The styles of designs I choose are commonly organic in some way because I have always been drawn to botanical arts and to soft and natural things like flower petals and leaves. When I was a young girl I would go down to the creek near my home in Houston and clean the waterways with a stick I picked up along the trail, collect crawdads and daydream. I have an undergraduate degree in Biology that included studies in ecology, biological sciences, animals and insects etc., and this brought me closer to nature. My early experience in graphic arts and advertising also had an impact on my style.
I am inspired by all kinds of art; ancient textiles, antiques and anything handmade or creative from contemporary “steam punk” to the filigree wrought iron fences in New Orleans.
My designs are inspired by the stones that I collect; their color and texture stir up images and shapes. Sometimes it’s hard not to have a hodge-podge of different styles because the stones can take me in completely different directions. My designs range from graphic and abstract to crazy and dark or soft and feminine. As a result, I often have to decide ahead of time to focus on a particular style, otherwise my collection might confuse the viewer, so staying focused is important and sometimes challenging.
I grew up in an artistic environment and worked in museums as a young adult while going to art school. I appreciate all kinds of styles and mediums, which explains why my designs can be a bit scattered and why I might get bored with a single style. I think most artist’s styles evolve over time anyway.
I have to be in the mood to create, but I love to keep my hands busy. I get inspired by ancient Chinese or Eastern Indian arts and textiles; anything unique with movement, history and significant cultural meaning. For instance when I found an ancient Chinese painting of kimonos, it inspired me to create a line of silver lotus pendants. Watercolor paintings and natural botanical pictures take me back to that “day-dreamy” state from childhood. I hope to invoke that spirit in my designs whenever I can.
I begin working by sitting at my table and looking at all the stones in front of me. I grab the first one that moves me or one I’m most drawn to. Some stones are so big that I have to be in the mood to create “big impact” pieces with them. Sometimes I just sit and start designing without any hurry to start the metalwork. In any event, I begin by selecting the stone or stones and then outline its shape in my sketchbook. I usually know if it should be a ring, pendant or brooch right away – oftentimes just from my own preference of how I’d like to wear it. I then start to draw around the shape trying different ideas. When I hit upon something just right, I’ll keep working it until it comes to fruition. Once I start the metalworking process, the designs often evolve to something surprising that I didn’t expect.
I like to work with metal and enjoy sterling silver because it’s so malleable and shiny. I started with copper and silver mixed with gold wire that I added for effect, sometimes literally sewing the metals together. I really have come to prefer Argentium® sterling because it is so soft and bright, but it is more expensive. In any event, I’m always trying new metals and like to layer and mix them up. Additionally, I have used copper enameling to add texture and color to the mix, or just some green patina techniques on the copper. My current trend is moving away from copper and working mostly with layers of oxidized sterling silver.
Processes such as chasing and repoussage, soldering, cold connections etc. can be learned by anyone. On the other hand I think everyone, or every artist has their own technique or personality which makes their work one of a kind. In art class everyone will have the same assignment but each person will create something different, which is what makes art so great. Having said that, I have developed my own technique that I haven’t seen much anywhere else, that brings out the natural colors in copper. You can get fantastic colors by “tickling” the copper with a torch flame. It happens fast and can be overdone so that’s why I think “tickling” describes it best. The result is a rainbow of iridescent, organic colors that come out in the metal. I find that mixes of purple, gold, blue and pink work especially well with amethyst and turquoise – the trick is preserving the brightness in the metal. I tried different varnishes and lacquers which appear to help, but copper tends to tarnish over time bringing about its own unique patina.
I think most of my customers are interested in the ‘out of the box’ designs I create. I don’t use templates or create pieces that you could find in mass-produced lines. I find the “un-ordinary” seem to be sought after most – free flowing shapes and unexpected combinations of stone and metal, without creating something to complex that you wouldn’t wear it often. I want the new owner to have some connection with the piece they’ve chosen; kind of like adopting a pet. For instance, I had a gal fall in love with a poppy flower pendant that I created with a fossilized sand dollar (or “sea biscuit’). She bought it immediately and later told me a story about a sand dollar she found as a child with her father when she lived on the East coast, and how the pendant reminded her of that moment which was dear to her. When she told me her story, I knew I had created that poppy necklace just for her, even though I didn’t know it at the time. This kind of response has happened on a few occasions and that kind of feedback is when I get the most reward.
Cynthia L. Green
CLG jewelry designs