Hawaii, USA Nightstalker Bronze and copper metal clay, steel wire
LYDIA LEWIS Canada Pirate Pendant Silver metal clay, fine silver wire, sterling, resin, CZs and liver of sulpher
KIM NOGUEIRA Cruz Bay, USVI Whatever happens to thebeasts, happens to man
Silver, 24k gold, bronze, brass, ruby I used PMC 960 for this hollow-constructed mechanical pendant, with small keum-boo detail
on the angel’s wings and inlay techniques for the words. The ruby is set using traditional fabrication
At an invitational gallery show in France, Metal Clay jewellery by seventeen international artists is featured until June 11th. The show is the dream project for artist Angela Baduel-Crispin. PÔLE BIJOU GALERIE in Baccarat, France will display the works for the next four months. Are you unable to travel to France to see the show? We have a virtual tour of the show. The artists’ pieces and information is organized by country.
This exhibition is the first of its kind. It focuses on giving visibility to both this relatively new material and to artists of international renown who have pushed metal clay to it’s highest potential! Seventeen international artists (all women) each with her own their different styles and techniques. 70% of the work in the show is jewelry and the other 30% or so is composed of objects in metal clay. We were very thankful that number of artists were invited and submitted their work for the show. Selection was strongly based on originality of the work and technical proficiency.
The show started on January 16th and runs until the 11th of June. The official opening was on February 9th.
Tribal Warrior Woman symbolizes Every woman, at once simple and complex, guarded and protective, secure and vulnerable, functional and decorative. She stands strong, fights fiercely for her own, opens herself with love, enfolds all into her armour for both defense and nurture. Her chains are not only the ties that bind but also the connections between women around the world. Made from the very earth of Australia, Warrior Woman is accompanied by Wolf, a symbol of her visionary creator, loyal yet fierce protector/companion giving both strength and worldly knowledge.
Like every woman, Warrior Woman gives pieces of herself to nurture and enhance others, remaining whole in and of herself. Appearing to be nothing more than a statue, her armour is symbolic and trans-formative, revealing interconnected pieces of exquisite jewellery. Functional and decorative pieces include her arm guards becoming earrings; her shield, a stick pin; the bow and arrow across her back, a bracelet.
Warrior Woman was sculpted completely by hand from Aussie Metal Clay. Unlike traditional metalwork in which precise measurements remain true, metal clays shrink varying amounts during both drying and firing stages. Using five colours in two different firing temperature ranges, Kim combined beauty and functionality, seamlessly fitting the jewellery pieces, while accounting for the differences in shrinkage, malleability, and strength of the two High Fire colours of the armour and three Medium Fire colours of the body, the like types fired together. During her creation, Kim also perfected a unique metal clay glue enabling finer, more delicate pieces to be invisibly affixed.
Kim, a lifelong Australian, has been a renowned designer of dog jewellery and accessories for many years. She pioneered personalized pet sculptures using traditional metal casting techniques. A new world unfolded when introduced to metal clay. “Knowing No Boundaries” Kim’s motto, encourages her to be an innovator in metal clay. Warrior Woman’s inspiration appeared as both form and symbolism in a dream, with a personal message about life’s battles. Kim relates, “Sculpting Warrior Woman pushed me to areas I had not ventured before. She helped make me into the sculptor I am today, and for that I am forever thankful to her.”
From studying economics to 20 years in the investment industry to full-time artist… “If something is holding you back from taking such a major step, start small. Work at night…weekends….whenever. Never think you can’t become what you wish to be. Find a way”.
“My love of small, detailed pieces was fueled as a child upon my first visit to that marvel of miniature engineering, the Queen’s Dollhouse at Windsor Castle. Tiny masterpieces have always tugged at my heartstrings. My homemade Barbie house was to die for, but I’m thankful my experiments with homemade braces never took off!
What began 14 years ago at an evening sculpture class at Alberta College of Art and Design quickly turned into a desire to become a full time maker. My introduction to silver metal clay a few years later allowed me to make smaller, more detailed pieces that may have been impossible using traditional fabrication techniques.
Although I have, for the most part returned to those traditional methods, I view my metal clay skills as a very valuable tool in my box.”
Vignettes are the art forms that make up most of my work. They immortalize cherished and wacky moments of my childhood……the wonky hair-do on picture day…wearing flippers around the house…learning to tie shoe- laces in the great century before velcro.
Sheep : « Let these sweet, charming ewe fly into your heart with their precious silver wings and whimsical expressions. Tiny treasures are hand sculpted from sterling silver, with round felted wool bodies. They are lovely alone, or gathered in a herd“
Angela Crispin was born in Sao Paulo to a Brazilian mother and an American father and grew up alternately between Brazil and Hawaii. In 1987 she flew to Paris to complete her studies in political science and chose to remain in France after graduation. She then decided to give her professional life a new direction devoting herself exclusively to her vocation: jewelry making and design.
She trained in Paris at BJO Formation and further trained in jewelry making and enamel at the LEI Nicolas Flamel in Paris. Thereafter, she followed several courses and certifications by Metal Clay specialists in the United States. Angela Crispin is constantly interested in new materials and new techniques.
Her work is in perpetual change and renewal, combining traditional and innovative techniques in the use of different metals that she occasionally combines with a wide range of materials such as resin, leather, Faux BoneTM, or with objects of everyday life and other natural elements. She is an internationally recognized metal clay specialist. Her work as maker/designer and Artisan of the Arts (« Artisan d’Art ») is recognized by the competent bodies in France, namely the Chamber of Trade (Chambre de Métiers) and the Ateliers d’Art de France, as well as in the USA by the PMC Guild, PMC and Art Clay World Connection, and in Europe by Art Clay Europe.
She draws inspiration from her philosophy of life, based on multicultural influences, which leads to constantly observing her surroundings to develop an inner knowledge of self and further build relationships with the world. She captures both physical and symbolic elements, from natural or man, which she then makes her own, combining them in order to reconstruct a personal and worldly representation through the original contact with the material in a contemporary interpretation.
The creative process sparks from an inner vision. Then, guided by instinct, the piece emerges, evolves and takes shape in her mind, until her hands take over to give it life in the appropriate material for the imagined object. Sometimes, on the other hand, it is a found object or a trivial subject that inspires her to imagine it out of context and beyond its original purpose and destination.
