Thursday, July 30, 2015


I'm starting to appreciate the monumental significance of Ivaan's body of work for the Art Gallery of Ontario's 1979 Treasures of Tutankhamun collection.  1979 was the 10th anniversary of the beginning of Ivaan's career in metal arts, and the Egyptian collection certainly involved by far the most historical research.   Recently, I found a book of excellent photographs of the actual pieces that formed the basis of the AGO exhibition.  You might  have expected a book like this to have been in Ivaan's library.  In fact, I doubt he had ever seen it.  I found it on the lawn of a neighbour's house, among a boxful of books they were giving away.

This piece is a sommelier spoon, used by wine tasters.  What I love about it is that it's not slavishly Egyptian, though there are many features characteristic of the age of Tutankhamun.  The bunches of grapes and vines on the underside are characteristically Ivaan's.  So is the shape: it looks a bit like a flounder. Yet there are the striations on the front handle that represent bullrushes, and that part is very much an Egyptian influence.

I can easily imagine Ivaan poring over this book of Egyptian photographs, and asking me to read him the text.  We were so well matched in many ways, primarily the ways in which we were opposites.  One of the most predominant was that he loved to be read to, and I love reading aloud.  Who would have thought that I'd be the one silently carrying on his legacy?  One of my big regrets is in not having taken the opportunity, while I had it, to learn more from him about this collection, which has become so important to me, and was instrumental in developing the artist he eventually became.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


In the same vein as the sterling silver egg that looks like crumpled satin (see 30 Pieces of Silver, Part Eight) this ring also has the appearance of fabric.  It's a very large ring, and I always feel very tormented when someone expresses an interest in buying it, because I love wearing it now and again.  Fortunately, it's also very heavy, making it expensive, and that's generally a good deterrent to potential suitors.

It is possible that Ivaan actually made this ring for himself, because it would have fit him, but I wouldn't be surprised if he found that it got in his way too much.  A whack with a ring like this could inflict a lot of damage on one of his beloved vintage cameras. His loss, my gain. Here's a view of the other side.  I tried photographing it head on, but it totally doesn't look like a ring unless I include a bit of the band. I'm not sure when he made this ring. As far as I know, there is no mould of it, but I think it was much later than the egg.  I'm guessing around 1999 or 2000.

Monday, July 27, 2015


It's relatively easy to select pieces to include in 30 Pieces of Silver, at least in the early stages of the project.  I'm sure it will become quite difficult when I'm selecting the last few pieces, because there will be so many more that were not selected, and deserved to be.  Nonetheless, here am I, posting one that I struggled with.

This is the ring with which Ivaan proposed to me.  I was on my way out the door to work, briefcase in hand, wearing my leather jacket, my motorcycle helmet and boots.  I had a busy day ahead of me and I was running late.  The last thing I was expecting at that moment was a marriage proposal.  Seeing Ivaan down on one knee on the living room floor, I assumed he was having another heart attack and I inexplicably burst into tears.

It goes without saying (I guess) that I didn't end up wearing it as an engagement ring for long; it was too big and too small at the same time.
The band was too tight for my ring finger, and the top part didn't fit inside my motorcycle glove.  I didn't select this ring for its sentimental value, and I don't even think I chose it for the workmanship.

I chose it because it's an excellent example of Ivaan's ability to see beauty where most people don't even bother to look.  The emerald in this ring is a "beach emerald" - a piece of broken Seven Up bottle he found on the street. He clearly applied the wax directly onto  the piece of glass, and cast the whole thing in silver, praying that the glass would not melt or shatter during the the casting process.

At least I don't have trouble figuring out when this ring was made.  It was before I said yes, in late 1994. At least I think I said yes. Here's the other side of the ring, in case you're curious.

Sunday, July 26, 2015



There's a very good reason this sterling silver egg has not appeared in the 30 Pieces of Silver series till now.  That reason is sloth. In order to write about the egg,  I'd first have to photograph it.  While Ivaan took some excellent photos of the egg, they are all on photographic slides.  So I decided I'd have to photograph it myself.  Photographing it in my hand is a good way of illustrating the size of the piece.  It's also a good background, as it eliminates all kinds of shadows.  Sadly, it also means you get to look at my polishing-machine battered left hand, because in order to photograph the egg, I first needed to polish it.  It's wedding ring season at Atelier Ivaan, so I've been spending an inordinate number of hours at the polishing machine, and my hands are beginning to resemble Ivaan's.  You could probably grow potatoes under my fingernails.  Huh - maybe I should have photographed it balanced on my foot. At least my feet are looking their best.

