I know I’m always talking about the talented artists on Etsy, but I recently found one that I feel is truly exceptional. Danielle Miller opened her shop in December 2007 and her work is some of the best I’ve seen on Etsy. I love it when I find an artist whose work inspires me to take my own to the next level. I am pleased to say she agreed to answer my questions and post some photos of her work on my blog. Enjoy!
Where do you sell or display your work?
I am represented by about 50 galleries/retail stores. I also do one or two retail craft shows a year. I used to do more shows but since I had my children, I have had to cut back. Traveling and logistics is very difficult with toddlers! As a result, recently set up a shop on Etsy.
How long have you been making jewelry?
I made my first piece of jewelry in high school art class…22 years ago. But I HATED it! I despised the tedious work of sawing and filing. My teacher wouldn’t let us solder, so I missed out on all the fun! While at a summer art program, I had the opportunity to make a welded steel sculpture. That is where my passion for metal began. I began making (and loving) jewelry/silversmithing a few years later while in college. Then, I started my business 13 years ago and went to work full-time for myself 10 years ago.
How did you learn to make metal jewelry?
I learned many jewelry making techniques in college. First, I attended Moore College of Art & Design…I took an intro to jewelry class as a freshman and I fell in love, despite the fact that I hated it a few years previous. A year later, I transferred to Tyler School of Art, Temple University to enroll in their well-known jewelry program. After college I worked for a master goldsmith…That’s where I learned how to work with gold and platinum.
What is your favorite metal to work with?
I guess my favorite metal would be sterling silver. I like the white-white color (opposed to the yellow-white of white gold), it’s malleable nature, that it can take a black patina and can take a fair amount of heat. Since it is relatively inexpensive (when compared to gold or platinum) my design possibilities can be more experimental. I also like 18k gold. The color of 18k is so rich. I often combine sterling and 18k in my jewelry designs.
What are some of your other favorite materials?
I wouldn’t call it a favorite, but I use a lot of pearls and colored stones. I would love to come up with a unique, non-traditional material to incorporate into my designs to add color and texture… but I always go back to stones for color.
What is your favorite tool/equipment to use in your work?
There are several tools in my studio that I constantly use and love. But, I think my Smith “Little Torch” is my favorite. I was introduced to this torch while working for the goldsmith. At the time, I was using a Presto-lite torch (acetylene mixed with air). After using the Little Torch at work, I immediately bought one for my own studio and it changed my life! It sounds strange and dramatic, but it’s true! It allowed me to do things that my old torch wouldn’t…My work evolved using it. To continue with the dramatics…I also love, and would be LOST without, my Foredom flex shaft and my tubing jig.
Is your studio at home or do you rent/own separate studio space?
My studio is a building in my backyard. I love that it is so close to home but not IN my home…especially because I now have 2 young children. It is about 550 sq/feet and VERY messy…I’m a bit of a slob!
What is your dream piece of equipment?
This is a tough question because I’m a tool junkie. There are lots of tools I want…but I would say the DREAM piece of equipment would actually be a CAD program. I’ve been intrigued with Matrix 3D Jewelry Design Software by Gemvision. I think it would be great to have for custom engagement rings and more traditional jewelry designs.
What is your least favorite technique?
I didn’t like tedious sawing when I was introduced to jewelry in high school and I STILL don’t like it! I consider myself a fairly patient person, but when it comes to piercing and sawing…I loose all patience! I break so many sawblades! I am in awe of those who have beautiful pierced designs.
What technique do you find most challenging?
Challenging but gratifying: Complex, hand fabricated clasps and mechanisms. I have to change gears and slow down when it is time to make precision mechanisms. I love doing it, it just takes a certain frame of mind for me.
Challenging and frustrating: Carving wax. I am very much an additive not a subtractive artist. If I practiced more or took a workshop, I’m sure I’d get the hang of it. I just don’t do it often and as a result, am not very good at it.
Is there a technique you don’t know yet that you’d like to learn?
I’d love to take an intensive workshop on advanced stone setting. I would like to be more efficient at channel setting and would like to learn how to pave and bead set.
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 use simple geometric forms as the building blocks for most of my designs, which are inspired by architecture, machines, toys and nature. When I get a new idea I try to get a quick sketch down on paper. Many of my designs are modular…so as I make the parts I start to move things around before things are completely assembled. As a result, sometimes the design evolves or completely changes, many times it grows into a whole collection of jewelry (eg: bracelets, earrings and necklaces). Since I do so much wholesale, I try to make complete, cohesive collections and add 10-30 new designs per year.
Do you have any resource recommendations (books, websites, etc) for people who want to learn to make metal jewelry?
My husband is also a metal artist (he teaches jewelry and metals) and we are constantly buying jewelry books. We have a fairly extensive library of how-to books and picture books. Tim McCreight’s “The Complete Metalsmith” is a must have for any beginner! It has a little bit of everything in it and it is easy to read/use. I always have my old paperback copy by my bench for quick referencing. Any of Lark Books’ 500 series are great for eye candy and inspiration. For specific techniques and inspiration, my new favorite book is “The Penland Book of Jewelry: Master Classes in Jewelry Techniques.”
Here is an example of Danielle’s husband, Ben Gilliam’s work:
You can view more of Danielle’s work here: