Featured Artist

Jan Smith enamel+metal

Traces 1 by Jan Smith

This month we are pleased to have enamel artist Jan Smith coming down from Canada to join us for a weekend in our studio!

Jan started her art career as a print maker, and you can see those influences of in her jewelry and mark making. Since the mid 1980’s Jan has worked in the field of art jewelry. Her pieces combine vitreous enamels, alternative materials, and precious metal to create dream like surfaces. 

Red by Jan Smith

Focusing on the surface she uses color, texture and mark making to create unique non-traditional surfaces. Her pieces are meant to explore memory, how it changes and the impressions memories leave behind. 

Stem Slice by Jan Smith

August 18-20, Jan will be with us sharing how to create exciting surfaces through the exploration of nontraditional enameling processes. Line is an important element of design and will be explored through a variety of enamel techniques that allow you to achieve line and images.

Image and Mark Making in Enamel

Aug 18-19, Friday-Sunday, 10:00-5:00

Class Fee: $435 | Some Materials Included

To register call us at 206-524-0916 or stop by our studio at 5619 University Way NE, Seattle

Jewelry Art Stimulus Scholarship

Brooch by Scholarship Recipient Michael Joers

Brooch by Scholarship Recipient Michael Joers

Did you know that Danaca Design Studio has a scholarship?

We are pleased to continue funding the Jewelry Art Stimulus Scholarship. We award several scholarships to high school and college students each year valued between $95 and $500 to be used towards a class or intensive series at Danaca Design Studio.

Embossed Silver Ring by Scholarship Recipient Michael Joers

Embossed Silver Ring by Scholarship Recipient Michael Joers

This scholarship was created to provide young students access to experience the magic of metal arts, frequently unavailable otherwise. We award this scholarship four times a year and the next deadline is coming up September 1st

Our most recent scholarship recipient, Michael Joers, just finished his class in our studio and here is what he had to say about his experience:

Pendant by Scholarship Recipient Michael Joers

Pendant by Scholarship Recipient Michael Joers

Receiving a scholarship from Danaca Design Studio has led to one of the best learning experiences I have ever had.  The application process was very straightforward.  Nancy was very quick with her responses and helped me get into the right class for my ambitions. I was lucky enough to be awarded the Total Immersion Class.  I have been making wood and wire jewelry on my own for about two years, but have not had the education or resources to work with metal in this capacity.  I learned so much more than I could have expected from this week-long intensive class.  My nine other classmates and I learned soldering, sawing, cutting, texturing, dapping, chain making, bezel setting stones, how to make band and shank rings, antiquing silver, how to make clasps for necklaces and bracelets, annealing, drilling, polishing, and how to make shepherds hook earrings.  I really enjoyed that the class was taught in a less formal way, it made for a more relaxed and inviting environment.  Dana was great to work with as she always made time to answer questions and problem solve with me when I got stuck on something.  The amount I learned has greatly raised the bar on what I am able to create and has allowed me to get that much closer to my goals as a jewelry maker. This experience has been truly invaluable to me, and I look forward to taking another class at Danaca Design Studio!”

Bezel Ring by Scholarship Recipient Michael Joers

Bezel Ring by Scholarship Recipient Michael Joers

Thanks Michael! You made some great jewelry and we look forward to seeing your how your work continues to grow in the future.

Do you know a young person who would benefit from this opportunity? Are you a student ages 16-24 actively enrolled in a high school or post-secondary institution in Washington State? We are taking applications now!

Our next deadline is September 1st. You can find an application here by clicking this link. Print and fill out hard copy and mail to:

Attention: Scholarship Committee
Danaca Design
5619 University Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105
For complete information about scholorship and eligibility go to our website www.danacadesign.com

Meet Nancy Hom!

Denim Fray Pin by Nancy Hom

Denim Fray Pin by Nancy Hom

Our featured artist this month is Nancy Hom. Nancy is the monitor during our Thursday night practice hours and she is also in charge of the Danaca Design Jewelry Art Stimulus Fund. The Stimulus Fund is valuable component of our studio. It is created by artists at Danaca Design to provide young students access to experience the magic of metal arts, frequently unavailable otherwise.

How long have you been making jewelry?

I took my first jewelry class in April 2006, the day after I got laid off my full time job. I thought  “Perfect! A new hobby to keep me busy till the next gig”. It has turned into more than a hobby. Now I have a new creative passion and a small jewelry collection to show off.

What’s your background? Is it in art or something else?

I am trained as a fashion designer and have lived in cities like NYC and San Francisco, beside Seattle. I have worked or free-lanced for brands such as K2, ExOfficio, Pacific Trail, Garanimals and Royal Robbins. I attended Fashion Institute of Technology as a Fine Arts Major but was intrigued by the NYC fashion world and switched my major to Children’s wear design.

