the end of my artist’s residency

Posted on September 1st, 2015 by mountain girl  |  5 Comments »


Saturday at 1:30 pm, I finished up my artist’s residency. Yaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy! 🙂

This weekend I taught the last of my eleven jewelry classes at the Gilpin County library. Having a class each Saturday morning throughout the summer was really great–I love taking classes, and teaching was almost as much fun as learning. I’ll admit, at first I had some trepidation at the thought of teaching adults for the first time. In retrospect, though, it wasn’t as much “teaching” as it was just working with them, once I finished each demo–and that’s nothing to fear.


Cash and I spent the days before my final class making things. I made a batch of chocolate hearts, and he tested them out for me (they passed with flying colors).  I also made a big batch of moisturizer bars, wrapping and labeling them while Cash counted and stacked.  (He also got his own wrapped bar–“Lip Balm!” Lip balm is his very favorite thing. Going past the EOS lip balms at the Target checkout is always a battle.)


Making the little treats was a lot of fun for both of us. I set them out at my class and they were happily received–both by my students and the library staff.


(A little gift to me from the library. That’s a photo of the library sign, which is becoming rather famous with libraries around the world, I hear.)

Zia came with me to all but two of the classes. We stopped each morning at the gas station on our way to the library and she picked out snacks and a drink, then spent her time in the children’s section or on the library computer. When I had kids’ classes, she joined in. I was glad that she got to have a special time with me apart from Cash–we love that kid, but we never really do anything without him.

The twenty-five or so ladies that I worked with over the span of the classes were (for the most part) happy, excited, interested, creative, and–forgiving, if need be. Like the time I  took one lady’s carefully hammered brass pendant and, with one “helpful” blow, nearly cracked it in half. I didn’t realize it was paper-thin in one spot when she asked for help with it. Sheesh.

Jewelry making is not something I’ve done my whole life, unless you’re talking about stringing beads on a wire. In fact, each technique shown in the photos below was something I learned this spring, specifically for teaching–with the exception of hammering copper and making ear wires. I taught myself those a few weeks earlier–before applying for the residency.

Before you call me a scam artist trying to become an artist in residence, I have to say in my defense that I have always been an artist–mostly a painter–and last fall I began to find my niche making hand painted pendants and earrings. I decided it would be a fun challenge to expand my new art by teaching it (isn’t that what an artist’s residency is really about? taking your art somewhere new?) and wrote a proposal for teaching jewelry making. Before I was even awarded the residency, I realized that not everyone interested in making jewelry is a painter, and that I would have to do some serious stretching in order to teach 22+ hours of jewelry making sans painting.

And so was born my foray into the wild and wonderful world you will see below.

This is a quick photo journal of what I taught each week over the summer, June 6 through August 29. These photos are of my own work which I made for teaching examples–and to figure out how in the world to make them before showing others how. 😉


Week 1: Celtic Designs.  We made Celtic triquetras and triskeles in copper, silver, nickel silver, and brass. Celtic knots are challenging, and if I could do it over, I would save this class for last, instead of springing it on those poor ladies at the very beginning. Everyone stuck with it (despite a few tears and murmured curses–not kidding) and they also learned the very useful–and easy–skill of handmade ear wires.


Week 2: Leather Necklace and Earrings.  Each person designed her own pieces of jewelry using scraps of leather and metallic inks, cutting and layering different leather shapes together. We added some wire accents, as in my Rustic Southwest leather necklace on the right.  Everyone was relieved with the free form nature of this class, compared to last week’s Celtic knots. 😉


Week 3: Kids’ Create: Beaded Creature Necklaces.  (And a beaded flag, since it was just before Independence Day.) It was so much fun working with those kids, and David’s mom and niece even came, since it was during their visit. 🙂 Once the kids got the hang of the beading technique, they chose patterns from a stack of printouts I brought. Most of them made a couple of beaded creatures each.


Week 4: Copper, Rock, and River Glass Bohemian Necklace Set.  We made sets of staggered-length necklaces using copper wire and found materials combined with knotted cotton and leather cord. The rocks and glass are straight from our own Boulder Creek, collected by Cash and myself.