Ivaan started experimenting with making hollow sculptures out of jewellers' wax in 1987.  It's likely this was modelled on an actual egg.  He really liked making things in metal that looked like crumpled satin, and certainly this has that effect.   I am posting a couple of smaller photos showing the other sides of the egg. It's truly a masterpiece.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


When Ivaan started making a series of pendant pieces that were acorn-shaped and hollow, I was quite intrigued because I realized the only way to duplicate them would ruin the originals (I'll spare you the details).  Clearly, that was never going to happen. Some of them were thicker, some were more delicate, and most were gold, because if you were going to all that trouble to make a one-off, it might as well be hard-wearing gold.

Ivaan gave me a white gold one as a gift, and I love it.  But I always coveted this silver one, with its long tail that anchors the piece, which I can twirl between my thumb and forefinger. The chain on which I often wear it was also handmade by Ivaan, link by painstaking link. But the real masterpiece is the pendant piece.  I'm surprised I got to number seven on the 30 Pieces of Silver project without already having included it.

Since there isn't a mould, carbon dating it will be hard.  But I am fairly sure it's circa 2000.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


This is one of my favourite  pieces by Ivaan, but it is perhaps the one that causes me the most anguish.  Here's why: I no longer have it.

Ivaan made it in 1979 as part of his King Tutankhamun collection.  As far as I know, there has never been a mould of it, but I used to see it lying around among his pieces for years.  After we moved out of his studio a couple of doors away from our house on Portland Street, the goblet was stored in our basement.  I actually have a vivid memory of seeing it sitting on a brick ledge behind the furnace, while I was bricklaying over what had been the wooden door to a coal chute.

I had thought it was included in a fabulous exhibition of Ivaan's abandoned pieces entitled Sweepings: Treasures From The Atelier Floor, at KUMF Gallery in September 2008, curated by the utterly remarkable dynamo, Luda Pawliw, but even close inspection of the film footage of this exhibit doesn't show this piece on display, so I must reluctantly conclude that my own negligence led to its disappearance.

It's sterling silver, and this photograph is approximately life size.   I am sure it says IVAAN in block capitals underneath the base. If you ever see it anywhere (perhaps behind the furnace in our old house on Portland Street) I'm offering a substantial reward for its return. Grrrr.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


In 1979, Ivaan was commissioned by the Art Gallery of Ontario to make a series of Egyptian themed jewellery for their first King Tutankhamun exhibition.  The scarab beetle was very important in ancient Egyptian culture, and Ivaan wanted to make one that looked real, not like a cartoon.  His first scarab ring had the beetle sitting sideways on the finger.  A lot of work went into it, but frankly it looked creepy, so I'm certain it never achieved much success.

However, his second scarab ring was a huge success and became perhaps the most popular piece of jewellery Ivaan ever made.  It's no exaggeration to say that hundreds of people wear an Ivaan scarab ring, either in gold, bronze or sterling silver, and some people have come back for seconds, either because they wore theirs out or because they wanted them in different metals.

It was our friend Vladyana Krykorka Johnson who single-handedly raised the scarab ring to iconic status.  She worked with Ivaan at Maclean Hunter Publishing in the 1970s, and when she first saw the scarab ring he made, she knew it was destined for her finger. Vladyana is an artist and illustrator; she has a million friends in the art world and in the Czech community at large, and when her friends saw what she called her "bug ring", they got in line behind her and got scarab rings of their own.  Now these people's children have their own  bug rings.
If you see someone wearing one of Ivaan's scarab rings, you can safely ask them: "Are you Czech?  Are you an artist?  Or are you an architect?" Guaranteed you will be right on one or more of these counts.  

One of the interesting factors about this ring is the price. It's a hundred and fifty dollars. It will always be a hundred and fifty dollars. Ivaan told me that we can't charge more for it because the people who love it are generally artists, and artists are historically not rich, so it is essential for them to have something beautiful that's within their financial reach.

Except if it's gold, in which case it's $150 plus the cost of the gold.  But the scarab is a symbol of reincarnation, so it will last a lifetime - and maybe more.