Enamel and silver drop pendant necklaces by Nancy Hom

Enamel and silver drop pendant necklaces by Nancy Hom

Is there anything in particular that you like about jewelry as a medium?

Jewelry is a wearable piece of art. It is like a cherry on top of an ice cream sundae and the featured accent you put on, to express your personality. For me, it is the last item I put on before I leave the house to show my true expression for the day. A jewelry piece can show off my personality with form/ shape, color and in a wide range of materials. I would feel naked if I walked out the door without a piece of my work on or a friend’s work on.

What are your favorite materials to work with and why?

I like working in wire. Maybe because it was the first medium I learned to manipulate. Or maybe it closely resembles a strand of fiber for me. I absolutely love the color of silver but I am learning to enjoy working in brass, bronze and copper. I just recently learned to enamel, so now I am introducing interesting color combinations back into my work.

Silk and bead bracelets by Nancy Hom

Silk and bead bracelets by Nancy Hom

Can you tell us about any memorable teachers from your past that has influenced what you’re doing today as an artist?

Dana Cassara at Danaca Design has been a great inspiration and mentor. Learning from the best inspires me to do my best. She continuously pushes me to improve my skills. My other teachers are my colleagues at the studio. Watching them work and seeing their finished pieces at the studio is inspirational. Personally, I am inspired by the work of Ron Ho.

I find that jewelers tend to have one part of the process they love best, for some it’s sawing, for others it’s soldering. Do you have a favorite part of the jewelry process?

My most favorite part is that last stretch towards finishing the piece. Whether it is making the pin back on a brooch or the chain for a pendent or the final polish on a ring. I am into instant gratification so knowing I am close to showing that piece off, gives me a thrill!

Enamel and silver drop pendant necklaces by Nancy Hom

Enamel and silver drop pendant necklaces by Nancy Hom

Do you have a personal website related to your work that we can share?

I decided to take the summer off from doing shows and I am currently working on overhauling my website. So unfortunately it is under construction, but check in later this fall at www.sunlandesigns.com . Meanwhile my work can be seen in the gallery at Danaca Design.

Thanks Nancy! We can’t wait to see the renovated website and what you are up to next. Nancy’s work can be seen in our gallery Mon-Fri 11am – 6pm and Sat 10am – 6pm. We are located at 5619 University Way NE, Seattle WA.

Meet Sarah Rachel Brown


We have recently started carrying some of Sarah Rachel Brown’s jewelry in our gallery at Danaca Design and it has been a big hit. We wanted to talk with Sarah and learn a little more about her and her work.


Circle earrings by Sarah Rachel Brown

How long have you been making Jewelry?

I’ve been working with metal since 2009.


Oval Earrings by Sarah Rachel Brown

What is your background? Is it in art, or something else?

I’ve always been artistic but I wasn’t drawn to visual art until I started working with metal. I studied classical vocal technique all throughout high school and into college but I lost interest at the collegiate level. I had the opportunity to work at my college’s alternative radio station where I created a position for myself as the Live/Local Music Director; I broadcasted bands playing live in studio and promoted live music locally. I eventually moved on to the being the station’s head music director until I stepped away from school to move to Seattle, WA in 2007. I’ve played in a couple of bands, most notably the Country Lips in Seattle, WA. The boys are still playing shows and I join them for a few songs whenever I’m back in the city.


Inclinations #2

What kind of imagery or inspiration do you use? Can you tell us about any recurring themes in your work?

I’m inspired by the materials I have on hand and available to me. When I first started in Seattle I was repurposing found objects into earrings. This stemmed from my lack of resources but in turn helped define my aesthetic at that time. I was fixated on old costume jewelry and eventually I realized it wasn’t the jewelry itself but the rhinestones that I was drawn to. The past few years my work has centered on the gemstone whether it’s the facade, or actual precious gemstones or rhinestones. I’ve experimented with burning the stones, exploding them, casting them in place, replicating them in other materials, which has all led me back to simply setting them.

I think about themes often and I just began a yearlong residency where one of my intentions is to dig deeper into the meaning or motivation as to why I’m making my current work. I keep going back to the financial struggles that plagued my mother when I was a child or my own struggles as a twenty-something woman trying to navigate a world where so much value is put on appearances and possessions. I get a lot of satisfaction out of buying used clothing and with a bit of sewing and accessorizing, making them look like a million bucks. The payoff is when someone asks me where I bought my dress and the shocked expression that comes over their face when I tell them a thrift store. Now I find and collect old rhinestones, and through skillful design and execution, take these cheap, glass stones and transform them into contemporary art jewelry. I enjoy instilling value into seemingly valueless objects.


