A Play Thing

Handcrafted unique contemporary designer art jewelry by Dan Balk
Silver Art Ring

The word jewellery comes from jewel, from the old French jouel, which in turn comes from the latin jocale, which means ‘plaything’.

This piece is made in sterling silver that was hand fabricated from raw materials. I recycled old silver from former pieces and added (14K) green gold accent. I alloy my own metals, and really love the color of gold I am able to achieve with the right combinations of gold, silver and copper. A cobalt druzy, black pearls, a peach button pearl, amethyst and blue topaz are set in this wearable sculpture that I made by hand from design to finished piece from my jewelry studio in Tampa, Florida.

Home bound

It was exciting to finally get to take the bus home. After the auction, Nataly went to work trying to convert the title of the vehicle from a bus to a motor home. This was necessary in order for us to insure the vehicle and drive it home. Once the motorhome was insured, we went to get our new family member. The boys really loved meeting her, and after a short ( best two out of three) rock paper scissor, it was decided that Dan would drive Thomasita home. So ready to start this adventure!

Auction Day


Auction Day, Nataly rescues Thomasita the Bus.
In the beginning:
After looking at an uncountable number of busses from dealers and private sellers, we decided to take our chances at auction. A special thank you to our friend, David Hercules, an expert mechanic who looked at many of them with us.

Follow my blog for updates. Comment below.

Introducing Thomasita The Bus

Bus thomasita parted at greenhausWe are so excited to finally share this with you!
So, … last October we purchased a 20 year old school bus to convert into a tiny home on wheels. Her name is Thomasita the Bus. Like her Facebook page. Follow her (and Us) on our adventures together.  Follow my blog and Stay tuned i’ll b posting everyday  (hopefully) 🙂

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#Skoolie #Thomasita #Wanderlust #GreenLiving #AdventureBound #Vacation #Camping #Glamping #SchoolBusConversion #SchoolBus #CoolBus #Upcycle #Hillsborough County Public Schools #Thomas Built #Buses

Seperation anxiety

I have taught many classes on anatomy, physiology, bodywork, and manual therapies. During which time I logged a few thousand clinical hours performing rehabilitative manual therapies on people  afflicted by a wide variety of pathologies, from sprains to multiple sclerosis.  I have come to the conclusion, that through a process of miseducation we (for the most part) have come to believe that we are separate, somehow, from our bodies. And in believing such, tend to treat them as something we have, rather than something we are. Needless to say, this feeling of separation is a hallucination that has led to disastrous consequences, particularly in regards to our relationship with our natural environment and our fellow human beings. If our beliefs separate our consciousness from our bodies, how could we hope to feel a connection of our body to the external environment or to other people. I am not saying I have this all worked out, but we as planet need to adopt a new cosmology, and begin to think about ourselves and each other differently. For everyone’s sake. And we had better get around to it pretty quickly,…

In the News, front page of the local newspaper

So happy to have been feature in last weeks the laker, lutz news. Here is a link to the article lakerlutznews.

Local man makes unique jewelry

For Dan Balk, creating jewelry for a living wasn’t his original path in life.

But, he’s glad it’s turned out that way.

Balk, who operates a jewelry studio from his home in Lutz, has been making jewelry since 2008—around the time the United States’ recession was in full swing.

With a background in athletic training and physical therapy, the New Jersey native spent 13 years working as an associate dean of education for a massage school in Tampa. Simultaneously, he worked as a massage therapist for the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the New York Yankees.

However, once the nation’s economy took a tailspin for the worse, Balk’s seemingly stable career was no more.

Dan Balk handles the entire jewelry-making process for all of his pieces. (Courtesy of Nataly Balk)

His massage school went bankrupt, and the Yankees, like many companies at the time, began laying off employees.

“Massage is very much a luxury for people, and people weren’t spending that type of money at that time,” Balk explained. “I must’ve sent 2,000 to 3,000 resumes in any one of the fields I was licensed to work in, and nothing was happening.”

With a wife and two children to support, Balk was at a crossroads — until his father-in-law, Roberto Vengoechea, suggested Balk make some “trinkets” to sell in the meantime.

Taking up Vengoechea’s suggestion, Balk served a 28-day apprenticeship under the guidance of his father-in-law, a master jeweler in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Vengoechea’s tutelage turned out to be a  “cathartic” and “powerful” experience for Balk.

It was like the planets began to align, he said.

“I really, really loved what I was watching him do, and what I was doing,” Balk said. “What a boon for us that I was able to learn from someone who was so well-versed in the trade.

“We haven’t looked back since,” he said. “This is was what I was made to do.”

The craft of making jewelry by hand is declining, Balk said, due in part to the proliferation of graphic design, 3D printing and overseas production.

“All of these things that were done by hand — in a couple generations, if we don’t teach other people, they’re lost,” Balk said. “As a craftsperson, you’re under an obligation to teach.”

Balk designs and fabricates every piece of jewelry from raw materials.

Typically, the process can involve as many as five or six different parties, from the time a piece is designed until it is sold, he said.

Balk handles the entire jewelry-making process—whether it’s a ring, a pendant, a necklace or a bracelet.

He leaves the “business side of things” to his wife, Nataly.

“I create all of my own (metal) sheets, I make all of my own (silver and gold) alloys, I design all of my own pieces, and I finish them; I set all of my own stones, and I select my stones. When I can cut and polish the stones myself, I do that myself,” Balk said. “That’s a premium — that the artist had direct contact with a piece all the way through to completion.”

Depending on the type of jewelry and its complexity, Balk may spend anywhere from a few days to a week on a piece.

While most of his jewelry designs are labeled as “modern and futuristic,” there’s essentially no limit as to what Balk can create based on a customer’s request.

From that standpoint, each piece of jewelry made by Balk is “one of a kind,” and not constrained to basic round rings and singular stones.

One customer, for instance, had rings and pendants made out of antique silverware. Another had a wedding band containing fossilized dinosaur bone. Others have had shark’s teeth and sea glass casted into their personalized pieces.

“If you have the idea, it probably can be made. Because I do it all myself, I’m not limited by just the components I can buy,” Balk explained. “Some (jewelers) say, ‘I do customer ordering — these are the settings you can choose, and these are the bands you can choose.’ We don’t do that; we can make anything you want to make.

“It’s not limited by a picture in the catalog.”

A look at one of the rings Balk recently completed. (Kevin Weiss/Staff Photo)

After operating the Singing Stone Gallery in Ybor City for six years, Balk has been working out of his home jewelry studio in Lutz since last August.

The change in work location logistically made more sense, especially for teaching jewelry classes, which he’s done since 2012.

Balk’s daily “five-step commute” to work allows him to both focus on his craft and teach hands-on, personalized classes in a relaxed setting.

“We’re really getting to know each person that comes in. It’s not a class of 17 or 18 people that leave after an hour,” Balk’s wife said. “He’s taking you into his studio and saying, ‘Let me tell you everything I know, and if you have any questions, please let me know.’ He starts very calmly and patiently, and explains everything.”

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, men will often surprise their partner by taking them to one of Balk’s jewelry making classes — a unique experience compared to a typical dinner date.

“I’m not against a good meal, and they are memorable when they are good, but you have that night, you eat your food and the next day, you’re done. This kind of thing—you’re making a memory,” Balk said.

“It’s an experience as well as a timeless piece that you keep forever,” Nataly said.

For more information, call (813) 728-4325.

Published February 3, 2016