Artisans crafting their unique wares fill the studios at Savage Mill


Michael Daniel doesn't make a fuss over the jewelry he wears. Instead, he makes much ado about the gold and diamonds he puts on you.

Born in the former Soviet Union, Mr. Daniel designs and makes trinkets that range from gold key chains and rings to diamond-studded bracelets and necklaces. He crafts his wares in a rustic shop filled with carving tools and polishing machines at Historic Savage Mill.

He doesn't wear much jewelry himself; his own key chain is just a wire twisted at its ends to keep his keys together. But what he loves to do is craft jewelry for others.

"When I design [jewelry] for somebody, I want to make sure that the person sees what I see," he says.

He recalls only one customer not liking a specially designed piece of jewelry. And that, he says, "was an extreme case of acute stupidity."

The Kensington resident started repairing and making jewelry as a hobby while he taught Russian language and literature for three years in Soviet schools.

He left the Soviet Union in 1978 and moved to Baltimore in search of a "creative environment."

"It was the time that the Soviet Union was a heavily oppressive society," Mr. Daniel says. "There was no freedom for creative people."

When he reached Baltimore, he found his chance to be creative as an employee of Gold Rose Jewelers, where he repaired jewelry.

In 1983, Mr. Daniel bought the Casa del Oro jewelry store in Baltimore, which he sold earlier this year to set up his design and manufacturing studio on the third floor of the mill.

"For the businessman, the profit is the final product," he said. "For us, the profit is secondary, and most likely a must -- just to make a living."

Prices for Mr. Daniel's trinkets start at about $25 for key chains and other small items and go as high as $80,000 for pieces such as the gold, platinum and diamond-studded necklace he made.

Mr. Daniel is one of the most recent artisans at the Historic Savage Mill, which has sought unique craftspeople to fill its studios. Almost all the studios are filled.

"As far as the artist studios go, we have very few left," said Nadine Brandt, assistant manager at Savage Mill. "The artisans find that the mill is an ideal place to be creative."

Along with the Michael Daniel Design Studio, the mill has also attracted craftsmen such as Yos Belchatovski, owner of Exotic Water Sculptures.

Mr. Belchatovski, whose studio is one floor below Mr. Daniel's, makes sculptures of copper, brass and bronze. Most of his sculptures have water systems that provide a unique sound.

Most also have water themes, such as schools of fish in the shape of a whale and boats on the water.

"The sound of water is very relaxing," Mr. Belchatovski says. "I always wanted to relax by a fountain."

When he was 4 years old and living in Israel, the 46-year-old Mr. Belchatovski recalls sitting by a fountain in his hometown of Jaffa, a seaport city located in central Israel. That led him to fall in love with fountains.

He studied textiles at a trade school in Israel, then moved to the United States in 1973, seeking an opportunity to develop his interest in art.

That began in Long Beach, Calif., where he developed his art of water sculpting.

About six years ago, Mr. Belchatovski moved to Severna Park and set up a gallery, selling his art work while his wife, Karen, sold copper, brass and bronze mosaics. About a month ago, Mr. Belchatovski opened his gallery at the mill.

Prices for his artwork begin at $15 for desktop sculptures and go as high as $3,700.

But while he says he needs to sell his work to live, he -- like Mr. Daniel -- does it out of love.

"We all have the ability to do something special," he says.

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