By Mona Malacane
Since the 2011 blog post documenting his initial steps into the world of rock tumbling, Bryant Paul has progressed to the art of jewelry making. If you’re unfamiliar with the craft, rock tumbling is the process of refining a stone from its raw form into the pretty gem-like pebbles that you pretended were precious jewels when you were a kid. Rocks start out jagged and matte but emerge from the rotating tumbler polished and shiny. Like most hobbies that professors pick up when starting the tenure process, it takes patience and manageable bits of time every now and then. “Stones can take anywhere from 1 month to 6 months [to tumble].”
Bryant now turns some of the tumbled stones in his trove into pieces of jewelry with the help of just a few tools: a dremel to drill holes in the rock, wire jewelry wrap, and pliers to bend the wire. Once the rock (or rocks) is tumbled, he drills a small hole into it to wrap the wire through and thereafter designs the piece from there. One drilling session takes about 3 hours and he can (painfully) complete 7 or 8 stones. “It kind of kills you to [drill them] because you spent 6 months tumbling this thing getting it perfectly shiny and then you have to drill a hole through it. You can’t drill it before or else the grit will get into the stone.” Luckily, only the rings need to be drilled, whereas necklace pendants can be secured by wrapping a wire around them.
Currently, Bryant sticks to rings and necklace pendants but, as he says, “the sky is the limit.” “Right now I really just do basic wrapping and I let the stones speak for themselves. But I think that as I do this more I would probably try to become more expert at wrapping and do designs with the wire that are impressive themselves … and then work the stone and the wire together into a pattern … I recognize that I’m not very good at it yet, but I like doing it. It seems like it has the potential to always be interesting, you can keep changing what you do.”
He recently bought a web domain that he plans to sell his creations on. Once he builds up his supply, you can own a one-of-a-kind, hand-made Bryant Paul original! Or you could just write for the blog and shamelessly accept gifts from interviewees like I do…