“I discovered metal clay in 2012 and immediately developed a passion for it. It is an amazing material, flexible, sprinkled with ribs and extraordinarily malleable. It is ideal to fulfill any whim of your imagination for modeling, sculpture and volumes. I like bronze for its color and also because it demands special techniques to design and bake it. I do not use much silver in my work, mainly because of its high price. My interest in technical matters quickly led me to create three dimensional objects such as boxes. L’Envol is the second one I made. I received an award for it from Metal Clay Artist Magazine in 2014. It is the creation I am most proud of, probably because, at the time, I made it in materially difficult conditions.
I have often used clay, making series of little balls or settings made with an extruder, which helps to create thin and regular wires just like in l’Envol. Then, I started to sculpt and carve clay with gouges or a scalpel. Sculpture has been like a revelation for me and has constituted a new step in my work. I made L’Eveil following a model I had imagined.
I conclude by saying that I like to model and sculpt birds whose wings make it possible to create beautiful movements. After the peacock, I am currently working on other series like songbirds or fantastic birds. ”
Noortje Meijerink mix porcelain and Metal Clay (silver/bronze/copper) to obtain graceful objects . She’s living and working in Netherlands.
”Birds in all their freedom, gracefully gliding through the sky or proudly strutting on the ground. To capture those motions is my challenge.”
“As a ceramist I fell in love with porcelain. I prefer the craftsmanship of the throwing wheel and the precision of the sgraffito technique. Thrown porcelain pots are covered with a black engobe in which geometrical shapes or birds are scratched. After graduating in silver clay in the United States in 2003, some of the birds on my pots receive a silver wing. The combining of these two forms of “clay” is a technical challenge that’s more than worth the effort. The result is a graceful combination of matte black, bright white porcelain and lustrously shining silver. Currently my birds are becoming more and more figurative. The hand-formed porcelain bodies and heads are getting tails, necks and legs made of bronze clay or copper clay. The rich yellow hue of the bronze or the warm red of copper lends themselves perfectly to complete my proud porcelain birds.”
Helga Van Leipsig graduate a Bachelor “Art – Jewellery Design” on Maastricht Fine Art Academy. Then she work around 10 years as grafical designer for several company’s, before create her own business (grafical and jewellery work) in 2004. She live and work in Netherlands.
She present “Earth Collection”.
“Because of my traditional metalworking skills, I come to metal clay with the question, “What can I accomplish with metal clay that I can’t achieve with conventional techniques?”
All metal clays include moisture and some form of binder in their fresh or raw state. Because these are removed in the firing process, it follows that all forms of metal clay shrink during the sintering process. This makes it possible to incorporate elements such as other metal alloys or stones that can withstand the firing temperatures.
I have taken advantage of the fact that metal clay shrinks during the sintering to create my Earth collection. By pushing silver squares in the wet clay I mimic the furrows and ridges of a ploughed field. The back of the jewellery pieces show the shrinkage pattern after firing.
A ploughed field is soil turned around. It ensures the circulation of nutrients and aeration. Earth needs oxygen and water for the seeds to grow. The furrows and ridges that are created while ploughing form striking perspectives. We often only touch the surface. To go deeper we have to work actively to enhance our knowledge and handling skills. Repetition is key.
In the re-creation of small areas of my rural environment I discovered my language that evolves into powerful, meaningful jewellery. It are combinations of strong textures and stylized shapes. The textures are created by actively working with the clay, so fields, spaces and areas are brought into existence.
Then, they erode again, in the ever evolving landscapes.”
Joy Funnell originally trained as a Graphic Designer and worked as a self employed graphic designer from 1981 until 1985. She began jewellery making as a hobby in 1985 working with silver wire, silver sheet and enamel. In 2006 she qualified as a Senior Art Clay Instructor and since started is own jewellery business. In 2009, she was made a Craftsman of The Guild of Enamellers and was the first person to be awarded this status by submitting all six pieces made using silver clay and enamel.
“I love colours and I love textures. These two things inspire most of my work. To see a rainbow will always bring a smile to my face. I try to be – Joy by name and Joyful by nature.
I work mostly in silver clay and I absolutely love it !
To add colour to my work I often set stones and enamel pieces. Enamelling allows me to add colour and depth to my work, and for eye catching sparkle I use small stones which are fired in place. These are laboratory grown stones and czs which are able to withstand the high temperatures of firing the silver. Some of my pieces are also set with beautiful natural stones after the firing process.
Enamelling is an art which is centuries old. Powdered glass is fused onto precious metals at high temperatures in the kiln to create a durable coloured finish. I use transparent enamels in my jewellery so the silver can shine through the rich colours. I have developed my own technique – Enamelled Accents – where jewel like colours are captured by fine silver wires on the surface of a piece to give a freestanding cloisonné effect.
By using silver clay and then enamelling it I make original jewellery which is unlike commercial high street jewellery. Mostly I create one-of-a-kind work – unique pieces for unique people. By exhibiting my work I can reach a wider discerning audience and I always hope my work will bring a smile to the faces of viewers.”
Tracey trained in fashion design and textiles, working in the industry for a short time. She was always explor- ing new creative skills and techniques. She then moved onto teaching various arts and crafts in adult learning through colleges when life’s journey brought her to discover metal clay. She knew instantly this would be her devoted joy and passion!
As director, principal artist and tutor of Craftworx Studio Jewellery School in the UK, Tracey carefully and effi- ciently manages her time to promote her own studio, courses and workshops. She writes articles for jewellery magazines and works as a demonstrator for a major craft exhibition company.
“ My inspirations have come from many sources… my grandmothers “button box” which is where it all started, a curiosity for trying new things, a collection of random objects, travel from holidays where I enjoy taking pic- tures of interesting architecture, a love of the arts and crafts movement. These things together with the sur- rounding of where I live in the beautiful idyllic setting of the Yorkshire Wolds, where my studio is set on a farm – these all play a role to drive me forward.”
“So my passion is the share the wonders of working with this amazing material. I love to push the boundies of working with this material so the concept of attempting engineering in clay fascinated me, I adore creating hinged boxed and lockets in metal clay. These pieces were inspired by the architecture of a local Minster. The shape, the form and ornamentation where all details I observed on a trip around the Church.”
