So, who am I you ask? I am a self-taught jewelry designer and conservation biologist. My work is directly influenced by the natural world, and I work with mixed metals, found objects, botanicals (like fur, feathers and bone) and antiquities. By day my husband and I run a 40-acre wildlife conservation center (www.rarespecies.org) by night I pound metal and play with a torch.
I first discovered LMAJ through an artist I met online, LMAJ member Staci Klinger Smith. I adore her work, was immediately drawn to her nature-inspired bronze clay components. Through her I discovered MaryAnn Carroll, and voila! Here I am. MaryAnn has contributed more than she knows to my current body of work. The moment I laid eyes on her enamel copper work, I became totally obsessed. She has created some of the most gorgeous enamel copper discs for me, and I use them in nearly every one of my current designs. They have become an integral component for my work--seriously. I love everything she makes. I recently joked in my blog that I wished I could kidnap her and keep her in my studio....I await the restraining order. The photo below shows just a few of my designs incorporating MaryAnn's discs.
I live in South Florida, and my life is filled with amazing wildlife. For the past 15 years I have shared my life with endangered African antelope, South American parrots, and Brazilian primates living in my backyard. As I write this, I am watching the clock, getting ready to hand feed this year's crop of baby red-browed Amazon parrots, one of the most endangered parrots of South America. We have seven babies this year and they are fed every few hours around the clock. Less than 400 of these beautiful birds remain in the wild. As I type, a tiny marmoset named Ninita is driving me CRAZY, running from my shoulder to the keyboard and back again. These little monkeys are native to Peru, facing extreme habitat loss. Ninita lives with me because as a baby she was abandoned by her parents (we have the largest captive colony of pygmy marmosets in North America). We were forced to hand-rear her and she is the center of attention....always. I also just found out that our herd of bongo antelope has expanded by one...a new calf born last night. Bongo are a critically endangered mountain antelope from Kenya. These shy, gorgeous creatures live on the slopes of Mt. Kenya and number less than 100 in the wild.
So, what does all this have to do with jewelry design? Everything--at least to me. The animals I work with every day and the landscapes in which they live directly influence my work. I try to draw the link between art and nature, because as far as I am concerned you can't have one without the other. Creating art is also very therapeutic for me, since the field in which I work is extremely depressing. Wildlife and wild places are vanishing at a level and speed never before recorded in human history, and I have a front-row seat to the show. I take my frustration out on copper, brass, and silver, and do my best to create something that reflects the intrinsic beauty of what is left of "the wild". I think I'd go nuts without art as a release.
I have also found that art is a community. The ridiculously talented artists I have met in "real life" and online inspire me every day to learn more, explore more, and share more. For LMAJ, I plan to use this blog as a platform to give shout-outs to artists that amaze me, and to share as much as I can. Tips, techniques, successes and failures, favorite products and vendors. And the occasional animal story and photos, cause who can resist that? I also hope to hear from LMAJ readers. Ask me questions, send me photos of your work and photos of your inspiration. You know...share with us!
I thank everyone at LMAJ for inviting me to the party, and I look forward to dropping in every now and then. Until next time, get those hands dirty, go outside at least once a day, and create something AMAZING!
For more about me, please visit my website, Beadkeepers Art and Jewelry Design, and if you are feeling brave, you can stop by my alter-ego blog site, The Angry Conservationist. I must warn you, The Angry Conservationist is where I go to vent, scream and swear....A LOT. Not for the faint of heart....