Interview by Juanita Canzoneri
I interviewed Frank and Ginny Maiolo, our March Artists of the Month, in their home studio.
Frank and Ginny named their studio Monument Moon because they live in Monument, Colorado and Ginny has been enamored by the moon all her life.
Frank and Jenny are jewelers. They design and create jewelry from silver or copper with gemstones and precious semi-precious stones. They make rings, earrings, bracelets, pendants, sometimes dog tags.
Most of their work is done with hot connections using solder and flux. They use an acetylene air torch for silver soldering. They have been rock hounds their entire lives and have a large collection of stones in their studio.
Ginny and Frank retired from corporate America seven years ago and decided to have fun with the rest of their lives. They had both been managers for software development groups at FedEx. One of the women worked for Ginny made jewelry and Ginny asked if this woman would give her a class.
She came home from the class and left all of her class instructions on the table and went shopping. When she came back home Frank had already made two pair of earrings.
They had no idea they wanted to work in metal. Frank read through the instructions Ginny had left behind and decided it looked like fun. Being a little more familiar with tools he helped with those. “I was afraid of the torch,” Ginny confessed. “it was a little still a little unnerving at times, but Frank is really good with the torch.”
I asked the question I typically ask silversmiths: how many hammers do you have? They start counting and come up with 17. They’d have more but the hammers they like are really expensive. Then I point out a large hammer under the table, giving a final count of 18.
They use a rolling mill as much as hammers for texture and have another tool with a texture attachment.
I asked Frank how he came to start his line of Camino jewelry. In 2015 they decided to would do the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain, a 500-mile-walk through Spain on the Santiago de Compostela.
After they got home, they realized most of the commemorative jewelry they had seen on the trip was made in China. So, Frank came up with a couple designs for pendants, rings, earrings, and bracelets and has been selling those now for a couple of years through our Monument Moon site, Etsy, and Amazon handmade. The pieces can also be found in Camino Marketplace on Facebook.
Frank and Ginny started their business while in their sixties and it's flourishing. “So often we think it's too late. I'm retired and there’s nothing more I can do,” Ginny says. “But it's never too late! When I retired Frank got me this card and I framed it and put it in my studio. ‘There will come a time when you think everything is finished, but that will be the beginning.’ And it's so true. this has changed our entire life.”
They’ve always been interested in art. Ginny paints and they've always been an advocate of the Arts. They travel the world going to Art Museums and so it's always been an interest. “I thought I would stick with painting,” Ginny says, “but I wasn't that good at it. I enjoy it, and it's fun, and I still do it. But jewelry just resonated with both of us it was just so completely us, using the things that we've always loved. Having been in the corporate world all of our professional careers this was something where we just reinvented ourselves.”
Frank has an MBA project management, undergraduate business information. Ginny has an undergrad in psychology which has helped her deal with group dynamics. She taught in the corporate world as well as managed and comments, “you'd be surprised how often we use that in the world of artists. Group dynamics are pretty similar no matter what group you're in.”
But Commonwheel has been a freeing experience for them both. They had rigid corporate standards in software development, which is something that really turns software developers off because they want to have their own thing. Now they can do anything they want and can experiment, and play, and don't have to worry about it.
For the newly retired or those who want to expand their creative life the recommend taking classes anywhere you can find them.
“Explore,” says Ginny “I never thought I would get into jewelry making. I enjoyed it, I love buying it, but I would always look at it and think well I could make that. And then I started making jewelry and it's a lot harder than I thought. Explore. Play. Don’t be too ready to say you can't do something.”
Whatever you learn will often carry over into other areas. Looking at the different types of art that Commonwheel carries and that they do you will find they all draw on the same art concepts: the rule of threes, asymmetry, and so on. Everyone has creativity whether it's in music, writing, art, even thinking—which basically starts at all.
Ginny and Frank have two completely different design methods. Ginny has a basket of ideas in her space. When there were wildfires near their home a few years ago, this basket is one of the things their daughter took to keep safe. The basket contains her ideas, drawings, names, etc. “I keep it by me at night when Frank's watching TV and jot down ideas. I have a basketful of paper and pencils and I'm designing,” Ginny says.
Frank says he designs at the bench. He doesn't do any drawings. He just sits down with his raw materials and it grows. Usually he's picked a stone out of their collection first and does a lot of designing in his head.
