no way I could make anything like it. In some ways, I was right… I did not yet possess the skillset necessary to make the ring. In other ways, I was so wrong to think it couldn’t be done. I had design skills, I had resources, I had a strong background in sourcing stones. I needed to play to my strengths, and ask for help where I needed help.

After brainstorming with our friend who commissioned the ring, we had a general idea of what we were doing. I set about sourcing the most incredible stones I could find for this ring (play to the strengths) and after much scouring, I found a Malaia Garnet that was nothing short of breathtaking and some very rich conjac/champagne diamonds to compliment the garnet.

One of a kind Malaia Garnet sourced by Klee Angelie 2020

Finding the perfect center stones and accent diamonds was exciting enough to propel me through the terror I was feeling. I reached out to my father in law, who shall hence forth be referred to as “Pops” and I told him I needed his amazing skill set to create this ring and do it justice.

Pops is a master jeweler of more than 50 years, and so we agreed that he would bring this ring to life and I would apprentice under him. The experience was both hugely educational for me and also fun.

Rafael Perez Sr. handcrafting one of a kind ring with klee as apprentice

Pops handcrafted every last little detail of this ring, and I watched in amazement, assisted him when he needed a tool or supply, wanted design input, or had something I needed to source to make the design completion happen. We started with a wax rendering of the band shape.

Wax Rendering Of Malaia Garnet Ring Band 2020

We had a few problem solving moments with the wax rendering. I don’t care how long you’ve been at your craft, you still have these “Ah, crap.” Moments. In addition to being a magician at the bench, pops is also an expert problem solver, and infinitely patient when it comes to reworking things. That, to me, is invaluable to witness.

Rafael Perez Sr. handcrafting ring 2020

We got the band shape just right and casted it in 14k gold (casting is endlessly cool to see and experience), and it came out beautiful. Pops went about setting the diamonds I had sourced… and I had no idea how absolutely tricky that process is. Setting tiny diamonds is not for the faint of heart. I acted as pop’s “diamond finder” when one went rogue, and watched him use the most delicate balance of force and gentleness I’ve ever seen in my life.

“How many times have you stabbed yourself in the thumb while setting diamonds?” I asked, after he stabbed himself in the thumb, cleaned it, and proceeded to keep on working. “Oh, I dunno… maybe 200 times.” he said. “It’s just like that.”

Casted ring band with the first set diamonds 2020

I watched him set 47 diamonds. Then he hand engraved design details into the band. Unbelievable. He took a pause, then set about finishing the ring, with me in awe and on standby to assist with whatever he needed. He set the center stone mounting, adjusted it… set the center stone, adjusted it…

Rafi making our website even more awesome at pop’s workshop

Rafi spent the time (over several days) helping pops by going outside and dragging debris away from our recent hurricane Sally (did I mention we had a hurricane during this ring creation process?), moving stuff around the workshop so pops could find things he needed and work more easily, and then sitting down to make improvements to our website in the final day of ring creation.

Diamonds set, ready for center stone 2020

Pops worked late into the evening the final night, but when it was done I think we all agreed it was worth all the effort he put in, all the sourcing we did, all the design brainstorming and modifications. It was befitting of royalty.

Malaia Garnet 14k Gold Handcrafted ring by Rafael Perez Sr. Klee Angelie as apprentice

Yeah, well… needless to say I put it on my finger immediately.

Malaia Garnet 14k Gold Handcrafted ring by Rafael Perez Sr. Klee Angelie as apprentice.

The entire experience was priceless for me, not only in working with my father in law (who is one of my favorite people of all time) but in learning so much and really widening my perspective of what is possible with patience, some tools, and some passion… and asking for help when you need it.

On the tools end, you know how it seems like you always need the newest, fanciest, most expensive tool to accomplish the project (according to the folks who want to sell you said tools)? Pops created the wax form of this ring and set all those stones with basic things every jeweler has at the bench. Files of various sizes, drill bits, burs, pliers, a variable speed flex shaft drill… and yes, he has the big machines for casting and polishing, and so on… but I’m talking about his ingenuity and resourcefulness at the bench. If he has a basic tool, he finds one million uses for it. If he needs a tool, he often makes it himself. It’s refreshing in a time where we can easily think “Well I can’t do it because I don’t have { fill in the blank}”.

Malaia Garnet ring creation and finished 2020 Rafael Perez Sr. Klee Angelie apprentice

The beloved friend and fellow artist was beyond pleased and moved by this ring, and I would have wanted nothing less for him and his bride to be… and I would have expected nothing less from the workshop of my father in law… and it makes me want to reach for more and more in my own personal journey as a jeweler.