Friday, July 17, 2015


It took me no time at all to select this belt buckle as one of Ivaan's most inspired pieces.  I've told the story of it before.  Ivaan made it for my birthday, three months after our wedding, and served it to me for breakfast, hidden inside a bowl of sliced mangoes.  It's a very large, heavy  buckle, and I had a fabulous belt custom made for it, black on one side and green on the other, by the brilliant leather artist, Negash, who used to made belts for Ivaan.
Ivaan hand engraved a loving inscription on the inside  - so if I ever want to be reminded what a romantic sweetheart he was, I just have to flip it over and read the message.  In real life, it's bigger than this photo.  I totally love its tropical excess.  The man was an inspired genius.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


I coveted this bracelet the first moment I saw it, partly because it was gorgeous and partly because I instantly recognized that it could never be duplicated.  It was at least 25 years ago that I laid claim to it, citing an important legal principle that I had devised to cover just such an instance: if it fits, it's mine.

I'm not sure why, but Ivaan had gold-plated it, and so when I first used to wear this bracelet, it was gold coloured.  I subsequently decided that I'd prefer it in silver, so I had the gold plating removed.  Luckily, this qualifies it for the 30 Pieces of Silver collection.

Ivaan made two other bracelets in this series, but they are more subdued in appearance.  I like this one best.

©Ivaan Kotulsky 1990
In fact, I think I'll wear it tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Some of Ivaan's pieces are so legendary, I feel deeply disappointed never to have seen them.  This cuff bracelet is one of those.  He'd been making jewellery for about ten years when he made this piece for the Art Gallery of Ontario. Though most of his AGO work was related to their 1979 King Tutankhamun exhibition, this bracelet was not.

When I look at this photograph, I see white gold.  Yet, the caption reads .999 silver, so it's much more pure than sterling silver, and maybe that's why it looks so exquisite.  I'm guessing Ivaan photographed it the minute he finished it.


In fact, it's so perfect that legend has it that this bracelet sold at the Art Gallery of Ontario for $6,000 in the early 1980s.  Each of those tiny beads was applied one at a time.  I cannot imagine how long it took Ivaan to make this bracelet. In those days, his close-up vision was so acute that he focused about two inches from the tip of his nose.  After all that work, casting it into metal must have been torture.  So many things can go wrong in the casting process.

Sadly, there is no mould of this bracelet.  This leads me to believe that it was a commission for someone special, who wanted to own a one-of-one by Ivaan. Sometimes I dream about someone walking into the store and showing it to me.   


In the last few years of his life, Ivaan had been planning a book of photographs of his best metal art, which he planned to entitle 30 Pieces of Silver.  If you're not up on your Bible studies, Judas is said to have betrayed Jesus for "thirty pieces of silver".   Perhaps for Ivaan it was just a catchy title, but it's also possible that Ivaan wondered if those pieces of silver were worth the betrayal.  More than likely, the reference was to silver coins, but it got Ivaan speculating:  if he had to pick 30 pieces of silver to best represent his life's work, which would he choose?

We often discussed whether he literally meant silver pieces, or whether silver-coloured pieces also counted.  And since many of the pieces he made in gold were also made in silver,  would photographs of gold count?  If so, would they have to be white gold?  Even more complicated was whether the pieces had to have been photographed by him.   Don't get me bleating on about the difficulty of photographing jewellery well.  Ivaan's pieces didn't have a "good side" and a reverse side.  They were generally beautiful from every angle, so a photograph highlighting one feature naturally excluded another.  Add that to the fact that, compared to Ivaan, I am a highly substandard photographer. Yet, when I think of all the weddings at which Ivaan has been the photographer, but the bulk of the photographs were actually taken by me, I begin to think 'slow-witted' is another adjective that might apply to me. Writing this, the wedding of Ivaan's niece Martha suddenly springs to mind. A couple of days after the wedding, the Mother of the Bride was looking at the photographs, exclaiming what a wonderful photographer her brother Ivaan was, oblivious to the fact that Ivaan was actually in the photos she was admiring.

But I digress.

Many of Ivaan's most beautiful pieces of metal art are out there in the world without ever having been photographed.  Even among the pieces that he did photograph,  the piece of jewellery might have been just one element in a complex photograph.

