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'Round and 'Round

When jewelry designer Jinbee Park created her Cacophony of Harmony necklace, she was enrolled in a class on alternative materials at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology. Inspired by the class, Park knew she wanted to incorporate alternative materials into the necklace, and was particularly drawn to resin for its versatility and the challenges it presented. “I chose resin because I wasn’t familiar with it, and it allowed me to play with colors and pour it to form any shape I wanted,” she says.

She began by sketching various sized circles grouped together in an asymmetrical design. “My goal was to make the necklace balanced, but still very free: different sizes not matching exactly, but all related,” she says. Once she had an initial design, Park cut strips of sterling silver in varying lengths, formed them into circles, then segmented each circle with additional strips that she soldered into place. When she had a variety of sizes, she laid out the circles along a mantel to better visualize the grouping she wanted.

After playing with the arrangement, she soldered groups of two or three circles together. Because she wanted to give the necklace movement and make it comfortable to wear, she cut small pieces of silver wire to use to connect the groupings together. To join them, she drilled two holes inside the circles that would connect each grouping. She then fit the U-shaped wire through both holes of one circle before running the ends of it through the holes of another circle and soldering the wire in place, adjoining the circles.

With the base of the necklace complete, Park began experimenting with the resin. Inspired by the colors, contrasts, and similarities found in nature, she wanted to use black, white, and sky blue hues to indicate day and night alongside natural green tones. She used quick-drying black and white resins to begin, then mixed the white resin with neon greens and blues, even adding purple tints to the blues to create a more vivid color.

Because the circles did not have backs, Park placed clear, Scotch tape across the bottom of the circles to act as a floor that would hold the resin in place while it cured. Once the resin cures, it fuses to the silver. “Unless you dissolve the resin, the bond is permanent,” says Park. She also wanted to add cubic zirconia to several of the circles so she placed silver tubing on the tape, planning to set the stones once the poured resin cured.

For Park, one of the challenges of this design was the trial-and-error nature of working with a new material. The first time she mixed the resin, she didn’t use enough tint and the color cured a much softer hue that she anticipated, requiring her to melt the resin out of the circles and start over again. But as she went along, Park learned to welcome the various and sometimes unexpected shades the process brought to her piece. “It’s hard to control the exact colors every single time, but it worked out well with my piece because the point was to play with different colors,” she says.

Throughout this project, Park em-braced the process of learning about her materials. For example, to combat the bubbles that formed in the resin, she held a blow dryer on high about 6 inches away from the surface, directing the air onto the resin so that the heat could draw the bubbles to the surface. She could then pop the bubbles by hand with a toothpick, ensuring a smooth surface for her necklace. Additionally, once the resin cured, the shiny surface was not the matte finish Park had originally envisioned, so she filed down the resin using wet-and-dry sandpaper in water so that no particles from the paper would get into the resin.

Other challenges popped up along the way, too. Park realized that she couldn’t pour resin over the U-shaped wires connecting the soldered circle groups together because it would restrict their movement. To combat this issue, she instead added seven silver segments on top of the circles. She then cut corresponding sections from a black plastic sheet to use for the backside of those segments “to create the illusion of resin without restricting the wire movement,” says Park. “That was not part of my plan, but I’m glad I had to play with it to make it work.”

Additionally, she had originally planned for the circles to go all the away around the neck but decided “it was too distracting.” Instead she chose rubber tubing with a matte finish that complemented the finish on the resin as well as the matte finish she gave the silver pieces. She epoxied the rubber tubing to silver end caps (which she attached to each outer circle) as well as to two hollow silver circles that comprise the clasp.

Now a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Park is working on building her own brand, and this necklace has inspired a new collection of circle pieces — as well as helped her learn more about materials she may use again someday. “I’m very happy that I explored these alternative materials,” Park says. “I really enjoyed experimenting and creating a new design at the same time.”

This pendant is an MJSA Vision Award winner for 2014. Since 1990, the Vision Awards have recognized the best in jewelry making and design, showcasing the work of professionals and students alike, and that tradition still holds true today.

This article was written by Rebecca Oster Bach, and originally published in MJSA Journal.

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