Monday, July 1, 2013

An Interview with Our Jewelry Artisan

Carnelian Bead Necklace
Carnelian Bead Necklace with Hand-formed Copper Links
Those of you who have read my earlier posts, visited our Etsy shop's "About" page, or checked out our Gallery site know that Annake's Garden (the business!) is a collaborative effort of several artisans; and while you've heard quite a bit about my -- Annake's -- methods and work in progress, you haven't really met the rest of our motley crew.

This time I'm interviewing one of the Annake's Garden's artisans who makes original jewelry from wire and natural gemstones. And, no, I'm not going to introduce her; for that, you'll HAVE to check our Etsy shop's "About" page!

How long have you been making jewelry?   "I did quite a bit of beadwork as a young adult. Later I taught my daughter and some of her teenaged friends to make beaded jewelry. I've been making wire and gemstone jewelry for about five years now."

Sue at Work
At work on a current project
How did you get started?   "It all goes back to my love of the outdoors. My older son and I like to spend time in the forests and on the hills. While he fished, I'd look for rock specimens. He found that he enjoyed being a “rockhound”, too, and we soon acquired a lot of specimens. I began to use a tumbler to polish promising rocks. Soon we had a large number of tumbled stones. Then a friend sold my son a rock saw and he began cutting slabs from larger specimens. In no time, it seemed, we had buckets full of slabs. I returned to our friend and asked what we should do with them, since the situation was getting out of hand. He handed me some silver wire and a pair of pliers and told me to make jewelry."

Beads and Tools
Some of the artisan's tools and materials
Where have you and your son hunted for gemstones?   "In Colorado, of course, but also in Oregon, California, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, South Dakota and Nevada. We've particularly enjoyed hunting in Nevada because the people there were so helpful and welcoming. People have also contributed specimens to our collection from as far away as Panama. We would like to plan future trips to the diamond crater in Arkansas, to North Carolina, and to Alaska."

Sue Doing Something Mysterious
What IS she doing?
You obviously enjoy making jewelry. What attracts you to it?   "The materials themselves. The feel of gemstones is very important to me. Not only do the stones have different colors and textures, they seem to have different temperatures. Stones like garnets, labradorite, and carnelian feel warm to me. Turquoise, jade, and tiger eye --- despite its warm colors --- feel cool. I don't believe I have ever combined 'warm' and 'cool' stones in the same piece, but it will be interesting to try. Lately I have been working also with shell, pearls, and other oceanic materials. Pearls are especially touchable. I love to use copper wire because of its warmth and color, as well as its malleability. I use silver because it is so versatile. In fact, I have plans to combine the two in some future pieces."

Crocheting Wire
Closeup of  the artisan's hands at work
How do you begin a project? Do you make sketches?   "No. I take two approaches. If I have a definite design in mind, I look through my collection, choosing stones that look and feel right for that design. I like to start with a pendant and later make compatible pieces like earrings, rings, and bracelets. Once I have laid out the stones, I cut and shape all the metal pieces. Lastly, I position beads, pearls or other small elements. If I need inspiration, I just get the stones out and “play” with them until a pattern quickens in my mind. It is challenging to see a project through from idea to artifact."

Silver Pendant with Jasper Beads
A simple Silver Pendant strung with Jasper Beads

What part of the process do you find the hardest?  "One of the harder things is to find or make a clasp that goes well with the finished piece. I'm always looking for new clasps and clasp designs. I re-purpose clasps from older and out-of-style pieces. I know a lot of older people who have virtually given up wearing jewelry because they can no longer manage the fasteners. I think that's a shame. For those people I use a lot of magnetic clasps. I also don't mind recycling pieces --- “orphan” earrings, for example--- and incorporating them into new pieces of jewelry."

Crocheted Copper Wire Bracelet with Pearls
Crocheted Copper Wire Bracelet with Pearls
What new projects are you working on?   "I've brought one along to show you how I'm working on it. I've combined my interest in crochet with my interest in jewelry-making. This will be a cuff bracelet crocheted from a fine gauge of copper wire that has small pearls worked into it. I think a matching collar would be another fascinating project. Perhaps I'll do that next."

How do you feel about man-made gemstones? "There are many beautiful ones available and I'm sure technology will produce more. I think there is a need to define what “natural stone” means. Do we include reconstituted and laboratory-grown? I believe that stones actually found in Nature will become increasingly valuable as sources dwindle and access to them becomes restricted. I think we will see more use of agates, jaspers, quartzes, etc. Personally, I prefer to work with natural stones. They feel right to,me, whereas many of the man-made materials do not. It's as if they have no 'soul'."

Any other benefits of your work?  "It's therapeutic. And (laughing), of course, I now have more jewelry than I could ever wear. "

I hope you enjoyed hearing from someone besides me, for a change --  I'll be interviewing more of our artisans in coming months, and may even be able to talk some into guest blogging here. As always, your comments and suggestions are eagerly awaited...

Cowrie Necklace and Earring Set
Cowrie Necklace and Earring Set, now available in our Etsy shop
 Creative Commons LicenseThis post by Annake's Garden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


  1. I love that crochet bracelet above. So pretty, romantic, and intricate!

  2. Thanks so much for the comment! Look for the completed bracelet in our Etsy shop in the very near future.


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