Alright, thank you for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, how did you get started?
Jewelry making is not where my art journey first started; far from it! The Background – I enjoyed every medium of mark-making on paper as a child, and I think the first one I fell in love with was colored pencils. I enjoyed drawing and painting realism in junior high, high school, and early in college. It was great learning how to fine-tune those skills and draw from life models. As I picked up other classes like sculpture and ceramics, I was challenged to work with unfamiliar materials and ideas, and we were encouraged to think about art illustrating a concept rather than reproducing or documenting a three-dimensional object on paper or in a different medium. Learning to work with new materials was interesting and exciting, and in hindsight, working in an abstract or completely non-objective way was a big game-changer in where my art was headed. My degree from Indiana State University was in Interdisciplinary Studio, and I had taken some art education courses. I hoped an ideal job would find me since I never fully completed the teaching degree. Art making had to be a part of my life, though creating full-time was unlikely.
Right after college, I had a few different part-time jobs (at least one was at a gallery! The Halcyon). During this time, I was also commissioned to paint a few pet portraits, specifically dogs. I also painted a portrait of a woman’s parents for a memorial, and a thoroughbred racehorse for an acquaintance at the coffee shop where I worked down the street from the gallery. Working at a gallery gave me a space to show the other paintings I was making. Somewhere in this period, I started to experiment with hot glue and tried to incorporate it into a painting to see if it would create some resistance to layering colors. I found the hot glue so interesting that I started to work with it sculpturally by itself! That led to showing a complete installation of hot glue sculptures in the gallery, and once again, art was exciting because I love problem-solving. And I loved the element of mystery.. No one knew what the medium was at first when they approached it. After a year, the problem became: what to do with the little experimental blobs of hot glue, a bucket or two that had become nothing to show? It bothered me so much that the only option was to throw it away. It was going to a landfill. I still have it somewhere in the depths of my studio. I knew I didn’t want more buckets full of hot glue or any other waste.
Here’s what was happening simultaneously – The gallery I was working in was connected to The Sheldon Swope Art Museum, and I was asked to teach a few of their summer art classes. A recycled jewelry class was offered the year before, which sounded like a lot of fun! And earrings appeared to be a simple concept…make two small identical hanging sculptures, one for each ear. They did not even need to match perfectly, but it is a great built-in challenge when that’s the goal. Jewelry has perimeters, and it is also very artsy. I found things with pop tabs, bottle caps, buttons, safety pins, washers, and string. It was a lot of fun to teach the class. From that I played with cork to make a few pairs for myself, applying decals and a protective coating. They were quirky and lightweight, and that’s what led me to working with aluminum cans too. I had an immediate place to start selling them in the gallery, and people were receptive to this fun, repurposed items.
Painting comes back into the scene on occasion when I paint on metal, or very rarely, when I make space to pull out my oil paints. As I made pieces that were even more interesting: necklaces from CDs, lots of discarded metals, my jewelry started to look a bit more impressive and unique! I started selling my jewelry in a boutique in downtown Terre Haute, Modern Charm, with many handmade items, so I felt that my audience grew even more at that time. I started directing the art programming for the Swope Art Museum, which improved my organizational skills and expanded my horizons. I sold my jewelry at small art fairs in Terre Haute, Noblesville, and Indianapolis. Sometimes the necklaces I made were substantial enough to be entered into local gallery shows. I was blown away that they could be shown next to drawings, paintings, photography, and sculptures, all finer materials than my cast-off, found objects. The most surprising thing is that my jewelry found its way into a new state in 2022, Missouri! You can find it for sale at the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles.
Within the last decade, I have moved into a full-time position at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology as the Art Curator. I’ve become a mom, and I decided along the way that my jewelry-making was a small business. In 2022, I also created a website, lovelyupcycledthings.com. I also post content on Instagram showing the process of creating some of my jewelry. Content creation has been problem-solving in new and interesting ways. I’ve been ‘playing’ with upcycling drum set cymbals most recently, which has been well-received. It’s very fun to make into Instagram reels. Working with electrical wire in the last year has added some fun color to my work, and it’s one of the mystery materials that people are excited to see repurposed. I’m at a point where I’m trying to carve out even more time to make jewelry. I have no shortage of ideas!
You wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been smooth?
Being a self-employed, full-time artist/maker would be a very difficult journey. Fortunately, wherever I worked part-time or full-time, co-workers encouraged me and supported my creative side and my artwork. I never stopped making things at any point, since I’ve always felt a need to create, and I’m always curious about new mediums and materials. I find that it’s important to be disciplined in the right ways to make time for art-making and remain free-spirited and open to changing and moving on to the next idea or medium. The final step: I must be brave enough to put that out into the world. Trusting the process and my own taste has been very important!
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. What can you tell our readers who might need to be more familiar with what you do?
My jewelry always has a prior life. I’ve repurposed or upcycled another item. Through manipulation and design, I transform the material so that the origins are not necessarily obvious. As I’ve worked with new materials, I’ve accepted the challenge of each one with open arms and an open mind, especially when someone hands things to me in hopes that I’ll be able to use it. I’ll always try to do that! And if I’m known for making original designs with these materials, that is how I want my work to be remembered.
Where do you see things going in the next 5-10 years?
The trend in fashion is that handmade and unique accessories are more interesting and valued. I wonder if the onset of competition shows with artistic content and websites like Etsy created a culture of “finding the next big trendsetter/maker.” I certainly hope that trend continues because objects made by hand are often more special and unique! And I also hope that people will continue to embrace and support sustainably made items. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, or Upcycle.