Franks calls is designs simplistic elegance and Ginny says she gets way too into a piece and has to figure out where to stop. So, she ends up with some designs that she can't finish without showing it to Frank and say “now what do I do?”
But they do definitely help each other with the design and with the technical aspects. “I'm so afraid I'm going to melt something” says Ginny about fusing. “I don't want it to melt and Frank is so totally comfortable with that torch. He knows it intimately.”
In addition to Commonwheel Artists Co-op and our Labor Day Festival the Maiolo’s sell at Front Range Open Studios. This will be their seventh year. There are currently 16 artists in Monument that are part of the weekend event in September.
By Leti Wesolowski, blog contributor
Tell us about yourself and how did you get started with your art?
I am a Uruguayan-born, Colorado-based Jewelry designer and self-taught maker. I’ve been part of Commonwheel artist co-op for the past 4 years as a jeweler, blog contributor, art show curator and participating artist at many gallery shows with different designs, mediums and creations.
Making jewelry started as a hobby 14 years ago. Before that, I was focusing more on my architectural studies and I painted in oil as a past time. I took classes in pottery and photography for fun, I did pet portraits for friends and designed my own Christmas cards for my family. However, I found the most challenge with jewelry making, not only a whole new world of exciting gemstones, but also so many different jewelry techniques to create my designs. Within the first few months, my jewelry grew in complexity and craftsmanship and it didn’t take long before I started my own jewelry business. Today I still dabble in different mediums and keep exploring new techniques—you can read more about my last collection submitted to the Garden Art show at Commonwheel here.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on my Summer collection consisting of pretty, bright colors and a mix of statement necklaces and easy to wear bracelets—you can visit my Facebook page to check my latest news. My favorite style lately has been the long braided necklaces usually paired with ethnic amulets and vintage objects I find while rummaging through gem shows and antique stores. It takes many hours of design, creation and full attention to detail, however the end result is an elegant and strong necklace that feels soft and flexible when worn.
Tell us about your creative process.
I apply my own personal methodical process learned from my studies on Architecture, Art history, design and lots of practice and patience! I work with a variety of metals –sterling, gold filled, copper, brass—in a free but selective process. Most of my silver and copper pieces get oxidized and polished by hand to create a vintage look or to emphasize contrast between the gemstones and the metals. I use semi-precious stones and freshwater pearls with occasional swarowski crystals, African trading beads and Japanese beads, mostly depending on what the design calls for. When I was a child I loved to collect old coins and keys, so I bring that element into my designs as well, incorporating interesting found objects, amulets, crosses, religious medals, chandelier crystals and antique pendants that add an intriguing, old-world touch to the whole line. I want each piece of jewelry to have a special meaning and character so that the owner will cherish it and wear it with intention and appreciation to handmade.
What do you enjoy most doing?
One of my favorite jewelry techniques is wire-wrapping stones where I use very thin wire to link or attach gemstones or beads. Earrings are a process of love and patience. Teardrops are matched closely, wire wrapped like a science, and ear wires are shaped, hammered and smoothly filed on the ends for a comfortable fit through your earlobes. All the rosary-style wire-wrapped beaded chains you’ll see in my collection are entirely made by me, bead by bead, link by link, in a lengthy but therapeutic process. In the past years I’ve incorporated crochet, macramé and braiding as a way of mixing in fiber and bringing in a more organic feel to my wire designs. What I enjoy the most is to plan the whole collection with a cup of coffee in one hand and a sketch book and pencil on the other and seeing it come to fruition on my working table. It is very rewarding to admire the final result before it’s all gone to different boutiques and markets.
What tool(s) in your studio could you not live without?
Two tools are essential that I hold on each hand at all times: my round nose pliers and my chain nose pliers. Just add beads and wire for a great start!
Is there anything new in the shop that you are very excited about?
Besides my colorful crochet wrap bracelets that are fun to wear, I’ve introduced a new line of macramé bracelets with stamped words celebrating all things Colorado. I am working on new Summer colors that are really beautiful and easy gifts for any age.
Where can we find your work?
You can find a specially selected jewelry collection displayed at Commonwheel gallery at all times, as well as these local stores: Green Horse Gallery in Manitou Springs; Poor Richard’s Bookstore in Colorado Springs; EllyBlue in Old Colorado City; Honeycomb & co in Denver; Fratelli Restaurante in Colorado Springs.
