When we met Bay Area jewelry designer Christine Guibara late last year, we were immediately intrigued by the watercasting technique she uses to turn molten gold into luxe pieces that are one-of-a-kind, handmade and eco-friendly.
We caught up with Guibara recently to chat about watercasting, her inspirations and Old World sensibilities.
How long have you been a jewelry designer?
I opened shop about a year ago, but I have been making jewelry all my life.
Where can we buy your pieces in the Bay Area?
I sell exclusively from my studio in Burlingame by appointment and on etsy.
What is your price range for jewelry?
My collection starts a little under a hundred up to thousands. My custom work has ranged from a hundred dollars to tens of thousands.
Tell us about watercasting. What is it? How does it work?
Watercasting is a very unique process where I pour molten metal in water. As the metal solidifies, it forms naturally beautiful shapes that I then design into jewelry. Each shape is completely individual, like a snowflake. Depending what metal, how high the pour, temperature and other factors, the shapes turn out completely differently. As I watercast more and more, I can somewhat predict what types of shapes will come with each pour, but I am also astonished quite often with what comes out.
What is it about this technique that intrigues you? Why did you decide to work this way as opposed to the many other ways of working with metals?
I have always designed around the idea of natural elegance. I think the most interesting forms come from nature, and I believe that these shapes have an understated elegance to appreciate. Even the most irregular have an intrinsic balance and aesthetic.
When I discovered the natural phenomenon of watercasting, I was immediately hooked. Each piece has so much character, and I am continuously stunned that nature can come up with such amazing forms. Many artists, including myself, often emulate nature in their work, and I love that I have found a way to capture it naturally.
I also am really excited by the eco-friendly side of it. Through watercasting, I recycle all my extra gold and silver from other pieces I have designed. I also melt down clients’ gold and silver to make watercasting pieces for them. Since gold mining is a very intrusive process, I am glad I have found a way to mitigate my footprint in the industry.
Because of the way watercasting works, does that mean that every piece you make is one-of-a-kind?
The watercasting process is indeed one-of-a-kind. I also like to choose stones that are unique and irregular, furthering the individualism of each piece. Though I will re-cast some pieces to make a set, I prefer to keep all of my pieces one-of-a-kind.
What makes your work stand out and sets it apart from the legions of other jewelry options out there?
When I was studying abroad in Florence, I fell in love with the little Italian one-man shops that made amazing craftsmen pieces. It was my epiphany that I wanted to form my business this way, where my pieces are more art than business. I feel the personal touch has been replaced by manufacturers, outsourcing and bargain buying. I found that many people are missing and really appreciate the local artists that can still provide an old world skill. My one-of-a-kind and custom pieces speak to this.
Like most artists, I know my style, and I know no one else could do it quite like I do. That’s the beauty of art. I pride myself on having that personal touch where I have scrutinized every stone and watercast and have put my heart into designing each piece. I think each piece really shows that, and has been a big reason many people are drawn to my work.
Do you do custom work?
I do all kinds of custom work. Some people ask for specific watercast pieces, some like to design themselves, some like me to design for someone. I have created engagement rings, holiday gifts, bridesmaids jewelry, baby gifts, and a variety of other pieces.
Photography courtesy of Christine Guibara
More San Francisco designers…