Barbara Becker Simon studied Art in State University of New York at New Paltz, and then Metal and Silversmithing in University of Wisconsin at Madison, and completed her training through a variety of differents workshops (Arc and Gas Welding, Glassblowing, Lampworking, Custom Knifemaking…)
She present two necklace : Polygons and Linked.
Polygons was inspired by the shapes of the stone beads and their surface patterns. “I wanted to use metal clay beads that were compatible and had interesting contrast. The stainless steel cable adds another wonderful texture to the design and contributes to the comfort of wearing this piece. Most of the beads were constructed with dried, textured metal clay sheet in a variety of images and patterns. The sides of the angular beads were cut out and mitered before connecting them together which results in clean joints and allows the various textures on the boxes to flow visually flow into one another”
Linked was inspired by its own specific technical needs. Making hollow forms and interlocking them using metal clay is a thousand times easier in metal clay than using traditional metalworking techniques. “These hollow forms are complex to construct but result in an unusual form. The contrast between the hard-edged metal elements and the luxurious, organic quality of the pearls is very intriguing”
And the four bronze bangles, 4 Spirals/4 Triangles, Mountain Peaks, Little Details and Walk in the Woods were influenced by African motifs (Moroccan, ancient Benin civilization).” To made them, I roll out a thick piece of clay, cut out the inside circle, cut out the outside shape and let it dry. The sides and edges are sanded smooth and using carving V-shaped gouges, I incise the all-over patterns on the bracelet. It gets fired in a kiln and finished with a patina and soft shine. The surface and edges of these bangle bracelets will get more beautiful the more they are worn.”
Pam East is an internationally known artist, writer and teacher. Her work and instructional articles have appeared in many magazines. Her book “Enameling on Metal Clay” is considered the definitive resource for enameling on silver clay.
“My passion is combining metal clay and enamels, and igniting that passion in others. For me, the definition of the creative process is bringing rich, vibrant color to metal work and expressing different moods, feelings or visual impact through color. I began enameling on copper in 1997. In 2003 I was introduced to metal clay and was immediately captivated by the creative possibilities it represented. Metal clay is the perfect medium for enamels. With each new piece I create, I am always striving to take it farther, to push it to the next level, interlacing color and metal in new and unexpected ways. Over the years I’ve developed a wide variety of techniques to bring it all together. My latest work is a fusion of champlevé & cloisonné and Mokume Gane which is a mix of copper and silver producing woodgrain patterns.The addition of enamels to an already complex process has been as challenging as it is rewarding.. ”
She has been working with metal clay since the year 2000, and is a Senior Instructor and the Artistic Advisor for PMC Connection (PMCC). PMCC is one of the two importers of Precious Metal Clay brand metal clay in the United States.
Prior to 2000, Lora was a make-up artist working in Los Angeles, California.
“My little studio is an always changing cabinet of curiosity, populated by found objects, architectural photographs, and little containers filled with colorful gems, antique buttons and otherwise forgotten objects that help spark my creative imagination.
A long held fascination for historical decoration and architectural detail can be seen echoed in my designs. Softly glowing silver, bronze and gold gilt vessels and jewelry are warmed by velvety patinas and beautiful gemstones. Complex forms are assembled from individually hand formed elements before being finished with the delicate details that make each piece unique.
Vintage photographs may be set beneath high domed quartz to accentuate the fact that perception is often distorted when one doesn’t look at the whole picture. Tiny reliquaries and scent bottles remind us that hidden content is sometimes more intriguing than visible context.
A combination of lusciously malleable metal clay and traditional metalsmithing techniques come together to construct whatever contours my designs demand. Each piece is patinated and polished to accentuate its specific features.”
Kim Nogueira is an automaton maker and award-winning jeweler who learned the goldsmithing trade on the job as a production goldsmith and has taken intensive workshops with reknowned American enamelists and metalsmiths. She is based on the tiny island of St John, in the US Virgin Islands. She combines the mechanics and wearer intereaction of automata with the narrative power of text, found objects and three dimensional figures to create multi-dimensional stories in metal.
“Employing the traditional fabrication techniques of the goldsmith and enamelist in combination with the contemporary metalsmithing innovation of metal clay, I construct complex narratives in metal that speak to the curiosities, challenges and marvels of our time. By incorporating movement and wearer interaction with tiny automata that are activated by turning a crank, I hope to explore and keep alive the enigma that is childhood wonder as well as draw attention to the marvels of our everyday life and the preciousness of the extraordinary journey that we are all on together.
For about a decade I have collected early to mid-twentieth century vending machine toys and gumball charms, Stanhope peep charms, antique mechanical toys and lilliputian Victorian curiousities. These inspire me, and I also work directly with these diminutive oddments, making molds of them for use in my work, deconstructing them to make the mechanical figures and details in my wearable automata using the innovative material metal clay. I manipulate these to form my own narrative, integrating universal themes in tandem with the questions of my own heart.
For me, creation is intangible and magical, with a mystical element.The possibilities are infinite and manifested often, though not always, in material form. I focus on the mystical, unseen and enchanting aspects of creation in my work.”
Donna Penoyer graduate as Certified Artisan on PMC certification program, and take part in several Art workshops on other techniques (metalsmithing, keum-boo, enameling, mixed media, etc.). Before that she study creative writing (poetry) and English literature.
“Metaphor gives us poetic, psychological, mythological, and metaphysical ways of looking at the world. I am interested in exploring metaphors and narratives that help me understand how one small story can be connected to an entire history of a planet, and that give me intuitive ways to navigate through time. Navigation and tools for staying afloat are themes in many of my pieces. The boat has become one metaphor for balance while moving forward, groundedness during surrender to the current, and the subtle work and constant adjustment required to produce a seemingly effortless glide. Dichotomies like these fascinate me, as they are charged with a practical but also emotional tension—like the strings that give a violin its beautiful sound, or the anchors that keep a tent from succumbing to the wind.
My whistle sculptures often elicit the response, “How useful these must be on a dark night when you are walking alone.” I don’t think they would be much literal protection, though I am always open to metaphorical possibilities. I have purposefully omitted the “pea” that would make my whistles sound shrill and discordant. They are more about pleasure and surprise than alarm and danger. Blowing and hearing a joyful whistle are interactive acts that keep me fully present, which is the best way I know to navigate through my life.”
Liz Sabol studied Chemical Engineering and Art & Design in West Virginia University. She continued her education at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in Communication Arts & Illustration.