Early in the morning on December 2nd, 2008, while we waited outside the doors of the operating room for the first of Ivaan's two scheduled brain surgeries, talking quietly to each other, Ivaan said, "Promise me you'll do 30 Pieces of Silver".  I knew what he meant: the chances were about fifty-fifty that he wouldn't be coming home at all.  I tried to assure him that we'd have plenty of time to work on it together during the year of post-surgical recovery he'd need.  Ivaan insisted: "Promise me you'll do 30 Pieces of Silver".  It was painful for him to speak.  For the previous year, almost all his interactions with the outside world were filtered through me, as his speech became so laboured, friends were unable to understand him.  He'd speak to them, they'd look at me in discomfort, and I'd provide the English to English translation. In the few minutes we had left together, I didn't want to waste time arguing about semantics, so I promised.

To date, I haven't kept my promise.  I've done a million other things I promised to do, and even a few things I didn't promise but he'd have been thrilled about: starting this blog, opening ATELIER IVAAN, helping to arrange the acquisition of his collections of photographs by Ryerson University, the City of Toronto, and the University of Regina, contacting people he'd lost touch with, making rings for weddings he'd have loved to attend, donating bronzes to the Cathedral in his name, but 30 Pieces of Silver has been on my to-do list for six and a half years.

Starting now (and it's midnight on July 15, 2015), I'm selecting 30 Pieces of Silver.  It will be a very subjective collection, but each one will have a special significance, which I'll tell you about.  Here's the first one:
First, a disclaimer: this photograph was taken by me.  It's sterling silver, and I call this the Charlie Ring. because a young woman named Charlie Hill has one.  Ivaan made it as part of his Egyptian collection for the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1980.  What's unusual about it is that the band wraps around the beaded oval from outside to inside on one side and from inside to outside on the other. Symmetry was anathema to Ivaan.  Every one of those little beads was applied by hand on the wax original.   It's an excellent ring, but apart from his charateristic beadwork, people rarely recognize this as an Ivaan ring. Now you know.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


On November 8th, 2011 I posted the first half of The Coffin Story. I always intended to write the other half and here we are, three and a half years later, I'm still blogging about Ivaan, it's the middle of the night and I can't sleep.  So I'll tell the other half of the story and maybe that will have a soporific effect.

Once Ivaan had finished planning his funeral, he felt quite proud of himself. He'd never done anything organized in his entire life.  Even at our wedding reception, when it was time for him to make a speech, he realized he hadn't prepared one.  Fortunately, I'm never at a loss for words, especially when I have an audience, so we finessed that one quite smoothly and I doubt anyone noticed.

He'd made his own grave marker, purchased his own coffin, asked that I hand stitch a linen shroud, chosen a handsome photograph for his death notice, selected his pallbearers, decreed that no animal products would be served at the meal following his burial, requested baskets of bread to be placed in the foyer of the Cathedral, so mourners could take a slice or two to a park on their way home, and feed the birds and squirrels on behalf of their good friend Ivaan.  He'd chosen the music to be played at his Panachyda (prayers) and at the cemetery.  He'd bought us a plot in his favourite cemetery.  When he had concluded all the arrangements he could think of, he turned to me with profound satisfaction and said, "There! That's done! Now all you have to do is show up."

As it turned out, there were a few other details that needed to be attended to, once our house was sold and I'd moved us to our new condo on St. Joseph Street.  First, a plain pine coffin seemed a little hard and uninviting. So I sent out our friends Gareth and Meghan to buy me some pure cotton quilt batting, and I hand-stitched a white cotton mattress for the bottom of the coffin.  Then, I made a pillow out of linen,  embroidered IVAAN  in large silk letters on the pillowcase (just in case the Almighty had any doubts about who had just arrived at the gates), and stuffed the pillow with cotton and dried lavender.  When all this was done, I set up the coffin on the living room floor,  inserted the mattress and pillow, and climbed in, instructing our niece Justine to close the lid. Ivaan loved comfort, and I wanted to ensure the accommodations were up to his high standards. It seemed very pleasant in there. I could hear muffled voices in the room, and a few minutes later Justine slid open the lid and let me out.

Now, you may wonder why I was setting up the coffin on the living room floor. In fact, once we were living in the condo, we kept it in the kitchen.  I didn't want it to be in the storage locker, where things were often dusty, and there was no point in sending it to the funeral home in advance. Some people actually buy an Arkwood Casket and use it as a bookcase until such time as it is needed for horizontal purposes. But we got used to having it in the kitchen.

