Erica Moody, Alchemy 9.2.5 Scholarship winner

by Metalwerx on September 2, 2014

It didn’t take long for Erica Moody to make use of the techniques she learned in a recent Metalwerx workshop. As the recipient of a scholarship offered by the Belmont-based gallery, Alchemy 9.2.5, she was able to enroll in a class of her choice. She chose to participate in the 2014 Summer with the Masters series, selecting Pat Flynn’s “Precise Fabrication and Mechanisms” as a re-introduction to jewelry making. It had been thirty years since she’d taken a small-scale metal smithing course.


Erica Moody at work.

Erica, a graduate of Hampshire College, owns Magma Metalworks, Inc., in Beverly, Mass. The company specializes in fabricating metal pieces on a furniture-sized scale. She works with architects, designers, and some homeowners, taking their ideas for projects and applying her expertise to engineer the most practical design. She was on scaffolding, installing a custom loft ladder in downtown Boston when she got the call.

“I had been eyeing Pat’s class because I was drawn to the idea of making basic forms precisely, and refining soldering work,” she said. She designs a lot of custom mechanisms and hardware and joinery, but on a much larger scale than jewelry. “This aspect of ‘Mechanisms’ appealed to me,” she said.

The five-day class focused on making three basic forms, a cube, a sphere, and a cone, and then applying the techniques learned to pieces such as clasps and brooch pins. She was especially taken by Pat’s beautifully precise designs, including a pin mechanism that “moves, snaps, and locks in such a satisfying way,” she said.


Sample forms by Pat Flynn.

Immediately after the workshop, Erica began to augment her tool collection to include jewelers’ saws, a bench pin, and triangular sanding sticks with paper silicon carbide—tools she now provides students in her own workshops on soldering and brazing for hardware and boats.

“It’s a bizarre gap between architectural metalwork and fine jewelry work,” she said. “What I do in my business is more detailed, but now I try to bring more of the jewelry attention to this craftsmanship in my architectural work and every-day objects.”

Erica experienced a breakthrough when something she tried to make for herself ended up as a spectacular piece of hardware for a classic wooden boat.  At first she tried making a stainless steel cone to use as a tip on her torch, to adapt the flame to jewelry-scale soldering. It didn’t turn out the way she wanted, but it gave her some ideas when she taught at the WoodenBoat School in Brooklin, Maine, a few weeks later.


Two-inch spelter socket used for boat rigging.

“The reducing cone turned out to be a beautiful piece of stainless steel, based on what we learned in class, but it allowed me to go to another level,” she said. It reminded her of a spelter socket, a component used for traditional boat rigging. Such sockets are traditionally cast bronze, and are difficult to find.

Erica adapted her piece as a challenge to compare with a bigger bronze one. She filled the cone with lead to capture the tail of the steel cable inserted into the socket. She then attached it to an industrial bracket to test its strength.  “It tested to at least about 4500 pounds of pulling strength, and then we didn’t try any more than that. Everyone thought it was just a beautiful, tiny thing, just under two inches long,” she said. “It’s incredibly strong and beautiful and we were all impressed by that.”


Testing the spelter socket.  It reached pulling strength of almost 4500 pounds.

The Metalwerx class gave Erica the chance to get away from her metalcraft business to focus on small work, detail, and “a view of fussy fabrication from a jeweler’s point of view,” she said. “It was great to learn from him and the fellow classmates, all serious jewelers, about so many great techniques, both basic and complex. Pat Flynn is a great artist and teacher. I appreciated his patience as an instructor and his passion and dedication to perfection and unique beauty in every detail of a piece,” she said. “I am truly inspired more than ever to continue making smaller, more refined, personal work, and I’ll definitely be back at Metalwerx!”

Metalwerx and their community partners offer scholarships throughout the year and will announce a winter award in the October issue of our e-newsletter, Inside Metalwerx.

–by Yleana Martinez


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