Though a relative newcomer to the jewelry world, she is a veteran in design and graphic arts. The eldest of seven children, Liz grew up on a dairy farm in Western Pennsylvania where she cultivated a lifelong love of nature, art and design. She nurtured that sensibility through the study of concert piano, chemical engineering, fine art, design, and technology. After a successful 25-year career in branding and corporate marketing, she found herself restless and sought new ways to express her artistic vision. In 2011, she experimented with intricate bead work, transitioned to the hypnotic experience of lampworking glass, and then began an exploration into metal in 2013. That journey led to a discovery and harmony she has achieved with a combination of technology and her signature organic forms. Inspired by fairy tales, fantasy and mysticism, each Champlevé piece is hand-painted and protected by resin, and hints at her love of oil painting. By combining metal with media and techniques not traditionally used in jewelry, Liz brings a different and unique perspective to metal.
PÔLE BIJOU STUDENTS
Pôle Bijou is also a training center in which you can learn several techniques (traditional metalsmithing, wax work, creativity … and also METAL CLAY). Metal Clay classes began 5 years before, and some of our students are now in their own journey … We are so please to show you some of their research
Elisabeth Le Dantec Munoz Elisabeth was born in Lyon in 1970, she grew up in a family of Spanish immigrants and began studying foreign languages, and decided to continue her education in the university of Madrid. Back in France, she devoted fully (or focused) on raising her children.
Lisa had been interested in plastic arts for a long time when she started, by chance creating jewelry. Wishing to learn more techniques, she attended several courses in jewelry making. In this constant research for new techniques, she discovered metal clay, which was an epiphany to her, “pure creation”, “multiplication of possibilities”.
Those courses will take her to Brittany, Baccarat, through Paris. She will have the opportunity of being trained by major names in the sector of metal clay, Angela Baduel-Crispin, with whom she starts learning this new technique, and then she’ll attend the workshops of Hadar Jacobson and Holy Gage, in France.
In order to combine this particular technique with traditional jewelry techniques, she will attend a course at the Tanné School of jewelry. She obtained an official qualification from Art Clay, and continues to explore the techniques in metal clay, a product constantly evolving.
To her, the technique mastery of the material opens limitless possibilities for creation. It is also the satisfaction of creating something from beginning to end. From clay, sometimes a powder that you mix, knead, shape, carve, you get the object that you had imagined.
Evelyne Thiery lives and works in Épinal (Vosges).
A course of self taught, supplemented by various training courses as and when and according to his needs and research (natural paintings, plastered Earth Chaux, techniques of jewelry ) and of course formations around metallic clay. She likes to approach the jewerly in a shifted way, not only according to her appearance. Aesthetics, but also by basing its manufacture on the use of unusual materials, precious or not…
She will present two collections:
-Plic Ploc, representation of the impact of a drop of water striking the surface of the water and the propagation of the wave that follows….The oxidation of the texture underlines the variations that the liquid undergoes.
-Pearl of water, depiction of the morning dew in equilibrium on reliefs. The dew clumps to form the ultimate drop….
With thanks to Angela Baduel-Crispin and PÔLE BIJOU GALERIE for sharing information and images about the show.
Chicago based jewellery maker Marco Fleseri has been working with metal clay since 2003. “I made some crude dangly shapes and textured them using the point of a toothpick,” he told me. “I knew it had potential, particularly for creating things that would be difficult or impossible to produce using previous/ traditional methods.”
I asked Marco about his earliest memory of being creative. “When I was five years old I made some blobs that I thought resembled fish, using a papier-mâché I had fashioned by soaking crumpled facial tissue with glue. I sculpted the shapes and let them dry. I was later dismayed when I put my ‘fish’ into a bowl of water and they dissolved.”
Marco’s studio is in a building with other artists and I’m always interested to find out how organised other people are. “My studio is usually somewhat organized, unless I have several projects happening simultaneously.” I can relate to that!
Marco told me a bit about his creative process. “Sometimes I sketch things if I’m not sure how to execute them, in order to solve design challenges. Or if I have an idea for something that I know I might not get to for a while. Otherwise, I get an idea and immediately launch into making it. Sometimes the finished piece varies wildly from where my imagination started.”
He uses a combination of techniques to create his designs. “As metal clay is more expensive than working with sheet, wire, etc. I often use traditional metal-working techniques in conjunction with metal clay in the same piece.”
I asked Marco what influences his work. “Geometry, shapes, and patterns found in nature, machinery, architecture, and ancient art and adornments. I look at all of these, and make new variants on the shapes and combinations that resonate with me.”
So what is his style? “I don’t have a singular style, but rather three: very biological/organic, geometric/mechanical, and ancient/ethnic. I find all three satisfying for different reasons, and they keep my work from all looking the same.
Marco has done some teaching and I asked him about it. “I’ve taught beginning metal clay workshops and would like to do more of that. It’s fun watching students see the potential for what’s in their hands, and the excitement of seeing their efforts realized as metal objects.”
I asked Marco if he has a favourite piece of work. “My Helios pendant, which for me in 2009 was a triumph of combining the techniques of fabrication, metal clay and stone-setting.”
Finally, I asked Marco where he sees his work going in the future. “I would like to do more stone-setting, as I have collected some beautiful specimens that I want to include in upcoming work. I’ll go wherever the voices tell me to go…” he said with a smile.
Julia Rai is a teacher, writer and artist working in a variety of media. She is the director of the Metal Clay Academy and runs the Cornwall School of Art, Craft and Jewellery. She finds inspiration in science fiction and fantasy and loves a good story where disbelief can be suspended in favour of wonder. Her practical and ultra-organised side is always vyingfor attention alongside her creative and messy side. Each is trying hard to learn from the other and live in harmony.
Imagine chatting about the history and the future of jewelry design while sitting in a warehouse stacked floor to ceiling with boxes and boxes of mostly vintage beads and jewelry making components. What an astounding wonderland of inspiration! I metwithCarlandElyseSchimel,co-ownersofCJSSalesinNewYork City, one of my favorite places to head for a creative boost.
(Image: Wire wrapped stone necklace design by Carl Schimel.)
The CJS Sales warehouse is located on 36th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues in New York City. Savvy jewelry designers can spend hours poring through this extraordinary trea-sure trove that holds literally millions of vintage beads and jewelry making supplies with limitless design potential. The Schimels are constantly seeking out great buys on anything that might be used for making jewelry and accessories.
