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Shakudo Pendant

Jim Kelso

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Just finished this pendant. I have always loved the theme of autumn grasses, and have spent many hours, day and night, in the fields around our home admiring their beauty. In this piece I wanted to convey the feeling of grasses in the moonlight. A small feather rests quietly in the foreground.


The shape of the pendant is from a lacquer design by Shibata Zeshin depicting the Japanese “Wish-giving jewel”.


The metals are 18 & 22k gold & shakudo. The shakudo is 3% gold with the balance copper and a trace of shirome (see below). This alloy sheet was given to me by Toshimasa sensei (Masaichi Sakai) a year ago in his home in Osaka. He said it was made for him by a business that was sadly no longer functioning. It may be the only shakudo alloy sheet containing shirome outside of Japan so needless to say I was jaw-droppingly flabergasted and honored when, during a discussion about alloys and shirome he jumped up, hurried to his shop and brought back a sizable sheet of this shakudo with shirome alloy for me.


Shirome is a pre-industrial metallic compound, mostly arsenic, that was a byproduct of early silver and copper refining in Japan. It was added to alloys such as bronze and shakudo to enhance pouring and the coloration. Any shirome found in Japan probably dates from the 17th 0r 18th century as the process that produced it was replaced by more modern methods. You can see a detailed description of shirome in the book Kodo Zuroku which describes pre-industrial copper mining and refining with beautiful wood-cut illustrations. A facsimile edition was published by the Burndy Library (now sadly defunct) in 1983 with an intro by Cyril Stanley Smith. I see some new and used copies at Amazon.


What I found in the patination process was that the patina came super fast (almost totally in less than a minute). I kept it in a few more minutes. It was a lovely bluish/purple black and I didn't want to loose that. In the photo you can see how it compares to the neutral gray background.


The grasses were engraved in katakiri-bori using hammer and chisel and also the Lindsay AirGraver. Width is 33mm (1 5/16")




Edited by Jim Kelso
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Often I do not comment on the work that you produce because it is so good that anything I could say seems inadequate. Only one word comes to mind with this piece...





“All work is empty save when there is love, for work is love made visible.” Kahlil Gibran

"It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them." - Alfred Adler

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small world.... I'm forging some life size reeds and milkweed for my sister in law's new deck....I was thinking it was the wrong time of year to find

inspiration.....and bingo ...

This piece is just what I needed to see..... and as always your work is a treat to see.... Thanks for peeksmile.gif


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I always like to see posts started by you, Jim, you are a true artist. I have a copy of Kodo Zuroku (the Burndy edition), it's an excellent little book. Got it from Edward R. Hamilton for something like $4 last year. ;)

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Thanks very much guys!


Bruce, Craig, Chris and JJ, you might be surprised at how much comments like yours are valued. I don't ever assume that what I make will be that effective.


Dick, it's a little out of season, but some of the grasses here are still above the snow. I'll look forward to seeing your weeds. ;)


Thanks very much Alan. The Kodo Zuroku is a really fantastic look into the real costs, both resource and human, of mining, before the advent of fossil powered aids.


Here's a pic of a chunk of shirome that Toshimasa showed me. It's about 3" across



Edited by Jim Kelso
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