Contemporary Spotlight: Donovan Cadman

 

15025540_1277177565667415_7558416769452384958_o.jpg

Welcome to another Contemporary Spotlight – This series was created to celebrate the Contemporary Navajo artist, and get to know a little bit about their thought process when it comes to design, inspiration, and execution. These events will allow the viewer an inside look at the artist, and interact with them in a respectful manner. We hope you enjoy our time together.

Hello Donovan, we are going to ask you a series of questions that we ask all our artists, to allow us a look into your life as an artist. Please feel free to share images of your work, and projects underway as you answer these questions.

DY: Where did you learn Silversmithing & What attracted you to it?

DC: Basically, Silversmithing is my life, it was only natural that I practice the skill and it has now become the financial livelihood of my own family. I have lived on the Navajo Nation, an Indian reservation equivalent to the size of West Virginia all my life, employment is limited leaving me with no other option but to be a silversmith, a trait that allows me to be with my family, otherwise, like many others, I would have to move away to neighboring cities for employment. Being here, I am now able to be a part of my granddaughter’s life. My late brother, David Reeves introduced me to this trade, through David I was introduced to Eric Bonecutter of Albuquerque, New Mexico. As a silversmith for Eric, I was able to gain some financial independence. Family practice and sustainable financial independence that allows me to provide for my growing family are my attributes to being a silversmith.

DY: Did you have a mentor that guided you?

DC: My late brother, David Reeves introduced me to this trade, through David I was introduced to Eric Bonecutter of Albuquerque, New Mexico. As a silversmith for Eric, I was able to gain some financial independence. Family practice and sustainable financial independence that allows me to provide for my growing family are my attributes to being a silversmith.

DY: Do you work on any other creative projects outside of silversmithing?

DC: My sole concentration is Silversmithing, I have not tried any other creative/artistic outlets and don’t recall having any other interest

DY: Do you remember the first piece you ever sold? What was it?

DC: A sterling silver concho belt that was sold almost immediately to Turney’s in Gallup, New Mexico. Simple gratitude and a sense of accomplishment, knowing I have made money to benefit my family.

DY: What/Where do you look for inspiration before beginning a project?

DC: My Childhood. Growing up on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, the landscape and environment provides endless inspiration. A favorite project, a sterling silver jewelry box with a scorpion and spider made of sterling silver on the box, Perry Null’s of Gallup, New Mexico purchased this box. Creativity is endless on the Navajo Nation.

DY: What is the most challenging part of your creative process? And why?

DC: The process of linking the design with the silver, stamp and the stone. The stone is the catalyst on the direction the design will be created. The stamp forms limitless of possibilities, a unique creation, each time.

DY: What part of the silversmithing process do you enjoy most?

DC: A finished piece, knowing from its creation, formation and completion, the product is a satisfying, completed piece.

DY: I noticed that your pieces have a nod to the Antique, what is the connection?

DC: It is a personal like, I’ve always liked the antique-ish look in native sterling silver jewelry. I also finish in high shine, but prefer the antique finish.

DY: In your opinion, how do silversmiths of the past inspire what the contemporary artists create today? And why?

DC: The past utilized a heavy gauge, making the stamping more prominent and utilizing stones, quality stones, both trademarks of the importance, significance of the trade.

DY: What pieces have you created and sold in the past that you wish you would have held on to? Is there an emotional attachment to your pieces? Why?

DC: Truthfully, no emotional attachments, I see each piece as a contribution to society, with creativity, its beauty believing it will have a positive impact on at least one life.

DY:  In your opinion, what part has social media played in the NA business whether positive or negative?

DC:  Social media is a positive and basically, free advertising. I get many positive responses, inquiries and orders from many, from various locations so I am good with social media from an artisan perspective.

DY: In your opinion, what role does an artist play in society, and how do you use your work to achieve this?

DC: A big role, I think. Creati

vity is a positive outlet, I believe extends to those who appreciate beauty craftsmanship and the dedication an artist puts into a piece.

