Community, Mixed Media, Specialty Workshops

Concrete Jewelry? Why Not!

By Tegan Wallace

Brooch, Michael Nashef

Contemporary jewelry is known for its inclusion of a wide variety of materials beyond metal and stones. The value of contemporary work often comes from the story told in a piece, the intent, and the personal connection to a particular aesthetic.  Today, artists have the freedom to select materials that help tell their stories, whether in gold, silver, or everyday materials that we may take for granted. 

One such material is concrete. Concrete is a blend of aggregates (gravel, sand, etc) and cement (a binding agent made up of calcium, silicon, aluminum, iron and other ingredients). Concrete used in jewelry is comprised of very finely ground aggregate and binder that can be mixed in very small batches. It can be manipulated in a variety of ways including colored, and, to get technical, it’s a really awesome jewelry material. Here are a few of the highlights. 

  • Concrete is much lighter than stones, resin, or polymer (just binder and very fine aggregate after the water evaporates). This is particularly important when making larger works.  
  • Concrete is less messy and potentially toxic than plastic resins (It does, however, contain silica and also ingredients that can irritate the skin. Be sure to wear gloves and, if using a large enough amount to raise dust, use a mask. Safety first!). 
  • Concrete can be cast and shaped. It can be poured into bezels or cast in molds – silicon or DIY versions made from cardboard and tape. It can be carved with course files or rasps after several hours of drying time. When it has more fully set up, it can be refined and polished with wet/dry sand paper (Again, remember that concrete contains silica – wear a dust mask if you’re creating airborne dust!). 
  • Concrete can be colored. While basic grey has a great industrial look, it’s also possible to add powdered pigments, chalk, and even latex paint to concrete to give it a wide variety of hues. Concrete can also be gold leafed, either by placing leaf in a mold before pouring or by using adhesive after it cures. 
Bracelet, Frances Smersh

It’s important to note that concrete has been used by well-known jewelry artists for decades. Seattle’s own Frances Smersh made her beautiful line of architectural jewelry using silver, colored concrete, and pearls.  

Jeweler Jim Cotter has been using concrete for decades. He said he was inspired by the idea of “Taking industrial materials and breaking [them] down and maybe making it precious…[concrete]’s a logical kind of material to use because it has no boundaries and it has an incredible amount of beauty.”

Ring, Jim Cotter

Canadian jeweler Andrew Goss began working with concrete in the late-1970s, saying “The motivation of the concrete is a reaction against preciousness.” His works include diamonds submerged in concrete and cast concrete pendants covered in gold leaf. 

Brooch, Michael Nashef

Bringing concrete into the present day is artist Michael Nashef. He uses vibrantly colored concrete and 3D printed elements to create incredible works influenced by architecture and the destructive nature of war. He also happens to be teaching a workshop on concrete at Danaca Design this weekend! Among the topics Michael will cover are ways to color and to mold concrete, as well as mold-making techniques.  

I’m incredibly excited for this workshop. Concrete looks cool and is a very accessible material (nothing more frustrating than taking a workshop where the materials are so esoteric that they’re hard to source…). The colors Michael uses in his work are as stunning as the forms he creates. My head’s already spinning with all the questions and the possibilities the material presents. This workshop is one of those experiences that feels like it’s going to be transformative. I’m told there are one or two seats left – you should definitely sign up. 

Workshop details HERE. 

Necklaces, Michael Nashef

Danaca Design is also hosting a Jewelry Pop-up with Michael Thursday evening, September 22 in the Gallery SHOWROOM. Check out his work and meet the artist! 

Find details HERE! 

Community, Gallery Event

Trade Show Trades

Notes from an interview with Micki Lippe about her collection of Art Jewelry Trades 

by Claire Ramsey  

A craft trade show is a marketplace where wholesalers can purchase and order objects to sell in their shops and galleries, and where regular shoppers can shop on retail days. The American Craft Council shows are a well-known example, particularly the Baltimore and San Francisco shows, although ACC now holds shows in various places, and even online. Micki Lippe’s first trade show was the Baltimore ACC show and thus began her extensive collection of art jewelry. 

Micki learned about the Baltimore ACC show through a fellow artist when she lived in Charlottesville and had a studio set-up in a building shared by multiple artists. That Baltimore show featured about 800 exhibitors showing a range of crafts, from jewelry to ceramics, clothing, toys, and puppets. She recalls two very busy wholesale days – she took between $35,000 and $50,000 in orders and shipped up to $100,000 in orders afterwards because of her repeat customers. Three wholesale days followed the two retail days, although some retail shoppers re-invented themselves as wholesalers by passing out business cards they’d had printed as if they owned businesses.  

