Tangible Beauty

CreateYourOwnPortrait: Making Dreams Real

Crafting has given me great happiness all my life. I love to work with my hands; it's meditative and healing. I also love to write, and began to dream of being an author when I was a little girl. After many years of working as hard as I dreamed, that wish came true. While seeing my first novel go out into the world was a thrill, I'm still not done dreaming. I am striving to successfully synthesize different kinds of art in my life: the art of writing as well as the art of making beautiful jewels.

As a writer, I spend a lot of my time concerned with intangible stories, ideas and emotions that live in my heart and mind. Creating tangible objects gives me a chance to make and share beauty in a different way. In fabricating metal and gemstone jewels using traditional methods, I hope to share a kind of beauty that can adorn the body, mark significant milestones, be kept and treasured for years, and be handed down from one wearer to another.

I love the idea of relics, totems, charms and heirlooms -- treasures that take on special significance because of the pleasure and comfort they give as well as the love they receive. I believe there can be as much power -- and certainly as much beauty -- in objects as in words.

What connects my writing and metalsmithing? An unabashed celebration of the senses. I believe we are on this earth in part to delight in what we see, smell, touch, hear and taste. I love both words and objects that appeal to the senses, and I hope my offerings will make the experience of being alive a little more pleasurable.

The name of my workshop is Milk and Roses, and relates to simple pleasures and stems partly from my love of flowers. I worked in flower shops for many years, and I see a connection between jewels and blooms. No two pieces of handcrafted jewelry are alike, just as no two flowers are; both give happiness and pleasure.

I took my first metalsmithing class at the UC San Diego Crafts Center in 1998, and was immediately smitten. I completed additional classes in metal fabrication and lost wax casting at the Bear Canyon School of Art in Bozeman, Montana. I studied Literature as an undergrad, and earned MA degrees in English and Native American Studies. All aspects of my education converge: I am inspired by the heroines of my favorite novels when I make jewels, as well as by indigenous cultures in which adornments can have spiritual and symbolic significance.

THE JEWELS: THEIR LOOK AND CREATION

My aesthetic is simple and timeless, with what I hope will be a hint of wabi-sabi soulfulness. TreasureoftheSeaBalticAmber Most of my jewels would make as much sense on a woman's hand 100+ years ago as they do today -- my favorite era for jewelry is circa 1900. They also look like they've been fashioned by hand; they aren't too sleek or cookie-cutter.

My primary tools are a jeweler's saw, ring mandrel, mallet, small butane torch, assorted files and sandpapers, and gem-setting instruments. I take no shortcuts, use no glue and make one individual piece at a time. The only machine in my shop is a small tumbler, used for polishing. I spend a lot of hands-on time with every item before it becomes available for purchase. Virtually all of my metal is recycled, and I am very selective in sourcing my gemstones; each one is as individual as a person, with its own singular beauty and quirks. I feel so lucky to spend time with these truly amazing fruits of the earth.

My workshop is an enclosed porch at my tiny home, an old house built in 1904 in Livingston, Montana, Because I find so much solace and inspiration in the natural workd -- plants, flowers, rivers, the moon and stars, the changing seasons -- Montana is the perfect spot for me. I feel blessed to be here. I both find and make tangible beauty in this wonderful place, and I hope some of the happiness I feel in doing so will be contagious.

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