DY: Finally, what are your future plans, and where do you hope to see yourself in 10 years?

DC: A goal or dream, the day my granddaughter will see a piece and display her appreciation or even dislike of a piece. The day she says, “Grandpa, I like that” with purity, I will know I’ve done a good job in creating something beautiful – she will be my gauge. Silversmithing has rendered financial independence for me, to ensure my family has food on the table, heat in the home and clothing. It is also a big part of my children in their higher education endeavors. Silversmithing has been good to my family and I.

Thank you for being here today, and taking time out of your busy schedule to share with the group a little about yourself & work.  

Contemporary Spotlight: Tonya June Rafael

29356444_1631136776975173_704624242668290551_n

Welcome to another Contemporary Spotlight – This series was created to celebrate the Contemporary Navajo artist, and get to know a little bit about their thought process when it comes to design, inspiration, and execution. These events will allow the viewer an inside look at the artist, and interact with them in a respectful manner. We hope you enjoy our time together.

Hello Tonya June Rafael, Thank you for being here today – We are very excited to have you in the group. Since we are new to your work, please give us a short Bio about your life prior to becoming a working artist.

TJR: Hello everyone!!! My name is Tonya June a Rafael. I am Navajo and live east of Gallup , New Mexico. I was raised by my maternal grandparents Tom and Mary Rafael. They were both silversmiths. I remember as a young girl probably around 8 years old… out of curiosity, I wanted to try to solder. So, I turned on my grandfather’s acetylene torch while he was away taking a lunch break. I lit up the torch and smelted my grandfather’s work into a glob of silver. I got scared and threw it under the table because I knew my grandfather would not be happy. So, in my early childhood.. I’ve always been around Jewelry- silversmiths. When I turned 18, a year after high school.. I worked as a “peace-worker” for a Jewelry manufacturing company in Gallup. I barely knew the basics of silversmithing.

I remember I use to make two-stone rings for 1.25 cents each labor price. I got the hang of it and I would finish a 100 Rings per week, I made $125.00. I worked there for about 2 years.

Then I moved to the “big city” of Albuquerque to continue my education. I attended the University of New Mexico. As a poor college student, I worked at a few retail shops in Old Town. Because of my little experience in silversmithing, I was good at making sales in jewelry.

After about a couple years, I had to put school aside, and concentrate on making a living. I began to work at jewelry manufacturing companies as a production laborer. After about seven years, I acquired enough knowledge of jewelry making and retail, I decided to go in my own.

While I was in college, I use to sell other jewelry at Pueblo Feast Days, local fairs,, and flea markets. I went to college to be an elementary school teacher., so when I needed to do student teaching, I applied at Wingate school. I was denied a job. I was disappointed, and that’s when I decided to make and sell jewelry full time .. then I started to apply for juried art shows. Like the Santa Fe Indian market , Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, Autry in Los Angeles.. I was soooo thrilled, my first time applying to SWAIA, Santa Fe Indian market.. I got accepted. That was in 2004!

DY: ha ha ha, what was your G’fathers reaction to you melting his work?! and using his torch while he was gone?!

TJR: He looked and looked.. but I never told .. I’m sure he later discovered when he swept the shop floors. Yes, I still feel bad to this day.. Sorry Chei..

DY: That is quite the story, how old were you when you left school to go out on your own?

TJR: Right after High school, 17 or so.

DY: We are going to ask you a series of questions that we ask all our artists, to allow us a look into your life as an artist. Please feel free to share images of your work, and projects underway as you answer these questions.

DY:  Where did you learn to fine-tune your Silversmithing & What attracted you stick with it, even through the tough times?

TJR: Well… after so many hours, days, weeks, YEARS.. of mishaps, goof-ups, mistakes.. PRACTICE.

DY: Did you have a mentor that guided you?

