Shop Local: Ornamentea

September 24, 2009 at 1:39 am (Shop Local)

When I first started making jewelry, I knew nothing about beading. On a trip down to Florida many years ago, I stopped at a bead store in Ormond Beach and got the bug. The woman there showed me how to crimp and string a basic necklace, but that was it. When I came back to Raleigh, I made it my mission to find a bead store. I had drawings of necklaces I wanted to make but had no idea how to execute them. Then, I found Ornamentea.

Ornamentea is located in the Glenwood South area of Raleigh. It is an unassuming green and turqoise building, but inside it is a treasure trove of crystals, stones, vintage glass beads, and findings. The staff is knowledgeable and the prices are reasonable (especially compared to some of the other bead stores in the area), and they do offer a designer’s discount, which makes it a perfect place for hobbyists and professional beaders alike.

In the five years I have been making jewelry, the staff and the owner, Cynthia Deis, have become my friends. Cynthia was so supportive when I started the Capital Area Polymer Clay Guild here in Raleigh, gave me valuable advice when I did my first wholesale show in Baltimore, and helped me become a better artist by introducing me to other professionals who have challenged me to think and work “outside the box’.

This month Ornamentea turns ten years old. Happy Birthday, Ornamentea! Keep up the good work.

If you go, Ornamentea is open seven days a week and  is the West Street (R4) stop on the R Line.  Even if you are not in town and still want fabulous base metal findings, filigree, and more, visit Ornamentea’s online store at Want to try something new? Visit Cynthia’s blog for free beading project downloads at


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Goodbye Guiding Light

September 18, 2009 at 12:47 pm (Artist Musings)

It may seem odd for me to write about The Guiding Light, especially when I am supposed to be a professional artist burning the midnight oil in my studio day after day. However, before I became an artist, I spent a summer in Oakdale…

When I was a teenager, I started watching As The World Turns and The Guiding Light. On the Guiding Light, I grew up with Mindy, Phillip, Rick, and Beth. I started watching As The World Turns right around the time that Holden started working as a stable boy in Lucinda Walsh’s barn.

In the summer of my sophomore year of college, I went to work for WIOD Radio in Miami. For those of you who don’t know, I studied to be a journalist and was pursuing a career in journalism until Hurricane Andrew destroyed my parents’ house in Miami. When I told my station manager that I wanted to purue a career in television, she told me that I should consider looking into a soap opera internship. Her opinion was that working behind the scenes at a soap opera would give me invaluable television production experience. After all, they tape one show every weekday 52 weeks out of the year.

In the summer of 1989, I went to New York to work in the production department of As The World Turns, which is set in the fictional town of Oakdale. At that time, Procter and Gamble produced three soap operas, As The World Turns, Guiding Light, and Another World. All three shows were produced in New York, but As The World Turns was the only one produced at the CBS building on West 57th Avenue, the same building in which the CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes is taped. That summer I learned several things. First, the stairs to the farm lead to nothing. Since I was sixteen years old, I always wanted to go upstairs at Emma’s farm. My first week on the set, I found out they lead nowhere. Second, that even when a character is beheaded, they can still make a miraculous recovery and return to the show. Third, that when a beloved actor who left the show years before comes to the office to say they are looking for the Executive Producer, it is in bad form to go running down the hall screaming, “Holden is coming back.” My summer at As The World Turns was filled with happy memories, and I fondly remember the producers who were so supportive, the production assistant who was my friend, and the director who even let me call a few shots.

The first casualty of ratings was Another World, which went off the air in 1999. This Friday (September 18th), Guiding Light will broadcast its last show, ending its historic 72 year run.

In 1937, Guiding Light made its radio debut as a fifteen minute radio show. On June 30, 1952, Guiding Light moved to television. Credited by the Guinness Book of World Records as being the longest-running soap opera in production and the longest running drama in television and radio history, Guiding Light is also the longest running broadcast program of any kind across both radio and then television media, being first broadcast five days after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second inauguration.

Having been a part of the P & G production family, even for a short period of time, it is with great respect and sadness that I bid farewell to Guiding Light.

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Material Messages II: Narrative Jewelry

September 16, 2009 at 2:25 am (Artist Musings)

In my last post, I discussed the use of language or words in fine art. Inspired by words myself, I find it fascinating to look at artists like Picasso, Joseph Cornell, and Robert Rauschenberg to see how the use of text gives their work context, and at least for me, meaning.

Right around the time period where I left off in my last post (the 1960’s Pop Art Movement), perhaps as a response to what was happenning around them artistically, fine craft artists, including a handful of studio jewelers, were making strides of their own.

