About the Artist
I was raised in the Boston area, and studied jewelry making at an early age. I took my first class at age twelve, and pursued metalsmithing on my own through high school. I went to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia to earn my BFA. While I was in school, I worked two separate jobs on Jewelers' Row in Philadelphia to earn money for living expenses and class supplies. Although it was challenging to work so much and go to school, I was lucky enough to be part of several trade shops that employed craftsmen from Europe. I learned as much from them as I did in school.
After more than a decade in traditional jewelry making, including a few years as head model maker for a large company on the East Coast, I felt that it was time for a significant change. I moved to the Inland Northwest, and began to pursue life as an independent artist. The beautiful landscape had an immediate effect on me. I was inspired by the connection of earth and water in the Spokane area, where I now live. There are so many rivers and tributaries winding through the rolling hills. Beautiful mountain ranges are covered with deep forests, and there are a multitude of lakes where they meet. Although I will always be grateful for the opportunities I had on the East Coast, in the Inland Northwest, I feel that I am home at last.
Along with nature, I have always been influenced by the visual signs and symbols humans have made. From our earliest ancestors to our most avant guard modern artists, people have sought to understand the world around them through art. I have always been most particularly influenced by ancient cultures, and this has lead me to many years of study. I am fascinated with the ways different world cultures use visual imagery and hidden symbolism to express emotional concepts.
Many of these ideas became very personal. The glyphs and markings of long ago cultures resonated with emotional and spiritual qualities. Each time I would come across symbols that spoke to me, I sought ways to use them on my own journey. I wanted to incorporate these inspirations to make pieces which could have as much emotional and symbolic significance to others as to my own self. For me, when I wear a piece of my own work, whether I am first putting it on or handling it throughout the day, I am reminded of the messages I have hidden in each one. Then, their mystic qualities can become part of my everyday life.
In presenting my work, I have found a strong resonance for my amulets. It seems that the pieces I care so much about personally also touch other people who are seeking connection and spirituality. The wearable art I make speaks to people about their own journeys and the inherent peace and comfort they often find in the natural world. That makes me hopeful about my work, that the jewelry I make becomes very personal and individual for each wearer, and yet, our stories are connected to the long human tradition of melding art with life.
One set of symbols that has had a significant effect on me are the Nordic Runes. For a long time, I have used them for personal work, casting Rune patterns to assist me with understanding the daily twists and turns of being an independent artist. I found that using them on a regular basis was so helpful, and sometimes so astonishing that I wanted to interpret them in my own way, by melding their concepts with my own designs. I had been making work that is carved on all surfaces for a long time. I frequently put a completely different design on two sides of the same piece. When I began to pair ancient Runic letters with my own visual interpretations, it led me into a whole new body of work.
I started to see that my years of symbolic study could be shared more broadly in a series of small group workshops and I now teach classes on what I call "The Art of Runes". In these classes, I explore the tradition of Runes by sharing my journey towards self-understanding through symbolic images, and presenting ideas for others to do similar kinds of personal work.
The three part class culminated in a workshop I call "The Way of the Maker" and those who took the class with me made their own Runes from hand collected tree bark and natural earth minerals, using only rocks and twigs as tools. I wanted, as much as possible, to help people feel connected to the ancient tradition of creating items to wear that had symbolic meaning. Once the Runes were made, people could make them be wearable by stringing them on a hemp or leather cord around the neck. Some people chose to connect their Runes together to form bracelets made solely of natural materials.
It was so rewarding to present these ideas in an interactive workshop format. In the near future, I plan on expanding this concept with some of the other symbol systems I have devoted myself to studying. I want to work with the Sanskrit Chakras next, using my Chakra Lotus pieces as a starting point for another 3 part workshop on ancient ideas and modern interpretations.
With my work studying symbols as a base, I create art with detailed drawings of nature. I put symbols in the bark of trees, float them on the water, hide them in the wings of a dragonfly. I am fascinated with way markings and glyphs can subtly influence emotional environments, and draw fantasy landscapes to create a mood and evoke a feeling.
With the drawings keeping me company at the workbench, I carve blocks of wax into intricate, volumetric shapes. I add detail to every surface, including the front, back and inside of each piece, creating multiple images on one item. These tiny, hand made sculptures become the master models the next stage of the process.
The traditional technique of lost wax casting is the main technique use to turn my miniature carvings into silver. This lengthy and complex process change hand made waxes into precious metal. Often I will solder cast pieces together, then add more detail with burs and gravers. Sometimes I like to build complex mechanisms for the more involved pieces, and these can including clasps, swivels and hinges. I also love the color and symbolic significance of gemstones, and sometimes use them as focal points in my work.
Although I live in Spokane, in the last few years I have been traveling the country attending well-known juried shows for most of every spring and summer. Under my company name of Silver Element Jewelry, I have covered thousands of miles to share my art and my symbolism at outdoor crafts festivals.
Life on the road is can be very hard, though, and I would really like to spend more time focusing on my art. Even though I really like exploring new places and meeting many different kinds of people, if I was able to have more time in the studio, I could work on developing the connection between my art and this new strong pull towards teaching.
Last year, as part of a multi layered approach to changing the way I earn my living as an artist, I opened a seasonal showroom in the chic Kendall Yards District. In this beautiful little space I offer my art jewelry during special events and numerous holidays. The Studio, as I like to call it, is also where I am hosting a growing number of symbol workshops. I am very excited about these new approaches, since they will help me add the final piece to my working repertoire.
After many years, I can once again begin to create custom pieces for individual clients. This process allows me to spend time with specific people, to design pieces for them that reflect their own personal journeys. I want to help them express their stories with a wearable piece of art. I work with people intimately, finding ways to transform their own emotional landscapes into a highly personal pieces. These are often wedding rings but have also been intricately worked pendants with deep symbolic meaning.
To see some of these custom pieces, you can go to my Facebook page. There you will also find photos from on the road shows, and impromptu images of some of my work shot in my booth on a hot summer's day. For more information on shows at the Studio or on the road, please see my Show Schedule page.