TJR: I always give my grandparents full credit for my silversmithing career. I say my work is not “fine-tuned” . I still have blemishes here and there. My late brother Lynol Yellowhorse, renowned jeweler was an artist at the Santa Fe Indian market. He was the one who told me to to join the “big leagues”

DY: that is wonderful, it sounds like family is a big inspiration for you – do you have any images of you and your grandparents? or of your earlier work?

TJR: My grandparents Tom and Mary Rafael, from Blackwater/Prewitt, New Mexico. My grandparents raised me from infancy.. so my first language was Navajo. They taught me my culture and the basics of silversmithing.

Member: what are your clans?

TJR: Yes, I’m sorry as a Diné, we are suppose to introduce ourselves by giving our clans. My maternal clan is Naakaii Diné – Born for (my Dad’s clan) Kiinyaanii, My Chei’s (grandfather) clan is Dees’ chiinii and my Naalis are the Irish biliagana

TJR:  (..on earlier work images..) Not really.. I didn’t have much confidence in myself.. I never thought of taking photos of my work.

DY: Do you work on any other creative projects outside of silversmithing?

TJR: Not really. My grandmother was a rig weaver. I use to help her with carding and spinning wool. But I never really had any interest in weaving.

DY: Fair enough – we all have our own paths.

TJR: I made my first piece in 2001 that I sold at the Gathering of Nations pow wow. I made a turquoise pin with drops around it , and sold it for a $100. I was so ecstatic!!

29339543_1631089303646587_7523074942112733133_n (1).jpg

DY: ha ha ha, that was going to be my next question! So this was about the time you were out on your own steam?

TJR:  Yes, when I wanted to make another piece. I was always drawn to jewelry with bright colored stones..

DY: What/Where do you look for inspiration before beginning a project?

TJR: When I see natural turquoise, corals, lapis, spiny oyster shells, semi precious stones.. I get mesmerized!! I loooove. And cannot wait to get in my shop and start creating. .Usually it begins with stones, I see the designs in my thoughts.

DY: What was the inspiration behind the purses?

TJR:  I had a close friend from New York. I remember I bought a birthday card.. 5×7 size. One day, I came home and I was sitting at my desk in “deep thoughts” with that birthday card in my hand.. not realizing that birthday card I was bending it a “U” shape. Then, that “U” shaped bent card.. was my first idea to make a purse.. that’s where it first began. Then the rest is history..

DY: that is awesome! So literally came to you organically? i love this.

DY: One of the most challenging things for me when I design is, How do i make it fresh – What is the most challenging part of your creative process for you? And why?

TJR: The process of making Jewelry with any metals.. can be a dangerous task. You work many types of hazardous chemicals, heat temperatures, back-breaking from sitting on your behind long hours, and takes a toll on your eyes. I say the most challenging part of making jewelry is making jewelry.

DY: What part of the silversmithing process do you enjoy most?

TJR: My favorite part.. is selecting the stones.. the beginning stage- design.Soldering can be challenging, too much heat can result to crystallizing the bezels. Then you saw out the piece after soldering and acid-cleaned. Then if it’s a ring, solder on the shank, etc. My least favorite task in jewelry making is buffing and polishing. UGH! Sometimes, my cousin Greg will help me with buffing. Here’s My favorite part!! Setting stones!!! Why? Because I love to see the final stage, all polished and almost complete.

DY: In your opinion, how do silversmiths of the past inspire what the contemporary artists create today? And why?

TJR: There are so many great awesome artists /silversmiths of the past, no question. We artists of today get our inspirations from our history, culture and nature.. all acquire into our art work today! My inspirations come from my grandparents, and many other artists.

DY: In your opinion, what part has social media played in the NA business whether positive or negative?

TJR:  A very big part!! I have made many new contacts through Facebook and Instagram. (I deleted my Instagram acct). For the big part, social media has been positive in building my jewelry business. But there are also the down side too. There are “copy cats” out there. And yes, I’ve had some negative remarks and criticisms.

DY: How do you handle the copy-cats, and keep your brand moving forward?

