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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Tory Herford is a regular part of the community here at Danaca Design. As a studio member she’s here working at the bench every week, and sells some of her jewelry in our gallery.
We want to know more (and share with you!) about the artists behind the work in our gallery. So to continue this blog series we asked Tory if she’d answer some questions for us.
How long have you been making Jewelry?
I’ve been tinkering around with it since about age 13. While my family were great lovers of art, none were visual artists or especially crafty. When I was about 20, I was asking around about family history and discovered that one Great Grandfather was a blacksmith/architectural iron craftsman. We still have some things that he made in the family! My Great, Great Grandfather was a goldsmith and watchmaker. So, that explained my odd (to my family) obsession with metal and tools. I guess genes do pass down! I can really feel the ancestors speaking up on occasion. Its kind of spooky actually- sometimes I just know what some random tool will be good for when I’ve never seen or used it before (not to be confused with using the tool correctly or as intended, but it works!). The Ancestors didn’t know everything of course, so still plenty to learn!
What’s your background? Is it in art, or something else?
I’ve always been an “arty” person. I studied Fine Arts at Cornish and consider myself a “Reformed Printmaker”. While it was a good experience, I was just out of high school and I think I was really too young to be there. Fine Arts was probably not the best fit for me, and I drifted to Pratt on and off for various classes of interest- all of which involved metal. Being free from academic “programs” and allowed to study what I was directly curious about was really huge. I’m a big evangelist for non-traditional educational models like Danaca and Pratt.
I also sculpt and do Black & White photography. I’ll do one thing for a few years, and then discover another and do that for a while. Nothing is ever fully abandoned. I’ve been at it long enough now that I notice how one discipline informs or influences the other. The tonal contrasts from photography often influence texture and patina in my jewelry. Sculpting completely came out of nowhere, emerging quite suddenly about 10 years back. Working 3-D was something of an explosion and confetti pretty much came out of my head! Being responsible for that much surface area and how the light slid over it was quite a revelation. In spite of my related experience, this was metalsmithing “boot camp”. Both my design and metalworking skills leapt forward. And then back to my jewelry, which is sometimes sculptural and sometimes about line. Its all a big circle.
I’ve had various ongoing day jobs, which contributed to my house mortgage but not my artistic growth. We all know how that goes….
Is there anything in particular that you like about jewelry as a medium?
Modern society and weather require us to wear clothes, but jewelry is optional. There is something both primal and intimate in the choosing of an ornament, -we wear it as much for ourselves as we do for others. As a maker, I express my creativity in designing work, but I also get to participate in someone else expressing their individuality when they wear one of my pieces. There is a lovely continuity and connection in that. We can all enjoy a beautiful painting on the wall, but it’s not the same experience or exchange.
What are your favorite materials to work with, and why?
I’ve mostly worked in silver and bronze- they are like butter and a joy to create with. I’ve tried some gold here and there but it literally didn’t want to work with me at all! I need more advice on how to come to harmony with it. I’ve recently dipped a toe in lapidary work, and it’s all I can do to not fully veer off in that direction! Commercial stones are getting much less inspiring to work with. And again- sculpting and line want to assert themselves.
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 like finish work/polishing the best. This is where the piece wakes up and fully comes to life.
What kind of imagery or inspiration do you use? Or, can you tell us about any recurring themes in your work?
I’m a huge fan of antique Japanese decorative items. There is almost nothing more beautiful to me than their aesthetic. And the craftsmanship-OMG. Much of my work features references to nature and is meant to give the viewer a moment of tranquility or meditation. I also love Modernist/Scandinavian jewelry from the 1940’s-1960’s. These items often have great vitality, and a fantastic quality of line that is almost calligraphic. Its very playful and dynamic.
We have a variety of Tory’s jewelry here in the gallery. And if you like those twin stone rings up there near the top of this post, we usually have a selection of those to choose from. Stop in to see what Tory’s been making lately. We’re here Tues-Fri 10-6, Sat 11-6.
Kirk Lang is a Seattle based Designer, Jeweler, Metalsmith, Machinist, Sculptor and Amateur Astronomer. Recurring themes in his work include time and space in the form of mechanical interactive objects. His work can be seen in such publications as MJSA Journal, 500 Metal Vessels, 500 Necklaces, 1000 Rings and Metalsmith Magazine. He is a master craftsman no matter the subject or material. We have also discovered he’s a fabulous instructor. Kirk will be teaching two workshops this fall. On the first Monday evening of each month he’ll open the studio for a Stone Setting Clinic designed to help improve and expand your stone setting skills and in mid-November he will offer an exciting Cold Connections workshop with a focus on kinetics. I had the rare and unique experience to ask Kirk all the questions that I wish I could ask every artist after I see how incredible their work is and, lucky for all of you, I have his answers right here.
What got you into teaching jewelry making/ metals?
