Roxan Waluk Artist Profile by Julia Rai

I first met Roxan Waluk at one of the US conferences and have followed her work ever since. Roxan told me a bit about her home. “Originally a third generation Texan, in 1983 my husband drug me out to Virginia kicking and screaming for his work. After over thirty years here, we have migrated out to the middle of Virginia’s beautiful wine and horse country. We live in the small town of Delaplane situated about an hour’s drive outside of Washington DC.”

“I live on three acres with my husband Joe, and our four legged children,” she went on. “Three Labrador Retrievers and an orange cat named Goblin (and believe me, he lives up to his name). Our property backs up to Miracle Valley Vineyard where I sometimes help out as a hostess even though I rarely drink wine. We are blessed to live in a wonderful community where everyone cares for each other. Now you would have to drag me kicking and screaming away from here.”

Roxan has recently retired from running her own business. “At the end of last year, I retired as CEO of my own company and dismantled Waluk Studios Inc. We did decorative finishes and wall murals amongst other things. I am now taking private painting commissions but am trying to grow my jewelry business as much as possible. So I guess that would make my current profession my dream job – a jewelry designer.”

I asked Roxan to tell me a bit about her childhood. “I was brought up on a peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico named San Leon, Texas. It is a shrimping port just off Galveston Bay. My family lived on a little farm with mostly horses and chickens and my mother’s wonderful organic garden. Oh how I loved to sneak in there and steal the sun warmed, ripe strawberries! This is where I developed my love of the outdoors and the wonders it holds. So far I’m the only member of my family to move out of Texas so it’s a wonderful family reunion when I have the chance to go home for a visit.”

I was amazed to learn that Roxan is pretty fearless. “Most of my friends are usually surprized to find out that I used to race motocross motorcycles with my family’s racing team. I raced from high school through college. I’ve always been a little bit of a daredevil but those were my craziest days. However, even at 63 I’m planning to go parachute jumping on my birthday this year.”

Given her business it’s not surprising that creativity has always been part of Roxan’s life so I asked her about her first recollections of being creative. “My earliest memories go back almost as far as I can remember,” she began. “Most of the time I was huddled up with pencil, paper and crayons. When I wasn’t, I was catching the local wildlife (turtles, frogs, and horned lizards) and creating homes and clothing for them out of cardboard and tissue paper. Of course my mother insisted they be set loose that evening. From tissue paper frog clothes, I moved on to study fashion design at the University of Texas. After graduation I worked as a designer for women’s dresses and junior sportswear in Dallas, TX. Art in some form has always been a part of my life regardless of its direction.”

Roxan discovered metal clay relatively late although jewellery design was always an interest. “With my love of fashion, accessories and natures gemstones, it was a no brainer for me to become interested in creating jewelry,” she said. “I began taking classes and soon discovered a desire to design my own findings and focal pieces. That’s when I took a metalsmithing class to learn to work with silver only to find out that it was way out of my budget at the time to set up even a small studio. It wasn’t until 2006 that I saw an ad in Bead and Button magazine for metal clay. I became excited about the possibilities and began sketching immediately. Unfortunately, it took me over a year to actually find a class and learn more about it. In my beginner class I made a pendant with a rolled bail set with a CZ and two charms for earrings. It was an instant love affair and my brain starting going crazy with ideas! I began a learning frenzy, bought every book I could find on the subject and started looking for more and more classes. I earned certifications with Rio, PMCC and Art Clay in addition to many master classes with my idols like Barbara Becker Simon, Terry Kovalcik, Gordon Uyehara and Joy Funnel to name just a few.”

She went on, “In 2008 I was very new to MC when I took my first class with a master level metal clay artist, Gordon Uyehara. I was incredibly intimidated by all of the talented and knowledgeable artists around me. Bronze and copper clays were just peeking their heads up as an alternative to silver. In the middle of this three day class, Gordon gives us all packages of bronze and copper clay and declares a design contest. Totally out of my element, I defaulted to what I knew from art classes and hand sculpted a large orchid pendant. Lo and behold, it won second place! This experience helped me realize not only my own potential, but the potential of the materials that were available to me. Serendipitously, Jeannette Froes LeBlanc was in the class and so photos of my work along with others in the class were published in Metal Clay Artist Magazine. Woo! Hoo! My confidence levels soared along with my motivation to succeed in this medium. I’ve never looked back since. Last year I remade the design in silver and it is now my most treasured piece to wear.”