TJR: Well, at first it was hurtful. It bothered me. Then master artist like Arland Ben, Elizabeth Whitethorne, and other friends told me to “carry on” and not to worry so much. Like an original Piccaso painting vs his “knock-offs” are not the same. True Art speak through it’s originality.

DY: In your opinion, what role does an artist play in society, and how do you use your work to achieve this?

TJR: Society needs art! Art needs society! This world would be so boring without art. I wear jewelry everyday, it’s who I am and what I represent. So, as an artist… we make the world a little more “happier.” That is why I love to make jewelry.

DY: Finally, what are your future plans, and where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?

TJR: Remain a healthy lifestyle.. detox from metals and chemicals every so often.. so, I can help, teach and share with others how to make and sell jewelry. Making jewelry’s one thing,,, how to sell jewelry is a whole other subject. Anyway, I would like to continue my career making new designs. Maybe do less shows. Spend more time creating one master piece instead making a bunch of rings or bracelets in a week..etc. I would like to attend other art classes, not only jewelry.. but other classifications. And I would love to travel the world.

DY: Thank you for being here today Tonya, and taking time out of your busy schedule to share with the group a little about yourself & work. We will be posting the full interview to our website, along with the pictures you shared to archive your story. I wish you the best of luck, and look forward to seeing more from you in the future.

TJR: Thank you all for reading my comments!! Thank you David Ybarra for this awesome group page! Thank you for allowing me to introduce myself and tell about my work. If you have any other questions.. please feel free to ask me anything. A couple years ago, I was a guest speaker to a fifth grade class. I talked about my jewelry career, and during q&a, a student asked how old I am. Lol. I’m 49 years old. I’ll be the big five-O in June!! Thank you all!!

Contemporary Spotlight: Fritz Casuse

22279850_10155678935487492_1973160486254306712_n.jpg

Welcome to another Contemporary Spotlight – This series was created to celebrate the Contemporary Navajo artist, and get to know a little bit about their thought process when it comes to design, inspiration, and execution. These events will allow the viewer an inside look at the artist, and interact with them in a respectful manner. Today we are celebrating the art of Navajo Siversmith Fritz Casuse – We hope you enjoy our time together, so let’s get started.

DY: Hello Fritz, Thank you for being here today – We are very excited to have you in the group. Since we are new to your work, please give us a short Bio about your life prior to becoming a working artist.

FC: Hello IDavid, I’m am too!! My name is Fritz Casuse Dine’ and I’m from Twin Lakes NM. My work speaks for itself, but at times I have to share and educate my creations. I enjoy that part, because I get to talk about the stories or process behind the creative meanings!! I started out as a sculptor and when introduced to jewelry, I imagined small wearable sculptural pieces of jewelry. Challenging myself with every piece, each design feed from the next. Creating his meditation it puts me in a place I love to be. I always say that my creative art heals me.

DY: Did you go to school for sculpture design? and what kind of sculpture?

FC: Yes I did at The institute of American Indian arts in Santa Fe New Mexico. I worked with different kinds of clay and created a lot of figures and structural shapes.

DY: We are going to ask you a series of questions that we ask all our artists, to allow us a look into your life as an artist. Please feel free to share images of your work, and projects underway as you answer these questions.

DY: Where did you learn Silversmithing & What attracted you to it?

FC: I took a basic jewelry class at IAIA with instructor Lane Coulter. I would I would visit family members who were jewelers and it was just something I wanted to try . I never asked to learn from them so there was a class offered at I and I took advantage of it. Not knowing what to expect, learn the process in different techniques, but never really got to create what I wanted. What I did learn is to be very patient.

DY: Do you have any photos of your sculpture prior to working in jewelry?

26230344_914017352097938_6169843072102785592_n.jpg26814439_914017435431263_4446921968764399109_n.jpg

DY: So, to circle back to the previous question – Did you have a mentor that could help guide you as you began making jewelry? Or was there any artist at the time that inspired you?