Inclinations #2

What are your favorite materials to work with?

Currently, rhinestones have my heart. They affordable so I’m not afraid to experiment with them, they’re shape and cuts are timeless, and for me, they’re an example that beauty doesn’t have to be expensive. I use Sterling Silver for the majority of my adornment because it oxidizes to black so beautifully and plays nicely with most people’s skin.


Inclinations #1

Can you tell us about any memorable teachers from your past who have influenced what you are doing today?

I’ve been very fortunate to have some amazing women as mentors in my career thus far.

Meeting Sarah Loertscher in my first beginning metals class changed the trajectory of my life. I apprenticed under her for 3 years, she pushed me to attend Penland and apply for the Core Fellowship, and she’s still steering me towards opportunities to this day. I learned plenty from working beside her and it wasn’t just at the bench. She exposed me to the business aspects of being a production jeweler, she was upfront and honest about her struggles to make it as an artist, and she treated me (and still does) like family. She’s one of the hardest working people I know.

Through Sarah I met Tia Kramer with whom I worked with in Seattle for about a year and whose work ethic continues to impress me. She’s constantly evolving her studio practice and interdisciplinary work and it’s truly inspiring to watch someone’s success only push them harder. I have this theory that she must not sleep because I can’t explain how she has enough time to do what she does otherwise.

Tia and Sarah both helped me land a job with the blacksmith Erica Gordon of Steel Toe Studios. She allowed me to learn on the job and was patient with me as I learned, she helped me a tremendous amount with my application for the Core Program at Penland, and she’ll probably remain the only pregnant woman I have seen use a power hammer.

I recently returned to Seattle work alongside Aran Galligan. Aran was my last instructor at Penland as a Core Fellow. She’s business savvy so I jumped on the opportunity to learn from her for a few months and I helped solely with the business aspect of things. She was incredibly generous and offered me a place to live, a studio to use, and on top of it all, she took me on a boat ride.

There’s more I could name but I’ll stop here. Let’s just say I take John Cage’s ‘RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined: this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way’ quite seriously.

Do you have a website we can share?

Of course!


I also document my process and experiences through my Instagram account:



Thanks Sarah! We look forward to seeing how your work develops and what you think up next.

Meet Jean Shaffer!

Shaffer-2015-In My Studio1

Jean Shaffer

Jean Shaffer is a new artist in our gallery at Danaca Design and we are happy to have her work! She has some beautiful one of a kind enamel items in our gallery right now and recently I got to ask her about her work and herself as an artist.


How long have you been making jewelry and what got you started?

I started making beaded jewelry in the early 1990s, replicating the trade bead necklaces that my Chinook Indian ancestors wore. I was gifted with a trade bead necklace that had belonged to my cousin’s grandmother, the daughter of Chief Taholah, dating from the 1850s. Later I began rockhounding along Washington and Oregon beaches finding fabulous agates, petrified wood, jade, and more. I wanted to make these treasures into jewelry, so I signed up for a Continuing Education class at North Seattle College in 2002 to learn how to set stones. Dana Cassara was my first instructor. After one class I was hopelessly hooked. I kept taking night classes and workshops for years until I retired from my first career in 2011 and entered the credit program at North Seattle College. I earned my Certificate in Jewelry Design last December.


Shaffer-Danaca-2013-Two Turtles rattle

Two Turtles rattle

What is your background? Is it in art or something else?

As a youth I was drawn to art, especially painting. I used to paint the wild landscapes that I imagined when reading my favorite science fiction novels. But in high school and college I made (what I thought were) more pragmatic choices. I earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in Geography from the University of Washington, and had a lengthy career with local governments as a planner, program evaluator, and program and project manager.   I worked for the cities of Kirkland, Seattle, and Bellevue and Snohomish County.

Even though I enjoyed career success, I felt a growing urge to return to making art. That set me on the path I described above.

Moonlit Sage brooch

Moonlit Sage brooch

Is there anything in particular that you like about jewelry as a medium?

So many things to love about jewelry…. It is portable art that is in intimate contact with the owner. It gains added meaning from how it is acquire and from whom, where and when it is worn. It can become a part of family heritage passed down generations. And jewelry is communication from the maker and the wearer to the outside world wherever it is worn.

Feathered Fringe brooch

Feathered Fringe brooch

What kind of imagery or inspiration do you use? Or, can you tell us about any recurring themes in your work?

