By Shannon Gallagher
ZIA Gallery is now carrying unique and handmade jewelry including work by two metalsmiths Amy Taylor and Lisa Williams. Although their paths did not lead directly to designing and creating beautiful works of wearable art, both artists have found their medium of choice.
Taylor describes her journey as a process of elimination. “When I was younger, I was interested in a variety of professions. As I was going through school, I started crossing things off my list. I ended up going to art school, and then chose my major in the same manner. Originally, I thought I’d explore commercial art and graphic design, but I ended up in metals. I think it’s genetic- my grandfather, who died when I was very young, was also a jeweler. I chose metals as my major, and it has ended up being my lifelong pursuit, and a dream fulfilled,” she said.
Williams had a similar experience. She began college at the University of Kansas and decided to take some art classes on a whim. Once she began taking metals courses, however, she decided to get her BFA degree and pursue jewelry making as a career. She specializes in sculptural copper work, silversmithing, and stone setting, and describes her aesthetic as organic and minimalist. “I try to keep things simple and not overdo any certain design. I like contemporary designs that have an organic feel to them,” Williams said. “I’m inspired by everything around me- nature, leaves, things that have been used. One time I found a fork on the road that had been run over many, many times. Random objects, shadows, textures- you cannot always predict where you’ll find inspiration,” she explained. The artist, who prefers to work with silver and copper, tends to take scraps or unfinished pieces and sets them aside to look at later. “If I melted a piece or messed it up somehow, I’ll throw it in a box and forget about it for awhile, then later go back and work from them. Sometimes I sketch or see patterns in shadows. One time I saw a coffee stain on my bathroom sink and it had made a cool design. I used the outline of the coffee stain to design a necklace.”
Taylor, on the other hand, derives her inspiration from a variety of sources- play, humor, nature, architecture, history, and mechanics. “I have two lines,” she said. “The first is more whimsical and lighthearted, and the second is very serious and concentrates on architectural motifs, and the history of architecture in combination with mechanics. I’m inspired by the industrial revolution, and I’m interested in things that spin, move, wiggle.” This is evident in her pieces involving hinges and clasps. Although she likes working with a variety of materials, silver is her favorite. “Silver is soft, seductive to work with. It solders and forms easily, and there are many different finishes. I’m inspired by ephemera and found objects, gemstones and glass. Every once in a while, I’ll put part of a poem or a quote on the back of a piece.”
Both artists make one-of-a-kind pieces and tend to stay away from production work. “Nothing is mass produced, no molds are made,” Taylor said. When she sees a stone, she envisions it on the type of person that might wear it, and then designs the piece around it. “Whatever the focal point of the piece will be, a shape or a motif, object, stone, etc; I try to picture who will wear it. Not everything I create is something that I would necessarily wear.” Williams also makes one-of-a-kind pieces and does not follow trends. “I might try to picture who would wear my pieces to a certain extent, but I have to really like it, too,” she said. “I think of a simple, clean aesthetic, classic in style. I try to do my own thing and not worry about what’s popular. I love turquoise and freshwater pearls. They are simple, not overstated- they just sort of exist as part of the piece without dominating it. When I imagine who is wearing my work, I think of someone who is artistic and understands and appreciates the handmade process.”
Taylor and Williams do not only wear their own designs. When asked what their favorite piece of jewelry was at this time, Taylor described an Edwardian mourning pendant. “It’s a little macabre, but I love it. At one time, it probably had a lock of hair. It has a heart painted on one side, and a name and death date on it. Someone put the time and effort into the piece that you don’t really see nowadays. Williams mentioned her grandmother’s locket, which holds sentimental significance, and also said that she’s been wearing a lot of her newer pieces lately. “I just started doing a series with resin and pops of color, so I’ve been trying to incorporate that into what I’m wearing. I’m doing red and greens, which is sort of a new thing- for me to add color that’s not from a stone. I’ve been wearing those a lot recently.”
As for the future of the artists’ work, both women have plans for 2014. “January is when I make my basket settings and bezel settings,” Taylor said. “Then I start putting thought into how the pieces and fabrication are going to evolve. I try to avoid looking at other people’s jewelry- I want to stay original. I avoid magazines and books, sit down with my sketchpad and draw until I find the things that I want to make. I like silly and lighthearted things, and right now I’m very inspired by that.”
Williams plans to continue doing what she calls ‘marriage of metals,’ which is when she buys sheets of two or three different colors of metal, cuts them and solders them together until it is seamless. “I am continuing with that idea because it’s a unique thing that I do. I’m focusing on that specialty, because it’s a large part of what I am known for. I love metals, I love using power tools and torches. It’s a masculine way of creating done in a feminine way.”
ZIA Gallery has a wide variety of work from each artist, both of whom have enjoyed a positive response from our community. Come into the gallery to check out the newest designs, just in time for Valentine’s Day!