FC: Not really, just the basic jewelry class I took. I was so excited I went to a pawn shop a bought a used acetylene torch and some tools. My working table was the floor very primitive. It was a lot of trial and error’s, experimenting with the materials. There was really no one to talk or share my experience with this, sure was a lot of trips to the supply store to see what would work for my ideas!! Lol

DY: So you enjoy the experimental process?

FC: I SURE DO working with mother earths creation and incorporating them with my artistic ideas.

DY: Do you remember the first piece you ever sold? What was it?

FC: It was a pair of earrings made of abalone and spiney oyster shells cut and polished with geometric shapes . I enjoy working with organic materials

DY: Do you have a photo of those earrings?

FC: Sorry I don’t, wish I had taken photos of earlier pieces

DY: Fritz Casuse No worries, what is your favorite organic material to work with?

FC: Pearls !!

DY: One of my favorites!

FC: Yei bracelet…

26685497_914023478763992_4383332898039608896_o.jpg

DY: beautiful! Tell us more about this piece! What inspired it? what Materials are used here? is the cuff portion cast from Cuttle fish?

FC: Cuttlebone cast silver anti-clastic shape bracelet with fabricated parts. Royston turquoise, pearls red coral and 14 kt. Inspired by my culture of who I am and where I’m from.

DY: that is amazing, so much thought put into this piece. was this an earlier piece? or a current?

FC: Some current pieces

FC: Here’s another similar…

26756333_914026668763673_3869666280222315863_o.jpg

DY: Beautiful, Man you can really see the Sculptural aesthetic in your work! It’s really well balanced.

DY: Let’s talk about inspiration – What/Where do you look for inspiration before beginning a project?

FC: A LOT has to do with family, who I am, where I’m from and my SON who’s also an artist and teaching. This piece is in memory of one of my grandmothers…

26685508_914028845430122_4589611983340303619_o.jpg

DY: This is another beautiful piece – I love that family inspires a big part of your work – can you expand on this piece? how do you go about finding the perfect material? and how long does it take you to carve the turquoise?

FC: Once I have an idea on what I want to create. There is always a foundation from there I start fabricating up. Making sure that everything go as planned. It does take me that long to carve, it’s the cleaning that and polishing of stone takes a while.

DY:  i’ve never carved a stone, how soft is the turquoise to carve? and what tools do you have to use?

FC: You have to make sure there’s no natural fractures in the stone before you carve. From there I look at the size and what I want to carve into the stone. Make sure it’s natural and hard to withstand the diamond bits i use.

FC: Sculptural Moveable Ring & Three finger Spiderweb ring

26733967_914038978762442_8332428293964952205_n.jpg     26231850_914038382095835_6374246535691425724_n.jpg

DY: this is a beauty!

DY: What is the most challenging part of your creative process? And why?

FC: I say it has to be when fabricating a piece with all that’s being added I need to be very clean from beginning to end. So there’s a lot of chemicals involved through my creative process

FC: Buffalo buckle

26239301_914041825428824_1936885408512301826_n.jpg

DY: Oh i LOVE this one! Was this piece cast?

FC: Tufa Cast

DY: What part of the silversmithing process do you enjoy most?

FC: The symbolic , there’s a lot we go through in our daily lives. From what’s happening in my personal life and the world that concerns me. I take all of that Energy and create beauty. It’s like talking and sharing with the Creator with the role of mountain tobacco that is released . It’s a way of healing myself

FC: Cala-Ring

26230492_914046285428378_8135652552809607639_n.jpg

DY:  This is gorgeous! Man i really like the mixed-media piece of your work! Very Inspiring..

DY: wow, thanks for sharing – In your opinion, how do silversmiths of the past inspire what the contemporary artists create today? And why?

FC: I think silversmiths back then using traditional techniques were contemporary. Are use traditional techniques and my work is considered contemporary but years from now it may be considered traditional.