Basically I have an insatiable curiosity to learn and acquire as much knowledge as I can when it comes to metalworking theories and techniques. At some point over the last 15+ years, I realized I had compiled a significant amount of experience and information…information that could potentially save others a lot of experimentation and frustration learning specific techniques. I am also someone who believes in empowering others, so if I can offer a skill that an individual doesn’t already know, I am happy to help.
What are your favorite materials to work with and why?
All metals. No…truly, I’m not joking! It intrigues me that every metal has its own set of properties and the ability to be used in certain distinct ways. I find it incredibly exciting working with materials in ways that haven’t yet been thoroughly explored. If you want me to be more specific, I like these materials for the following processes…
For stone setting and traditional jewelry making, high karat yellow gold all the way. For machining, there is no better material than C360 (free cutting) brass…it is the baseline standard in which all other metals are compared. I seldom raise vessels anymore but if I do, copper is ideal. Forging, I like steel. Soldering, sterling silver…that feeling of seeing a long seam flow all at once, instantaneously, is something every metalsmith should experience at least once in their life. For welding, titanium is king…as long as you have argon. For stretching a ring up in size, fully annealed niobium is unmatched. To be honest, I could go on and on!
Can you tell us about any memorable teachers from your past who have influenced what you’re doing today, as an instructor or as an artist?
Well…I feel obligated to first mention my mother since she created me and also happens to be an art teacher (who I did in fact have for two years in elementary school). It goes without saying, that experience was little awkward. She has been supportive since day one.
In college at the Cleveland Institute of Art, I had the most ideal experience anyone could ask for. I had three instructors who helped shape me as an artist. I call them the big three…Matthew Hollern, Kathy Buszkiewicz and Richard Fiorelli. Matthew exposed me to technology very early on (he studied under Stanley Lechtzin at Tyler) which has become an integral part of my creative process. Kathy Buszkiewicz is the most thorough instructor I have ever met and possesses an incredible amount of refinement in her craftsmanship…which has been inspirational. Richard Fiorelli taught me the beauty and functionality of design, and how it connects to others. He is one of the most intense and passionate instructors I’ve ever had.
Aside from the skills outlined in your classes, what do you hope to bring to your students?
Understanding, confidence and the ability to problem solve. I make an effort to present information in a way where it is fundamentally clear and relatable through drawings and discussions so that students have a foundation to build off of. The ultimate goal for me is to provide students with enough understanding that they are eventually able to be autonomous, and use the knowledge they’ve gained in their own unique way.
What inspired your Metal Museum exhibit?
So many things, but if I had to be specific…primarily a combination of topics including time, astronomy (I own two telescopes) and personal mythology. I am someone who thinks about ideas for a long time and if an idea sticks with me one year or more, I make it. If I don’t, I can’t stop thinking about it and my desire to visualize what I’m thinking intensifies, to the point where I sometimes wonder if it is even healthy for me!
Formally, the idea for this particular body of work crystallized after researching and stumbling upon Nicolas Louis de Lacaille’s catalogue, Coelum Australe Stelliferum (the interweb is a fantastic place). A catalogue in which he identifies a series of constellations found in the southern hemisphere. The constellations are uncharacteristically named after inanimate objects, many of which are analogous to tools and instruments found in the metalsmith’s studio. These tools and instruments then became the subject matter for each of the kinetic sculptures I created. There is a whole lot more but for simplicities sake, I will leave it at that.
I am really excited to be in the studio these days. It is the first time I readily see aspects from all of my previous experimentations in a fresh body of work. My vision is clear and it feels as if I’m not making decisions anymore. I’m just listening to my gut, creating and then processing what I’ve produced later. Then, applying that information to the next piece I create.
What does “Art Jewelry” mean to you?
A conceptually realized wearable that is first and foremost Art, and jewelry second.
Do you consider yourself primarily a sculptor or a jeweler?
I would lean towards sculptor, simply because by definition it implies the negotiating of material within three-dimensional space. Since that description can also be applied to jewelry, it too can be considered sculpture in some sense.
In what kind of environment do you work best?
The perfect environment for me is a clean and well organized space. There is something serene and calming about that for me. In terms of atmosphere throughout the day, I prefer things to be quiet in the morning. I usually don’t listen to any music and just let my thoughts meander. I have a tendency to think more clearly and concisely in the morning so I usually do more writing, idea generating or complex tasks (a difficult stone setting for example). After lunch, I usually listen to talk radio, podcasts or music…I still like to keep things pretty mellow. In the evening, if I am still working (which is often the case), I will likely crank up the music and power through whatever I’m doing. Right now, that would be a steady flow of post punk, indie and experimental electronic music.
More information and photos can be found on Kirk’s website: http://www.kirklang.com/
Kirk is a huge asset to our community at Danaca Design and we love sharing him with you! Don’t forget Kirk has two classes coming up this fall quarter the Stone Setting Clinic and a Cold Connections class. Visit our website www.danacadesign.com for more information. You can sign up for classes by calling in at 206-524-0916. We’re here Tues-Fri 11-6, and 10-6 on Saturdays.