Artists were juried into the show the old-fashioned way, by submitting professionally shot slides of their work, and then checking their mailboxes every day for an acceptance letter. Once accepted they were assigned a spot at the show venue – a chalked off space on a concrete floor. Artists had to bring everything for their stalls – carpet, vitrines, lights, Sears utility shelves and fabric to hide their industrial look, and various ways to display their goods. Micki tells of stuffing “Mr. Carpet” into her car from the dashboard to the back window, hauling Abstracta display cases, driving to shows, and inventing such things as layers of plexiglass shards (shattered by her own hands) and expensive plexiglass balls as settings for displays. Artists often brought their families along to shows. Micki paid her kids when they worked for her at shows, and at one show Micki’s daughter Tanya, at age 12 reportedly “made trouble” with the other kids because she told them about her paycheck.  At one show w/o awnings in Virginia the summer heat and humidity turned her jewelry into “little branding irons.” 

Micki sold at trade shows in Rhinebeck NY, Baltimore, Dallas, and San Francisco, and at smaller outdoor shows, and eventually flew to trade shows with her wares and her display equipment. At one show, a group of well-off appearing women showed their business cards, and looked over her goods, gushing that they loved her jewelry. One of them stayed at Micki’s stall and pored over her jewelry. When the other women returned and asked their friend what she had ordered, she reported “I didn’t order anything because I have a closet full of clothes with Peter Pan collars and none of the necklaces would look good with my clothes. I need clothes like hers,” pointing to Micki who that she was wearing a kimono type top she’d bought for $10.00 someplace.  

When shows were slow on retail days, artists would start trading. Wholesale days were usually busy but when things slowed down, there was time to wander through the stalls and see what other artists were doing. Trades were always based on the value of the pieces. An artist would say “I like that, do you want to trade?” and they would negotiate. Micki displayed a variety of pieces with a range of prices, and traded mainly pairs of earrings from her production lines, or, if she was trading for a more expensive item from another maker, a box of a Micki Lippe pieces. Micki traded so that she’d have “something to take home,” and in addition to jewelry, acquired ceramics, clothing, and hand puppets for her husband Bill. She sometimes purchased pieces from other artists, knowing that sales were artists’ livelihood. It was fun to wear jewelry that others had made, until people asked whether she’d made it herself. There came a point when she could not bear to see “the disappointed looks on their faces” when she said that she hadn’t made the piece. Eventually she stopped wearing the bounty from her trades. “I amassed all of that jewelry but ended up not wearing it” and as many jewelers do, promoted her own work by wearing it.  


The pieces curated by Maru Almeida for the exhibition in the Danaca Design Gallery Showroom, demonstrate techniques that Micki did not use herself, but that she found useful when teaching. They illustrate creativity and imaginative thinking. She admires intricate pieces assembled without solder, creative cold connections or use of tubing, and makers who creatively use minimal tools, or who innovate ways to use the materials at hand. She recalls a teacher she met in Germany soon after the wall came down, when sheets of wax for casting were not available. She needed a big sheet to cast a candleholder in honor of a poet, so took a tray from the lunchroom, melted some wax and made her own sheet by flooding the tray.  

See COLLECTION: A curated selection of art jewelry collected by Micki Lippe in the Danaca Design Gallery Showroom September 12 – October 10. 

Join Micki for a reception and guided tour Saturday, October 8, 1:00 – 2:30 RSVP required. Event is currently full. Please email to be added to the waitlist.

During many years on the road, doing American Craft Council shows, like many artists, Micki traded with fellow makers. It is one of the best ways to build a fine collection of interesting jewelry. This section of 35 pieces curated by Maru Almeida includes brooches, earrings and necklaces created by a wide range of artists, over the course of a couple decades. These include work from Bob Ebendorf, Ford and Forlano and Diane Falkenhagen. Micki hopes that a peek at this collection will serve to provide design and technical inspiration to other makers. This is your chance to see the back of the brooch! 

COLLECTION: Treasures from a Jeweler’s Perspective is a new exhibition series in the Danaca Design Gallery Showroom. Art jewelers are collectors. Tools, gems, jewelry, imagery, and rusty metal; honestly I do not think I’ve ever met an art jeweler who did not collect at least one of the above. More often than not, all and more. The inspiration for this new gallery series is to peek into a single jeweler’s collection. Just one of them. This September we will explore a selection of jewelry works collected by local jeweler Micki Lippe. 

Classes, Community

Beginning Jewelry, Concrete Jewelry and Wax Working: The First Classes of Fall! 

We’ve got lots happening at Danaca Design this month: a gem show, a new gallery exhibition, a jewelry pop-up but in my book NOTHING is more important that our excellent jewelry making classes and we’ve got some great ones just around the corner! 

Barb Knuth is helping me out this month by teaching one of my most popular classes, Beginning Jewelry: Introduction. This beginner’s workshop is an ideal overview to the fundamental aspects of silversmithing. Over the course of 4-week nights, you’ll learn all the valuable basics: to saw, file, texture, form, and solder nonferrous metals like copper, brass, and silver. Not only that you’ll learn how to set a cabochon stone! 