FC: Hey sculptor working out his bench- ring

26230161_914049292094744_3681418103218882377_n.jpg

DY: Good answer – You know, one of the reasons i started this group was to celebrate the Contemporary Working Artist, and for that reason..

DY: What pieces have you created and sold in the past that you wish you would have held on to? Is there an emotional attachment to your pieces? Why?

FC: All of THEM lol !! I use to be, but knowing there going to a good place and they enjoy. There taking a part of me into their homes and lives. How exciting is that “VERY HONORED and BLESSED”.

DY: it has to be exciting to know that your work spoke to someone, and it can be with them 24/7.

DY: In your opinion, what part has social media played in the NA business whether positive or negative?

FC: It’s hard to say, for me it’s good to show who I am and my beauties. It helps to share and educate the viewers and to inspire others. We are all individually gifted.

DY: In your opinion, what role does an artist play in society, and how do you use your work to achieve this?

FC: Aside from my art I teach as well. I’ve been teaching jewelry for about 18 years. I love teaching and sharing with my students. For them to feel the same way when creating that I feel. All that I’ve been blessed with I give back with teaching!!

DY: that is wonderful, sounds like you enjoy giving back, sharing your pearls of wisdom. That is very powerful indeed.

DY: Last question, what are your future plans, and where do you hope to see yourself in 10 years?

FC: Continue creating beautiful works of art, working side-by-side with my son. Maybe I’ll be working for him lol !! Keep teaching, sharing my knowledge ” The ripple effect “

DY: ha ha ha, i love that!

DY: Fritz, Thank you for being here today and Thank You for taking time out of your busy schedule to share with the group a little about yourself & your craft. We would love to see more of your work if you have any other photos, and please share with us throughout the year what you are working on! Happy 2018!

FC: Thank you IDavid, it was an honor to share a little of myself today!! And thank you all blessings

26230530_914057888760551_3743920421398287412_n.jpg

Fritz Casuse

*For more on this interview and comments please click here

Contemporary Spotlight: Liz Wallace

22135674_10155660849237492_1596227457757521705_o.jpg

Liz: “Thank you for your patience, I finally woke up, LOL. I am so happy to be featured today! I was born in Sacramento and grew up in Auburn, about 30 miles north of Sac. I am Nisenan/Washo on my paternal side and Navajo on my maternal side. So about 3/4 Native. I am also descended from and named after Lizzie Enos, a well known basket artist who was one of the few of her family members to survive a smallpox clothing/blanket attack when she was a child. She was half Swedish from an affluent immigrant family named Johnson, but her father did not treat his Native family well so she eschewed White culture and embraced Nisenan ways. Several ethnologists have recorded her and she is in some early ethnology books. She had a book published about her called “Ooti” in 1969, I think.

Unfortunately for me, both my parents were highly abusive and I have few positive memories. We did live next door to my Grandma Nina, and she was the only adult who was kind and loving towards my brother Jeremy Wallace and myself. She also taught me to sew when I was 5 or so and gave me a box w/ her fabric scraps in it. Grandma loved to take us on long drives to the Japanese Tea Garden in SF, the mountains, to craft shows, etc. She is the main reason I am still alive, as I am sure I would have commited suicide or drank myself to death by now from CPTSD and depression. Both my parents also did silver jewelry and I have been coming to Indian Market since I was tiny – I recall waking up on a blanket on the asphalt looking at peoples feet shuffling around in front of our booth. While my parents did not teach us much directly, I loved to read Oscar Branson’s books on how to make Indian Jewelry, as well as his Turquoise book. As a teen I was able to sell beadwork in school for pocket money and some watercolors at my father’s booth at IM. But I never planned on becoming a jeweler.

