Gingercation and Gypsy-Setting

(or, what I learned during my spring vacation)
April’s vacation included my version of a creative renewal program, developed after a friend received a Lilly Endowment Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship. His included a trip to Scotland. Mine? A Ginger-cation! A visit to North Carolina to see my dear friend and fellow metalsmith Ginger Meek Allen, get some bench time, and hopefully even help Ginger out with studio-related things. When the idea was sprung upon her, she was all for it, and even invited me to stay with her family – four daughters and husband Jimmy!

Fast-forward to Wake Forest, NC, me Ginger at the bench. Besides the fact that I’m in pure heavenly bliss being at the bench with another metalsmith, Ginger is teaching me a stone setting technique that I have never had the pleasure (or time) to learn. It is called Gypsy setting, and is typically used for setting small round faceted stones into silver or gold. A seat is cut for the stone in the surrounding metal and wraps around it, hugging it into place. Ginger is a master at this setting!

The pendant I had created for this purpose was ready, but Ginger sagely suggested we try a practice piece first. She then showed me Gypsy setting step-by-step. The little tips and tricks were, right then and there, worth the thirteen hour drive. I stood, transfixed, watching the master at work. Fortunately for me, she accidentally selected a non-uniform stone, so I was able to learn some tricks to overcome those circumstances.

Stone #1 was set perfectly in the test piece, and it was time to set Stone #2. My turn. I was off and running – for about two minutes. What just happened? How did she do that? Gentle Ginger patiently reminded me of what to do next, and success was mine a surprisingly short time later as Stone #2 passed the sweat-inducing toothpick test. Which means once the stone is set, one flips over the piece and tries to dislodge the stone using a toothpick, at which point tears or cheers ensue.

I suppose the main point of this note is to share with you how easy things can be when you have someone there to show you the way. Even when that person comes up against a problem, watching them solve it provides you with an even richer learning experience. Here is where I would normally say take a class! But it’s more than that. It is sitting with someone, sharing a common passion. Breathing the same air, in the same room. Talking over endless possibilities. Or not talking. Just being. Bottom line, that’s what my creative renewal was REALLY about. And I’m so much the richer for it. Thank you, Ginger.

How might you creatively renew yourself this season? Tell me. I’d love to hear from you!


Check out my post “A How-to:Gypsy Stone Setting,” for step-by-step instructions on setting your own gems in metal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.