“Studio jewelry was always an anti-fashion movement. It emerged in the mid-20th century as a reaction to high society gems on the one hand, and costume baubles on the other. A few inventive craft artisans began hammering and casting unexpected materials into a Third Way. The artists intend for ‘value’ to come from artistry rather than precious materials.” [Linda Hales, Washington Post, October 11, 2003]

Around this time, Robert Ebendorf emerged as a pioneer in the studio jewelry movement.

 “As an innovator in American jewelry since the 1960s [Rober Ebendorf] has been one of the leaders in exploring alternative materials and also – at least in a general sense – in pioneering that most American of jewelry forms, narrative jewelry.” [Tacey Rosolowski interviewing Robert Ebendorf for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution].

Robert Ebendorf

Robert Ebendorf

I had the pleasure of seeing Ebendorf’s exhibition Handcrafted, A Continual Journey: Jewelry and Objects at the Rocky Mount Art Center last April. Back then, I blogged about how seeing his Off the Street, From the Beach necklace in a magazine inspired to explore found objects in my own work. Ebendorf takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. The Off the Street, From the Beach necklace, for example — “…is a collection of colorful plastics found in parking lots, on sidewalks and on boardwalks. Hot pink plastic teaspoons, poker chips, milk rings and plant markers from dahlias and impatiens hint at the prosaic fragments of strangers’ days.” [Nancy McGillicuddy, Office of News and Communications Services, Eastern Carolina University] Ebendorf paved the way for studio jewelers like me to explore unconventional materials and techniques.

In the mid to late 1970’s, another American studio jeweler started “adopting the techniques of collage and assemblage and applying them to making of jewelry objects with the intention of making them available to as wide an audience as possible.” [Thomas Mann, Artist Statement]

“In a conscientious decision made in the late 70’s I eschewed the use of precious metals or gemstones and concentrated solely of found and alternative materials. I was determined to have the work for of the imagery and meaning encompassed in it rather than the perceived intrinsic value of the materials employed in it’s making. It is my hope that my work will challenge the viewer and the wearer to derive a common denominator of personal meaning and value from the assemblage of components presented.” [Thomas Mann]

Lauren Van Hemert, "Skinny Bitch Brooch", part of the Out of the Box series

Lauren Van Hemert, "Skinny Bitch Brooch", part of my Out of the Box series

I met Mann at the 2006 ACC Baltimore Fine Craft Show. In 2007, I had the opportunity to attend a  lecture on his “NOLA Rising” body of work. Currently, Mann lives and works in New Orleans where he oversees a jewelry design and production studio, a sculpture studio, and gallery, Thomas Mann Gallery I/O (insight-full objects). He currently exhibits his jewelry and sculpture with some 250 galleries and stores in the US and abroad, and at premier craft events around the US. Mann was the inspiration behind my Out of the Box series, which I designed last year as a means for my customers to display their jewelry when they weren’t wearing their pieces.

In the 1990’s, another artst, Susan Lenart Kazmer, redefined the contemporary talisman by taking recycled objects and presenting them in a new way.

“When you close your eyes and hold the object in your hand you can feel whether the user has enjoyed, neglected, or cherished it. Fear, happiness, struggle, and strength are also feelings embedded in an object. My job as an artist is to take the found object and present it in a new and unexpected way…” [Susan Lenart Kazmer

“Consider the mental power put into a pencil stub worn down by an accountant during tax season, or the mundane repetition locked into a key from an old factory locker, or the freedom embedded in the bones of a free-range chicken. I believe these energies lend power and mystery to ordinary objects. In my work I use them to create talismans worn for protection, freedom, and strength.” [Susan Lenart Kazmer]

I met Susan in 2006, also at the ACC Baltimore Fine Craft Show. Later, I was fortunate enough to take a class with her, Relics, Ruins and Personal Objects. She is an amazing artist, teacher, and person, and no article on narrative jewelry would be complete without recognizing her contribution to fine craft.

In 2004, I took a class with one of my favorite people and artists, Louise McClure.

“My work seldom fits into a neat and tidy category,” says McClure. “Narrative, wearable sculpture describes it best. It begins with the belief that all things, even common, throw-away bits, have value and beauty. Cast off glass and plastic, paper, wood and metal mingle with semi-precious stones and silver like the blending of individual voices into a concert of the whole. I don’t have a favorite material or media. I enjoy the process of discovering the characteristics of various elements when exposed to heat, water, salt, pressure. Keep an open mind and embrace the ‘what happens if I try this…’ ”

Louise McClure Charm Bracelet

Louise McClure Charm Bracelet

After the class, Louise’s “what happens if I try this” attitude changed the direction of my work forever. She is also an exhibiting member of Piedmont Craftsmen and her work can be seen along with mine this month during the Material Messages exhibition at the Piedmont Craftsmen Gallery in Winston-Salem.

