I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to start including some interviews on my blog since I am very interested in the creative process of other artists. To begin, I decided to “interview” myself.
Where do you sell or display your work?
Online at hollywest.etsy.com.
How long have you been making jewelry?
I have been making jewelry off and on for about twenty years. However, I didn’t get serious about it until 2001, when I took my first handmade jewelry class at UCLA Extension. From the course description, I wasn’t sure what it entailed, and boy was I surprised to learn our first project was making sterling silver wire from scratch.
How did you learn to make metal jewelry?
I guess I kind of answered that question above, but I’ll elaborate here. From the beginning, I learned to make everything from scratch, down to adding alloys to pure gold and silver (although this is something my jewelry teacher does for me–I don’t think he trusts me with that much heat). From that first class in 2001 I’ve continued taking classes with the same instructor, however now I rent space in his private studio. He’s there to offer support and instruction when needed but generally I work on my own.
Now that I know the basic techniques of metalsmithing, I’ll often save time by buying wire, sheet, jump rings, et cetera instead of making them myself. However, knowing how to do it is invaluable in my design work because I can construct things to my exact specifications when needed.
What is your favorite metal to work with?
I absolutely love working with 18k yellow gold. When I first started making jewelry gold was at about $340 an ounce and now it’s over $900 so I use it sparingly.
Most of my work is in silver these days, which is another metal I love to work with.
What are some of your other favorite materials?
I love gemstones, especially beads. Some of my favorites are rhodolite garnet, swiss blue topaz, and lemon quartz. I also love andalusite and all colors of tourmaline. As for diamonds, I don’t work with them very often, but I do love the look of rough cut and “champagne” diamonds.
Is your studio at home or do you rent/own separate studio space?
I have an almost fully equipped studio at home, but as I said above I also rent studio space once a week.
Since I live in a condominium I am limited in a couple of ways with regard to my studio space. First, I am still using a small butane torch because frankly, I don’t trust myself with anything stronger at home. Second, I don’t have a rolling mill because there is nothing I can bolt it to. This is one of the reasons I still rent studio space. There I have all the equipment I need and I don’t have to worry about maintaining it myself. I generally do larger, more advanced projects there and save the small stuff for home.
What is your favorite tool/equipment to use in your work?
I love my flexshaft! It does so many things, I couldn’t make jewelry without it.
What is your dream piece of equipment?
For some reason I am having trouble answering this. I suppose the answer would be casting equipment, but I will never do that. Too dangerous!
What is your favorite technique?
I really like setting stones in bezels. And who doesn’t like the stress-relieving activity of hammering metal?
What is your least favorite technique?
There are two: drawing wire and sawing intricate shapes or thick pieces of metal. I am also not a big fan of making tubing or tube settings, and I rarely do it.
What technique do you find most challenging?
I still have a lot of trouble with prong settings, even though I love to make them.
Is there a technique you don’t know yet that you’d like to learn?
I’d love to learn pave. I’d also love to learn wax carving and casting (I’ve dabbled in wax carving but for some reason didn’t take to it. I’d like to give it a second chance).
How does the design process work for you? For example, do you sketch your ideas first, or do they just come to you as you work?
I will sometimes sketch designs before I make them, but not very often. I mostly do that if I have an idea that I don’t want to forget so I do a rough sketch. Many of my ideas come to me in the moments between wake and sleep. I think my mind is freer and more open for creativity then. A lot of my ideas come from the metal itself and the techniques I use to manipulate it. Sometimes I’m not sure what I want to do so I just start cutting or hammering or bending and the design creates itself.
Do you have any resource recommendations (books, websites, etc) for people who want to learn to make metal jewelry?
I think Jewelry Two Books in One: Projects to Practice and Inspire by Madeline Coles is a good entry level jewelry making book.
I have a number of interviews lined up to post in the coming weeks/months. Should be good reading!