Robert & Debra Shinn

   "Once upon a time, a young husband saved back a little money and went to buy his wife a pretty piece of jewelry. He walked in every store in town and everywhere he found the same thing - ugly junk. 'What happened to the elegant jewelry people used to make?' he wondered. Since he and his wife already knew some basic jewelry-working techniques they decided to make the beautiful pieces they loved to wear.

   We have always loved beautiful antique jewelry. We study and recreate the meticulous techniques of historic master jewelers, from the ancient Greeks and Egyptians to Art Nouveau and Native American masters like Charles Loloma and Tom Burnsides. Our work ranges from earrings to sterling silver dining ware.
   All our work is handmade in our workshop. We collaborate on our designs and productions, and currently employ no outside labor. We start by making a series of sample drawings, then decide which technique would be most appropriate to capture the desired effect. We use a variety of techniques which currently include sand casting, lost wax casting, wire-wrapping, fabrication, soldering, setting both faceted stones and cabochons, beading, stamping, raising, chain-making, bezel-making, repousse, granulation, enamel, overlay and inlay in sterling silver using wire, sheet and casting grain. We also cut and polish cabochons and sculptures made from semi-precious stones including turquoise, jet, coral, mother-of-pearl, charoite, malachite, azurite and lapis lazuli. We are constantly seeking out new techniques to learn and developing new techniques of our own.
   We take special care to make all of our pieces wearable, with no sharp projections or brittle edges. Our work is meant to go everywhere our customers go and to be passed down to the next generation.
   Our tools range from tiny pliers and rawhide mallets to a 20-ton hydraulic press. We increase the authenticity of our work by employing the tools with which they were traditionally made. We have a full-size blacksmith's forge behind our workshop to recreate any traditional silversmith's tools that we can no longer find, as well as innovative tools we have designed ourselves.
   Our artistic inspiration comes from the images and stories we love, everything from our favorite myths and children's stories to the latest news. We take special delight in updating powerful images from the past for today's world. Most of our work is by commission where we enjoy helping people bring their fondest dreams to life. We are proud to have been chosen by the Mississippi Band of Choctaws to be the first silversmiths in over 100 years to make their traditional silver round combs. Our work has been called fantastic, gorgeous, playful and elegant - but never minimalist.

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   Robert Shinn began learning his techniques from his grandfather in the 1970s. He attended the Mississippi University for Women from 1985 to 1988 where he acquired degrees in chemistry and biology and a wife. Debra Shinn was studying English and social sciences and cultivating a lifelong love of mythology and mythic images.
   We started our business in 1991 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. We were members of the South Mississippi Art Association from 1993 to 1996. We held silver-working workshops, showed locally and began accepting commissions in the Hattiesburg area.
   In 1997 we moved to north Mississippi, built a full size workshop and developed an Internet presence offering custom and traditional work worldwide. Our website, www.brigidsforge.com, was created entirely by ourselves, down to the graphics and coding.
   Starting in 2003, we were commissioned by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to recreate their traditional jewelry and dance regalia. As of spring 2005 we are exhibiting members of the Craftsmen's Guild of Mississippi."

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