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Material Messages I: The Allure of Language

September 10, 2009 at 12:44 pm (Artist Musings)

As many of you know, I am inspired by ephemera, “printed matter of passing interst.” I am drawn to the font styles,  colors, and the artistry of old advertisements and labels. I often describe my work as an appropriation of found objects using collage and assemblage techniques. I view myself much more as a mixed media artist making wearable art, than a jeweler exploring traditional metal fabrication techniques. This month, I am taking part in Material Messages, an exhibition at Piedmont Craftsmen in Winston-Salem, which got me thinking about other artists who have so been inspired by words.
In 1885, Alfons Mucha produced a lithographed poster, which appeared in January 1895 in the streets of Paris as an advertisment for the play “Gismonda”. Overnight, a new artistic style known as Art Nouveau was born.

But it seems that the use of words or language in art emerged around the early 20th Century..

Georges Braque

Georges Braque

“Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso originated the style known as Cubism, one of the most internationally influential innovations of 20th-century art… With Analytic Cubism, Braque’s and Picasso’s attempts to depict the conceptual planes of figures and objects in space developed into an austere, depersonalized pictorial style. They at first employed a limited palette of ochers, browns, greens, grays, and blacks, which were considered less expressive than a full range of color, and in 1911 began experimenting with simulated textures, shadows, and modern stenciled typography… In 1912, as part of their exploration of the ambiguities of real and representational space, they adopted the technique of papier collé (from the French coller, meaning to paste or glue), wherein overlapping and fragmented pieces of newspaper, wallpaper, tickets, cigarette packages, and other detritus were arranged, altered, and adhered to the ground of paper or canvas, disrupting Modernism’s inviolate picture plane.”  []

 Currently on exhibit at The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University is Picasso and the Allure of Language, an exhibition which explores the many ways in which language affected Picasso’s work. Picasso and the Allure of Language comprises some 60 works in all media by Picasso, as well as select examples by fellow artist Georges Braque, and photographs, letters, manuscripts and book projects by a diverse group of artists and writers.

In 1932, Joseph Cornell had his first solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. Cornell’s most notable works are boxed assemblages created from found objects, many of which included text.

Another American artist, Robert Rauschenberg, used text in his assemblages, most notably in his Black Paintings (1952). “Rauschenberg made this work by overlaying two identically sized canvases with matte black paint and a broadside from the August 3, 1951 issue of the Asheville Citizen newspaper… Though partially abstracted by its sideways positioning and overpainting, the newspaper’s contents remain legible. Sports columns, a crossword puzzle, and a wide range of advertisements, for groceries, jobs, homes ‘for colored’ people, and ‘baby chicks for 50 cents each,’ give this painting historical as well as anecdotal context.” [The Collection, Museum of Modern Art]

Pop Art emerged in the mid 1950s in England, but realized its fullest potential in New York in the ’60s. “[Pop Art] chose as its subject matter the anonymous, everyday, standardized, and banal iconography in American life, such as comic strips, billboards, commercial products, and celebrity images, and dealt with them typically in such forms as outsized commercially smooth paintings, mechanically reproduced silkscreens, large-scale facsimiles, and soft sculptures.” [] Notable Pop artists include Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, as well as Rauschenberg.

I will explore contemporary uses of language in the fine craft movement, particularly narrative jewelry, in my next post, but to start your own exploration, this month be sure to  visit Material Messages at Piedmont Craftsmen in Winston Salem and The Allure of Language at The Nasher Museum of Art, and who knows what words may inspire you.

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From Studio 109A: New Works

September 3, 2009 at 12:00 am (From Studio 109A)

This Friday is the First Friday Gallery Walk in Raleigh. My studio will be open late from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Artspace will be open until 1:30 a.m. for its First Friday After Party.

Each month, I will post new work that I will be showing at First Friday. Of course, you can come visit Studio 109A anytime Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. 

Five Strand Luggage Label NecklaceInspired by the Chiave Bellosguardo necklace, I created this necklace as a less expensive alternative. The original Chiave Belloguardo necklace is thirteen strands of beads with a sterling silver chain mail collar and five keys. This version is five strands with a double curb copper chain and three keys. Vintage luggage labels are transferred to clay and hand-formed into the beads. The beads are woven and twined together with crystals, glass beads, and found objects to form the five strands draping from the copper chain. Crytals and glass beads are wire wrapped from the chain.

Hotel EarringsIn 2004, I created my first lariat style necklace using pen and ink labels. Last month, I designed a three strand necklace incorporating the same pen and ink labels, as well as vintage pen nibs.

I also have several new style of earrings ranging in price from $45 to $65.

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