My name is Jennifer Bower and my Etsy shop is JBowerEngraving. From the time I was a little girl I wanted to be an artist. Crayons, markers, pencils, paints, I loved using anything I could get my hands on. I took several art classes and explored several different kinds of art but it wasn't until I tried hand engraving that I found my true passion.
Hand Engraving is an art form that goes way back and can be found gracing the faces of watches, decorating the plates of antique clocks, enveloping someone's wedding band or telling a story on the block of an old printing press. Today, many hand engravers specialize in the engraving of knives and firearms as jewelry tends to be more and more laser or machine engraved. I had the opportunity to meet with a gifted hand engraver on a few occasions and received some pointers on how to get started. However, with no formal training, I'm still learning as I go and finding my own style.
When I have an idea for a piece I sit down with my sketch pad and a pencil. I'll erase and redraw until I have what I think will be the perfect image to engrave. I place the piece of metal I'll be working on in a rotating vice. This allows the metal to stay completely fastened and stationary while I work. I use a pencil or marker to draw an outline of the image I want to create onto the metal. Then, I use a sharp tip, or scribe, to lightly outline the image permanently onto the metal.
When I first started I was working with the naked eye and realized I couldn't see my work surface as well as I had hoped. I now use a lighted microscope to help magnify my work surface so it's easier for me to add detail to the images I'm engraving. Once my microscope is focused on my outlined image, I take my engraver in hand and begin to work.
To aid in removing metal, I use an air powered hand piece. Basically, I have a metal tube attached to a sharp blade and spring. This metal tube (hand piece) is connected to other tubing and an air compressor. The air compressor gently pulses air toward the blade so I can get a deeper cut in the metal. Historically, many engravers worked by pushing the blades with their hands or "chasing" it with a hammer. Those methods are still used and do work, but the assistance of air relieves physical strain and aids in more precise cuts. The air compressor's strength is controlled by valves and a foot pedal much like that of a sewing machine.
As I cut the metal, it rolls off in perfect little coils, leaving behind beautiful, mirrored cuts in the metal. If the blade isn't properly sharpened, or the angle of the cut is not right, the metal will rip or gouge leaving very ugly, uneven, messy lines. It requires a lot of concentration as well. I often find myself holding my breath or focusing on keeping my body very still because one miss-move and the piece is ruined. There is no erasing, no salvaging a gouge or misplaced line, you have to start all over again.
I'm very inspired by designs in architecture, art nouveau and art deco patterns, as well as fonts and lettering styles from many different time periods. One such font is known as leaf script. The letters of the alphabet are created using vines, leaves, swirls and flowers. It's difficult to find complete alphabets to work off of so I've been creating my own. The picture below shows a "B" in the leaf script I'm designing.
Currently my most popular pendants are those with initials and monograms on them. I love knowing that these will be heirlooms one day.
The pendants I love creating the most are those with special designs and pictures. They take so much more time and concentration but, in the end, are truly unique. One of my favorites is an engraving of a bee. I'm fascinated by nature and insects. Normally I would move swiftly away from a bee but they are lovely in their own way.
What I like the most about what I do is that I can engrave nearly anything! It's all up to the imagination.
Thank you for reading.