Gilded Butterflies

Winged pendants with a unique twistOn the Ponoko NZ HQ glory wall is an old article about a very talented New Zealand jeweller and sculptor Lisa Black.  It’s up there because she lists Ponoko as one of her favourite things, and for extra brownie points, we love her work.  In a slightly embarrassing light bulb moment, I discovered that Lisa uses Personal Factory to make ornate parts for her Gilded Butterflies collection of jewellery.  The dots should have been joined considerably earlier.

Gilded Butterlies is a joint project between the Auckland artist and a graphic designer Dan Gordon.  They create beautifully detailed hinged pendants with real butterfly wings, which are mounted on bamboo and then sealed with a protective layer of resin.  For a number of years they have been using Personal Factory on regular basis to laser cut the bamboo wings and the brass hinges.  It was the discovery of the online fabrication service that inspired them to create this line of jewellery.  Initially Lisa came up with the butterfly concept, and the company spent years relentlessly testing a variety of prototypes and assembly processes.  These are still continuously evolving.

The total process, from design to fabrication to assembly is very involved.  The assembly is particularly delicate, and Lisa devotes hours to put together each piece of jewellery: prepping the wings, applying resin, waiting for it to cure and finishing the bamboo with linseed oil to enhance the grain and ensure durability.  The butterfly wings are sourced from different farms and suppliers.Dan Gordon emphasises that their design consideration isn’t purely aesthetic:

I think people want unique, genuine artifacts in their lives, which translates to using natural and raw materials. Sustainability is paramount as well. Butterflies are a fantastically renewable source, and farming them for research, education and collection ensures many species survival, we are still picky about the ones we chose though.

A few more words from Dan after the jump:

Have you been surprised by anything in the PF process: One big positive is that there are no surprises with your orders. You are totally responsible for your designs and you can make the smallest iterations without incurring incurring any extra time or setup costs.

Do you have any tips for other makers? Our strategy is basically “Make unique things, build good relationships” and it seems to be working out ok.

Wooden materials have grain, with the bamboo it’s a very pronounced straight grain. If you are making something with multiple parts it’s worth bearing in mind that if you rotate your designs to fit more pieces into the template, the direction of the grain won’t match the other pieces. It might not matter depending on what you are making, but for us with two symmetrical wings, inconsistent direction of the grain is really obvious and a bit of a deal-breaker.

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