If you are looking for something unique and love outdoor art fairs, visit me at any of this Colorado shows coming up: Greeley -Park your Art, July 28-29; Woodland Park -Mountain Artists, August 4-5; Loveland -Art in the Park, August 11-12; Commonwheel Art Festival in Manitou Springs, September 1-2-3; Rock Ledge Ranch in Garden of the Gods, September 14-15-16. I always bring one-of-a-kinds and special pieces that cannot be find anywhere else.
If you live out of state and wish to purchase online, please visit Commonwheel online store and my Etsy shop.
For more info about me and my line, visit my website www.dolcedeleti.com and
Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/dolcedeleti
Visit our Commonwheel Artist Co-op store to receive 10% off Leti’s jewelry through the whole month of July (in-store sales only).
During the month of May all sales of Evelina's jewelry are 10% off.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Having a science background, I never thought of myself as an artist. I started making jewelry few months after our move to Colorado in the summer of 2010 and I'd say it was a wonderful turn of events. I was in JoAnn's with a friend, where I saw the sign-up list for their classes. I took the bead stringing class and after that it was a roller coaster dive into the jewelry-making industry for me. I discovered new materials and different, more advanced techniques. Each year I add a new skill to my belt and a lot of new tools and materials (Hello, my name is Evelina and I'm a beadaholique!). My all-time favorite medium is the Precious Metal Clay (PMC) in pure silver and bronze; the possibilities and combinations of textures and shapes when working with it are endless.
How long have you been part of Commonwheel?
I got accepted in this wonderful artistic family in November of 2017 and I'm so grateful for the opportunity, support and the motivation that the gallery members have given me.
What does making art mean to you?
Handcrafting each piece of jewelry is my creative outlet and therapy. I'm home alone most of the day (except for the last year—now I enjoy the company of our sweet Yorkie-Poo, Lilly) and having something to do with my hands keeps my sanity.
What are you currently working on?
Most of my pieces are dainty and minimalist in style, but I just got into cleaner, geometrical forms and I love the simplicity of the designs! I enjoy working with silver wire and shaping it into an accessory for women to wear is a very satisfying process.
Tell us about your process; walk us through the steps of your flowing creativity to achieve one of your works.
I usually say that each piece I create is a result of a mess – yes, a creative mess in my studio. I take out boxes of beads, wire and tools and spread the contents on the floor. The question is “What can I do with you?”, this results in a small “line” of creations. I pair beads with Sterling Silver links and earwire to my liking (that can take day or two at a time), then I assemble them which is the fastest part.
The same with the PMC – I take out textures, cutting templates, molds and I figure out what goes best with the particular design idea I have in mind.
What reactions do you want to cause in the public looking at your artwork?
As a designer who tends to create everyday jewelry pieces, I love hearing the exclamations of the women (mostly), that stop and admire my display case at Commonwheel. Each time I've worked at the gallery and I have customers stop and say “I love how pretty/how dainty this is” my heart sings, because that's me, that's my style, these pieces came out of my hands.
What is your favorite piece recent work? And why?
As I mentioned, I love working with the metal clay, my favorite piece is a Garnet necklace, that is very delicate and feminine. It can be worn everyday, but it also could be dressed up for a special occasion. I decided to oxidize the center piece to bring out the details of the floral texture, which shows the fine lines beautifully and compliments the gorgeous color of the faceted Garnet beads.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?
I'm absolutely honored to have 9 pieces of jewelry selected for the actresses of popular TV series such as “Bones”, “The Vampire Diaries”, “The Originals” and few more.
Where can we find your work: website, social media, local stores.
At the moment my work can be found in two local galleries – Commonwheel and 45º Gallery.
I post pictures of my recent work on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/EvaLineJewelry
and Instagram: www.instagram.com/evalinejewelry
You can access all of my social media sites from www.evalinejewelry.com where you can also read my story and see the pieces of jewelry featured on popular TV shows.
March 16—April 16, 2018
Join us for both of our evening receptions: March 16 and April 6, 5-8 pm.
All art involves an artist taking up some media and transforming it into a new form or image that comes from their vision and imagination. Artists take many different types of materials and give them a thorough and dramatic change in form or appearance wherein it undergoes a radical transformation to become a piece of art. Some artists start with a lump of clay or precious stones and metal. They take these materials and mold them into beautiful bits of sculptural art. Other artists begin with a blank piece of paper and by using paints, inks, or photography create an image no one else has created before. Artists transform what most people see as ordinary into something extraordinary, unique to their way of seeing the world.
