Collette Ishiyama Makes a Brass (and Stingray!) Necklace
The tools in play.
It’s a little bit of a contradiction, making an underwater animal known for its stealthy camouflage the focal point of a piece of jewelry. But Collette Ishiyama was taken with stingray leather immediately when she encountered it on a trip to Thailand a few years back. “In the markets in Bangkok, you would see a lot of stingray stuff. When I came back from that trip, I was like, ‘This is definitely a direction I’m going,’” she says. The fact that it’s been used for years—especially in Art Deco decorative pieces—adds a nostalgic element Collette strives for in her designs. Here’s how she makes it work in the awe-inspiring necklace she created just for Of a Kind.
At the casters, Collette’s mold gets submerged in plaster that is then baked in a kiln, before molten metal is poured in through a cavity to form the brass piece. “It doesn’t really lose the thrill—when you make something in plastic and it comes back in metal,” she says.
Back at her studio, Collette saws off the sliver of excess metal, or sprue, attached to the casting and then polishes what remains. “When the castings come out, they have a kind of coating on them,” she adds.
Collette gets ready to rub steel wool on the piece to make sure everything is clean before she solders on the jump ring. “I just hate the idea of something falling apart,” she notes. [Ed: Us too.]
Next step: Collette puts the casting in an old rotary tumbler her father used for polishing rocks. The tumbler has water, a little dish soap, and “tumbling media”—basically, pebble-like beads that give the casting texture. “I like things to be a little bit matte,” Collette explains. “It makes it more Egyptian-y.” Out of the tumbling machine, the pendant is ready for the stingray leather. “It’s not easy to work with, but I like the way it looks,” she says. “With regular leather, you can cut things pretty easily. With stingray, those little granulations are like beads—when you cut them, they sort of shatter.” Working the stingray into submission is, well, a challenge—but one that pays off.