Added to museum 2/24/03
Abrasha at his workbench. Many skills are involved in making his highly precise pieces of jewelry including 3D CAD design, machining, casting, soldering and, of course, hand filing and polishing.
San Francisco-based jewelry artist Abrasha (who stopped using his last name long ago) says he became a goldsmith the moment he walked into a jeweler's workshop for the first time. It was a chance meeting in Amsterdam in the early 1970s. Abrasha was studying to be a dentist when a friend brought him along on a visit to his girlfriend's goldsmithing workshop. One look at the goldsmith's shop and Abrasha knew immediately what he would do for the rest of his life.
Abrasha was born and raised in the Netherlands. From a very early age he knew
he had good manual dexterity and very good hand/eye coordination. He recalls
once when he was about 6 years old his class was tested at school by what must
have been a psychologist. He had a strange box, which had to be closed with a
separate lid, but you could not simply put the lid on the box. One had to
slide, push and move all kinds of levers, buttons, etc. in a certain direction
in just the right order to do this. He remembers enjoying the challenge and
being able to do it. Later he heard that he had been one of the few in class who
had accomplished the feat.
When he was a little bit older, Abrasha very much enjoyed building plastic car, airplane
and ship models. The planes and ship were mostly American warplanes and ships. Even though he did not speak, read or understand English, he was always able to build the models based on the instruction drawings that were included in the boxes.
Abrasha also always enjoyed taking things apart. He remembers taking his piano, clarinet and saxophone apart more often than he practiced playing them. He never disassembled the piano completely, just took the keys out and put them back in. With the clarinet and saxophone he enjoyed taking all the parts off, mixing them up, and then putting the puzzle back together. Not too long ago, his wife and oldest son found an old IBM electric typewrite sitting on a sidewalk next to a garbage can. She brought it home, and he and his son took it apart. It took them forever, as there must have been a couple thousand parts in this monster. In little springs alone, he counted over one hundred. He was amazed to think that just a few years ago, the state of the art in printers produced machines with thousands of movable parts, while now we have computer printers with only a couple of dozen movable parts.
After high school he was not really considered "fit" for an academic education, and it was suggested by counselors that he should become a watchmaker. This did not appeal to him at all; in fact, the thought was horrifying. He was then advised that if he did want to pursue an academic career, dentistry would be a natural choice because of his manual dexterity. He decided to follow this course, but he was not a very good student. Even though he excelled in his manual subjects and lab work but just did not spend enough time with the books to get good grades.
One day his best friend Benjamin introduced him to his friend Victoria’s goldsmith shop, and he immediately knew that being a jeweler was what he wanted to do with his life. When he came home a few days later and told his parents of what he wanted to do, his mother said: "A goldsmith? But you don’t even draw!" She was right, it did not really make sense at the time, but Abrasha was sure that this was the course he wanted his life to take.
Following the visit to that workshop, he started researching schools. In Holland, where he was from, there are some good schools. With some additional research, he also found the "Goldschmiedeschule" (School for Goldsmithing) in Pforzheim, Germany, which seemed a better choice for the training he wanted. Pforzheim is to the jewelry industry what Detroit is to the automotive industry. With the support of his family, he moved to Germany in September of 1973 to start his formal training.
After completing a two-year program, and being trained in every facet of the jewelry industry, he graduated with honors (cum laude). To become a certified goldsmith, he needed to complete his training by working in a firm as an apprentice for a year. He did this by apprenticing for Günther Krauss, one of Germany's leading jewelry designers and four-time winner of the prestigious Diamond International Award and many other German jewelry awards. After that he took a state exam, which certified him as a journeyman goldsmith.