“Transformation” is a gallery show that looks at the journey of three local artists and the materials they use in their creative process.
Julia L. Wright, long known for her feather masks and jewelry, has been expanding her artistic palette to incorporate nature photography. As she hikes she takes images along the trail. Then back at home she transforms those photos into kaleidoscopic digital art.
Jerry Rhodes starts with clay and transforms it into dramatic vessels and sculptures. His raku work incorporates disparate concepts and elements drawn from a global, temporal, and cultural palate into harmonious designs.
Ace McCasland’s jewelry has a rustic, eclectic, industrial feel and for this show she is considering how seeds transform into plants as diverse as grass and trees. Using ancient metal-smith techniques she strives to create modern, one-of-a-kind designs.
Julia L. Wright
Talk a little about yourself
Creating art in many forms has been the basis of my life starting with theatre when I built sets and directed others in High School and college. I created a variety of art using a myriad of fibers. Feathers were added to many of my art creations, and I am best known for creating feather masks and other artful accessories using feathers and found objects.
I have taken thousands of photographs on my hikes and in many gardens. About five years ago started using my realistic nature and other photos to illustrate my books and journals. And some of them got a bit twisted to fit into the idea I was trying to illustrate.
About 2 years ago, I “fell down a rabbit hole of creativity” using my Nature photographs to create abstract, kaleidoscopic and mandala style images. I find a little part of a Nature photo and by playing with it in on the computer; I transform it into a totally different type of image.
What does making art mean to you?
When I am in my studio or sitting at my computer, I get totally lost in the process and my imagination can run pretty wild thinking about how to take the materials at hand and create something totally unique and fun.
Taking photos on my hikes always has my creative juices flowing. I enjoy watching people try to imagine how I went beyond a simple Nature photograph when looking at my artwork. I am constantly looking for some new way to use the images I begin with to create a bit of awe and wonder when someone sees the finished art.
What inspires you in your art?
Nature is my most powerful inspiration. When hiking or passing a beautiful garden, I often stop to take in the amazingly beautiful natural creations that surround me. A driftwood stump or a rock formation or a bit of moss can be as enticing to my eye as a beautiful wildflower. Each one makes my heart sing and my spirit soar with joy when I take the time to really look at the beauty others pass by each day without noticing it.
I realize there are hundreds of people who take beautiful Nature photographs, so I wanted to do something a little bit different with mine. I really enjoy finding a hidden piece of a Nature photo to twist and turn into a totally unsuspected image. Watching people look deeply into the images and point out to friends what they see and get a conversation going about that image is a joy to watch.
Walk us through your production process.
I take lots and lots of pictures on a hike or in a garden, and then sort through them to find which ones will work for various types of art projects I may be working on. Sitting at the computer, I will crop out extraneous objects for a book illustration or to use in a deck of cards. The real fun comes when I see a piece I want to play with to create a mandala or kaleidoscopic or surrealistic abstract image. Each one of these can take hours and many twists and turns, and sometimes changes to the coloration, to get to the place I feel satisfied with the final image.
What reaction do you want to achieve in the public looking at and buying your artwork?
I want people to look deeply into each of the abstracted photographs use their imagination to discover images within them. I want people to use their imaginations and discover a myriad of images within each image. I enjoy asking if they can see the starting image or if it just all melts into one new piece of art.
What is your recent favorite piece? And why?
I have had lots of fun creating these images. I do hope some will inspire others to gain an appreciation for Nature and this beautiful planet we live on. But more than that, to let their imagination run wild when looking at stump or rock formation or a bit of moss and see a fantasy creature that may inspire a poem or story to tell their children.
I think my most favorite surrealistic image I have in this show is the “Magic Mushrooms Reflected in the Aspen Pond”. What a great hike that was! Actually, hidden in this image is a reflection of my shadow, very hard to see. The magical feeling of the golden Aspen leaves floating on the water still evokes a feeling of joy I felt on that hike walking through the autumn splendor in silence only broken by the wind and the cry of birds.
Here are two sets of images:
Each one has the original image, then the cropped piece I used and the final image that will be at the show. Both came from this hike and have Aspen leaves in them, but from different ponds. Both use most of the original image, but the “Magic Mushrooms“ image has many more twists and changes to it.
The little piece of driftwood looked like he was praying or looking up on wonder. So “Prayer Circle” came about as a kaleidoscopic image.
Where can we find your work?
