Mark Milanich's Profile

About

Almost all of my work is intuitive in the sense that, although I do sketch out some designs beforehand, very few pieces are visualized in the final form prior to the actual fabrication. It's a very evolutionary process which may start as a seed in the sketchbook or at my workbench with loose stones sprawled out in front of me, but doesn't truly germinate until the materials begin to come together in my hands to produce the final piece of jewelry. Sketching out designs in many cases is simply not possible because the design is dictated by the colors, depth and temperament of the stones. Many of the designs are kept streamlined so that the colors and textural appearance of the stones can take the forefront. The metal structure of many pieces serves its purpose best when it becomes almost forgotten in viewing the piece, functioning only to showcase the stone(s) and create a wearable piece of jewelry. Oftentimes the design structure…

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  • Male
  • Born on September 11
  • Joined January 12, 2011

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About

Almost all of my work is intuitive in the sense that, although I do sketch out some designs beforehand, very few pieces are visualized in the final form prior to the actual fabrication. It's a very evolutionary process which may start as a seed in the sketchbook or at my workbench with loose stones sprawled out in front of me, but doesn't truly germinate until the materials begin to come together in my hands to produce the final piece of jewelry. Sketching out designs in many cases is simply not possible because the design is dictated by the colors, depth and temperament of the stones. Many of the designs are kept streamlined so that the colors and textural appearance of the stones can take the forefront. The metal structure of many pieces serves its purpose best when it becomes almost forgotten in viewing the piece, functioning only to showcase the stone(s) and create a wearable piece of jewelry. Oftentimes the design structure is simply a continuation of the patterns and colors of the stone(s). The stones themselves are a connection to nature and earth. I try never to attempt to outdo nature's work in creating the stones in the first place, but only to present the stones in a fresh perspective.

One cannot forget that jewelry must be wearable. I keep this in mind with each piece, but the series of "Pendulum" pendants is designed specifically as a series that I feel best meets this function - it really should be worn to be fully appreciated. It may be attractive laying on a display surface, but it takes on a special quality when worn.

I began my passion with stones when, after finding out about geodes as a young child, I would take rocks from wherever I could, wrap them in a rag and break them with a hammer on the back porch. I was always hoping to find those sparkling crystal caverns hiding within the greyish brown outer rock. There were a few glittering discoveries, but my enthusiasm didn't last. For the most part, the only visible lasting impression was manifested as a few meager dents in the concrete porch behind our family home — but thus began my search for beauty within the ordinary.

The Beachstone Pendants series is perhaps my way of recreating that childhood excitement at finding the sparkling treasures hidden inside the ordinary. Working with the beachstones and adding "precious" and "semi-precious" stones around (or in) them also creates a nice contrast between standard concepts of beauty and ordinary. The play of the stones between one another also works to contrast conformity and uniqueness — while you can rather easily obtain two or more gemstones faceted precisely the same with a uniform color conforming to a standard, the beachstones are each uniquely individual, shaped only by time and nature. It's often difficult for me to remember, after spending a few hours walking the beach looking for just the right beachstone (and oftentimes not finding it), why the marketplace puts more value on that common three millimeter faceted red garnet that looks like every other faceted red garnet on the market. Think of finding that perfect skipping stone on the beach -- it's not an easy prospect. Still, the value of the gemstone is not diminished by comparison, but enhanced by association.

Elements of geometric design and structure play a large role in my work. As a child, I had aspirations of becoming an architect (among other things) and there were times that I would actually ditch school and spend the day in the library or hiding in some quiet place where I would sketch out building designs all day. The distinct geometric shapes which often occur in my pieces is a direct link to that. The straight lines and acute angles in many pieces are drawn from my visions of architectural design structure. The similarity in architectural structure design elements and crystalline structure of some gemstone can help to create a relationship in the structural design of a piece to the structural elements of the stones themselves.

Perhaps the most important aspect to my work is an attempt to incorporate "Spirit" into each piece, whether through the shape of the design, the combination of stones or the intuitive design process. An unmistakable theme running through much of my work is the triangular shape and the number three. This number has always held significance for me and has always been "magical" (or "magikal") -- the Trinity of Mind, Body and Spirit.

Artist's Background

My background with jewelry began while working with semiprecious stones in 1996, using them as part of my woodcarving hobby, an accidental hobby which started about the same time. I've been an avid collector of minerals and gems since 1995, and I began jewelry work with small wooden pendants with stones set into them. I moved to adding sterling silver inlay to the woodwork and began to do small pieces in sterling wire wrap. From there I went out and bought myself a small butane torch and began to teach myself silver smithing and soldering. Through much trial and error, I moved slowly from the wooden pendants (and rings) into the wonderful world of metals. Also, thanks to Boris (a great teacher and skilled craftsman who works with the Chicago Park District), I was able to learn from something other than books. I also can't ignore the invaluable Orchid List on the web, which has been a very valuable resource. Nothing beats experience! I began cutting the stones in early 1998 and got completely hooked.

Many of the pieces that I make incorporate beach stones which, for the most part, I collect along the shores of Lake Michigan, although when on vacation or traveling outside of the Chicago area, I'm always on the lookout for special items that I can incorporate into a design.

Diagnosed with small cell lung cancer a few years back, I was'nt able to continue working on the jewelry. For the last few years I've been trying to get back into it, building up my strength and, now at the point of being free from cancer, I feel it's time to put my energies back into what I love. I've been cutting stones and working on new pieces and, having found Etsy, I'm now thrilled to be back into selling my work.

I hope you like it.

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