“We bought a chandelier store that went out of business…[and] a rhinestone factory. We try to keep things that will be inspiration for people and [are] also unusual and different. We price at what we bought it at, so you can get quality vintage parts that are not found on today’s mar- ket at great prices,” said Elyse. To help designers compete and allow their work to stand out, Elyse and Carl sell only to wholesale customers who come to the warehouse. “We do not sell on the internet or show broad images. We do this to protect our buyers. Our customers are very knowledgeable. We believe in promoting design- ers, fostering new ones, to give them an edge.”
(Image: The Milwaukee Sentinel – July 31, 1969)
As a jewelry maker, I marvel that Carl stayed constantly ahead of the curve with his fashion-forward jewelry designs for more than 50 years. It was fascinating to listen to him talk about why he created the line and the manufacturing hurdles he had to overcome to get “Kim Crafts- men” jewelry out to buyers.
I was curious about how the Kim Craftsmen showroom and design space morphed into this vast warehouse of jewelry making supplies.
Elyse explained, “When Carl was liquidating [his jewelry manufacturing business] I started cold calling people. He thought it was cute [and] he was giving me a 100% commission. I started to bring in big accounts, he started to buy [at] fire sales and we started a wholesale liquidation business.” Carl adds, “If I had to describe the business I’d say it is a designer’s quarry. Designers come here to dig out treasures.”
I can personally attest to the digging! When I pay Carl and Elyse’s warehouse a visit, I come prepared by dressing as if I were to go climbing, I bring a rolling suitcase (after one visit where I lugged 30 lbs of beads in a shoulder bag thirteen blocks in NYC) and of course water and a cell phone—in case I get lost or to keep track of time. Losing a day in here is an easy thing to do!
As Elyse showed Art Deco glass beads, unfinished brooch components from the 1950s and mouth-blown glass beads, her father talked about how the artist’s hand should be apparent in his or her work. Carl used the term analog to explain how he worked. “To me [using] a pencil is analog. When you write with a pencil there’s pressure, there’s a difference in how it looks. You can write the same thing ten times…it will be the same each time but [also] different. When I caged stones using wire wrapping the concept being used was ‘mass individuality’; everyonecould have a caged stone but all of them were different.” Today he is intrigued by the idea of what he might have made if metal clay had been on the market when he was making fashion jewelry. “What happens is, as an artist you use the materials that are available at that time in the best ways that you can. But can you imag- ine what Alexander Calder would have done if [metal clay] had been available to him?”
Elyse models one of her father’s body jewelry pieces. This image is reminiscent of a photo from a 1969 newspaper article about his work.
Calder, a world renowned sculptor best known for inventing the hanging kinetic sculp- ture form known as a mobile, had a tremendous influence on Carl’s jewelry design. “When I got his…enormous book of jewelry it showed him working in his studio…a lot of his style of jewelry was much more understandable to me. He wasn’t using goldsmith tools, sized for jewelry making. His tools were large anvils with heavy handles, blacksmith tools, as he was used to making large mobiles and stabiles so there’s immediacy to the way Calder worked, and it showed in his work. If you look at his pieces, there’s a freshness still to his work. You can feel the hand, the way he twisted and moved to create his pieces. That’s analog!” Carl exclaimed. “You can always recognize his tools…for example if he used a hammer with a scratch on it, it would show on his piece like a fingerprint.” Carl went on to explain how metal clay is analog. “It is hands-on. In an age where a tremendous amount of design is going digital, the look is just opposite—180 degrees opposite. I’m sure [the artists using digital design tools] are very, very fine designers. It doesn’t look like jewelry that I’m used to. Metal clay takes me back to when we made jewelry. And we wanted to call it ‘Artistry in Metal’ because at that time, in the 50s and 60s and 70s, bench designers sat down and worked with the material, they under- stood the material. Metal clay is another vehicle for artists to express themselves. It is a phenomenal material….”
(Photos of jewelry by Kim Craftsmen, a company owned by Carl Schimel and his brother.)
I couldn’t agree more! Combine metal clay with some of the vintage beads and findings at CJS Sales and you’d have an exquisite combination of a modern material matched with vintage beads. If travel to New York City is not an option, seek out your own local charity, “antique” shops, or online for vintage elements to add to your own jewelry. When I find my creativity waning, a visit here spurs new ideas in new directions. It is like going to a museum for in- spiration, except that here you can take home the items that inspire you and use them in your work! Elyse showed me old pedals from a ma- chine. I forget what machine they were for because I was focused on the typeface used for the logotype imprinted on them! Inspiration for a new line of necklaces, perhaps? Now how to explain to the TSA agents at the airport that I need to bring home a half dozen metal pedals even though I have no idea what they are for!
CJS Sales: www.cjssales.com, 16 West 36th Street, 2nd floor, between 5th and 6th Aves., New York, New York 10018 (212) 244-1400
Last month we ran a survey for our readers and there were some really great comments and questions. One theme that repeated itself was about “making a living” at selling your work.
Here are a few of the reader questions: “How can I make a living at my art?” “How do you balance a personal life, regular work and creative time?” “Does anyone make a living selling metal clay jewelry?” “Can you make a living as an artist when you work with metal clay? This question could be asked to any “regular” person, like you and me ;)!”
I could have asked any of these questions! So I’m not the expert with the answers. But I have done a bit of research and I have some resources to share. The first thing I’d like to address comes from a conversation about these very topics with my father. He told me to “never pay too much for an income” and to “make a life, not a living”. Sage advice from a person I admire. I think his words address the question someone had about balancing work life and creative life. You can become a slave to your work even if it is your calling and by consequence miss out on family and friends. Many artists throughout history have sacrificed for their art. I have struggled with “work-life-balance” myself. I’ve had to choose what is the most important–not just to me but to my family and so creative time often gets missed even though working in my studio is like breathing for me. I decided that I’d never regret giving the time to my children. They won’t always be around but my many unfinished pieces of “art” will be there.
Question: “Does anyone make a living selling metal clay jewellery?”
