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Work/Life/In Focus: Art Rises from the Ashes

Author: Mallorie Kerrigan
June, 2018 Issue

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Mike Owen’s home was close to being burnt to ash when flames were approaching on three sides of his house, 120-feet out. Like so many residents on October 9, 2017, Mike’s Nielson Ranch home in Santa Rosa was minutes away from being gone, until the winds shifted. Spared from destruction, Mike and his wife, Nancy Owen, learned their daughter Molly Owen’s home in Fountaingrove near Sweet T’s was completely leveled.

During cleanup, the Owen’s sieved their way through the rubble in hopes to find items of significance. “I was looking for possessions that belonged to my daughter,” says Owen. “Most were completely destroyed.” He found a piece of copper pipe on her property, and was immediately inspired.

Owens, semi-retired, spent much of his entire working life in senior management. But after finding pieces of copper and metal on his daughter’s ash-covered lot, he didn’t want those items to go to waste. “Though the objects were roasted and toasted, they still had some integrity left,” he says. After extensive research, Owen began crafting jewelry out of the remaining scraps found in the rubble of destroyed homes.

Owen still had tools from his time as a heavy equipment mechanic out of high school. He used what he had to begin making jewelry that would bring joy to so many who lost everything. “It’s primitive looking stuff,” he says. “My pieces are maybe more meaningful than beautiful.”

His first piece was made for his daughter: a heart pendent made from the copper found on her property. Having a piece of jewelry made from remains of a lost home, gives the owner a memory, which can be comforting to those who choose not to rebuild. For others, it’s inspiration to rebuild.

Owen uses techniques such as fire painting, which adds different colors to copper when heat is applied, and air chasing, a technique to add texture and contour into the copper. He then adds liver or sulfur powder to water and paints it on, finishing with a steel wool polish to add an oxidized or antique finish.

The process takes about a week, and it’s challenging to keep up with the demand. Owen sells his jewelry for anywhere between $65 and $250. However, most pieces have been gifted to his friends who lost their homes and all their possessions. “I’m thrilled that people love them,” he says with a smile.

As for the growing business, Owen intends to keep it small, simple and meaningful.

For more information, contact Mike at wildfirejewelrydesigns@gmail.com



 

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