In 1987, I learned rudimentary jewelry skills by working for an artist friend who made and sold jewelry. Later, Fred "Skip" Hunter, the Metal Arts teacher at Eastern Michigan University, allowed me to take two classes at my alma mater, despite the fact that I was not currently enrolled. It led to more skills, knowledge of tools and the exquisite experience of learning in a workshop environment.
At EMU and through the Michigan Silversmith Guild, I took a weekend workshop with Arline Fisch on weaving metals, using fiber techniques.
When applying for a scholarship for a class at Penland School of Craft in 1990, I needed to provide a resume and educational history. So, I took a piece of turquoise paper and a purple pen, and wrote:
I got the scholarship. It was the first time I was immersed in a workshop envirnoment for two whole weeks. I loved it.
During my first year as full-time jeweler, I sold my work at the A2 Farmers Market while I waited to get into shows. The Market taught me a lot, and prepared me for the self-employment I have enjoyed ever since.
I ws trying to make a $20 earring for the market when I put the fibers "back in", creating an earring with metal and thread. As soon as I had sewn the thread in, I knew: "that needs some beads!" Thus I made three pair of earrings, thinking: "it's a great earring, but no one will ever buy it!".
They sold. Made more. On and on. My original teacher had instilled in me to "create a bread and butter line" — work that could be done over and over (whether you are feeling creative or not!).
I haven't run out of ideas yet, and if I could skip sleep and make more jewelry, I would.
Later, the first year I displayed my work at winter shows in Florida, I met a woman who told me about the Florida Society of Goldsmiths. When she told me about the classes being planned by the Northwest chapter for January of the next year, I was smitten.
I took a stone setting workshop with John Cogswell. And then I took 14 more, one each year. FSG made me a metalsmith.
The only thing better than wearing jewelry is making it.
I'm sitting next to Joel Roberts Poinsett, or rather a bronze statue of Joel in front of the Old Courthouse in Greenville, SC. Besides being my bud, Joel is best known for having brought the poinsettia to the United States from Mexico, where he was the first US ambassador.