Yes, I think there are artists who do! However, given that the job of “artist” lacks a regular pay check, artists have to rely on many revenue streams. Artists living off their craft work hard at marketing their work, they sell on many platforms such as shops, online and shows, they teach, and most have varied jewellery lines and some sell products. I would encourage you to find artists pages online, their sites and so forth and see how hard they work at “making a living”.
Question: “I would love to ask many of the high profile artists for more detailed information on how they achieved such name recognition/built their business in this community. And, if it supplies their full income, possibly even in the absence of a lot of travel teaching.”
This short talk by Paul Klein about finding your niche, removing obstacles and finding a mentor provides a great answer to the above question.
“Artist and career advisor Paul Klein emphasized the importance of being different. He insinuated that distinctiveness generates sales–even more so than quality. “Can’t all of us name artists who are doing really well monetarily, whose work we think sucks?” The branded artist doesn’t necessarily produce better work, but more bankable work.” Quote from this article in Forbes.
In “Part 2” I’ll find answers to the questions about the nuts and bolts of business such as inventory, tracking, descriptions of work.
My closing comment is to be yourself. I know that sounds so cliche. But it’s so true. I’ve been looking at metal clay jewellery for over a decade. (gasp) and I can almost without fail look at a photo of a piece of metal clay jewellery and tell you the name of the artist (and if I’m wrong–usually that person was the “inspiration” for the work). We need more work that stands out. In another article I found on Forbes by Jessica Hagy she shows why weird can be bankable. Yes…be weird, but let your own distinct artistic voice show in your work!
Image credit for opening image: Location Pillar in the stairwell of the UT Austin Art Building was up for two weeks
Jeannette Froese LeBlanc is working on becoming a distinct and profitable jewellery designer. From her studio in rural Ontario, Jeannette tries to balance life as a mom of two (very) active children and earn a living from her jewellery. You can find her work online and in several boutiques. www.SassyandStella.com
I’ve been an admirer of Cindy Miller’s work for a long time so I was really happy to have the opportunity to find out more about her for this profile.
(Photo: “Branch with Labradorite and Drops” Necklace by Cindy Miller)
Raised in Alabama, Cindy is now a full-time studio artist. “I’m single and live in Athens, Alabama with my Maine Coon Cat Taz – she’s a big girl and ‘helps’ me a lot,” she smiled. “I have also been adopted by several feral cats that live in the neighborhood so I always have an escort to my car. I live on the Tennessee River next door to my sister and her husband. They have created a beautiful retreat at the river and being there is very relaxing.”
With such an organised studio, I asked Linda if she was as organised as she sounds when she’s in full on creative mode. “I am very organized, that is, there is a place for everything, and I can generally grab what I need, because I know where it is (or should be),” she explained. “However, when I am in the midst of a project, tools and materials may not be put away right away. When things begin to pile up, I make the time to clear the decks…put everything where it belongs, so I can begin again to work with greater efficiency (and mess it up again). I do love walking into the studio at the beginning of the day and seeing that clutter. It is a reminder of how immersed I’ve been, and I kind of treasure that first impression. That aside, too much can be, well, too much, so I will start the day by rapidly placing everything in its own niche. This is a kind of meditation, a reminder to pace myself as I begin to work.”
She continued, “My studio is in a long room, the entrance to which is my main jewelry reference library for the studio. I’m a book person, preferring to learn from books, rather than videos. Actually my true preference for a learning experience is workshops, and I’ve taken a number of them over the years. At this point in my career, there are few classes that I feel I need to take, and would rather work things out on my own, when necessary. My books include: jewelry books including contemporary, ancient and ethnic jewelry, design books, ornament books, illuminated manuscript books, jewelry making books, monographs, naturalist books etc. Also on those shelves are components for future boxed pieces.” (Images“Vernalia Brooch Case”)
I think that browsing her library would be pretty relaxing but I asked Linda what she does when she needs to relax. “Read, garden, walk, take naps, knit/crochet, go to movies, spend time with friends, write, draw,” she said, although with so much time spent in the studio, it’s hard to imagine when she gets time for relaxing!
I was really interested to find out about Linda’s creative process. Her pieces are often complex with a strong story so I asked if she did much planning before starting work. “I do plan each piece. For the major pieces that will include an enclosure or box, there is a great deal of engineering involved in order for the piece, generally a neckpiece, to rest in its enclosure properly,” she explained. “For the jewelry itself the complexity of sketching involved depends on the type of jewel. For a neckpiece and earrings, I do a complete drawing, including simplified rendering in colored pencil. For finger rings, the drawings are limited to the shape and design of the shank, with other elements worked out as the piece progresses.” (Images: Sketch and piece “Astonishing Vistas”)I asked Linda to tell us a bit about her style. “I would describe my work as ‘narrative’. My pieces explore the fusion of many elements, for instance, the components, color, process or form, with the stories the objects relate to; each object speaking as a chronicle of connected imagery, symbols, and concepts that reflect an intimate symbology. They are complex and complicated structures that speak on many levels of human experience, especially humanity’s delight in the body-embellished.”
“As a result, mine are multitasking jewels, accessible on more than one level. Each jewel is essentially and intrinsically wearable art…adornment, for without that, they would not be jewels; they would be solely small sculpture in precious metal and gemstones. The engine that drives my creativity is the wearability of my work, and also the narrative quality implicit in the combined elements of each piece.” (Images: Sketch and “Mixed Messages”) “Therefore, there is more to my work than its wearability, however sufficient that aspect is. Aldous Huxley noted that human beings appreciate the transformative quality of stained glass windows, fireworks and gemstones. It is the possibility of that transformation that I hope to bring to the wearer of my jewels. Quite obviously, jewels are costumes; we put on jewelry as an element in which we cloak ourselves. We become the outwardness of the jewels we wear.”
Looking at Linda’s work, it is clear that she draws from a wide range of sources for inspiration. I asked her to let us in on her main influences. “Color, color, color…I’ve always incorporated multiple gemstones in my pieces, to add the vibrancy of color to my work. Recently I have been working on a series that is all about color, using vitreous enamels, and I’m finding that to be very exciting. Some primary influences are: the architectural fantasies of Brodsky and Utkin; the forms and materials of mediaeval reliquaries; the mysteries inherent in the work of William Harper, Keith LoBue and DX Ross; ancient jewels; the curiosities of Morgan Brigg; and science fiction. (Images: “Summer Breeze” and “Syncopator”) Even more central to my work is an appreciation of historical art forms from the ancient Middle East, specifically the Fertile Crescent. The Fertile Crescent is the region in the Middle East which curves, like a quarter-moon shape, from the Persian Gulf, through modern-day southern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and northern Egypt. Sculpture, jewels, written (some untranslated) languages, embellished and decorated ceramics are all influences. I feel connected to the design concepts, not in a whimsical, transmigrational way, but am drawn to the available materials and textures. I feel the same way about Sichuan ancient bronzes and their textural qualities. These interests certainly translate well using metal clay, as well as milled sheet.”