1. Web sites:
My books are also on Amazon
And I usually have 2-3 images showing in the Manitou Art Center member Gallery and at Commonwheel Artists Co-op.
In a short paragraph, tell us about yourself
I think it was 1995 or 1996 when I went to a Renaissance Festival and saw these hand-made beer steins that I really liked. I was too cheap to buy them, and I was convinced that they were probably really easy to make. How hard could that be, right?! So I decided to go to a craft center and teach myself to throw pottery. After many, many years, I amassed a garage full of ashtrays, flower pots, and a few artistic pieces that were kind of ok. I decided to take some pieces to galleries in Santa Fe, Taos, Denver, and around Colorado Springs, and the owners actually consigned a few--so that's how it started. I still consider pottery a bad hobby I got into, and I STILL haven't made a good set of beer steins.
What does making art mean to you?
I've never really philosophized deeply about what my art means to me. I don't try to make socio-political statements with my work. I don't feel I need to create an homage to any genre, trend, style, or palate (although I do favor Raku). I don't try to emulate famous artists. I don't care that my technique is all wrong. I don't have an insatiable urge to create...I just like make pots. The ultimate satisfaction for me is pulling a piece out of the kiln and saying, "Yeah, that's ok. I like that one."
What has inspired you for this show?
My inspiration for this show was forgetting that I signed up months ago to do it, and then panicking and trying to get a bunch of pieces done at the last minute.
For this show specifically, tell us about your process.
The process is pretty straight forward: throw the pot, trim the pot, bisque fire the pot, glaze the pot, Raku-fire the pot, hope it doesn't break during any of the steps above. I've posted a few "Befores-and-Afters" on Facebook.
What emotions do you want to explore in the public looking at your artwork?
I'd hope that others looking at my work don't try to overanalyze it or look for profound meaning. If you like a particular piece, great. If you think it's crap, that's great, too.
What is your favorite piece for sale at this event? And why?
I think my favorite pieces, for now, are the Sagar-fired Bonsai tree pots. They're not quite where I want them to be stylistically yet, but the technique offers an almost limitless variety of experimental approaches.
Where can we find your work?
I have a website that I haven't updated in years: www.jerryrhodespottery.com, and galleries in Charleston, San Francisco, New York, Golden & Manitou, and a few other places.
In a short paragraph, tell us about yourself.
we are all seeking, exploring, wondering, dreaming... after years of adventuring and wandering the western landscape, I’ve begun to express these experiences with a variety of artistic mediums. being an avid traveler, I am especially drawn to art you can easily take with you, and even better, wear. My jewelry designs are earthy yet industrial, eclectic, and unpretentious, often incorporating materials that challenge preconceptions of what is 'valuable'. I experiment with unusual techniques such as hammering annealed metal against concrete or railroad track or melting scraps of leftover silver into a ring band, for a truly unique texture. I create my own chains, jump rings, ear wires, clasps, and much more, finishing each unique piece with heavy oxidation, buffed slightly for highlights, to create an archaeological 'freshly unearthed' creation. I work intuitively, so each day I enter the studio, I rarely know what is going to happen, but the opportunity to elevate something common into something precious is a challenge I look forward to each time, and often surprise myself with the results.
What does making art mean to you?
My work can be described as 'wild-crafted metal': inspired by the wild, crafted by hand, incorporating the exquisite textures and patina of metal with minerals, gemstones, found objects, and organic material. My creations embrace personal adornment as small sculpture that is worn upon, and interacts directly with, the body. I seek to create an abstract story with my art, as jewelry especially becomes intimate and expressive for the wearer, in turn becoming a part of their own story.
What has inspired you for this show?
For this show, “Transformation”, I am exploring the idea of change, of alchemy, of growth. The tiniest capsule of a seed holds the most profound and exquisite example of transformation, able to alter itself into a simple blade of grass, or a stately redwood tree. This thought has inspired organic pieces evocative of that moment when a seed first sprouts, that moment of unrealized potential, when slender tendrils reach passionately and determinedly toward the sky. Other pieces are simply inspired by the transformative process of changing raw and often recycled or found materials into wearable pieces of art for the body.
For this show specifically, tell us about your process.
I have included a process photo collage that documents the transformation of raw materials, in this case scrap silver, into a ring band: first the scrap is laid out onto a charcoal block, then fire is applied, melting the bits to each other without completely melting it into a shapeless blob. I take this strip and hammer, file, edit, and shape, ultimately forming a ring band. After studying the shape and potential negative space, I may discover a natural spot to place a gemstone, here, a warm glowing citrine is placed into a hand fabricated prong setting, then the piece is complete.