I usually seek highly abstract patterns to render in my jewelry. From the natural world it could be plants like cactus, pods, roots, sea creatures, sand dunes, desert playa, waveforms, glacial crevasses, constellations, novae or infinitely more. In the developed world it might be maps, cityscapes, street layouts, or window patterns. Sometimes it just starts with a geometric form that I become obsessed with for a while. My Chinook Indian heritage also influences some of my work such as My Spirit Box and Two Turtles Rattle that are currently on display at the Seattle Metals Guild’s Biennial Exhibition.

I have some favorite jewelry techniques that I come back to regularly. Firstly, I am always on the lookout for unique cabochons such as picture jasper and plume agate that can inspire my designs. Larry Osler and West Coast Mining are my favorite sources of great stones with interesting shapes. Secondly, I love drawing abstract images and transferring them to metal by acid-etching. The etching process creates remarkably precise renderings that can be enhanced in the jewelry fabrication process. Thirdly, I love vitreous enameling, especially on hydraulically pressed metal that gives the pieces form and depth.


Hexagons pendant

Hexagons pendant

Your work mostly features beautiful enamel work. What is it you like about working with enamel?

Enameling is a traditional method of adding a wide range of colors to metal. Enameling techniques date back to antiquity, but are also fresh with contemporary innovation and vision. I like blending colors, adding glass beads and glass frit. The possibilities are limitless. I combine two of my favorite techniques by applying champlevé enameling to acid-etched metal. Some of my pieces at Danaca Studio were made that way.



abstract brooch

What is your favorite type of jewelry to make and why?

I love making brooches more than any other form. To me, they are stand-alone works of art and clothing becomes the matt and frame. Recognizing that brooches don’t work for everybody, I also make a lot of pendants and necklaces. Usually when I make a brooch, I add a hidden loop or bale so it can be worn as a pendant if desired.


Do you have a website or where else can we see your work?

I have a maker profile on the Society of North American Goldsmith’s website that can be found at: http://www.snagmetalsmith.org/members/JeanShaffer


Thanks Jean! We love having your work in our gallery and look forward to watching your jewelry making continue to grow. Want to see more of Jean Shaffer’s work? We have a selection of Jean’s jewelry in our gallery at Danaca Design. We are open Monday – Friday from 11am-6pm and Saturday 10am-6pm

Meet Bill Dawson, Metalsmith


Bill Dawson is one of our talented instructors here at Danaca Design. He teaches a variety of classes covering hollowware, forming, forging, metal inlay, engraving, fabrication, and tool making. We also sell a variety of his chasing and forming tools here in the shop. Bill got his start in metals with blacksmithing at the University of Oregon, and has been a working metalsmith and teacher ever since. Recently Sophie asked him a few questions. I loved reading through his responses, especially his take on functional art and artless objects- it definitely made me want to take a class with him!

Okay, here you go!


What’s your background? Is it in art, or something else?

I never really imagined doing anything much beyond art, because I never imagined being able to hold down a job.  My childhood hero was Georgia O’Keeffe, and I wanted to grow up to be more or less just like her.  I started out as an oil painter, at around four years old. Though I no longer have it the first painting I can remember making was of a grey dog on a green background.  I do however have the first metal sculpture I created, an iron pony I made when I was eleven. 



You work in all kinds of mediums and styles, what are your favorite materials to work with, and why? 

I divide creative work into four broad categories:  Additive, assembly, fabrication, etc; subtractive, carving, stock removal, etc; transformational, casting, and shaping; and ephemeral, performance and time based art.  I’m going to give you a favorite for each.  Painting is the medium with which I have worked the longest, and is my favorite additive art, though textiles come a close second.  Each new painting is a unique challenge, and they never become routine.  I like to carve all sorts of material: bone, amber, jet, antler, stone and so forth, but if I had to pick just one to work from now on it would be cedar, and specifically Port Orford Cedar.  It is a variety of yellow cedar that grows in Western Oregon, and has a texture similar to redwood.  I love its smooth strength, carveability, and smell. .999 silver would have to be my favorite transformational material, though there are many metals that I love working, including copper, bog iron, and high karat gold.  The thing about pure silver is that it is just about the ideal material for so many techniques: forging, inlay, casting, etc.  It is both beautiful and profoundly workable.  I don’t do much ephemeral art, but I do enjoy playing music.  My voice is not much to talk about, but I like playing woodwinds, especially playing early music.


Everything from tools to jewelry to sculpture to wood, you do it all. As a bit of a Renaissance man; what aspects of your artistry do you enjoy the most?

