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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Announcing the Winner for the SRAJD November 2014 Jewelry Design Challenge

I’d like to thank everyone who participated in November 2014 SRAJD challenges. The results for the "Basic Designs" challenges can be seen here:

Organic Style
Elegant Style
Modern Style
Rustic Style

The administrative staff at SRAJD selected one overall winner for November. This person’s designs were chosen as best exemplifying the challenge themes.

Congratulations Barbara Swinton of Touch of Silver!

Here are Barbara’s submissions:    



We thought it would be nice to get to know a little bit more about Barbara so I asked her some questions…

What prompts you to embrace the SRAJD jewelry-making challenges?

I'm a rather structured person, which has been useful over the years in simply getting things accomplished. However, when it comes to creating jewelry, structure is good only up to a point. It's awfully easy for me to be fairly repetitive when I approach my workbench - I can accomplish a lot, if I do what I always do. The jewelry challenges make me sit back and think about doing something different. It doesn't have to be with the idea of selling it, I find - just creating a piece that comes to life as a result of moving in a new direction, down an unexplored path. I'm really looking forward to the new year of challenges!

How did you learn your craft?

Back in 2005, we went 'mining' for garnets on one of our rest days from Adirondack hiking. After we collected our stash, we noticed a mineral store which at the time, I thought must always be associated with places like this. And amazingly, there they were, all these beautiful minerals - hanging on strands of thread no less! Yikes, they were gorgeous. So I bought a couple of strands of beads as a memory of our visit. Once home, I had no idea how to make these beads stay around my wrist and I sought out the local bead store to take a basis beading class. From there the passion just grew. I've taken many classes over the years, including bead crochet, PMC, chainmaille, glass fusing, lampwork beads, and most recently 2 courses in working with metal sheet and wire. In addition, books, "how to" videos and of course You Tube have all provided learning opportunities which I have indulged myself in, time and time again.

What themes do you pursue?

The theme that comes through most often in my creations is the color influence of the southwest. We began our Albuquerque visits 7 years ago, and oh, the silver and turquoise and lapis and coral, and sandy desert tones and colorful cactus flowers! All those colors provide a pleasing palette of inspiration for me when doing beaded jewelry. Earthy colors are next in line. The variety of jaspers alone is mind boggling. I definitely have studio supply overload in the bead category! On the other hand, working with sheet metal is really appealing to my structured nature; all those geometric shapes are calling my name.

Did you always want to be a jewelry artist?

Jewelry didn't enter my life until 10 years ago, but prior to that time there were many creative outlets that drew my attention. I guess I was trying to find myself creatively, though at the time, my pursuits weren't categorized in that way. In the 70's it was quilting, which actually spanned a few decades - all children had quilts at home, when they went off to college, wedding quilts, baby quilts, wall hangings etc. Then I discovered weaving on a floor loom (which I still have as a conversation piece), stained glass - windows, cabinet doors and the like; then onto painting - that was a rough one, as those paint brushes weren't very good listeners, though I know I will return to that effort someday! And finally jewelry - I've been very lucky to live in an area that can provide many classes for creative experimentation.

What do you think is the most interesting thing about your creative expression?

Because I have pursued a variety of outlets for expressing myself creatively, it's been interesting to note the two common threads captured in many of these activities. First, there's the tactile experience - the smooth material of a quilt broken by the lines of hand stitching, the textured fibers of wool and cotton as you weave your shuttle back and forth, the coolness of the stained glass as you carefully fit your design pieces together. And then there's shape - very similar visual stimuli from the angles of quilt pieces, stained glass and geometric forms used in metal work creations. Fun to notice these similarities! 

What are the biggest challenges that you face as a self-representing jewelry artist?

I think we all share some very common challenges when representing our own work. Although we concentrate our primary effort on growing our artistic expertise, in order to see success from that, we must be the mini-master of many tasks. If selling online, there are so many more learning curves that confront us - photography, SEO, bookkeeping, shipping, taxes - no weak links allowed in that chain:) When all you'd really like to do is create, it's a great challenge to have to excel in all these additional tasks. I just ended a relationship selling at a brick and mortar boutique due to time constraints, but when following that path, you have to be a salesman. Eeewww! For me, that was not a natural trait. Selling yourself and your creations directly, opens up your vulnerable side and yes, that was a difficult hurdle to overcome. However, with sales success, it was much easier to be a salesperson and talk about the creative process with anyone who would listen.

What role does the artist have in society?

Artists have had great influence both individually and as a group on the social society. I've always been enamored of the French Impressionists from the late 19th century. Their sketch-like capture of life in that era was an enormous change in style - not appreciated or accepted at the time. I think the role of artists over the years has been to evoke thought, hopefully emotion and sometimes change, no matter what the field - music, painting, dance or jewelry artists. In all of these fields, creativity often occurs as a solitary activity, but I think artists, as a segment of society, share the hope that what we create will elicit a reaction of one sort or another; we want to strike a nerve!

How has your art changed over time?

When I first discovered those minerals on a string, every piece I made consisted of 4 mm beads....for years! But as time went on, I found there was just so much more in size and shape and texture that needed exploring. It's satisfying creating my own earwires, clasps and other findings which give my pieces a more personal touch. Moving beyond beads, using metal rings for chainmaille gave new creations a more elegant look. Love the intricacy of weaving rings - it looks much harder than it is! There are so many different metal ring "looks" out there, from silver, copper and gold to niobium and aluminum - love them all. Now I'm getting into more creative opportunities using sheet metal. I feel there will always be something new just around the corner.

What does the future hold for you?

In the near future, I will be focusing on my copper, silver, and brass sheet metal sawing, filing, soldering, and texturing - would love to have a rolling mill. Continuing with my stone setting (I've done two so far) is also at the top of the list, as well as trying a few techniques with copper pipe that sound intriguing. My intention is to soon become the boss of my flex-shaft...none of this "poor listening" like I got from my paintbrushes! Practice, practice, practice. I would like to explore both heat and chemical patinas, and learn to etch and enamel. Those endeavors should keep me busy for a decade or so....

Barbara, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. It’s an immense pleasure seeing your work and getting to know you better!
See more of Barbara’s fabulous jewelry here:

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