Week 5: Delicate Beaded Brass Link Necklace. (And bracelets, it turned out.)  We fashioned the links from brass, copper, and nickel silver, added beads, linked them together, and made two kinds of fasteners–hook-and-eye and toggle clasps.


Week 6: Tree of Life Pendant.  We used brass, copper, and nickel silver wires to fashion the trees, strung different types of beads (and little birds) on the branches, wrapped the edges, hung them on leather cords, and fastened them with handmade hook-and-eye clasps.


Week 7: Kids Create: Leather Pouch and Cuff Bracelet. I think this was our smallest class–only four or five girls. They made pouches and leather cuff bracelets using snaps, sparkly rivets (not shown), and letter/design stamps.


Week 8: Multi-Metal Spiral Charm Bracelet and Earrings. I’m not sure if anyone actually made a charm bracelet (it is a slightly cheesy idea, now that I think of it).  By this time our classes were loosening up beautifully and no one hesitated to dive in with their own ideas. Lots of swirly pendants and earrings were made using the technique I showed them for organic, geometric designs–and lots of dangles, as in my earring examples on the far left and far right.


Week 9: Hammered Copper Earrings and Copper Swirl Rings.  You have probably seen some hammered copper things in my shop–there is nothing quite like hammering your heart out at the end of a long day. I love it. It’s in my blood, I guess. I was a little concerned that my industrial copper wire and thick plate brass would be too tough for those sweet little ladies to flatten, but I underestimated them. I did provide some copper sheeting as well, but I was taken aback by the way the heavier metal yielded to them, and by the room full of determined faces and swinging blows. This was one happy (and loud) class session.


Week 10: Leather Wrap Bracelet.  We also made chokers, like my pearl choker with hammered brass pendant (center top). This was yet another session I felt tentative about. There is a learning curve to making these popular wrap bracelets, but even worse is the length of thread you have to work with. Like, 15 feet, at the beginning.  It tangles easily, and I did have to rescue a few students from their knots, but everyone got the hang of it and it was a very satisfying project–many said it was their favorite.


Week 11: Geometric Wire Charm Choker.  This, like the charm bracelet, was a project that was not entirely emulated. It must be the charm concept–folks who have lived through the eighties don’t really see charms as, well–charming, anymore. The heart of this lesson, though, was antiquing, and that was fun for everyone, although some were nearly overcome by the smell.  We used liver of sulfur, and it’s very rotten-egg-ish.  That copper piece on the right is a section from our refrigerator water hose (we obviously didn’t need it).  It hammered beautifully and I used it to demonstrate dipping and buffing for an antiqued finished.

Everyone was also interested in making the wire-wrapped beaded forms, and they used them for pendants and earrings (not charms).  Also, several people had missed the Celtic class, and asked for a demo.  I went over triquetras and triskeles, and it went much better than the first class. I am probably a better teacher now–but I think there is also something to be said about my students getting into the swing of working with tools and wire. We also went over hook-and-eye clasps one more time. It was quite a mish-mash of techniques, but I really wanted to help each person who was stuck on anything, and I think everyone finished this last class very satisfied and happy.


They all surprised me with a signed card!  It meant so much to me that they really enjoyed the classes. It has been such a great artist’s residency–a lot of fun, a good teaching experience, a stretching and growing of my creative self, and a chance to get out and do something on my own with Zia.  I am grateful to have had such an amazing opportunity!


5 Responses to “the end of my artist’s residency”

  1. Mimi says on :

    What a great assortment of jewelry pieces you came up with! Can’t believe you did all this and taught the maneuvers to make them. Well, yes I can….I’m glad for all the appreciative comments you got from the “students”….that makes teaching so worth it. Love,Mimi

  2. suzy Mae says on :

    What incredible pieces of jewellery you all made. Sounds like such a fun class! The beautifully wrapped moisturiser gifts are such a lovely idea 🙂

  3. Mom & Dad says on :

    Hi honeee…great jewelry designs….Kayla, Kaylee and I are so glad we got to attend your class – wonderful memories of our trip – luv u/ mom

  4. mountain girl says on :

    Yes–glad you could come, too! Fun times 🙂

  5. Yanic says on :

    What a wonderful class… such amazing jewelry. What a lucky bunch of ladies to be tought by such a passionate person. 🙂