I most enjoy seeking the balance between the functional and the artistic.  I find that mass produced functional but thoughtless items have no life to them, and art without function is a bit like hothouse flowers that are inedible.  Making a beautiful tool is what I consider the highest form of creativity.  I don’t think of myself as a Renaissance man, but more an Arts and Crafts man.  I take far more inspiration from Hubbard and Morris, than from Brunelleschi and DaVinci.  I love to do a good job of creating, but I want others to be able to do that good work as well.  I think that the most exciting times are when I am working to rediscover some lost technique that I can revive and pass along to other artists.


What kind of imagery or inspiration do you use? Or, can you tell us about any recurring themes in your work?

The main themes in my work are place and history.  I very much believe in the importance of context, and creative honesty.  Much of my work is either rooted in the Pacific Northwest, or steeped in history, or both.  

100_8366 100_8950


Aside from the skills outlined in your class, what do you hope to bring to your students?

I could go on about this at length, but I will try to keep it to something reasonable here.  The first thing that any creative person needs is the courage to start a project.  Modern society tells us to fear making mistakes, which are part of learning anything, but too often that fear kills the creativity in us, before we can even get going.  The next thing that we all need is the humility to pay attention to our materials and change plans as they dictate.  You can’t force your work to be something that it is not, and if you listen the nature of your materials will come through in your work, just as your creativity will be expressed through your materials.  The final thing I want students to develop is the grit to see a project through, not to rush it, but to stay with it until it comes to a natural conclusion.


In what kind of environment do you work best?

I do most of my best work alone, even when working on a collaborative project.  It is not that I don’t want people around at all, but I like to have a direct and intimate connection to my materials, and this is easiest in private.  When I take breaks I like to get out of the studio and if possible outdoors or on the water.  I find that a long walk, a ride on the motorbike, or a paddle on the canoe helps clear my mind so that I can come back to my work ready to give my best. 




Bill is currently revamping his website, but you can still visit and check things out while it’s under construction: http://billdawsonmetalsmith.com

We’ve also started a new class series with Bill, Hollowware Fundamentals Beginning Series. Look for our Spring quarter schedule to see what’s next in the lineup! Join our mailing list for early access to each quarterly schedule: http://www.danacadesign.com


Thoughts from Nancy Megan Corwin

How long have you been making Jewelry?

I first started making jewelry my freshman year of college.

In what kind of environment do you work best?

I like a studio with lots of windows, and a garden setting. Light is important and also the sense of letting the outside in.

 What are your favorite materials to work with, and why?

I love sterling silver. When I am chasing or forming sterling sheet it is ductile and responsive yet resists just enough to allow for specific detail and crisp edges. It can look soft, organic, industrial and architectural. I also like to work in copper for its softness and warm color.


Have you had any teachers who have shaped you as an artist?

The teacher who had the biggest impact on my work and my career as an artist is Eleanor Moty, my major professor in graduate school.  She introduced me to chasing (detailing the surface of metal with shaped steel tools) and repoussé (punching up the back side of sheet metal to create form on the front), the techniques that have become my passion and the basis to my teaching career. Eleanor is a consummate jewelry artist and perfectionist. She has also become a friend and mentor. Working with Eleanor Moty changed my life’s trajectory in so many ways. Without her support I would not have had the confidence to write my technical and gallery book, “Chasing and Repoussé: Methods Ancient and Modern”, which has lead to the wonderful experience of teaching around the world.


 Are there any other art forms close to your heart?

I love ceramics and collect as much as possible, from plates to sculpture. I have worked in clay a few times and although it is not my main technique or material, I find it very engrossing. I also collect copper vessels from Santa Clara, Mexico. These are beautifully raised and chased pieces made by families who have been working with these techniques for several generations.


 Of the many gallery shows and exhibitions you have been in or worked on, which was the most engaging for you?

Facèré  Jewelry Art Gallery exhibition entitled “Louder than Words.” The jewelry artists were asked to respond to the phrase “Jewelry speaks louder than words, but not nearly as often” and the concept that artists create contrasts and communions between the visual language of jewelry art and the literary language of the printed page. Story telling has been a significant part of my life, both verbally and in the writing I have done related to the artwork I produce. This theme brought up several stories from my past, two of which are represented in the attached images. I used to live in Florida and experienced a minor but still unnerving hurricane. The winds and the darkness were frightening of course, but the eye of the storm is what I remember most – the glowing sun and the sense that I was in a tunnel of light and quiet. The name of this piece is “Silence is Golden”. The second piece, “Heart on Fire” is based on imagination rather than experience. The fire and hot lava at the center of a volcano has always fascinated me. I love the theme shows at Facèré as they spark many new ideas and often cause me to expand my technical experience.

Silence is Golden NancyMeganCorwinHeart on Fire NancyMeganCorwin

 What recent piece are you most proud of?

