Michael Christie & Susan Allen

   " Michael Christie began carving essence bottles from gem crystal as a way to display the jewelry he designs. His bottles are multi-functional and filled with hidden secrets, recalling the mechanical genius, luxury, and craftsmanship of Faberge. Accent stones inserted into the bases of his bottles are removable earrings; the dipper doubles as a pendant. He fabricates all of the goldwork on his bottles himself, including a tiny hinge that allows the bottle to tilt back upon its base and reveal a secret well concealing the earring backs. And if that isn't enough, a closer look often reveals a magical world deep within the bottle crystal itself, an intricate scene carved by fellow artist and wife Susan Allen.

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   The mechanical design, movable components, and multiple "works within a work," characteristic of Christie's functional, multi-dimensional gem art are the culmination of a mechanical finesse and an eye for detail honed during his years as a race car driver and engineer. After years of racing, a growing interest in crystals and studies of color awareness with a Buddhist monk inspired him to apply his mechanical skills to finer materials--gemstones. Entirely self-taught, he brings a lush, Bulgari-like approach to his goldwork and a painstaking thoroughness to his carving and polishing. A single piece can take him hundreds of hours to refine and perfect. Each bottle is designed individually, inspired by the unique nature of the rough crystal.... "When I cut a gemstone I don't stop where convention stops, I go beyond."
   Christie's work has been displayed worldwide and exhibited at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh and the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art in Chicago. His work has appeared in such publications as American Jewelry Manufacture, Lapidary Journal, and The Pagosa Springs Sun. In 1997, Christie won first place for Objects of Art in the American Gem Trade Association's prestigious Cutting Edge Competition with his masterpiece Frog Prince, an elegant bottle of golden beryl finished with a beautiful South Sea black pearl.... "My mind is always wanting something more, to create something as difficult and mechanically nifty as possible."

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   From southwestern motifs and celestial space temples to animated bear families and vivid underwater scenes, the world of Susan Allen constantly surprises and amazes. By using the finest diamond-plated bits in dental drills, Allen transforms mossy inclusions into undulating coral reefs, creates fish that appear to dart in and out of golden rutile, and builds tiny villages that spring from gently sloping hillsides. Allen's mastery of microscopic detail and the power of imagination is unrivaled making her one of the most widely collected internal carvers in the world.
   Allen is entirely self-taught in the art of gem carving. For many years, she satiated her desire to create as a professional painter but when she discovered internal carving in the mid-1980's she knew she had found the perfect medium for the fantasy worlds she was exploring on canvas. Inspired by internal carver Christian Yeagan, she began to experiment with the art of tunneling and reverse stone carving.... "I carve for nature in hopes that others can experience the tremendous value of our natural world... and become more aware of its wonders and inspirations."

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   Allen's goal is to balance and complement, not detract from, the natural beauty of the mineral. Starting with a carefully chosen then polished crystal, she sometimes studies a stone for years before making a carving. She then begins the painstaking process of hollowing out her tiny, intricately textured images so that they appear to float behind a magic window. While carving, the formation of a continuous milky slurry of mineral waste necessitates constant cleaning and drying in order to keep the working area visible. It is a never-ending challenge to reach the area of the crystal she is working on while still maintaining steady hands and correct lighting; she often finds herself in very contorted positions. A medium-sized internal piece can easily have 50 to 80 hours work in the carving alone while a larger piece can take hundreds of hours to complete. Each is a treasure combining the beauty of nature with Allen's own rich imagination.... "I strive to capture feelings of beauty and goodness, that this mat touch each [person individually, manifesting as a positive direction in their lives, and for life upon the earth."

   Allen's work appears in private collections and has been displayed worldwide, including in exhibits at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh and the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art in Chicago. She has placed many times in the American Gem Trade Association's prestigious "Cutting Edge" competition, capturing second place in 1991 and third place in 1992, 1997, and 1998. Her work has also been featured in Articles in Gem and Lapidary Journal.

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