Bob Burkett's Profile

About

I was born in 1948 and currently live in Point Richmond, California (a charming artist community just across tI bay from San Francisco – and closer to Berkeley than Richmond itself). I have been casting beads and jewelry for since 1971. I moved from Oakland to Folsom (near Sacramento) as a young man and lived in Sacramento until 1989 when I moved to Santa Fe, NM for fifteen years. In 2004 I returned to California and have lived in Point Richmond – on my classic 1947 all wood boat (which I spent thousands of hours restoring) since.

It was in Sacramento, in 1971, when I, visiting a friend who was taking a jewelry making class at American River College, first discovered lost wax jewelry making. Spending all night, I carved a finely detailed dragon and had my friend take it into class to be cast. The teacher was amazed and wondered how long this mysterious young man had been carving jewelry and was…

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  • Male
  • Joined July 24, 2009

Favorite materials

Sterling Silver, shibuichi

About

I was born in 1948 and currently live in Point Richmond, California (a charming artist community just across tI bay from San Francisco – and closer to Berkeley than Richmond itself). I have been casting beads and jewelry for since 1971. I moved from Oakland to Folsom (near Sacramento) as a young man and lived in Sacramento until 1989 when I moved to Santa Fe, NM for fifteen years. In 2004 I returned to California and have lived in Point Richmond – on my classic 1947 all wood boat (which I spent thousands of hours restoring) since.

It was in Sacramento, in 1971, when I, visiting a friend who was taking a jewelry making class at American River College, first discovered lost wax jewelry making. Spending all night, I carved a finely detailed dragon and had my friend take it into class to be cast. The teacher was amazed and wondered how long this mysterious young man had been carving jewelry and was shocked to find out it was my very first attempt!

The love of jewelry making had hit me and I spent the next several weeks hitting the pavement, visiting jewelry store after jewelry store trying to find someone to apprentice with. Everyone turned me down as they wanted someone with experience. I finally met a man named Bill Etgem who owned Down Home – a specialty shop of handmade items including jewelry. Bill said you can work with me for two weeks – six days a week, eight hours a day – at the end of those two weeks I’ll either hire you or you can go on your way. I ended up working with him for two years!

In the next 18 years, I worked either directly or indirectly for over a dozen jewelers in Sacramento – working mostly with gold and silver and specializing in Wedding jewelry. I made original carvings and castings for some jewelers, unfinished pieces for some and finished for others. Some of the Jewelers I did designs for include Zales, Daniels, Sherif, Joe Bruns, and many others.

In 1989 I had I the opportunity to move to Santa Fe, New Mexico and work with a jeweler. However, once I working for several months, the jeweler left town with all my designs and molds and left me flat broke. So I scraped together $15 for a booth at a local swap meet, created fifteen pieces of jewelry, and was able to sell them all the first day!

The next week I brought thirty pieces and sold them all. I continued to do well for several years with wedding bands until I realized that there was a large number of bead shops in Santa Fe and a huge demand for high quality, unique beads. So for the next fourteen years I specialized in making and selling beads to various bead stores. Over the years my beads have all been limited runs and are highly collectable. Many have increased in value dramatically and are highly prized and sought after.

I had all but retired by the time I moved back to California in 2004. After a separation, I wanted a simpler life, living on my boat and essentially only cast a few pieces of jewelry and beads for friends or when I needed some spending money or to pay my boat moorage fees. During this time I also started teaching classes in wax carving and have shown several people my techniques so that this rare art form may continue.
Many websites touted that I had retired and that they were sold out of my work but to buy it no matter the cost if you could find any of my work. Thanks to the support of several shops, including Zanzibar Trading Company in Sacramento, I’m in the process of re-setting up a casting shop and am doing both one-of-a-kind pieces as well as limited edition pendants and beads. Limited edition is a bit difficult to describe when it comes to my pieces, because truly, each piece is unique and while similar, is actually one of a kind because while I may use master molds for components, each individual piece is one of a kind pieced together and carved from wax before it is cast.

While I am known for my original designs in cast metal beads, and jewelry scale vessels and sculpture, using silver and shibuichi. What my specialty is truly is bas relief (pronounced bah, also know as cameo) and incised (also know as intaglio) carving styles. Using simple techniques I have developed pieces with complex details which I call "sophisticated simplicity".

Shibuichi is a famous copper and silver alloy employed in many Japanese forms of metalwork. TI wax carving techniques I uses incorporate pâte de verre (similar to glass casting).

I start with red wax, and taking a day or more to carve even a simple piece, then support that wax piece on a central wax post, and cast the piece in fine plaster. Melting the wax out (hence the lost wax technique) in a kiln. Then, using a centrifuge, I “inject” the metal alloy (comprised of 20% silver and 80% copper) using a centrifuge. After the mold has cooled for a short time, I place it into a vat of water, and the mold literally disintegrates around the cast metal piece. Dousing the piece when it is still hot brings the beautiful copper oxide to the surface of the piece. Then, with a huge amount of effort and time, I meticulously grind, buff and polish the piece, bringing up the beautiful patina and unique to each piece finish. For one-of-a-kind pieces, this is where the process ends.

For limited edition pieces, I use that finished piece to create a rubber mold using a vulcanizing press (essentially making a mold from rubber to replace the original plaster mold, then once again using plaster and wax, creates another one-of-a-kind mold for each additional piece (which are close copies, however they are technically one ofs as well as each one uses a unique mold and I often change elements). My limited editions are always small, typically under 12 pieces as I become bored and always wants to let my creative side out.

I have been featured in MANY magazine articles. See biographies (and covers) in MANY magazines (over 10 articles and five covers) on I Burkett, esp: Bead & Button Magazine #46, December 2001 & Bead & Button October 1996.

Note: My name is variously credit/spelled several ways including first name of Bob or Robert and last names spelled Burkett, Burkette, & Burket. THE PROPPER spelling is Bob or Robert Burkett. When searching, try adding “bead”, “shibuichi” or “pendant” to Bob Burkett as there are a lot of Bob Burketts in the world, but only one beadmaker!

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