I have been adding color to my work through colored pencils. For the 3×2 show I collaborated with Larry Scott, glass bead maker, on a piece we called “Late Harvest” – a brooch with a branch theme that I chased and formed, colored with pencil and then added Larry’s beads. We enjoyed working together and the end result pleases us both.

Late Harvest for Australia



Love her work as much as we do? Take her Chasing and Repoussé Class! Coming up February 6th-8th Megan Corwin’s three day workshop will be the one not to miss. See website for more details:


Meet and Greet with Jennifer Stenhouse


A native of Atlanta Georgia, Jennifer Stenhouse currently makes her home and studio in Seattle, Washington. She has been teaching art and jewelry classes, workshops, lectured and exhibited throughout U.S. and Mexico for over 20 years. 

At the University of Wisconsin Madison, Jennifer studied with Martha Glowacki who encouraged her use of mixed media and jewelry skills. Fred Fenster and Eleanor Moty gave Jennifer the opprotunity to develop a strong base in metals techniques and design, and a better understanding of integrity  to one’s craft. 

Jennifer began teaching at Savannah College of Art and Design in Foundations and Jewelry classes as elective. Due to the strong interest from students wanting to major in Metals and Jewelry, Jennifer proposed and the developed The Metals and Jewelry Department. While in Savannah she also maintaned a small studio in the historic City Market. After departing Savannah Jennifer began teaching at the Vermont Art Exchange in North Bennington, Vermont. At VAE she taught several classes and workshops in jewelry, printmaking and drawing.

Currently Jennifer teaches jewelry classes and workshops in the Seattle, Washington area, including Pratt Fine Art Center, Danaca Design, and Tacoma Metal Arts Center. 

jennifer bee
  1. How long have you been making Jewelry?

I actually started making stuff as early as I can remember. My grandfather taught me photography. I was continuing with photography and printmaking in college. I began to use found objects, collage and mixed media elements in the work until they ultimately became 3-d objects. The sculpture scale I was working in was very small. The jewelry studio seemed to make the most sense for the tools and techniques I needed. So I came to develop my skills in the jewelry studio. By 1992, I began teaching at Savannah College of Art & Design. By the following year we developed the new metal department at SCAD.


  1. You teach as well, how did you get into teaching?

I love teaching art. I’ve been teaching since 1990 in foundation classes, art criticism, jewelry, and metals techniques. One of the reasons I decided to go to University of Wisconsin-Madison, was because every other school I was looking at for graduate school, had at least one professor from Madison. I wanted a good start as a teacher in a place that produced good teachers.

  1. Is there anything in particular that you like about jewelry as a medium?

Well of course! I actually started casting before I learned anything else in the jewelry studio, and I’m still amazed at the endless possibilities. I believe one could study metals and jewelry for a thousand years and not truly master everything. 

  1. We have a variety of your cuttlebone pieces in the gallery, is there anything you’d like to share with us about why you enjoy working with cuttlebone, how you came around to using it, or anything interesting about the material and it’s possibilities?

Ah the awesome little cuttlefish!!! How I love it so! Each one is unique and marvelous. The texture is an amazingly intricate delicate pattern interrupted by carving and captured by metal. The history of the use of cuttlebone as a mold is inspiring. But, the way I like to use it for pattern and immediacy is what makes me most happy!

  1. What are your favorite materials to work with, and why? 

I like casting with silver and bronze, and playing with stones. But I have to admit copper is what I love the most. Because I started in printmaking, copper is the gold standard in the etching and engraving world. So when I first ventured into a jewelry studio and caught a glimpse of their stomp shear scrap bin full of copper….I was confused! What were they doing with it? Hollow forms, color, heat, shape, texture! It was colorful, textural, sensual! Amazing stuff! 

  1. I find that jewelers tend to have one part of the process they love best, for some it’s sawing, for others it’s soldering. Do you have a favorite part of the jewelry process?

I’m really seduced by the feel of the materials I’m working with. The textures of the materials and tools. They feel good. I’m always feeling each part, material, stone, saw blade, edges….that is what makes me keep going. But I love the processes of casting. It’s the ritual, the smell, the heat. 


  1. What kind of imagery or inspiration do you use? Or, can you tell us about any recurring themes in your work?

Much of my sculpture is based in universal mythologies and synchronicity. I like to try and work with materials that help to relate a narrative, or open a conversation with the viewer. With my jewelry I try to find a way to streamline those ideas and materials into a much more simple thought, comment, or expression. 