What do you hope people to experience when looking at your artwork?
Jewelry is an exquisite medium that allows one to wear art that directly interacts with the body. Jewelry becomes personal and expressive for the wearer and becomes a part of their own story. To be able to create a piece of jewelry that becomes so intimate and meaningful for someone is extremely gratifying as an artist. I often ask the viewer or the wearer to step outside of their comfort zone. Push the limits, bend the rules, poke at the ideals of perfection. I do not seek to express flawlessness, I seek authenticity. I seek the truth within the layers. I seek the nitty gritty, the weathered, the worn, the discarded, the overlooked. We all have rough edges we try so hard to conceal. I choose to reveal those flaws, to embrace the ragged, the wild, the raw. It is in these moments of pushing our own limits, we will discover ourselves.
What is your favorite piece for sale at this event?
to be determined...... possibly meaning it hasn't been made yet... ha!
Where can we find your work: website, social media, local stores.
Locally, my work can be found at:
Poor Richard's Downtown (320 North Tejon)
G44 Gallery (1785 S. 8th Street)
By Leti Wesolowski, contributor
Valerie Bartron is a self-taught artist who has been designing lampwork beads and jewelry since 2012. She creates her original art using an oxygen and propane fueled torch, Italian glass and American-made double helix glass. She achieves unusual and interesting designs by adding pure silver, enamel powders and special reduction frit and annealing each piece for lasting durability. She has been a member of Commonwheel for over a year now and has participated with her lampwork jewelry at many gallery shows and at our Labor Day Weekend Art Festival. Valerie enjoys creating unique “molten treasures” to fit her customer’s unique styles.
How did you get interested in lampworking?
It was purely serendipity! A good friend was preparing for an overseas move. Unbeknownst to me she had a lampwork studio she hadn't touched for well over five years and she decided to sell it off. At a luncheon she asked if any of us might be interested in purchasing her studio. When I asked what type of studio set up she had she said “lampwork”. I thought she was talking about light fixtures. That's how unfamiliar I was with this art! I was curious and asked if she could show me exactly what she did. After the luncheon I went directly to her house and watched her make a simple round bead. That was the beginning of my love affair with glass art i.e. lampwork!
Where do you get inspiration?
I love natural beauty. I find inspiration in such things as landscapes, flowers, beautiful fabrics, just to name a few. I also love texture! I've realized most of my beads have a raised design or texture. I also get inspiration from people's needs.
Tell us about your creative process-- how do you transform a rod of glass into a perfect glass bead?
When I notice something particularly beautiful I take note of the colors and shapes. I'll try to figure out how to create this in glass. As strange as it might sound, it's not unusual for me to dream of a way to achieve the different layers of glass to make what I see in my mind’s eye.
Is there a glass artist(s) that you admire/follow?
Yes! Astrid Riedel from South Africa, Patty Leota Genack from Beulah, CO., and Jody Welch from Black Forest, CO., to name just a few. Their work is absolutely amazing! I’ll never stop learning from others.
There are glass beads and then there are amazing tree of life pendants! Which one do you enjoy the most?
The Tree of Life pendants are definitely the ones I enjoy making. Partly because they seem to represent something special for so many. I find it humbling and fulfilling when somebody purchases a piece that isn't simply jewelry but symbolizes something really special to them. It took a long time to develop the skills to make the Tree of Life pendant. They take many hours from start to the finished product.
What is your proudest achievement?
I'm fairly new to this medium. I've only been a lampworker for just short of five years. After a year of continuous work my oldest daughter asked if she could bring some of my beads into a well-established bead shop to see if they would be interested in buying them. When they ended up buying over $900 worth and asked me to continue to bring beads in, that was without a doubt a day I won't forget.
Being accepted into the Commonwheel Artists Co-op was a thrill! I was searching for someone to make sterling silver neck rings to hang my Tree of Life pendants. I met up with a husband and wife team, members of the Commonwheel. They do beautiful sterling silver work! I brought in a few of my pieces I had intended to hang off the neck rings. They were very kind and said they loved my work. They told me when a space became available for a jeweler that I should apply. It took a little over a year before one opened. The rest is history…
What is your best seller/ your favorite piece of all time? What is the story behind it?