After Ivaan's death, the funeral home sent their staff to the condo to pick up the empty coffin.  I notified the condominium office that we would be moving a coffin to a waiting hearse during the late evening, when it would inconvenience the fewest number of residents.   They were horrified, demanded it be taken down via the service elevator and out through the doors used for moving furniture and garbage.  I refused adamantly. It was a stand-off. The condo board convened an emergency meeting to decide how to prevent the coffin coming out the main doors of the condo building. The funeral home staff were one step ahead. Instead of arriving in a hearse, they arrived in a van and casual clothes. The coffin was carried out, vertically, and whisked into the van while the emergency meeting was still in session.

Now, if you are Ukrainan, you are probably already horrified, so feel free to stop reading right now.

Another of Ivaan's requests was that immediately before his funeral, I dress him in his shroud, wrap him in his tallit, (a Jewish prayer shawl), help to lift him into the coffin, lay him out according to his instructions and close the lid.  I felt a tremendous sense of peace and honour, that I had carried out his wishes and been of service to him, as he had devotedly served me so often in our life together.

Ivaan had also asked for a length of red silk to be draped across the head of his casket, in the manner of the Cossacks whose eyes were covered with a red silk scarf when they died. Our friend Myron kindly had two pieces of red silk sewn into scarves, one for Ivaan and one as a gift for Ivaan's sister. Nadia and I were instructed to drape the silk over the coffin as the funeral started.

Because this is a story about Ivaan, naturally there's a humorous aspect. In our haste to put the lid on the coffin in the funeral home, we had slid it on backwards, and we were thus unable to insert the wooden pin that held the lid closed. As a result, we later realized that instead of facing the altar, Ivaan was facing the congregation and the red silk scarf covered his ankles. I'm always quite certain that he was secretly pleased to be able to see how many friends and acquaintances had packed the Cathedral to say a final farewell to him.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

CONTAINS INGREDIENTS: Ivaan's Complicated Relationship With Food, Part 2.

Ivaan's mother once told me the story of his birth in a Nazi slave labour camp outside Köln, Germany.  Soon after his delivery, the building in which he was born was bombed by the Allies, caught fire and his mother had to flee.  She picked him up, made the sign of the cross over him, said in Ukrainian, "I baptize you Ivaan" and ran.  Outside the building, it was dark.  She was hungry, exhausted and frightened.  She had no idea where to find Ivaan's father.  She was walking along a path clutching her newborn when a Nazi guard approached her. Terrified, she took off an embroidered belt she was wearing, and offered it to him. Wordlessly, he handed her a pear, by way of exchange. She took one bite of the pear and instantly felt herself start to lactate, so she was able to feed Ivaan. She felt that they had narrowly escaped death.

Ivaan's earliest memories of food were in the refugee camp after the liberation, when British Red Cross workers gave them chocolate.  They lived in refugee camps for four years, until they were sponsored to Canada by the Tywoniuk family in Smoky Lake, Alberta.  A year or two later, the Kotulsky family moved to Toronto and they started the daily task of accumulating enough food to feed the family.  Ivaan's father quickly learned that the Kensington Market was a source of free fruit and vegetables, as the vendors left their overripe or blemished produce out in the evenings.  He'd collect all he could carry, and bring it home. Neighbours on Wyatt Avenue, in the Cabbagetown area of Toronto, were generally working-class Canadian families whose diet included white sliced bread and canned goods.  Ivaan's sister remembers neighbourhood children being mystified by the fruit salads their mother would prepare out of the parts of the fruit that were still intact.

Ivaan's father was appalled by the Canadian diet. He used to say that Canadians were too lazy to chew their own food, and that's why they ate canned food.  Pre-chewed food, he called it.  When Ivaan started school, he longed for the kind of sandwiches his classmates ate: white sliced bread spread with mustard, and nothing else.  He was embarrassed that his own sandwiches were made of thick European-style bread, hand cut.  His father was not fooled, and insisted that white sliced bread, with its telltale brand name of Toastmaster, was therefore only intended to fit into a toaster, not as sandwich bread.