“Rafael Perez Sr. has been handcrafting custom jewelry for more than 50 years, and he’s an absolute magician at the bench. There’s nothing this man can’t create, nothing he can’t figure out, everything he produces is incredible. It was so much fun, and such an honor to learn from him on this project, and I look forward to more.” ~Klee

Bronze Mystery Pendant (Klee’s First Lost Wax Casting) 2020

I was contacted in the spring of this crazy year we know as 2020, by a very talented artist and member of our artist community on the interwebs. He said he had a special project in mind, with a very personal and beautiful backstory, to be created for a friend, and I was the person he thought of to create it. The piece was to be an interpretation of a vintage pendant belonging to a very special mom, whom his friend had lost as a child. The pendant she wore had sentimental significance… only problem being, the only photo that existed of it was a very blurry pic from eras gone by. I was hooked, said yes immediately.

Only problem was, the only picture in existence was a blurry photo from eras gone by. No info about the pendant’s origins were to be found anywhere (we both did copious research). Also, I knew right away this was going to require my delving into the world of lost wax casting which I’d never done before (enter self doubt and insecurities). Fortunately the artist commissioning me to create it (did I mention he’s a ridiculously talented artist himself), produced a gorgeous and flawless digital rendering of what he thought the pendant might have looked like, and at least provided the silhouette we would be going for. The rendering was so beautiful (enter self doubt and insecurities) that I wasn’t sure I could do it justice.

I researched, I sketched, I scrapped, I researched more, I sketched, I scrapped. I realized I was going about things the wrong way. I was trying to recreate a “historical artifact” when I should have been emotionally interpreting the silhouette and feelings that the image and rendering evoked. I was given full permission to do so, I just wasn’t. I started over and produced a sketch that I felt represented the backstory and feelings of the pendant.

Mystery Pendant Concept Sketch Klee Angelie 2020

He loved it, resonated with it, and gave the green light to move forward. Then I just had to tackle the challenge of making this in wax and then casting it in bronze (enter self doubt and insecurity). It took me eons to figure out how to make this in wax, but I took it on one step at a time and after about a week, I had something!

Mystery Pendant Rendered In Wax Klee Angelie 2020

I used the tools I had available (files and drill bits mostly) and I got there. I also learned a lot in the process (almost melted the top but didn’t, thank goodness…)

Mystery Pendant Rendered In Wax Klee Angelie 2020

The theme was “Wholeness in Partnership, Wholeness in Self” and the artist/commissioner loved the narrative and the wax rendering. Now I just had to cast it in bronze (enter self doubt and insecurity). Fortunately for me, I had resources.

Rafael Perez Sr. Teaches Klee The Art Of Casting 2020

My father in law is a master jeweler of more than 50 years, and he was game to help me cast this pendant and show me the process. In his decades long career of casting, he’d never casted in bronze before (he’s a goldsmith), so we both had some learning curve but together we figured it out and had a lot of fun in the process.

Rafi was there to document, enjoy the moments, and move an antique Italian rolling mill (weighing at least a quarter ton) across an acre of yard into the workshop (using straps, a riding lawnmower, a winch, and brute force). He said “Yes, I’ll do grunt labor while you two create fine delicate pieces of jewelry, no problem.”

Mystery Pendant In Bronze Klee Angelie 2020

The pendant casted beautifully and I took it back to my studio, cleaned it up, assembled, soldered components, polished, and it was splendid. The artist who commissioned it was so happy to see it completed and so thrilled to give it to his friend. The friend whom it was for, was moved to tears, and that would have made the whole process worth it in of itself… but in addition, I learned lost wax casting, faced fears, spent time with Rafi and my father in law at his shop, and created something I’m very proud of.

Luna Fine Art Gallery Luminaries Exhibit – Rafi 2020 – Awarded

This show was a special one to me, not only because I won an award, but because the theme of the artwork in this show sheds light on women’s issues, highlights strengths, and illuminates the potential of women. A celebration of women. A Which in my opinion, anything that illuminates a light on the potential of these beautiful creatures called humans, it is right up my alley.

When we arrived we had the opportunity to meet Layli Miller-Muro before she presented her talk on “Ending Violence Against Women: the progress and challenges ahead”

Layli Miller-Muro is an American attorney and activist. She is the founder and Executive Director of Tahirih Justice Center, a national non-profit dedicated to protecting women from human rights abuses. Tahirih’s holistic model for protection combines free legal services and social services case management with public policy advocacy, education, and outreach. Go to http://www.tahirih.org for more information.
“Artists have tremendous power to inspire and uplift, as well as share wisdom and insights. The arts have given women voice, provide healing, and inspiration.” -Layli Miller-Muro

There was so many amazing works of art in this exhibit that were beyond powerful. I was honored to have my two pieces hanging in this stunning show. I was also honored to be one of the award winners, which left me humbled.

There are so many reasons why this show makes it to the list of our special projects, but I can summarize in three words… powerful, beautiful, and strong… just like ALL the women represented in this show. I am honored, to have been recognized.

