Jewelry maker Patricia “Pete” Steele uses a flame torch to experiment with different types of gases to create beautiful brass jewelry that stands the test of time.
“With brass, you can manipulate the metal,” Pete says. “I can pull color out of it, and it won’t fade out or go away. With some other metals, you can pull color out, but over time it will change, fade out, or diminish. With brass, it won’t. Once I get it heated and get it to do what I want it to do, the color stays and won’t go away.”
Working in the medium for 20 years, Pete first learned the art from a retiring metal jewelry maker, then applied what she learned with her own experimentation.
“I was just kind of playing around with different things and learning what the metal would do, and what I could get it to do with different gases,” Pete explains. “It’s a lot of fun. I love to see what I can get out of the metal.”
With a degree in commercial design from Purdue University, Pete grew up in the small rural town of Rushville, Ind., but now creates brass jewelry from the basement of her Indianapolis home. She says her father, “an incredible Quill pen and ink artist,” passed down the artistic gene, while her mother instilled a love of color.
After two decades of manipulating precious metals into wearable pieces of beautiful art, Pete understands how temperature, humidity, and other factors impact her work. The fact that no two pieces come out the same is what makes her jewelry so unique.
“Sometimes, I can get these really brilliant colors. But other times, they are more earthy, more golds, oranges, and shades of green. I just never know,” Pete says. “It just is what it is.”
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