  1. Do you have a website related to your work?



Don’t forget to check out Jenifer’s upcoming class at Danaca Design…


Survey of Stone Setting

January 21, 28, and February 4, 11, 18, 25, 6 Wednesday nights, 6:30 – 9:30

Class Photos

This fast-paced, primarily demonstration style course will introduce students to a wide variety of stone setting techniques including a basic bezel for cabochons; prong and flush settings for faceted stones; pedestal settings; tube, post, and bar settings for multiple stones; capture sets; and a few ideas for how to set unusual shaped stones or found objects. Soldering setups and finishing tips, as well as overview of tools and equipment that make setting easier and provide professional finishes will be introduced in this comprehensive and valuable class. For those with experience it may provide some review and/or a critical missing link of information. For beginning students this course will offer an excellent overview of what is possible with stones and simple techniques to jump in and try. All levels, basic metal working helpful.

Instructor: Jennifer Stenhouse


An Insight Into Cynthia Toops and Her Amazing Work

Cynthia has been working with polymer clay since the 1980s. While she is known for her figurative micromosaic pieces, in the last few years she has been concentrating on thin sheet work, creating the cone and claw necklaces and the rolodex series. Most of her work is inspired by ethnic jewelry and ancient beads which she and her husband collect. Cynthia has a BFA in printmaking from the University of Washington and a BA in Biology from Drake University. She spends long hours researching and planning work with Dan Adams, her husband and collaborator. Besides her jewelry work and teaching, she enjoys sushi.


What’s your background? Is it in art, or something else?  I have a BA in Biology from Drake University and a BFA in Art (Printmaking) from the University of Washington.

You often use unusual materials in your work, when did you start making experimental jewelry? What do you like about it?  I work primarily with polymer clay.  I started making beads in 1986 and then made small brooches and necklaces.  My first necklace included glass and stone beads and found objects combined with my polymer beads.  This was inspired by African jewelry where they use disparate material.  Glass is another medium I have worked with – micromosaics and enameled glass pieces.  I also enjoy dry felting but developed frozen shoulder and trigger finger which necessitated a temporary haitus.


What attracted you to polymer clay?  I cam across polymer clay during a visit to Hong Kong.  It is a very accessible material and requires very little equipment or outlay that was a big attraction to a beginning artist.


Your works exhibit huge attention to detail, have you always worked this way?  I like to work small, especially on micromosaics because I hate conditioning clay!

What kind of imagery or inspiration do you use? Or, can you tell us about any recurring themes in your work?  Lot’s of times the image is dictated by the theme of the gallery show.  When left to my own devices, I often use folk stories or animal imagery.  Sometimes I incorporate simple everyday life (e.g. knitting, hiking, enjoying a cup of coffee, etc…) into my pieces.  In my necklaces they are often about color, textures or playing with different shapes and materials.


You regularly collaborate with your husband, Dan Adams.  How is working as a team different from working on your individual work?  The first thing we have to decide on is a piece that is exciting to both of us.  It could be a color theme or story line.  Then we work separately on the beads and then discuss whether they work together or if its back to the drawing board.  It is more difficult that working on your own, but sometimes the piece is richer because of the additional challenge.


Have you had any one teacher who have shaped you most as an artist?  I think Glen Alps, my advisor at the University of Washington Printmaking program, is my biggest inspiration in regards to work ethic.  Even into his 80’s he still spent time in the studio every day.  I believe in hard work and commitment which often means long hours.


 Cynthia Toops thin work 1Cynthia Toops Flora II, closeup


If you like what you see and would like to learn more from such a great artist sign up for her class at Danaca Design Today. Cynthia’s Class “Polymer Micro Mosaics” will be on January 10th and 11th 2015, come visit or give us a call before all the spots fill up! Check out our website for more details, http://www.danacadesign.com/index.php?p=index

A Chat With Amanda Bristow

Amanda Bristow was born on the southern coast of Oregon and spent most of her childhood and early adult years in the Midwest. There, she cultivated an intense adoration of cheese and earned her BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art. After finishing school, Amanda was drawn back to the Pacific coast in pursuit of an art career. She currently resides in Seattle Washington… collecting moss and looking for whales. We have an abundance of Amanda’s work in the Danaca Design Gallery and asked her a few questions to get to know her and her work a little better…

whale necklace

How long have you been making Jewelry?

About 10 years, although I’ve been making some form of jewelry most of my life.  I come from an extremely creative family, so as a kid I was always making stuff from odds and ends around the house.  I had a lot of beads and craft supplies.  For a long time every Christmas or birthday someone was getting a beaded friendship bracelet or some other strange creation I had come up with. I didn’t stumble upon metalwork, however, until I was much older.  I was going through a really tough breakup, had to move back home, and needed something to distract me from my situation.  I signed up for a jewelry class at the local community college and fell in love.  A few classes in I realized that I wanted to be a jeweler, so I looked for an undergraduate program in jewelry and the rest just fell into place.

