The Traveling Spoon
While sitting up against a white, sheepskin throw, Aaron Paul Comino wipes his face of the metal and sand suet. He is creating a ring from a 1928 Goldenrod Flower spoon. As Comino shapes the piece of jewelry, folk singer Noah Gundersen echoes in the background, singing in time with the rhythmic process of molding metal art.
“Each piece is different and takes a different amount of time,” Comino said. “I approach each spoon with care and patience. Some take heat and other types of methods to create. I don’t want my spoon rings to be like all the others.”
Ball State alumnus Comino runs his own business called Aaron Paul Designs. He started it during his senior year of college when Comino’s roommate, David DelaGardelle, suggested that he should start his own business of handcrafting jewelry made from vintage cutlery.
DelaGardelle’s grandmother gave him a box of spoons one day, but he was too busy to create anything with them. Instead, he handed them to Comino, which is how Aaron Paul Designs began.
The profession allows him to live a life of travel, by giving him the opportunity to sell his jewelry in art shows across the country.
The Northwest Arkansas Vintage Market Days, run by Tammy Edwards and her daughter, Megan Enlow, is one of the venues Comino has sold his work. Vintage Market Days sells many vintage finds such as clothing, housewares, old signs, furniture and jewelry.
“Aaron has the perfect personality for our show,” Edwards said. “He has pieces of jewelry already made and then he is making the jewelry on site—a crowd pleaser. He takes old silverware and makes custom-made rings and necklaces to just name a few. He is very charming, sweet and makes each piece from the heart.”
Comino’s passion for exploration stemmed from growing up in a family of 10 and living in the country. While his family focused on music as an art form, Comino learned to appreciate all forms of creativity.
“Mom put us in piano,” said Comino. “This was helpful in teaching me discipline, and building a love and respect for the different mediums of art.”
Comino finds most of the silverware for his jewelry in various places, but most often in antique shops and online.
“[I find them] everywhere and anywhere,” said Comino. “Finding the really cool pieces take a bit of money. This year alone I shelled out more than a few thousand dollars.”
As for the assembling process of Comino’s jewelry, the first step is finding the right place to cut. Comino stresses the importance of checking the back of the spoon for markings and lettering prior to making the cut. Keeping the original engraving allows customers to see where the tableware came from, and verifies that the spoon is sterling silver. After Comino makes the cut, he sands the area for a smoother feel, and then heats the metal with a blowtorch on a concrete block.
When the spoon heats up to a reddish color, Comino places the metal into a water bowl with pillars—a technique known as “annealing.” After submerging the metal into water, the temperature drops, and Comino takes the spoon out by hand. As the final step, he measures and molds the metal ring around a ring mandrel, a tapered object that includes different ring sizes, until it’s a perfect fit for his clients.
“I want people to be able to look at my jewelry and feel connected to and loved by it. I want to show people how much they are worth,” said Comino. “No matter what that spoon is at the end of its life, it’s still going to be loved by the maker of the spoon.”
Looking into the future of Aaron Paul Designs, Comino hopes that his business will continue to grow in the art world. One of his biggest passions is helping people see their own value, so Comino hopes to create some sort of product that aids youth mentoring programs. He intends to put this product up for sale and donate a percentage of that purchase to different charities.
“This has opened up a whole new outlook on life,” Comino said. “I truly believe that if a person puts their mind to it, they can do anything. Any business is going to take a lot of sacrifice. You can’t expect to have anything successful if you’re not willing to put the time in.”
View Aaron Paul Designs store on Etsy.