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My Creative Process--From Eucalyptus Care Package to a New Collection

How does your creative process work? I think I’ve just kind of arrived at mine somewhat organically through the years. Art is funny like that. I’ve always been a collector – and my continued collecting fuels my art. I also have some great friends, family members, and customers who find botanicals all over the place and pick them up and send them my way. These boxes of treasures on my doorstep always make my day. My friend Jane sent me some great leaves and pods from eucalyptus trees recently (ok, I’ve had them for a while, read on…). These unique plants have parts that are so different from the native vegetation here in the Pacific Northwest. One of the cool things about these ‘new’ plant parts is that they are different from what I am used to – and I think it is those differences in forms, shapes, textures that intrigue me. The old internet taught me that there are over 700 species of eucalyptus, and many have evolved to survive wildfires. One cool thing I learned is that the buds on some eucalyptus have an operculum (this is also what the gill cover in a fish is called). In the plant, this operculum is formed by a fusing of the sepals (bud scales). This stout cover/cap provides protection for the developing stamens and pollen-bearing anthers inside the flower. Then, when the plant is ready to reproduce – the cap slides off – and the pollen is released to (maybe) find its way to the female part of a flower (the pistil - and on down through the stigma to the ovary). Plant sex, hmmmm.

Sorry, got a little sidetracked with all the plant sex thoughts. Back to my creative process… So, if you’ve stayed with me this far, I’ll try to save you some time by going with a list of the general steps I progress through in my creative process. Here goes...

1. Collect – or receive from other kind people who have collected. For me – this is usually botanicals, but also includes seaweeds, corals, shells, bones, other flotsam that catches my eye.

2. Organize the items on trays in the studio. I use old lunch trays, like you may have had if you were lucky enough (?) to eat in a cafeteria at some point.

3. Whittle the items down to those that keep drawing my eye – move these ‘keepers’ to a new, exclusive tray.

4. Cast: Do some casting of these keepers – and arrange the parts that worked on a new tray.

5. Look at these new silver representations of nature and begin to form ideas of what stones might look good with these forms.

6. Place the cast pieces and stones together on a large piece of paper taped to a bench in my studio and begin forming clusters that seem to go together. This is a step I often do very early in the morning, when Geoff might still be sleeping, so I probably should not be hammering or grinding. This quiet time, with my morning coffee, is also when my creative vision seems to be most productive.

7. Sketch: Do some sketches on the paper and begin arranging the cast items and stones into jewelry designs, drawing in linking components to be either fabricated or cast.

8. Do more casting. After that first round of designing with the parts and stones, I will inevitably identify some gaps that should be filled with additional cast pieces.

9. Final designs will be laid out for pendants, rings, earrings, and bracelets on this big paper on my bench.

10. Fabrication – this is when I have to muster the energy to make these designs into jewelry. This stage can sometimes take weeks to months of hard work at the bench; cutting, soldering, grinding, creating bezels, setting stones, putting in the patina, polishing, etc…

11. Once I have a collection ‘coming to maturity’ I have to overcome one of the biggest obstacles; naming it. Once I (Geoff helps) come up with a name – then I have to get all the work photographed and loaded into my website, write the product descriptions, and price the work (using raw materials and labor costs in a spreadsheet program that my wonderful neighbor, Susan, has built for me).

12. Promote. Get the word out. Once I have a collection that is about ready to release – I have to get the word out on social media (Instagram) and through emails to the people on my VIP list.

13. Say goodbye. When a piece sells, I have to put my separation anxiety aside – and get it packaged up and shipped to its new home.

Coming soon (Saturday, February 25, 2023), I’ll be releasing this collection (still working on a few more pieces). I am very excited about this one – the combination of leaves, buds, caps (opercula), stems and turquoise, kyanite, and other beautiful green stones looks somewhere a little bit fancy and a little bit fun to me. I wouldn’t usually say that botanical jewelry looks very fancy (except maybe for that cast hellebore necklace that I truly had separation anxiety over). Maybe it’s not fancy, but sturdy or resilient and elegant. Take a look – and let me know what you think. A little resilience never hurt anyone, right? Hey - maybe that's what I'll call this collection...! Resilience.


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