Beginning Jewelry: Introduction with Barbara Knuth 
September 14, 21, 28, October 5, Four Wednesday evenings, 6-9pm 

More details. 


 I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Nashef last February when he presented at the Yuma Art Symposium. He is a dynamic and multitalented artist with an extensive background in traditional jewelry making. Traveling all the way from Michigan, he will share his secrets of concrete in jewelry making. This is a super exciting opportunity for anyone looking for new ideas. Concrete is a versatile material and it is down right cheap, so you can’t go wrong! 

Concreation – Concrete Jewelry with visiting teacher Michael Nashef 
September 23-25, Friday – Sunday 

More details. 

Learns the ins and outs of working with wax from the exceptionally knowledgeable Maru Almeida. 

Lost wax casting is widely used today for mass production of jewelry and jewelry components. However, it is also perfect for creating exceptional, one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces. 

Introduction to Wax Working for Jewelers with Maru Almeida 
September 26, October 3, 10, 17, 24, November 14, 21 Six Monday nights, 6:00 – 9:30pm 

More details. 

And at the VERY end of the month we are hosting an online class WITH A TWIST: work in the comfort of your own studio, OR in the studio at Danaca Design with access to all the tools necessary to complete the workshop and an assistant on hand for studio questions. This first ever hybrid class is offered by instructor Milt Fischbein who will dial in from Calgary to enrich us with his deep knowledge of filigree.

Introduction to Filigree Jewellery
September 30 – October 2, Friday 6-9pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm

More details.

Don’t forget, Mentored Independent Study now meets THREE times per week! 

Mentored Study is a great place to tackle challenging projects, learn fresh skills and discover new equipment in a consistently supportive environment. Register to drop in just one time or attend weekly. Mix and match teachers for a broader learning experience. Take more than one class per week and receive a 20% discount on the second class.  

MONDAY mornings with Maru Almeida | TUESDAY evenings with Juan Reyes | THURSDAY mornings with Dana Cassara 

More details. 


That’s it for classes in September but the great opportunities continue right on through into October. See all the coming classes HERE. 


LASTLY, Don’t miss the ROCK, GEM, BEER Gem Show Pop-up this Saturday, September 10. Thousands of cut stones from some of Seattle’s top gem dealers, all in one place, at one time, and there is beer! 

More details. 




Looking forward to seeing you there! 





Community, Gallery Event

Battle of the Rings – RING SMACKDOWN 2022

The jury has ruled. These 64 incredible rings have arrived to Seattle from across the globe to compete in The International RING SMACKDOWN 2022. Voting begins Monday April 4 at 9:00 am, mark your calendars! If you don’t know what I’m talking about then it’s time you get informed! All 64 rings will be available to view in person in our Gallery Showroom. Be sure to follow us on Instagram too because that is where the real fun is @danacadesignstudio  

Read more HERE! 


Featured in Jewelry Artist Magazine!

We’re featured in a cool article about creating a maker space in the March/April 2019 Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist Magazine! Pick up a copy to read about Danaca Design and other spaces that cater to artists, jewelers, and makers. We’re pretty excited about it, we even made a SHORT! little video.


Challenge Yourself

Last year I (and several others in the studio) took part in a national jewelry making challenge, the 2018 Earring Challenge. The goal was to make 52 pair, one pair each week, and to post a new pair every Monday on social media. It could have been very simple but I added a few more parameters. For me personally the challenge was to make a unique pair of interesting, light weight earrings from materials I already owned. It was a perfect challenge for me; it got me into the studio regularly, forced me to be decisive and to finish projects. Every pair I made is below.

This year Danaca Design wants to challenge you! Our challenge (should you choose to accept it) is titled Charmed 2019. The goal is to create a minimum of one unique charm per month to be added to a bracelet (or necklace), to be presented in a show in the gallery at Danaca Design in 2020!

The Rules are basic. You must fabricate your charms (no prefabricated, purchased charms). You may use any materials or process. Each bracelet must have a theme, conceptual or technical, with each charm somehow relating to the others. If you would like to participate simply start. Please post your images to social media using the hashtags #charmed2019 #charmbraceletchallenge #charmbracelet2019 and tag Danaca Design so we know when you post.

We’ve started a Facebook group for images and discussions: charmbracletechallenge2019.

Check out Wikipedia for some inspiration:

Looking forward to seeing what we all come up with!


Traveling Tiara Show

Crowning Glory Tiara Collage
Crowning Glory Tiara Collage

Happy New Year!