I love making all sorts of beads! The Tree of Life pendants are without question my best seller. I love the mountain setting in which we live in. I wanted to see if I could capture in some small way our beautiful scenery. That's how the Tree of Life pendant was born.
The vessels are special to me as well. I have several clients that have purchased multiple vessels for essential oils. An example was a close friend who was preparing for a trip to Italy. She was nervous as she gets motion sickness. She often used essential oils to help soothe her symptoms. Her mother wanting to give her something special as a departing gift asked if I could make a piece of jewelry to be worn to hold the essential oils. That's when I taught myself how to make small vessels. I used her favorite colors along with some sterling silver foil inherited from her grandfather who was once a jeweler.
I've also made vessels for people that wish to put their pets or loved ones’ ashes in. I permanently seal them. No one knows except for the client what is held inside. I've also made beads with ash encased inside to put into a necklace. It's not for everyone but those that choose to do it seem to get comfort from having it close and unassuming.
What’s next for you?
I work in what's called soft glass. Simply said this glass melts at a lower temperature than other art glass. There are so many beautiful colors to choose from. It's easy to get carried away. Before you know it you've invested in thousands of dollars’ worth! There's a fabulous glass, Double Helix which is a reactive glass, meaning it changes colors depending on the type of flame you put it in. It's a difficult glass to learn to use but the rewards are amazing! I'm on my third torch and have another on order. Each type of torch is used for a specific type of work. I started off with a $45 Hothead which was perfect to learn on. As my pieces got a little bigger and the detail more refined I purchased new torches. I'm always looking for something new and unique I can make. If I get stumped on how to achieve a certain technique, there are wonderful online lampwork communities to tap into!
In the past I've always purchased sterling silver pieces to hang my pendants on as well as chain. I'm just beginning to learn how to do my own soldering and create my own bails for my pieces. Recently I've started incorporating semi-precious stone chain to enhance my work.
I could do this work for another 30 years and just scratch the surface of possibilities!
To see Valerie’s designs in person visit Commonwheel Artist Co-op and take advantage of 10% off all purchases of Valerie’s jewelry in April 2017. She offers a wide selection of necklaces, pendants on chains, loose beads, earrings and bracelets.
You can find her work also at our online shop here. Locally, her loose beads are sold in White Rabbit Beads and heArt Market in old Colorado City, and Chimayo Turquoise in Woodland Park. Follow her Facebook page at facebook.com/atouchofglassforyou
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by Leti Wesolowski
We put out a call for mandala-related art and our local artists stepped up to the challenge. The “Mandala” show currently in our gallery is the result.
17 artists brought in mandala-related art from diverse points of views and inspiration—from patterns of nature, symbols from different cultures, colors, and the practice of centering and meditation. The works explore multiple medias but all embody the concept of “mandala”: fused glass; watercolor; digital photography; bronze, silver, and copper; precious metal clays; mixed media; stained glass; laser-cut wood; hand stamped clay; polymer clay; engraved terracotta; vinyl records; color pencil drawings; and more.
We invite you to contemplate mandalas made by local artists and discover which one evokes feelings of peace, balance, unity and strength that resonate with you. Let them work their magic on your life and allow your mind to wander into the beauty of mandalas.
“Mandala” comes from a Sanskrit word that means “circle or disc”.
In art, mandala is often a symbolic pattern usually in the form of a circle within a square divided into four symmetric sections containing a unifying center from which geometric shapes and symbols radiate outwards.
“The mandala is an archetypal image whose occurrence is attested throughout the ages. It signifies the wholeness of the Self.” —Carl G. Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections
Embraced by many religions and cultures around the world, a mandala represents wholeness and the connection between inner self and outer reality.
“In Christianity, there are a number of sacred images and ritual invocations that use the circular shape to connect the spiritual realm with the earthly realm”, says figurative sculptor Marica Hefti. “The placement of divine beings, angelic figures, and holy personages at crucial positions within the circular (stained glass) windows (of Christian cathedrals) establishes the powerful storyline of Christian beliefs”.
Hindus were one of the first people to use mandalas as spiritual tools. Native Americans use mandalas as shields of good luck, prosperity, wealth and happiness. Buddhist monks create sand mandalas, a process that takes days to create, then sweep it and pour it into a river, to symbolize the never-ending cycle of life.
“A concept of new beginnings, forms of life itself” says Tracey Eastland when asked to explain what a mandala means to him.
