By Leti Wesolowski, contributor
Commonwheel member Sarah Stevens is a Colorado Springs art teacher and jeweler. Originally from Pennsylvania, she spent her childhood playing outdoors and doing anything creative as drawing, painting, building things, writing and putting on her own plays.
She studied visual and performing arts in high school and was a fine art major in college with a focus on drawing and painting. In the early nineties she moved to Colorado to work for the Boys and Girls Clubs, which made her realize that teaching art was a great fit for her. She gained a teaching degree from The Colorado College and has been teaching art in Monument, CO and, for the past 12 years, Colorado Springs.
Today she has her own studio where she produces one of a kind jewelry pieces both modern and organic, mixing metals, textures and a style full of personality.
What is your first memory of creating something with your own hands? How long have you been making jewelry?
My first specific memory of making something with my hands was in the beginning of Kindergarten. I remember very vividly my teacher Mrs. Wilkenson teaching me how to thread a needle, make a knot, and sew a sock puppet. I share this when I am teaching my high school classes to sew in art class. From then on, I remember drawing, painting, crafts all of the time, music, theater, writing. I didn't begin making jewelry until 2008. I took a class from my now best friend.
Where do you get inspiration?
I get inspiration from looking at other artists' work. Sometimes I find a box of random materials and it gives me an idea for a project. Sometimes, I find myself on a creative streak and I just start to see things differently.
Walk us through the steps to create one of your pieces.
When I make a piece of jewelry or a painting, I usually have a semi-plan in mind when I start. I am very drawn to texture, so I usually start there. I like order, so whether 2D or 3D, I arrange elements in an organized, right-angle-sort-of-way. I am big on finishing techniques, liking things to look rustic or worn.
What is your favorite piece you’ve ever made? What is the story behind it?
I sometimes forget about pieces I have made in the past. I might see a photo and say "Oh, wow, I don't remember doing that,” but it gets me thinking.
I suppose one [favorite piece] might be this painting I did last summer. This painting was done as a gift for our pastor who was moving to California. The painting is full of symbolism—numbers, colors, quotes, mementos, all very personal to those involved. References to the mountains and ocean, a window-like essence, a tribute to the blue skies of Colorado and the sand of the beach, a shape that rises up from its base.
What is your proudest achievement?
One thing I have accomplished that I am most proud of is sharing my abilities with students. I have had my art displayed, won awards, sold pieces, been in the paper, but my favorite triumph is getting kids turned on to art and leading them to a place where they feel like their art is important, relevant, and can make a difference in the world.
Do you have a favorite artist that you admire or follow?
Frida Kahlo is my favorite artist from history for her bravery, strength, and abilities. The modern artist I most admire might be Banksy for his social statements and "anonymous" approach. For style, my favorites are Diebenkorn, Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.
What are you currently working on? Is there anything new in the shop that you are very excited about?
I am working on a new series that involves more movement and small parts. I think I will be making more rings than I have before.
What’s next for you?
I am taking two painting classes in oil painting this fall. I am also planning on a new series in jewelry and am doing a ceramics project for our winter Marketplace.
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