When I was 17, I saw one of the most influential books in my life, “The Master Jewelers” by Kenneth Snow. It featured plique a jour enamel, along with other Art Nouveau and Art Deco jewelers. That was the first time I thought it might be cool to be a jeweler. After high school, I lived in Davis, CA for a year w/ my mother where I stagnated and moved to Santa Fe at 19 to work for an artist. That lasted a year as she had some MEGA personality issues, and through her I met a slimy, opportunistic, yet charismatic, 49 year old man who took me “under his wing”. He initially had me apprenticing rug restorers, but when I took my first formal silversmithing class at SFCC he decided to push me into jewelry and repair of jewelry instead. Ironically, when I saw the class titled Metalsmithing I thought it was welding and making tool-boxes. I was really surprised when it was jewelry, but it was familiar so I went along with it and made the same spider pin the rest of the class did. Because of my childhood I was very used to being dominated, controlled, and manipulated, so that slimy older antique dealer controlled my life, mind, and body for some years. My worst recurring nightmare is that he is still alive. I did LOTS of repair, setting of stones and Zuni inlay, being his step and fetch it/arm candy, selling of antiques, etc etc etc for years.

I did start doing my own designs which were ultra sleek and modern but did not sell, so I asked myself, “what can I do that will sell right away?”  Well, at antique shows some of the most sought after pieces that sold and resold before the public was let in were all turquoise Zuni butterflies, which I had the materials and the skill sets to create. So I did an all #8 big butterfly in secret and when I showed up to work at a show I pinned it to my dress. Jabba saw it and freaked out, “You didn’t make that! Your good, but not that good!” I just smirked. He snatched it off me, ran off, and sold it right away. I did get to keep all the money from that, even though he sold it without my permission and set the price. I had also been commissioned by Jay Evetts to set lots paired up stones into Classic style earrings, which is how I got into doing those. Butterflies, bracelets, and earrings helped me to not only survive but to emancipate myself from that slimy dealer who ended up self-destructing. I will always be grateful to butterflies for that, and plant lots of flowers that they love in my garden. They represent freedom and self determination to me. The rest of my story has been covered by Kim and Pat Messier quite adequately.”

DY: “Thank you for sharing your story, and your work. I have a few questions: I know as a designer, I am constantly looking for ways to make things “New”, and how to breathe new life into my creations. What do you think the future holds for your work? and is there any new specific type of jewelry process you are looking to try?”

LW: “Good question! I have dozens of designs that will keep me busy for years, most of which are Nature themed. Lots of chased Creature Cuffs, more plique a jour tiaras (I have done 3 so far), and a line of self defense jewels n hair ornaments.  I do want to make more CA basket themes pieces. I am planning a line inspired by Lizzie Enos baskets, but those will only be sold to other descendants of hers. But lots of oak and acorn items are on the way!”

DY: “i love the idea of Oak & Acorn!”

LW: “They were our staple starch, but were later eradicated by the Forest Service and agriculture.”

DY: “ there are videos on how to make acorn bread on Youtube, it’s a very lengthy process!”

LW: “LOL, tell me about it! My grandma liked to grind n leach it on her lawn.”

DY: “the soaking to get out the toxins was shocking to me – the fact that squirrels can digest it, and we can’t is a strange concept.”

LW: “Right???? But when they fall into rivers they get leached, and deer & other critters can eat them.”

DY: “What piece, or pieces have you sold that you wish you would have held onto? or do you let yourself get close to your jewelry?”

LW: “Hmmmm….. not many. I do get really intimate w/ the pieces while creating them, so when they are finished I am more concerned w/ selling rather than keeping them. I do still have my Water Goddess bellydance set, and keep it priced pretty high. Sooooo much work went into that!!!”

DY: “When I was in art school, I was given some good advice… Make up your mind on what you are going to keep, and what you want to sell – it gives your mind the ability to let it go, and not get to close/intimate with your art.”

LW: “Plus knowing they go to a good home where they will be appreciated helps let go.”

DY: “So another question, what do you do to get inspired? to flex your creative muscle? and do you have moments that you are just “not feeling it”?”

