Discovering Keum-Boo

Technique Tuesday

A Touch of Gold: Roll Printing and Keum Boo | Francesca Watson
It’s a hot and sunny Tuesday here at the Bead Fest Headquarters, and we’ve been indulging in one of our favorite summer rituals—learning about unique jewelry art techniques!

Right now, we are completely infatuated with the rustic elegance of the silversmithing technique, Keum-Boo—pronounced either “kim boo” or “kum boo”—an ancient Korean gilding method used to apply thin sheets of 24K gold to silver and other metals. The gold foil can be used to create an array of abstract patterns and designs on pendants, bangles, rings or the silver jewelry of your choice.

We are lucky enough to have two jewelry art A-listers teaching the Keum-Boo technique at Bead Fest Philadelphia this August, and they were kind enough to give us some insight about the technique and their passion for creating jewelry. Get ready to learn all about Keum-Boo from the wonderful Jeff Fulkerson and Francesca Watson!

Q&A with Francesca Watson

What initially got you interested in Keum-Boo?

“I attended a private metals retreat four or five years ago and one of my fellow attendees introduced me to it. I was hooked immediately, but I didn’t have a ‘real’ studio at the time so I had to figure out a way to make it work for me.”

We’re really fascinated with your roll printing and Keum-Boo designs. Can you tell us about some of the unique aspects of this technique?

“My method for Keum-Boo is a little unorthodox – in fact, I’m sure there are ‘real’ jewelers out there who would say I’m doing it wrong! Since my focus is on students who are “kitchen table jewelers”, I wanted to make sure my Keum-Boo processes are accessible to students with limited space and resources. So my method is a little less expensive and more forgiving than traditional methods, with the tradeoff being a more organic result.”

“When the piece gets up to temperature (between 500 and 700 degrees) the 24k gold foil “relaxes” down onto the silver.” –Francesca, Art Elements

Why would you recommend the Keum-Boo technique to other jewelry artists?

“It’s an inexpensive way (relatively speaking) to get that pop of gold into your designs. I’ve always been a little intimidated by the cost involved with including gold in my pieces and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Keum-Boo is a good introduction to the properties of gold and the way it can change up even an untextured piece of silver, and there isn’t a crazy investment necessary to experiment with it. It’s also incredibly versatile – you can go crisp and modern or completely rustic and organic with it. The sky is the limit.”

Do you have any favorite jewelry trends right now? And do you see Keum-Boo as a trending jewelry technique?

“I may be in the minority, but I try not to focus on jewelry trends – maybe that’s a bad thing. That said, I’m sure I’m influenced more than I am aware by trends and other makers, but I’m wary of intentionally seeking them out – so there may be things trending right now that I’m completely oblivious to! And I hope Keum-Boo becomes popular, both for makers and wearers – it’s such a simple process and delivers such a big punch.”

Roll printing and keum-boo samples | Francesca Watson Designs

Q&A with Jeff Fulkerson

Tell us about the first piece of jewelry you made. Do you remember what techniques you used?

“I made a turquoise ring with twisted wire around the bezel and 3 pieces of 16-gauge round wire split at the ends for the shank.”

Can you recommend any jewelry art techniques that are a good prerequisite for Keum-Boo?

“The process is relatively simple; what makes it pop is design, so understanding design elements is a plus.”

What sets your workshops apart from others who teach similar techniques?

“I think it’s my enthusiasm for jewelry and my love of seeing students have that ‘Aha!’ moment.”

We’re really fascinated with your roll printing and Keum-Boo designs. Can you tell us about some of the unique aspects of this technique?

“As a design element, you just can’t beat texture, and roller printing is an easy and gentle way to texture a piece.”

“On the left, see the textured paper and the beautiful texture it created on silver. On the right, the same silver, cut and finished into earrings, patinated and spruced up with Keum-Boo using 24kt gold foil.” –Tammy Jones

There’s no doubt that Keum-Boo can transform a simple piece of metal jewelry, into a dazzling and luxurious masterpiece. Thinking about trying out a Keum-Boo workshop at Bead Fest Philadelphia this year? Read up on Tammy Jones’ feedback from her Bead Fest Santa Fe Keum-Boo experience with Francesca Watson!

“If you’re considering a class in Philly, Francesca’s is an all-around class in which you can learn how to use a rolling mill to texture metal and how to apply pure gold to silver jewelry to increase its beauty and value–but also much more! For those who don’t know how, Francesca also teaches you how to anneal, prepare, finish metal, apply patina and more.”

If you’re new to Keum-Boo, Bead Fest Philadelphia is the place to experiment and try your hand at the technique. As Jeff and Francesca mention above, Keum-Boo is a relatively simple and inexpensive way to jazz up your jewelry and take it to the next level. We can’t think of a better technique to master this summer!

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