I come from a family of builders and makers. My grandfather was a master mechanic, as are both of my brothers, which is an artistic talent in its own right. As a child, my mom had a cigar box that was full of sequins, glitter and trimmings that she’d let me dig around in and make stuff with. When I got older, we took decorative painting and stained glass classes together. My beginnings in jewelry making also go way back to when I was a kid. I remember being in the Blue Birds organization. My mom was a leader, and one of our projects was to create jewelry from colorful plastic-coated telephone wire. She made what I thought was the most beautiful ring, and I was smitten! I played with stained glass (my first artistic love!) sewing, painting, clay and many other creative pursuits but never went on for a formal art education.
After high school, I set out on my own to Wyoming, which is where I met my husband, David. I got a degree in Legal Assistance and worked in that field for about three years when we were first married. My husband’s degree is in petroleum engineering, and so we ended up in Texas. While it felt like a foreign country to me at first, I grew to adore everything about Texas (where we lived for twenty-five years). During that time I had my first child and realized the value and pleasure in the work of being a full-time mom. I put my artistic dreams and desires on hold and spent many happy years with my kids. The need to create was always there so I dabbled in this and that…a little jewelry making, a little collage, a little photography…while my kids were growing. When they became more independent, I got more serious about my interests.
There was a point in my life where I had a finger in quite a few different, creative pies. I love collage, bookmaking, photography and, well, all of it! My husband, always the wise guide said, “Do jewelry…you’re good at that,” so my focus became jewelry making and metalsmithing, which I’ve always been drawn to.
I sometimes like to sketch out ideas in my jewelry journal. I usually begin with an idea that pops into my head followed by a thought of “I want to do that!” It’s like the proverbial light bulb above a head. Getting started while inspiration is fresh, and I’m excited about what I’m going to create is important. I’m typically pretty impatient to get going so I don’t do a lot of practice pieces or mock-ups; I like to dive right in. I don’t work on too many pieces at the same time, as I like to focus on one piece or a small series of pieces. I feel like that drive and inspiration are translated into the pieces; from my heart and head to my hands to the piece.
A big part of the cycle of creating is the feedback we get from others. Positive reactions to our work help us feel like we’ve successfully communicated what we needed to release. It’s a two-way relationship: communication through creation and communication through response. Whether you’re the artist or the recipient of the art, there is an action and reaction.
I’ve traveled to teach jewelry making for a long time and have really loved the process of seeing my students learn and grow. Many of my students have become friends, and it’s a great way to socialize with a creative community. I also teach online jewelry making classes, through my website, and was one of the first to present those types of online jewelry classes. Teaching gives me a way to offer something valuable back to the world, and it’s so rewarding. On the other hand, it’s also very demanding. I’ve cut down on traveling to teach and have concentrated more on setting up my new studio and refreshing my creative drive through studio work. It gives me a chance to develop ideas that have been rolling around for a long time! I’m also looking forward to adding to my catalog of online classes and plan to offer in-person classes at my studio.
While I would love to have a perfectly decorated space, my studio is much more about my personal style: eclectic. It’s really a collection of my favorite things. Almost everything there has some meaning or special attraction for me. I work best when things that I love and inspire me—including Peter, my jackalope, and artwork from my kids when they were in school—surround me. I adore my large studio, but I have a tendency to fill the space I have so organization is essential! I have a large collection of beads that I keep in divided plastic boxes. They’re organized by color so I can quickly grab the ones I need. I also have lots of stones kept in flat drawers, also arranged by color. The drawers allow me to easily browse through my stones and, if I’m ever feeling a touch of artist’s block, this is a great way to overcome that. I’ve got a separate area in my studio for soldering, which allows me to spread out a bit. I also have a huge, vintage table in the middle of my space that’s for students. I love it because it will allow me to host workshops but also…it was free!
The most meaningful lesson in life, for me, has been to rely on my faith and be grateful. My mother-in-law has been a great example of this. She told me once, during a very dark time for her, that she got by because of her faith—I think gratefulness just makes us more humble and introspective.
This is one of my favorite quotes and is a partial quote from the Bible. It’s speaking to the Spirit that is in all of us, but I also like to think of it as the creative gift that is in us. We can tap into that gift but many of us get caught up in life and aren’t listening to that small, quiet voice. We forget about what we’ve been given!
“Neglect not the gift that is in thee…”
Bible, 1 Timothy 4:14
One of my favorite things, in my studio, is my collection of antique crosses and crucifixes, but I also love my collection of stones. I can browse through my stones if I’m feeling uninspired, and get back on track, every time!