I’ve been making and selling jewelry for a looong time. I started my company in 1991 by exhibiting a few crocheted silver pieces at an exhibition at Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design, then known simply as Craft Alliance. CA is an alma mater of sorts for me. I interned there my senior year of high school, and later worked there as Gallery Shop Buyer/Manager, from 1999 to 2004. CA has figured significantly in my life.
Being part of the American craft scene has always meant a lot to me. Making handmade, three-dimensional objects from a tradition of functionality fit for me artistically in a way that traditional fine art didn’t. Originally, I wanted to be a painter, but I didn’t have anything to paint about. Things might be different now that I’m an adult, but the paintings I’ve made are so mixed-media/3D that I think I’ll find better expression by sticking to that craft root.
From the beginning, my jewelry work has been informed by fashion design. This is artist-speak for, “I like to make things in metal, but really I’m into fabric.” This is one of the reasons I started crocheting in metal so many years ago. Many people already know my story, that my grandmother taught me to knit when I was a little girl. It was one of her crochet hooks I discovered in an old sewing box many years later that inspired me to make stitches in silver.
My first pieces were squishy blobs without an inner structure to give them lasting shape. I really liked how crocheting the metal made what was usually a hard material soft, but the idea was not yet strong enough, either physically or artistically, to yield an object with any sort of lifespan. I developed two approaches to resolving this problem: first, I crocheted a tube form. Because metal holds a bend, I was able to crochet a round of stitches, then move backward along the tube and pull additional stitches through the first ones. This gave the walls of the tube density, making them strong enough to hold up to wear. Some of the most popular and enduring items in my line, the Ariadne Necklace and
Bracelet, are designed around this concept. With those, I slide freshwater pearls to my silver wire before I crochet, pulling up a pearl and trapping it in place with the following stitch. Both of these pieces use another feature about which I find customers like, the sterling silver toggle. I still make each of these by hand, one at a time, polishing them before I cast on to crochet the designs.
The second approach involved fabricating sterling wire into structures I could crochet onto, sort of like building little sculptures to cover with a fine skin. This approach provided more than one revelation. In addition to solving the issues of strength and wearability, the structures I built created the opportunity to manipulate different weights of line, since the wire I soldered together was, by necessity, heavier than the wire I crocheted. I had always been fascinated by the effects of layering transparent fabrics in clothing design; this was my version of incorporating the layering concept into my jewelry work. The silver Bamboo Cuff is a good example of this idea in action. I first made this piece in 1999, and it’s still one of my favorites!
Thank you for accompanying me on my stroll down memory lane. It’s gratifying to find that the design ideas I developed so many years ago continue to be relevant. Any of these pieces can be worn and loved today!
Please leave a comment if you’d like to hear more posts like this. Stay well, and take good care of each other.