You have a constant theme of animals in the work of yours we have in the gallery, where does this come from?

I love animals and had a lot of special pets growing up, plus a good amount of animal dolls.  There was always a great appreciation for nature in my family and we spent a lot of time outside, so I think I just developed an affinity for animals of all kinds pretty early.  I’ve also have a great fondness for stories in which animals are featured prominently, whether it be beautifully illustrated children’s books or more “adult” novels like ‘Watership Down’.  When I was a little older I found that animals became a great vehicle for the nebulous emotions I wanted to communicate in the drawings I was making.  I think that over the years, animals just became so second nature in what I was making that it became impossible to extricate them from anything I am doing now.  But, I really have come to like that, as I don’t think I have exhausted the potential of animals as a metaphor yet.
fox ribbon broochowl ring

Is there anything in particular that you like about jewelry as a medium?

The size is perfect for me.  I love working really small scale.  I am a very detail oriented person and I like to get obsessive with tiny little areas.  Its so much easier for me to focus on craftsmanship when handling a smaller amount of space.  Whenever I have to make something large, it inevitably turns out very oddly proportioned with less refinement than I had hoped.  My brain just doesn’t think in the same way past a certain size.  I also find great pleasure in the strong emotional sentiment that jewelry carries.  I think its pretty wonderful that I could create something a person would be so attached to that they might wear every day or that is somehow associated with a really significant memory.

leaf sprout earring

​ Have you had any teachers who have shaped you as an artist?

I had a lot of great instructors at the Cleveland Institute of Art who taught me some amazing technical skills, as well as how to talk about what I was making.
When I moved to Seattle I was really fortunate to discover the wonderful network of jewelers here, especially Micki Lippe.  Being fresh out of school, I had no concept of what to do with a degree in jewelry or how to even set up a basic studio without all the expensive tools that I had at my disposal being in an academic setting.  After working for Micki and getting to know all the wonderful people in her studio, it gave me a much clearer idea of how to actually make a living doing what I love, especially in a creative sense.  When I was in college, there was so much emphasis to make jewelry that was highly conceptual and laden with cultural significance.  It was truly refreshing to finally meet people that just made the things that they were passionate about and wanted to wear.  In a more traditional academic sense though, English teachers have always had a big impact on me.  Since most of the work I do has an underlying narrative current to it, I’ve always been quite interested in storytelling, character studies, and why people create narratives in the first place.

I find that jewelers tend to have one part of the process they love best, for some it’s sawing, for others it’s soldering. Do you have a favorite part of the jewelry process?

Wax carving.  Once I discovered wax carving I was hooked.  I really enjoy the speed and ease of working in wax, the way you can work so smoothly, creating volume and undulations, things that would take forever using metal.  I also tend to be the type of person who needs a big eraser or has difficulty with the subtractive sculpting process.  With wax I don’t have to worry about altering something beyond repair.  If I carve something too deep I can always easily fill it back in again without much effort.
frog prince necklace
In what kind of environment do you work best?

Being a fairly quiet person, I work best in solitary environments.  I feel like so much of my inspiration for anything I am making comes mostly from my own internal landscape.  I daydream a lot, so I work best when I can just hermit myself up at home and get really lost in my own thoughts.  It helps too if I can get a little bit of time outside throughout the day or take advantage of a brief sunbreak.  When I am feeling particularly overworked or stressed, a little bit of time outside listening to the birds or the wind rustling through the trees always recharges me.  In fact, taking breaks has really become an essential part of my work day.  I used to be a person that could work on one thing all day, eating lunch at my bench, never for a second disengaged from what I was doing, but then I realized that I often get the same amount of work done in shorter spurts and still have time to do other things.

lost boot watercolor
Are there any other art forms close to your heart?

Illustration was always my first love.  I have been drawing as long as I can remember and my Mom is an illustrator, as well as an all around amazingly creative person, so it has invariably become something that is still a big part of my life.  I think what pulls me in most about illustration is the idea that I could express so many emotions that I was unable to verbalize just through imagery.  At different times in my life I have found that when I am feeling a little off balance or stuck in a rut I turn to watercolor.  There is something about being really focused on the tangible aspects of a small painting that allows all these other feelings to surface and resolve themselves in the most wonderful way.  I don’t think I will ever quite understand the magic that happens with that process.  When it comes to purely recreational artistic pursuits, I do love to sew.  It often seems so effortless compared to many of my other tedious interests and I find the softness of fabric to be a good contrast to working with metal all day.  Although honestly, I really just love making anything!

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