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5 questions with Challenge winner Micah Nilsson

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Micah Nilsson is the owner of Nymphaea Blue Jewelry on the remote and beautiful southern Oregon coast. Micah is right at the cusp of transitioning from hobbyist (and supporter of another jeweler in the family!) to creating and selling jewelry as a business. 

Micah's granulated clover-shaped pendant, LUCKY CLOVER PENDANT, is forged from Argentium silver, with a peridot center. It was one of the winners of Facet's CELTIC Design Challenge in March 2017. 

Micah Nilsson necklace with lapis
A stunning necklace with Lapis featured on Micah's website, Nymphaea Blue. 

WHAT IS YOUR DESIGN ESTHETIC? DO YOU HAVE FAVORITE MATERIALS TO USE IN YOUR WORK?

My work is fairly formal and classical-looking, since I work in granulation and with ancient beads and objects, and the context from which they come lays the groundwork for my look. I try to create pieces which speak of their origins in the distant past, but which are also timeless and wearable today.

I love working with Argentium. It has great properties for forging, forming, and fusing, and I really like the whiteness of it. On the other side of the spectrum, the ancient beads and objects I work with are inspiring in the way that the wear they show speaks of their age and the many people who have loved them through the centuries.

Without having planned it, I find a lot of Lapis ends up in my work. It's a great example of how wear can improve things! It gets dried out and pale-looking if it's not handled and worn to give it skin oil polish. It's responsive in a way that I like, changing even from the start of my work to the finished item.

Micah Nilsson workspace

WHAT IS YOUR WORKSPACE LIKE?

I share a big studio room with the other jeweler in the house. It's a great room, with high ceilings and big windows that look out onto the most forested part of our property.

My work area is cluttered with many things in process, but I have it organized into  areas by task. A desk is for design and beading, with a jeweler's bench for fabrication, a forging area with mills and forming tools, and a hot bench with my torch setup. It's all tight together, but that makes it easy to just go around in a loop as I work through a project. Here's one side of the space, including the very important cat throne! 

NAME TWO THINGS THAT YOU ALWAYS HAVE WITH YOU WHEN YOU WORK.

Our lovely big black cat lives in the studio, and she sits in a chair by my bench and watches me work, often reminding me to take breaks and pet her.

I also have an old, sad-looking apron that I always wear, especially since it has protected me from rolling bits of molten metal more than once.

HOW DID YOU LEARN SILVERSMITHING? 

About six years ago, a friend suggested that my perfectionist tendencies in wire wrapping would be a great match for the precision work of granulation, and he encouraged me to give it a try. I worked with fine silver for a few months, but really struggled, so when I heard about Argentium, I was intrigued.

I picked up Ronda Coryell's videos on working with Argentium, and took a couple of classes with her (she is an excellent teacher!) and I was thrilled to find a metal and technique that was so well-suited for my design aesthetic and skills.

 

Micah Nilsson precolumbian
Another piece from Micah's website, featuring pre-Columbian and Ancient stone and silver beads. 
WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION FOR YOUR WORK?

Primarily in the ancient beads and stones I work with. They have such stories in their materials, shapes, and the reasons they were created, whether for protection, blessing, as currency, or just as simple adornment. And, in the time since they were created, they have continued to acquire layers of meaning that I like to spend time researching and sitting with as the first step in design.

Sometimes, it's just a visual aspect of the bead, as with a necklace I made with a long tooth-shaped Amazonite drop and beads with a granulation pattern that echoed the shape of the drop. Sometimes, it's a deeper thing. I recently worked with some 15th century Lapis beads, cut in a shape representing the sacredness of geometry. My silver and gold beads on that necklace have a pattern that I saw on an old Islamic prayer rug, which connects to the culture and philosophy the Lapis came from.

It's important to me to bring these old treasures into our modern world in a wearable way, but to also respect and maintain their connection to timeless context and meaning.

SO WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON?

I'm designing some more hybrid pieces using new cabochons and stones, along with ancient beads and my metal work. I like the juxtaposition of a bright, modern stone with well-loved antique beads, and so I'm exploring that.

WHERE CAN PEOPLE SEE MORE OF YOUR WORK? 

My business name is Nymphaea Blue, and I have both a blog and a store on my website. You can also follow me on Facebook! 

FIND MORE: forging , stone setting , pendants

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