It's no exaggeration to say Ivaan was a picky eater as a child.  The sight of a drop of oil floating on the top of a bowl of borshch would make him scream.  There were many foods he would not touch.  He often told me how embarrassed his mother was when she learned that he had eaten a ham sandwich at the home of  his friends Bo and Len, and that he had asked their mother for another.  She had to telephone the boys' mother and ask her to explain how she made ham sandwiches, because finally here was something her Ivaan would actually eat.

The language of food permeated Ivaan's descriptions of people.  Someone who was pale or had the facial appearance of having been a premature baby "didn't cook long enough", according to Ivaan.  A gangly teenager with poor posture looked "like a glass of skim milk." Members of the Ukrainian community with fleshy faces that lacked the definition provided by high cheekbones were "potato people".

Many of Ivaan's youthful prejudices about food followed him into adulthood.  He would eat only extremely fresh bread.  He hated baked goods that did not have a well-developed crust.  He preferred that flavours not be mixed.  And he was famous for sending food back to the kitchen in restaurants if it wasn't exactly to his taste.  Once, soon after our marriage, he called a waiter over to our table and complained that his meal was not properly cooked.  "I like it burnt, the way my wife makes", explained Ivaan, a little too emphatically for comfort.  The  waiter fixed me with a pitying smirk.  "Oh, don't look at me", I replied.  "I'm not his wife; I'm just his girlfriend!"  It was one of those esprit de l'escalier moments, when you have just the right comeback, at just the right moment.

A few years before our marriage, I was upstairs in the kitchen baking bread and Ivaan was downstairs in his studio working on something.  I realized that I had an appointment with a real estate agent to see a house I had my eye on, and that I'd have to leave Ivaan in charge of taking the loaf out of the oven when it was baked.  This was a risky proposition.  He wasn't good at judging the passage of time, and he was never that interested in domestic matters.  Heading out to my appointment, I warned Ivaan that I'd be very irritated if I came back to a burnt loaf in the oven.

Returning an hour later, I did indeed find a tin in the oven, the contents of which were completely blackened.  Strangely, however, the oven had been switched off.  Opening the oven door, I removed the tin, and found that Ivaan had folded up a piece of black cloth in the shape of a loaf of bread, put it into an empty tin, and placed it in the oven as  a joke.  I still have the photograph Ivaan took of me when I removed the tin from the oven. It's a great photo.  Look at our cat, Pinky, yawning at all the excitement.
After our marriage, Ivaan seemed to believe - and who was I to disabuse him of the notion? - that the responsibility of a husband was to make his wife breakfast in bed every morning. My first breakfast after our marriage apple sandwich.  Ivaan sliced up an apple, put the slices between two pieces of bread, and brought it to me on a tray. He got more adventurous with the passage of time, and on the morning of my birthday, three months after our wedding, he brought me a large bowl of Ataulfo mango slices, but no fork.  I was lying in bed with my eyes closed, picking slices of mango out of the bowl, when my fingers touched something that was decidedly un-mango-like.
It was a gorgeous sterling silver belt buckle which he had hand-engraved on the back "To my darling wife on her birthday", and the date.  Every time I wear it, I remember how lucky I felt that morning.
When Ivaan was presented with an item of food that was exactly to his taste, he ate it with total concentration.  There was no point in speaking to him; he just wanted to enjoy the moment.  His ultimate compliment for an item of prepared food was invariably uttered with a sigh of deep satisfaction.  "Contains ingredients", he would say.

Saturday, July 4, 2015


This is a photo of the first ring Ivaan ever made.  It was December, 1969.  I think he hammered it out of a silver quarter.  He kept this ring because, as he said, he'd probably have to pay someone to take it away.  For a first piece of jewellery, it's actually fairly complex:  a domed top with something like a sun or a flower on top, and leaves on the sides.
Recently I found the mould of the fifth ring Ivaan ever made.  It was sometime in 1970. The fact that the mould still exists, in excellent condition, 45 years later, suggests to me that he never used it, and in fact I had never seen this ring until I used the mould to make a wax.
 I instantly loved it, so I cast it in sterling silver, to see what the possibilities were.

Here, I've balanced a couple of diamonds in the mouth of the flowers, and I can see that it would make a fantastic engagement ring: the larger stone facing up, and the smaller one facing sideways.
While I marvel at the  steepness of his learning curve, I marvel equally that, 45 years after he started creating metal art, here I am, reproducing his exquisite work.