“Certainly DX’s and Harper’s influences are their freedom inherent in their design concepts, and their use of enamels, both of which I have found to be instrumental in encouraging me to break boundaries and add enamels to my work. Keith, well, he’s just Keith, where everything is fair game and nothing can be discounted and nothing can be considered too precious to mess with.”
With such a wide range of influences and some stunning work in her back catalogue, I asked Linda if she has one piece that holds a special place in her heart. “When my son was about five, he drew a caterpillar. When I began to enamel on metal clay, I made a pendant based on his drawing,” she said. Oh how sweet!
Linda uses a wide range of techniques alongside her work with metal clay. “I use the following techniques, each dependent on what an individual piece requires: Die-forming, patination, forging, soldering, chain making, cold connections (I am very fond of riveting), enameling, sawing, engraving, stamping, fold-forming, block printing, engraving etc. For my neckpieces I generally use a simple s-hook clasp normally combined with more elaborate ends to the chains.” (Image: “The Gift”) There are some techniques which she feels are important for anyone working in metal clay to learn. “Stone setting, soldering, sawing, filing and finishing are all important skills to acquire,” she said.
Linda’s pieces are highly desirable and I asked her where she sells her work. “From a period of time when I once did 21 shows a year (four of which were trade/wholesale shows), I am now only exhibiting my work at four shows, The Paradise City Arts Festivals. I am represented by one gallery: The Diana Felber Gallery, in West Stockbridge, MA.”
I asked Linda to tell us more about the amazing body of work that she has just completed. “My love of color has pushed me farther than just the inclusion of gemstones in my work. I have been pushing myself to learn more and more about the use of enamels, and the pendant neckpieces in my current indiegogo campaign, ‘From Drawings to Jewelry’, are prime examples of that investigation.” As the largest global site for fundraisers, Indiegogo helps individuals, groups and non-profits raise money online to make their ideas a reality through crowdfunding. (Image: “This Gathering”)“Here’s how that happened. Since doing the drawings years ago for my book, ‘Roots, Stems, and Branches; A Recollection’, so many of my jewel collectors (and others) have noted the resemblance of those drawings to jewelry, that I finally took a long, hard look at the drawings and realized they were right! It was a nice surprise to me, as I wasn’t thinking about drawing jewelry when I created those images. The artist is always the last to know, right?”
“So, over a year ago I began to explore making jewels based on the drawings, and the result was a long, exhausting, pleasurable, obsessive time at the bench, making ten pendant neckpieces. The cost in time and money was also exhausting and I thought it might be a good idea to try to offset some of the cost by starting a crowdfunding campaign. ‘From Drawings to Jewelry’ is the result of that.” (Image: “Walking Through Ancient Lives”) “As you can see from the images, the drawings, sketchbook pages, and the pendant neckpieces themselves, color is paramount in these pieces. And color for me is enamels. Not resin, not paint, not pigment… just vitreous enamels in all their glorious colors.”
Finally, I asked Linda what she would like to achieve creatively in the future. “At my age, I want only to be able to continue to make (and sell) my work to collectors who ‘get it’” she began. “It would be nice to achieve the credibility that having the work in museum collection affords, but, since the work is designed to be worn, and since museum collected jewels are never worn, I’m rather torn on this issue. Reality Check: I have not been invited to donate my work to museums…that’s a whole other story. I think I would rather continue to see my pieces worn.” So would we Linda!
This interview appeared in the 2nd anniversary issue of Metal Clay Artist Magazine in 2011. We loved Jen’s work then and continue to follow her career as a jewellery designer. (Note: New pieces from 2016 appear at the end of the article along with contact information to see the entire collection.)
She sells her work through several venues. “I have an Etsy shop and I sell my work at an outdoor Artist Market in Burlington on Saturdays from May through October. I also have my work in a lovely accessory boutique in Burlington called Trinket and I do a few local holiday craft shows and trunk shows.” I asked her what tips she had for artists who want to sell their work in the same way. “If you’re selling online, take fab photos. If you’re selling at a craft show, find or make great displays that jive with your work. And for selling in shops, approach shops/galleries very professionally and creatively. Remember, every part of everything is an opportunity to be creative! Use letterhead with an image of your jewelry on it. If you’re delivering work in a box, make the box beautiful. These are all chances to show how passionate and how good you are and to impress that on people.”
She finds inspiration in science fiction and fantasy and loves a good story where disbelief can be suspended in favour of wonder. Her practical and ultra-organised side is always vyingfor attention alongside her creative and messy side. Each is trying hard to learn from the other and live in harmony.
She’s been creative from an early age. “There’s the really early mud pie phase, but my first efforts at actually making something would be when I was about six or seven and my grandmother taught me to sew on her Singer treadle sewing machine. Not sure how I reached the treadle, but I’ve been sewing ever since. I was hell bent on becoming a fashion designer. Now I’m relieved that never happened and I still enjoy making my own clothes.”
She continued, “I was pushing 40 when I began making and selling my jewellery. Before that, my resume reads like a novella. I worked in clothing retail, was a department store buyer at 19 and assistant manager of a mall store boutique at 21, then moved on to more clerical work, working in offices, then banks and real estate lending. My favourite job title was File Librarian for the Medicaid Billing System for the State of Florida … talk about a paper pusher! I’m a firm believer it’s never too late to discover and follow your bliss.”
Kathy considers herself to be a designer/maker rather than a jeweller. She lives in Gainesville, Florida with her husband. “Dave and I will have been married for 36 years in July 2016. We currently share our home with one senior citizen kitty, 18 year old Miss Zoe. Last year we bought a classic mid-century, concrete block and terrazzo floors ‘atomic ranch’. It’s an east/west orientation and has the most wonderful morning and afternoon light, perfect for leisurely mornings sipping tea and reading the NY Times.”
