As one can see I am completely captivated by the natural beauty in the world around me. Living in the rain forest near Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park is a dream come true. Since childhood I have been growing exotic plants and flowers, especially orchids, ferns and taro. I was always trying to create a tropical paradise wherever I lived trying to capture the beauty in one form or another. When I developed the process we use for casting our orchid jewelry (the lost orchid process) I didn’t think things could get any better until moving here to Hawaii where we are surrounded by wonderful people and some of the most inspiring beauty in the world.
My love for flowers was encouraged from birth by my paternal grandmother Viola Goodwin Keeth. Her yard was always full of flowering succulents and exotic cacti with exquisite blooms. Every time we visited her from as early as I can remember she would send me home with cuttings from her plants.
My love for jewelry making and beautiful stones was instilled at an early age and developed with the help of my maternal uncle Lavern Walters who had a rock shop and lapidary equipment that he taught me to use. When I attended Granada High School in the late sixties I was on an independent study program which allowed me to spend most of my junior and senior year in the art room. My teacher, Mrs. Bonnie Toy, allowed me to try many different mediums but jewelry making especially the lost wax process was and still is my biggest love. Mrs. Toy introduced me to the process of casting organic material – a process that has captivated my imagination ever since. She also introduced me to ceramics both hand building and throwing on the wheel.
In the early seventies, I started using small pieces of cactus skeletons in my castings. Yet, it wasn’t until the early nineties when, at Northern Arizona University, that I started casting orchids and insects. I was immediately hooked and have been perfecting the process ever since. I grow most of the orchids and other exotic flowers in my greenhouse which satisfies my love for growing beautiful plants and flowers as well as allowing me to select the blooms at the peak of their beauty for casting. It is so exciting to see the blooms in silver or gold and incorporate them into pieces of jewelry or sculptures to share the beauty of Gods creation with others.
I frequently cast insects and use them in chess sets which are highly collectible. It is amazing to me the intricate detail that can be easily seen when they are cast in silver.
I have received many first place and best of show awards for my art work since I entered my first show in San Francisco in 1967. My work is now in collections across the country and around the world.
The Lost Flower Process: The ‘lost wax process’ is the method by which a duplicate metal sculpture is cast from an original. Normally in the process the piece is created first in wax. The orchid jewelry and sculpture is created here in a very similar technique except instead of wax we use an actual orchid bloom for each casting. There are no molds used and each piece is one of a kind. More about this process below...
Step 1: Sprues (wax rods) are attached to the piece to provide a channel for the molten silver or gold to flow into the piece.
Step 2: The piece is then attached to a base and covered with a metal cylinder called a flask.
Step 3: The cylinder is filled with investment (a plaster like substance that can be heated to 1350 degrees without breaking down), allowed to set for two hours and then placed in a kiln.
Step 4: The kiln is heated to 1350 degrees and held at that temperature for several hours until all the wax is completely disintegrated.
Step 5: While the flask is still hot it is placed in the centrifuge where the silver or gold has been melted and the molten metal is forced into the void left by the wax – giving you a solid metal piece exactly like the wax shape that I started with.
Step 6: The flask is then dipped into cold water and the investment dissolves leaving the metal piece ready for finishing. The finishing process involves the removal of the sprues, filing, sanding, and polishing