Back in February 2018, oh my, so long ago…Danaca Design hosted a fabulous show in the gallery, Crowning Glory: Ruling our Destinies, Directing our own Paths. This exhibition of crowns and tiaras was bold, creative and downright fun! I’m sorry if you missed it but you might be in luck – our tiara show is traveling to Greenville, North Carolina!

Chief, Queen, Tsar, Kaiser, Monarch, Caliph. The words conjure images of power and pageantry, impressive jewels, and imposing headdresses, crowns, and tiaras. Throughout history ruling over others usually meant belonging to the “right” family and class—and displaying the associated bling that demonstrated with sparkling intensity their wealth, power, and good taste.

Crowning Glory will be on exhibit through January 24 at Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge in the Don Edward Gallery. This non-profit arts organization is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in Pitt County by promoting artists and arts organizations, educating through the arts, and making the arts accessible to the entire community.

This wonderful opportunity came to us as part of an inspiring symposium hosted annually at East Carolina University, the ECU Material Topics Symposium. I’ve never attended this event but have heard it’s a good one, something to add to your calendar. This year’s theme is “State of Adornment: Subject to Change,” and it’s this weekend! Find the detailed symposium schedule here:

There is a reception ECU Material Topics Symposium reception for our show Friday evening, January 18, 6pm -8pm.

Learn more at

Community, Gallery Event

Crowning Glory Series: Ancient History from Diadem to Tiara and Crown

This coming March Danaca Design will be hosting a show featuring tiaras and crowns in many forms called Crowning Glory: Ruling Our Own Destinies, Directing Our Own Paths. While the artists will be exploring the diverse cultural, artistic, historic, and social narratives of these accessories April decided to look into the history of these royal accessories to use as a post on the Danaca Design blog. It turned out to be a fascinating subject so instead of making one post she turned it into a four part series being posted every Monday in February leading up to our show opening and reception on Friday, March 2, 6-8:30pm. This week part 1 is focused on the ancient history of tiaras and crowns.

Tiaras, crowns, these head ornaments have been used for centuries to symbolize social superiority and power, have a history going back to ancient Egypt and Greece. Originally these head pieces were called a “diadem” derived from the Ancient Greek “dia dein” meaning “to bind around”. The ancient Egyptian pharaohs would wear gold head-bands that could be decorated with tassels and other ornaments that hung over the forehead, temple, or even down to the shoulders.

An excellent example of this is the diadem discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun, King of Egypt in ca. 1339-1329 b.c.e. (pictured above) Discovered during the excavation of his tomb in 1922 the kings mummy was adorned with a gold diadem formed in a circlet, at the front a detachable gold ornament with the head of a vulture and the body of a cobra, symbolizing the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt. It is also inlaid with glass, obsidian, carnelian, malachite, chalcedony, and lapis lazuli.

In Ancient Greece diadems were made from all kinds of metal, and with a limited amount of gold available, Greek metalsmiths would decorate them with embossed rosettes, filigree, and other motifs such as the Heracles knot which was found frequently in Hellenistic jewelry. Once Alexander the Great opened up the gold supply from the Persian Empire in 331 B.C.E. the styles became even more elaborate and often contained intricate garlands of tassles, leaves, and flowers.

The shift from diadems as just a circular band to what we now consider tiaras and crowns today is attributed to Ancient Persia, now Iran. The original term “tiara” is Persian in origin and in its original form describes the high peaked head decoration worn by Persian kings. However in ancient Persia crowns were worn in many forms and ancient authors did not always distinguish clearly among the various terms for them, making the most reliable evidence for forms of Persian crowns/tiaras are the depictions on objects such as monuments and coins.

Kings from the Achaemenid period wore tall and serrated golden crowns, called a crenelated crown, which was adorned with gold leaves and colorful jewels. The 22 or 24 serrations of the crown symbolized towers, battlements, temples, or the Sun. The Achaemenid queen wore a jeweled crown with a thin piece of cloth reaching her knees attached. Based on historical documents it seems that the only difference between the King and Queen’s head wear was the thin cloth.

However it was not just the royal Persians that wore head covers to denote status in society. From writings by the ancient Greeks it appears that a tiara was a soft headdress often with a high point and members of the Median upper class wore these high, crested tiaras. Median civilians and officers covered their heads with round and soft egg-shaped felt caps which were decorated with lace. Ancient reliefs depict archers with these caps and a crenelated diadem worn over them. Upper class Achaemenid women wore long headscarves some reaching down to their ankles. This shawl-like headdress was not wrapped under the neck but was usually worn with a diadem on top very similar to many popular bridal veil styles worn today.

Well that wraps up part 1 of this 4 part series. Honestly it is really hard to figure out when to stop because their is just so much fascinating history but if you want to check out more really cool pictures of ancient diadem, crowns, and more I suggest going to The Metropolitan Museum’s website at where you can browse their entire collection online.

Check back next Monday to find out about the crowns and tiaras of south and east Asia…I can’t wait.