Her work is so unique, I asked her what her main influences are. “It kind of depends on what I’m making. My more minimal CORE body of work tends to be inspired by patterns in nature and clothing. Repetition of form is a regular theme in my work. How many ways can I use just one element? And in clothing, I’m kind of obsessed with a whole genre of European and Japanese designers whose work is raw and somewhat avant-garde.”
“My Urban Primitive work is inspired by the ornament of ancient cultures of the South Pacific, Oceania and South America as well as Japanese folk potters. And for general visual juice, the NY Times Style magazine and the Wall Street Journal monthly magazine always have at least one little inspiring bit of something.” I asked Kathy which of her pieces she feels reflect these influences best. “My ‘Stacked Cubes’ necklace is an excellent example of the clothing/repetition inspirations and ‘Aegean Muse’ very much speaks to the Oceania/tribal influences.”
Like many of her contemporaries, Kathy first heard about metal clay in the article in Ornament Magazine in the 1990’s. “I can honestly say that article changed my life,” she explained. “It was about the first group of makers with Tim McCreight at the helm, set up for a week or so by Mitsubishi at Haystack School in Maine.
Coming from a clay and pottery background and having no real interest in traditional metalsmithing or fabrication, it was literally a dream come true.” “My clay background was immensely helpful – no fear of kilns! Late ’97, I bought a 100 gram lump of original PMC, hauled out my clay tools and dove in with a tiny clay test kiln with manual controls that I rigged up with a digital pyrometer. I had to watch the temperature and dial down the controls until I could get it to hold at 1650 for the 2 hours. Tedious, but that was long before there were any small, affordable digital kilns. I think the first things I made were some dangly bits for earrings and beaded necklaces.”
“These are what I think of as my fancy, ‘look at what I can do’ show pieces. Each new version of metal clay allowed an expansion of techniques and experiments which led to my jewellery getting more and more elaborate as in my ‘Vertebrae’ collar.” This is PMC3 and white beach glass fumed by the silver, recycled glass beads wrapped with PMC3 strips, and the pendant is beach glass and glass frit. It’s all lashed together with linen.”
The nature of Kathy’s work is pretty organic so I was interested in how much planning goes into each piece. “I sketch a bit, but not much. I’m more likely to write descriptions of ideas with very rough sketches. In addition to bigger focal elements, I like to make a whole bunch of components, lots and lots of the same element. My CORE group of work is all about repetition of form and it’s always a joy to sit at my worktable working out all the ways an element can be used.”
“For the Urban Primitive pieces, I sit down to my worktable, see where my gaze lands and start pulling out gems and artifacts and bits and bobs. It feels very much like composing through improvisation. I assemble my palette and let intuition guide me. The completed piece is always a delightful surprise.”
As such a lover of metal clay, I asked Kathy if she used any other techniques in her work. “I do utilize some silver smithing skills, mostly very simple soldering with a butane torch and easy solder paste,” she explained. “I make all my own findings, ear wires and clasps. My variation on the “S” hook is forged and soldered. And cord, golly do I love making cord. I’ve taught myself how to ply cord into various thicknesses in lengths up to 6’ or 8’ and, via YouTube, how to braid 3 and 5 loop cords. The loop braided cords are time consuming and the length is limited by my arm span, not much as I’m 5’2”, but they are complex and lovely and a nice complement to my more minimal pieces. The cords in combination with hand cut leather and stitching provide a beautiful, earthy element to the work.”
I asked Kathy if she had a particular piece of work that really means something to her. “I remember the first big piece I sold. It was called ‘Le Monde’. It was a statement piece of graduated, highly textured original PMC beads alternating with artisan lampwork glass Basha beads by Barbara Metzger and Rory Ross’ raku beads. I was at a really teeny local craft show and had the piece with me, basically for show. A couple I knew, well known collectors and art patrons, wanted to buy it. I was stunned. ‘How much was it?’ Uhhhh, $800? SOLD! I packaged the piece up, sent the lovely couple on their way and then promptly burst into tears. I felt like I had truly arrived.”
I asked Kathy to tell me a bit more about where she sells her work. “At first, I sold my jewellery at juried craft fairs and wholesale to small galleries and women’s boutiques,” she explained. “In ’06 I designed a lovely little wholesale collection and connected with a team of sales reps. Through what was then the Gift Show circuit, they got my work into museum stores like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Seattle Art Museum and high-end craft galleries like Real Mother Goose in Portland, OR and the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite.
I’m really proud of the fact that at one point I had close to 50 wholesale accounts, all done by me, all fine silver PMC. I supported our family and put my husband through his first librarian certificate degree with my jewellery. These days, I have a couple of galleries that I still work with, but now I sell my work mostly through my own website.”
Images: “Landscape Rings” and “Landscape trio 3” by Kathy Van Kleeck
I asked Kathy what she is currently working on. “Interesting thing, this question and it’s got me quite gummed up. I’ve been developing a new group of jewellery with the working moniker of Bare Bones, looking to the ornament of very primitive cultures for inspiration and how to loosen up my already minimal work, make things less pristine. I’m exploring how I can further deconstruct what I do, make it less refined, almost crude, but still wearable and durable. I thought I was moving right along on this recent track, but deciding on an image to share stopped me dead. I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of tweaking, more exploration and revisiting some themes of past work.”
“Whatever I do next, it will be the most authentic expression of my aesthetic to date and since it’s all still very much in my head, I don’t have any images to share. As of right this moment, the ideas feel very fresh and exciting, making me want to step immediately away from this keyboard and get to work!”
She went on, “PMC3 remains my favourite metal clay as it allows me to work very dry, folding and layering components till they barely hold together. To a lesser degree, I also use BronzClay and Hadar’s Steel. I’d like to do some larger, focal pieces in combination with other mediums. Right now, concrete is calling to me and maybe fused glass or eco resin or some combination of all of the above mediums and metal clays. A lot of what I do is pretty minimal and rustic. I want to go even further with that, in the vein of “art brut”, create work that is raw, but full of heart and life, work that is stripped to the absolute and essential core, but fully resolved and engaging.”
She finds inspiration in science fiction and fantasy and loves a good story where disbelief can be suspended in favour of wonder. Her practical and ultra-organised side is always vyingfor attention alongside her creative and messy side. Each is trying hard to learn from the other and live in harmony.