LW: “LOL, I have a constant stream of inspiration going at all times!!! Especially now that I have my own home w/ a garden I can really invest in. I also learned a great exercise from Miriam Sagan, a writing teacher from SFCC. It is called free writing and really gets the creativity flowing. If anything it is tough to decide on only a few designs n projects before each show. This last year I really had to narrow it down, as I usually ended up w a dozen half finished projects n 6 finished ones before the Heard n Indian Market. But w social media I can show what I am working on to hundreds of people, so it is OK.”

DY: “that is a good point, what has social media done for your business and craft? Is it a good thing? or is it a point of annoyance?”

LW: “It has been mostly an amazing tool. Before I had to quickly explain my involved processes face to face at shows, but now I can show progress pics in real time. I get lots of positive feedback & sell a lot of pieces before they are finished.”

DY: “I noticed a lot of your jewelry is focused around nature, bugs, snakes, sea-creatures. What is the connection?”

LW: “My phone decided to be squirrelly about Messenger so I cannot see what u just sent about a forum. Nature was an escape for me as a child. Home life was really nightmarish; I never knew when I would get raged at, hit w/ a belt etc. So being out in Nature & getting absorbed in bugs & sea life books was a life saver.”

DY: “Next to your work, whose work do you admire? any other current artists that you love?”

LW: “McKee Platero, Kathy Whitman, Robin Waynee, Leah Mata Fragua, Gomeo Zacharias Bobelu, Colin Coonsis, Jolene Eustace, Glenda Loretto, Shaax’ Saani, Char Holy Bear, and so many more. I am hoping to get an elk antler hair pick from Billyhawk Enos, too. I MUCH prefer hand made work to lost wax, machine made, n CAD pieces. Although I adored Stefani Courtois s work, even what she did in wax. And I am looking forward to what Adrian Standing Elk Pinnecoose does w CAD. Of course I am also inspired by Renee Lalique and Wallace Chan, a Chinese jeweler.”

DY: “Renee Lalique goes without saying, so amazing….. I could just stare at his work all day!”

LW: “I hope to make it to the Gulbenkian one day to drool in person.”

DY: “In your opinion, what role does an artist have in society? and how do you work to achieve it?”

LW: “Artist are the storytellers, interpreters, etc. Art can be the quickest way to communicate issues and history, too. My goal is to get people to see the beauty in oaks, insects, marine life, etc. in hopes that we will work harder to be responsible and compassionate stewards of Nature.”

DY: “ Liz Wallace agreed…. every culture communicates through food, music and art, it’s the common thread. Great job Liz.”

DY: “What Memorable responses have you had to your work? what keeps you going…. I’m so curious to ask questions while you are here tonight.”

LW: “My fave responses are big fat sales!!!! But one Heard show an older Native man in a Vietnam Vet hat parked in front of my table and read aaaall of my haiku/tanka earrings. He looked and smelled like an alcoholic, but seemed like nice guy overall. He then asked how much for a haiku pendant, which I did not have. He picked out a tanka poem about an ex-lover I had run into. The last lines were, “I forgot how beautiful I felt when you looked at me.” I could tell he really wanted it, so I told him I could twist the ear wire into a bail n gave him a good deal if he had cash. A Vietnam Vet price. He claimed it & ran off to get $$$. I had pliers w/ me & twisted it into a bail as best I could. When he came back he told me it was for his daughter. “I was not around when she was little, but now she has let me back in her life and I wanted to get her something.” That poem seemed to resonate with how it felt to be reunited w/ her. Another show, I had poetry earrings out about my adopted dad, Vanja Aljinovic. He was a Croatian film teacher that was the first healthy father figure I had ever had. He had passed away a year or so prior, and his widow & daughter visited me at my booth. Mina wanted to buy the daughter something, and she gravitated right to a pendant that ended w/ “I did not want to bother you. Now I wish I had.” When I told her it was about Vanja she broke down in tears. Those were probably my most touching sales.”

Liz Wallace

For more on this interview, and to read additional comments click HERE