Klee’s Custom Jewelry Trunk For “Trunk Shows” 2020

Over the course of my show career, folks have mentioned jewelry “trunk shows” to me plenty of times, and with my inside voice I was like “Nope, not gonna do it.” Why? Trunk shows can be very intimate, personal, lucrative, and I knew that. I’d done indoor shows, but they were largely set up the same way I did outdoor shows. Fold out tables, my usual displays and arrangement, and that’s all fine… but it didn’t quite translate when it came to the ease/flexibility/intimacy of a solo trunk show. Why didn’t I do them? Because I had no earthly idea how. Until I had an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

A very dear friend and collector of ours (who happens to own the most rad place to hang out in all of the city) suggested we do a party/art show to celebrate her’s and Rafi’s birthdays and show some awesome art. I had to say yes, and I had to make it awesome because it just felt right.

Rafi with “the trunk” before it became epic

So I was like, “What if I get a really sturdy awesome steamer chest type trunk, and we modify it to make it a functional lightweight versatile durable rolling show trunk?!?!” Rafi, per usual with his awesome engineering brain and willingness to indulge me was like “Yeah, we can definitely do that!” You guys, I wish I had more pictures of the process, but we had like 2 days to build this thing, so we just went at it and documenting it fell to the wayside.

The trunk in progress 2020

Ok here’s the quick rundown: I got this super sturdy trunk from Rhino Trunk (highly recommend) and we built a wood base for it out of plywood, hinges, locks, castors (almost lost my s*** over castors, WTF castor manufacturers?!), we assembled the base and trunk so it could weather the apocalypse (not as easy as I thought it would be, but we totally made it work awesomely). I purchased a decorative but solid framed mirror, and led lighting that is meant for use in small safes (it’s hella bright and angled just right to light up an enclosed area). Rafi built custom shelving like a champion, I stained and painted this thing like a champion. I had purchased velvet contact paper to line it with… velvet got tossed out of the way all “Nah, not going there.” We created a custom earring display out of wood and copper tubing, we installed it all in the 11th hour…

The Epic Custom Made Trunk 2020 Klee Angelie

When it was ready, I put some displays and jewelry in there just to get a sense of it, and we flipped the lights on in this thing… and I cried with joy and threw my arms around it in a bear hug. Then I threw my arms around Rafi in a more comfortable and familiar bear hug (he’s a lot nicer to hug than a wood and metal showcase). We finished with some beautiful Klee Angelie Logo wood panels that Rafi made on the outside of the trunk, and Voila! I am so ready for any trunk show that comes my way. I told Rafi “So… I kinda want to make at least two more of these… you game?” He’s game, and next time we’ll try to document the process more thoroughly.

Dolce and Gelato Rafi and Klee Birthday Extravaganza Art Show 2020

Oh, and the birthday art extravaganza was most excellent and awesome… and the trunk performed beautifully!

Dolce And Gelato Sculpture And Art Show Rafi 2020

I was doing a birthday bash at Dolce And Gelato which is a really cool and unique place. Klee actually debuted her new jewelry chest (that she built at this show) but you’ll find that as a separate project. This made my list because the day I arrived and talked to Brenda (the owner) and walked around to look at the space, I saw something weird. I saw an old crappy mannequin and I asked her if I could make something cool out of it for the show.

I also brought a whole bunch of paintings and was ready for a really fun time. Dolce and Gelato is such an eclectic place that I felt at home there. The sculpture also attracted a lot of photo opportunities and it was just awesome to be able to turn something old into a new work of art.

Klee’s First Group Show At A Gallery 2020

I’ve done a lot of shows… I mean… a lot. But this year I decided to participate in my very first group exhibition at a gallery. “No big, I’ve got this.” said yours truly. But no exhibition is without some modicum of stressing out.

Klee At Quayside Gallery 2020

I had just been accepted to Quayside Gallery, and agreed to participate in the new members’ show. The theme was “Roaring 2020’s” and I was very excited about that. I was slightly less excited that the show was taking place immediately following the holidays, when my energy and inventory of pieces are typically at their lowest. I know, I know… “Nice humble brag Klee, you had an excellent and busy/profitable holiday season and you’re just SOOOO tired and low on jewelry. We feel SOOOO sorry for you.” I get it, and yes, that’s a good point. Nonetheless, I was kinda stressed out about the whole thing, because all the planning was happening during the holiday rush 2019.

Holiday Celebratory Crazy Rafi and Klee

If I can pull it off, you can too… trust me! Markets and shows- check! Emails and online orders- check! Clandestine meetings in parking lots with last minute holiday shoppers- check! Social media festivities- check! Bourbon and too many cookies- check! Planning and writing checks, prepping new pieces (and also borrowing from some existing inventory because I’m a grown-ass person and can do what I want)- check! Here’s my takeaway for any of you that may be stressing about an upcoming show. It’s going to happen anyway, so just do what you can with what you have, and when the day arrives… enjoy it. For Pete’s sake, enjoy it.