[Images: bronze and copper orchid made in Gordon Uyehara’s class and the silver version remade in 2016]

I asked Roxan what influences her work. “Mostly nature and my adoration for the beautiful gemstones it provides – especially the sparkly ones!” she laughed. “Many of my pieces incorporate leaves and influences from my garden. Some people comment on my frequent use of sage leaves but it is only because it’s the only plant in my garden that keeps its leaves in the winter when I do the bulk of my work. Sometimes it is not a literal translation with leaves and such, but the use of more organic shapes like scrolls. Additionally, I would think my background in fashion design has also nudged me in the direction of personal adornment. It’s thrilling to see someone else wearing something I created from scratch with my hands.”

She went on, “my mother was also a large influence in my artistic development. She was an artist / painter and all around creative personality. She never finished her last painting because my birth interrupted the final strokes. She would jokingly tease that she gave all of her talent to me and there was none left for her to finish the painting. Her unfinished painting still hangs in my living room today.”

“Lately, I have enjoyed more of the hand sculpting aspects of MC. The introduction of Flex Clay has given me more flexibility (pun intended) and elevated my ability to more easily incorporate tendrils and other organic shapes into my clay.”

She continued, “My style is definitely nature inspired and I love when I can combine leaves, scrolls and gemstones into a single piece. One additional element of my style is my metal choice and finish. I work almost exclusively in fine silver. Because pure silver is the whitest and brightest precious metal known to man, I choose to accentuate its natural beauty. Therefore, most of my work has only been softly brushed and sometimes lightly burnished straight from the kiln to keep its inherent luminescence.”

Roxan has a studio in her home. “My studio pretty much takes up the majority of the basement level in my home,” she told me. “It’s my ‘Happy Place’. There are stations for my metal clay, metalsmithing, soldering, beading and photography with a back corner for my desk and computer. I don’t spend as much time at my bench as I’d like but just before a big show, you will find me there almost around the clock. It is a must for me to clean up and organize after each ‘session’ which may last a day or a month. My brain needs to start with some kind of order so I can wreak havoc with my creative process. It is my belief that art is the result of bringing visual order out of the chaos in our minds. So my studio begins organized but because my process is chaotic, it looks like a hurricane blew through by the time I’m finished.”

I asked Roxan about her creative process and whether she plans her work. “Yes, I’m a planner and a sketcher. My library is full of sketchbooks! I love to sit and sketch whatever comes to mind or has inspired me that day. My husband likes to unwind in front of the TV so sketching gives me something creative to do and still spend time with him. The act of sketching is a Zen experience for me so sometimes I sketch just for the love of it and then I try to figure out how to make it wearable.”

She went on. “All I have to do is look outside my door for inspiration but I’m also influenced by great works of art or the tiny scroll on a magazine ad. My fine art and fashion background keep me thinking creatively about how to design beautiful forms that enhance or uplift current fashion while staying true to my own aesthetic. I can easily spend as much time sketching and figuring out my structural strategies as I do actually executing the piece.”

Roxan’s work often includes beads so I asked her about the other techniques she uses alongside metal clay. “With years of beading under my belt, I definitely love to enhance and complete many of my pieces with semiprecious beads and interesting accents. Although anybody can bead, it’s an art to be able to do it well and elevate the final composition. I also love to set stones, and sometimes add gold accents with a pen plater or keum boo. For some reason, I like hammering on metal so I do a little forging. Since I’m not that good at it, I mostly hammer textures onto wires for different findings etc.”

“Right now I’m exploring ‘Jewelry in Motion’. Necklaces and earrings that move with the wearer. Mostly Y shaped necklaces with long tendrils that swish when you move. I put a couple of my necklaces in a recent fashion show and they were well received so I’m very excited about the direction.”

Roxan teaches metal clay in her home studio. “I love to teach, especially the beginner classes. It’s fun to experience the student’s excitement when they start brushing and burnishing their pieces and see the silver start gleaming. Syringe classes are also one of my favourites. I believe syringe is a very useful and misunderstood tool in the metal clay artist’s arsenal. There are so many interesting shapes and delicate designs that can be made with it.”

I asked Roxan how she relaxes. “Nature always helps to reset my balance. I think because it is the epitome of balance. I love going on outings with Joe and the dogs, working in the garden, and taking quiet nature walks. In addition, I enjoy reading a good fantasy, baking and, of course, playing around with new metal clay ideas.”

Roxan sells her work in a variety of ways. “Most of my work is sold through private parties, galleries and the rare festival (if it’s indoors because I’m a weather wimp). I would love to expand my bookings for more intimate trunk shows in high end boutiques and galleries. I have a website but I find it difficult to keep it current because I work mainly in one of a kind pieces. It takes me quite a bit of time to photograph, describe and post each one but I do try!”