Mandala is used in spiritual practices as a focal point for meditation, self-awareness, and healing.
For digital photographer Teri Rowan, a mandala is “meant to inspire meditation and introspection” or can be admired for just its beauty.
Metalsmith Kathleen Krucoff thinks a mandala is “a beautiful symbol to convey positive messages of encouragement and support”.
In art, mandala has become a generic term for any diagram, chart, or geometric pattern that represents the center of the universe, metaphysically or symbolically.
For Jewelry artist Connie Lorig, a mandala represents “a complex dance between unity and diversity, between the parts and the whole.”
For artist Sheila Hewlett, mandala means the continuity of life.
Commonwheel artist Julia Wright takes pictures of nature during her hikes and then edit them on her computer to create hypnotic mandalas.
Designing a mandala is a unique personal experience in which the individual lets the creative mind to run free and find the symphony of shapes, colors and patterns to represent their unique sense of self and view of reality.
Sculptor m.jo hart says “mandalas represent the process and meditation involved in creating her work”, which is focused on women’s issues, unique stories and experiences.
Mandalas can be created by individuals to symbolize their journeys through life, their state of mind or to tell their personal story.
Some of our artists got inspired by Celtic art, such as lampwork artists Jon Murray and Amanda Shotts who incorporate in their mandala barrettes “a circular pattern that has no beginning and no ending, signifying infinity of love!”
Or Glass artist Sabine Wachs who “was drawn to the Celtic spiral mandalas used as symbols of the sun powering all life”.
Jeweler Mary Cowdery got inspired by the yin-yang symbol, repetition and balance.
Artist Ray Jordan loves bright whimsical colors. His biggest inspiration is combining bright colors with his love of painting, drawing and cutting wood.
Kendrick Cowdery has a strong desire to maintain peace in his life. His handmade mandala lamp is built on mat board using a laser cutter and colorful translucent paper.
Several artists took it as a chance to explore new themes and materials, such as mosaic artist Juanita Canzoneri who jumped at the opportunity to play with alcohol inks and raid her stash of stained glass. She found that, during the process, mos of her work reminded her of an art form from her childhood in eastern Pennsylvania.
Others worked in new themes with their primary media, such as potter Jennifer Hanson who creates mandalas on her clay dishes with different hand stamps.
Or illustrator and mixed media artist Kelly Green who finds that vinyl albums automatically lend themselves to the mandala format.
Creating a mandala can be an enriching personal experience. To draw a mandala, one starts by “drawing the circle, setting an intention, centering through a meditation, usually start at the “bindu” sacred center and follow inspiration that comes” explains Mandala instructor Anne Roe. She sees mandalas “as “windows to the soul”, sacred circles and opportunities for the soulful self to express authentically”.
Sometimes mandalas are created to evoke feelings of peace and contentment on the observer. Kathleen Krucoff, for example, wanted her pieces to “help the wearer feel empowered” focusing in tranquility and strength. Ray Jordan wanted to “bring a smile to the art viewer mind and make them think”.
Step out of your comfort zone and feel the exhilaration of trying something new. Explore the possible creative ways of displaying and enjoying your beloved jewelry pieces by integrating diverse artistic mediums. You might find that an exotic pendant can be displayed in your home on an interesting wall art piece when it is not hanging around your neck. A gorgeous ring or bracelet may have a place to rest in a small shadow box that has a poem or haiku specifically written for the piece of personal adornment. A painting can become three dimensional when adding another artistic component. The possibilities are endless. Can you visualize a wonderful piece of pottery embellished with a removable piece of jewelry
Opening Reception Friday, April 15, 5—8 pm
April 15 to May 16, 2016
Commonwheel Artists Co-op invites you to free yourself from your comfort zone and open yourself to creativity!
We’re offering a place to explore new ideas in personal adornment and innovative home décor items, providing a sensory delight for our art loving customers. Why not display an exotic pendant on a beautiful ceramic sculpture when it is not hanging around your neck? Why not showcase a gorgeous ring or bracelet in an evocative shadow box? Why not exhibit a dazzling showpiece within an embellished painting?
Our next gallery show, “Dare to Express,” will playfully provide you with interesting ways to incorporate wearable art into your home décor and innovative displays to showcase your beloved jewelry pieces.
On April 15th join us for our gallery opening reception and get a chance to meet in person the creative masterminds behind this one-of-a-kind show, while tasting hors d'oeuvres and enjoying Colorado Bluegrass music.