Next he worked as a bench jeweler for Klaus Ullrich, one of Germany's most important and influential post-war jewelry artists and innovators. In 1977, the Chief Essayer of Amsterdam granted Abrasha a Master Sign after proven ability in the field of jewelry making. He still uses this Master Sign (hallmark) to sign his work today. He then had an opportunity to come to the United States and came a few months later. He worked for two years as an instructor at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco. He set up a studio of his own in 1979. Abrasha started his business doing "trade" work for jewelers, such as ring sizing, repairs, chain repairs and stone setting. It took several years for him to become successful with his own designs. He has since gone on to produce many award-winning pieces. Here is a list of some of the honors he has achieved:
|"Diamonds International Awards", Certificate of
Art Quest '86, Third place winner in Jewelry/Metalwork category Dimensions '86, Lenexa, Kansas, Honorable Mention.
Artists' Liaison, Honorable Mention
Stipend granted by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Rheinland-Pfalz at the "Künstlerhaus Edenkoben", Edenkoben, West-Germany
First place award "American Jewelry Design Council" competition
Niche Award, First Prize
"Best of Show" at ACC Craft Show, San Francisco
"Best of Show" at ACC Craft Show, San Francisco
At one point in his career a colleague, who is an old time watch maker and jeweler, suggested that he should get a lathe, because his work was so precise already and he would very much enjoy incorporating working with a lathe. Abrasha is glad he listened to his colleague because the precision offered by machine tools allowed him to take his work to a higher level. He imported his first lathe from the Czech Republic. Later he found a used milling machine on the Internet, and thanks to the help of a couple of friends on the East Coast (the mill was in upstate New York) he bought the mill sight unseen.
Abrasha's jewelry shop looks in many respects like a machine shop. Here he works on his milling machine. To the left is a small benchtop lathe. The many windows offer plenty of light plus a fine view of downtown San Francisco.
When asked “What inspires you?” Abrasha answered as follows:
“I am inspired by objects around me and by images of objects in newspapers, magazines and books. Technology inspires me in general and machines and buildings in particular. Since I am a goldsmith, I am very detail oriented, and I will dissect machines and buildings and focus on certain parts of these objects. Other things that have inspired me are discarded items like rejected platters from hard disks, used carbon dioxide cartridges of soda water siphons, rusted steel, washers and scrap plywood to name a few. Objects like the hard disk platters and the CO2 cartridges were especially fun, because they are directed from the start into their final shape by virtue of their function.”
For more on Abrasha’s work, see his web site at www.abrasha.com. You will want to visit the “Processes” page of his site, where he goes into step-by-step detail on how two of his rings are produced. It is an excellent photo record that will give a better appreciation of the numerous setups and operations involved in making a seemingly simple ring.
(Click any photo for a larger image.)
ring in stainless steel, 18K gold and diamonds. The finished ring is shown
above the 3D CAD drawing of the pieces that go into making the ring.
Abrasha uses trueSpace by Caligari to help visualize his projects before
starting on them. It also helps to clarify a commission project with the
client before the project is begun.
The complete process for making this ring is detailed at http://www.abrasha.com/process/mr4.htm.
|An 18K gold ring uses five stainless steel pins to enclose a ruby ball.|
|"Machined Ring #2" is made up of stainless steel, 18K gold and 22 carats in diamonds.|
This "Double Trillion Ring" is made from platinum, 18K gold and 64 total carat weight of diamonds. The ring has two trillion cut diamonds, set back to back in the bezel, so that one trillion is visible on each side of the ring.
|A "context cut" ring with 18K gold, platinum and a diamond.|
|A "Washer Ring" of stainless steel, sterling silver and 24K gold.|
|"Machined Ring #3" is made up of stainless steel and 18K gold with a synthetic ruby rod.|
|A bracelet with mechanical shapes made of gold|
|"Pachinko ball bracelet"|
|These "Race" bracelets enclose balls of ruby or gold that can move around the edge like a ball bearing in a bearing race.|
|A necklace made up of gold and stainless steel pin "cages" that enclose a ruby ball in each.|
|Abrasha's next project is a set of CNC machined chess pieces. Shown here are the white and black kings.|
|To see more of Abrasha's work, visit his gallery web site at www.abrasha.com.|
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