Now that Roxan is retired from her business, I asked her what she wants to achieve creatively in the next few years. “This is a tough question since I love to let the clay take me on a journey of its own and inspire me as I work. I guess I don’t really have a plan as long as I continue to love what I do and experience the joy that my work brings to others. On a technical level, I want to expand my knowledge of traditional metalsmithing techniques so as not to limit my designs. Too often I put a sketch aside or alter it because it needs skills I’m not comfortable or familiar with. Especially fine soldering, forging and enamelling skills.”

She went on, “Technically, I would love to experiment with new ways to utilize and set gemstones in my work since many of my favourite stones (aquamarine, opal, turquoise, etc) don’t like the heat of firing. This means becoming more proficient in smithing to enhance what I do in clay. I also would love to delve into the colourful world of enamels beyond the basics. Artistically, I’m an open book. I love the creative journey I’m on and just want to keep learning and riding that train as far as it can take me.”

Julia Rai is an award winning artist, teacher and writer well known in the international metal clay community. Her work has featured in a wide range of publications and she writes regularly for print magazines and online. She teaches in her home studio in Cornwall and travels to teach by invitation.

Artist Profile: Jeannette Froese LeBlanc by Julia Rai

I’ve known Jeannette Froese LeBlanc for a number of years, ever since she launched the fabulous Metal Clay Artist Magazine. The Magazine was a great success but sadly closed after five years. (Digital copies are still available.) I still miss it but Jeannette is now running the awesome Creative Fire website. I wrote artist profiles for the magazine and now I’m writing them for Creative Fire. It’s about time I did a profile on her!

(Jeannette’s Necklace on the last cover of Metal Clay Artist Magazine–a promise she kept to her mother to someday put her own work on the cover.)

Given her many talents and the multiple pies she has her fingers in, I asked Jeannette what she considers to be her ‘job title’. “I’d like to say artist, but I think it’s more of a hyphenated job title…artist-writer-editor-mother-teacher.” See what I mean? It’s amazing that although I’ve known Jeannette for a long time, it wasn’t until I interviewed her for this profile that I found out things about her that I didn’t know. Continue reading…

Artist Profile: Julia Rai

Cornwall based metal clay artist and tutor Julia Rai is well known in the international metal clay community. She founded the Metal Clay Academy and has been writing tutorials and articles for print and online publications for many years. But getting her to sit still long enough to give us an interview has taken nine years!

Julia was born and raised in North London in the UK. “I’m the oldest of three sisters,” she told me. “I always enjoyed doing practical stuff and wasn’t particularly academic. When I got into a grammar school having passed the 11+ exam as it was in those days, I had to study Latin and that was a bit of a stretch! My best subject was English language but not so much the literature side. I preferred to read science fiction and horror books. I did an art CSE and had a very enlightened teacher who allowed me to explore sculpture rather than traditional drawing and painting. For the final exam I made a full sized sofa which I distressed and covered with coloured plaster of Paris so it looked like it was melting. I can’t remember what happened to it!” Continue reading…

Artist Profile: Liz Sabol by Julia Rai

Pennsylvania native Liz Sabol is a metal clay artist with a stunning portfolio. She was a finalist in the metal clay category of the Saul Bell Design Competition in 2016 with her ‘Mad Hatter’ cuff. Then this year, her necklace ‘Cheshire Cat’ won second place in the metal clay category and she told me it holds a special place in her heart. “My favorite piece so far is the ‘Cheshire Cat’,” she began. “It’s really special to me, because it shows what can be achieved when you don’t give up.”

Liz was brought up in Western Pennsylvania. “I grew up on a dairy farm with my six younger siblings, and was known for planting the straightest corn rows in the county. You could see from one end of the field to the other down the rows.” She currently lives in Pittsburgh. “I have two great kids, and we all love animals, so we have several different kinds of pets – dog, cats, chinchillas, rabbits, guinea pig, and fish!  The crowd makes our home very entertaining, and never lonely.”

I asked her about her studio as with such a busy household I imagined that a home studio might be a bit tricky. “My studio is in my home, but was scattered all over – garage, dining room, kitchen, basement – complete chaos!  I have been working to consolidate more of the different tasks to the space where my flex shaft is located – a slow process, but turning out to be much more productive all together.”

She has always been creative. “One of my earliest memories is deciding to decorate my bedroom by drawing pictures on the wall, somewhere around 1st grade.  I didn’t want to get in trouble, so I mimicked my younger sister’s drawing style, and well enough that my parents believed they were her drawings!” she laughed.