The setup day was utter chaos, took way longer than I planned for, and Rafi was recruited to assist with installation even though he was just there to support me. He’s a super nice guy, as you probably already know, so he agreed to help however he could. The day of the show was equal amounts of Chaos. Prepping was like a fast motion kaleidoscope of food and drink placement, heels clacking, excited nervous chatter, camera flashes, and sweaty congratulations “We’re not supposed to be sweaty yet! It hasn’t even started!”

Klee at opening of show, demonstrating her best CHEESE.

The actual show went by in a flash. I visited with everyone, took one million pictures, and tried my best to soak it all in. Rafi was by my side through it all, and then it was done!

Rafi and Klee Quayside Gallery 2020 (Photobomb by veteran gallery member and talented artist Laurie Flynn)

The quayside family is wonderful, and I’m so happy to have shared my first group show with them, and with my close friends and my person, Rafi.

Klee posing for group photo (and looking very tall due to camera perspective!) at group exhibition 2020

It was a memorable and fun experience, and an excellent first gallery exhibition. And also, I wore my most favorite vintage dress and super fly victorian inspired boots, so I was bound to enjoy myself.

Wooden Sunflower Lamp Sculpture By Rafi 2019

This commission makes the list because I did something I had never done before. Wood carving was definitely out of my comfort zone, but when this collector called me and said what they wanted the piece for, I designed something I had never done before. I think they had no doubt I could pull it off, but I did. Wood carving has always been out of my comfort zone because I am not a patient creator who can do tedious.

Wooden Sunflower Wall Mount

After sitting with them for a while and looking at the colors of the lamp, I decided to go with a color of sunflower that doesn’t actually exist. I knew that the only way I could pull it off would be with the design of the flower being perfect. So I went to town on some wood with an angle grinder, drill, dremel, and knife… the end result was spectacular.

Speaking At Montessori Rafi And Klee 2019

Klee and I were invited to speak at the Montessori School of Pensacola. We discussed art, jewelry, stones, and having the belief in yourself to be an artist despite all the odds… and a spinning easel and how I built it.

This kind of experience always inspires me. Speaking to the young creatives of the future and showing them that no matter what, if you follow your heart, your dreams can come true… We loved the experience. We were asked a lot of brilliant questions and had so much fun with the entire experience.

Hanson Realty Wings Sculpture – Rafi 2019

This was such a fun and challenging project for me to work on which is why it made it to my specialty projects list. The commission was to have human sized wings that could fold up and go anywhere they needed them to for special photo ops. They wanted something artistic looking and custom. So I designed something special for them.

Hanson Realty Wings By Rafi Perez

I created the wings out of hard foam, built the base and mechanism to fold up, painted it, and then sealed it with epoxy resin. This piece is made out of wood, foam, blood, sweat, and a few tears. Needless to say, they were stoked with the final results.

Perfectly Imperfect By Klee Angelie 2019

You know the feeling… you’re going steadily along on a piece of art, everything is working out splendidly, you think “I’m such a badass” and then pow! You’ve instantly and unexpectedly destroyed your piece. You can cry, and believe me… it’s ok to cry… but after the tears, I believe you have a choice to make. You scrap it and move on, or you figure out how to make that jazz work anyway.

A genuine, bonafide WTF moment at the bench 2019 klee angelie

On this particular occasion, I had a very fancy, very expensive faceted tanzanite slice that I was just dying to make a tree of life pendant with. Apparently, I was channeling my inner Thor that day. As I was mid-way to completed, I applied a bit too much pressure on that delicate stone, and snapped it in half. I sat in disbelief for a moment or ten… and then my guts got all tied up and my chest got that sinking feeling. I wanted to be really sad, but the truth was, I was NOT going to let that stone go to waste.

Electroforming experiment 2019 klee angelie

I decided to do an experiment (Yay science!) At worst, it would fail and I would learn a few things. At best, I might just have something fantastic in the works. I electroformed around the perimeter of the broken stone, and antiqued that electroformed border to look earthy. Then I set about creating my tree of life pendant, accentuating the break in the stone rather than trying to hide it. The result astonished even me.

Perfectly Imperfect by Klee Angelie 2019

Out of the rubble of my mistake, I had one very unusual, very beautiful pendant that represented not only overcoming challenges, but also the pure beauty of what some might consider imperfections. A collector of my work saw this piece online, and immediately wanted to purchase it. She said it would not have spoken to her if the stone had been in tact. It was the fact that it was broken and made whole again, that moved her so much. I can now honestly say, I’m so glad I broke this stone.