I asked Liz how she discovered metal clay. “I remember seeing silver clay in the Fire Mountain Gems catalog several years before I started making jewelry,” she began. “I dreamed of trying it someday.  That day came when I was looking for ends or bead caps to complement my lampworked beads, but couldn’t find any commercially available options that worked for me.  So I signed up to teach some after-school art classes to students at my children’s elementary school, and used the instructor pay to purchase a kiln.  The first things I made didn’t sinter correctly.  It was a frustrating month of testing and research before I found a good firing schedule that worked with my kiln.  After that, it was pure love!” Continue reading…

Design Challenge

 

In January we put out a call to those interested in a design challenge.  We offered up identical boxes of vintage jewellery making supplies from CJS Sales in New York City.  Each designer received the same collection and could make whatever they wanted to.  The only parameters were:
-You can use the materials you were sent any way you want and with any media. 
-Must use 4 pieces of design kit in your finished piece. (1 piece = 1 bead, 1 component, or 1″ of chain)

Twenty packages of vintage jewellery components went out to artists in 4 different countries!

Our Judge: Donna Greenberg, a mixed media artist from New Jersey.  She enjoys mixing materials, colours, and textures in her jewelry and sculptures in unexpected ways. “Pairing smooth, dull surfaces with a coarse piece of glittering pyrite; delicate pearls perched in a volcanic explosion of highly textured polymer; low end man made materials paired with the luxury of silver or bronze are the kind of studies that gets my heart beating loudly. The thrill for me is in balancing these diverse elements into a cohesive statement.” Continue reading…

Artist Profile – Kim Nogueira by Julia Rai

I have been fascinated by automata since childhood visits to the Science Museum in London. I remember turning the handle on the Archimedes screw exhibit and seeing the little man turn his own handle in time with me. As the water came up through this cause and effect, I was totally fascinated by how that worked. When I first saw Kim Nogueira’s metal clay automata I was blown away by the ingenuity of the technical aspects but also by the stories and themes behind the pieces.

Kim was born and raised in the small New England town of Northampton, MA and now lives in St John, in the US Virgin Islands. “For the past 25 years, this little island has been my home, where I raised my wonderful son,” she explained. “Two thirds of the island is protected by the National Park, and the hiking and snorkeling is fabulous here. It is a very tiny island however, measuring about nine miles by 12 miles. Elevation reaches from sea level to 1200 feet, which if you ever run or walk our annual famous 8 Tuff Mile Race, which runs through the center of the island from one end to the other, you will get to experience most of that elevation change. I have only done this once, and that was enough!”

Continue reading…

Artist Profile: Kris Kramer interviewed by Julia Rai

I love texture and anyone who knows me knows my work typically features lots of it so when I first saw Kris Kramer’s work, I was instantly taken by the fabulous textures she uses. And the haunting faces of the animals in her work are so full of feeling. Kris is the owner and artisan at Kris Kramer Designs.

Kris lives in Whitefish, in northwest Montana, which is about 30 miles from the Canadian border. “I live with a little dog, Rose, in a wooded area in a small tourist town that offers recreation all year round. My daughter lives about 120 miles away, and we visit each other often.”

I asked her where she was brought up. “I was raised in Illinois and Wisconsin,” she told me. “I lived in New York in early school years and worked in northern Minnesota in summers during high school.” Continue reading…

Artist Profile – Anna Siivonen by Julia Rai

Swedish metal clay artist and designer Anna Siivonen has a very distinctive style which makes her work endlessly interesting if a little disturbing at times! She’s uncompromising in her subject matter and is equally comfortable producing cute or disquieting pieces. I’ve never met Anna but have admired her work for quite a while so I was really interested to find out more about her.

“I live in the suburbs of Stockholm in my grandmother’s old house,” she told me. “I live with my man, daughter, and cat. I work from home and spend most my days creating, dancing, doing yoga and hanging with my family. My childhood home is just a few kilometers from here and my mother still lives there.” Continue reading…

Artist Profile – Iwona Tamborska by Julia Rai

As soon as I saw Polish artist Iwona Tamborska’s work, I knew I had to find out more about her. As a fan of fantasy, myth and fairy tales myself, her work really spoke to me. I asked Iwona what she considers her job title or profession to be. “That is a very good question as I noticed it is quite hard to explain,” she smiled. “I usually start with: ‘I am an artist and work with metal.’ If someone wants to know more, I continue: ‘My works are usually minimal scale sculptures and often have a use as jewelry’. I used to try to use the term ‘art jeweller’, but somehow people had the wrong idea of my work.” Continue reading…