Up close and personal with Lisa Weber of Silver Vine Jewelry
Tell us a bit about yourself – where you grew up, your childhood dreams..was art a part of that?
I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, in a family that was not at all artistic. Art was just a fun thing for kids to do, like stringing macaroni necklaces and drawing for fun. I always made things for presents, took art classes at school, and I was also very mechanically oriented. I loved tools, but no one in my family really used them. My aunt did, though, and I think it was in part the example she set as an intelligent educated, independent woman who fixed cars, built walls, put herself through college, and supported herself that let me know I could do whatever I wanted. In addition to the creative aspect of jewelry making, I think the tools are a big part of what drew me in!
Where are you located now?
I live with my husband, 3 kids, and 2 cats in the Poconos in PA. it’s just beautiful here, I have never regretted the move.
Describe your studio/creative space
I work in a studio in my basement. It used to be a wood shop (I used to do that, too!), but a few years into jewelry work, I got tired of my bench on the front porch. It was so beautiful outside, but the weather made it impossible to work out there from November to May! I moved the wood out of the way, built a new workbench, and my studio was born. It’s a very cramped, one-person space, so I dream of an upgrade in the future.
What are your favorite materials?
I work in sterling silver with a variety of gemstones. The silver is really what captures me though, I love working with the metal.
Has the internet affected your work/business? If yes, how so?
Absolutely, I use it for every aspect of my business, from researching how to accomplish certain techniques, to finding laces to teach and to learn. I sell my jewelry through the internet, buy booth displays, and meet jewelry friends to share with. And of course, the best is Janice, and the Jewelry Artists Network!!
What are your thoughts on:
“inspiration, imitation, infringement – when similarities in work go too far”
I think we have to define “too far”. There is really nothing new in jewelry. I use ideas from other people’s work all the time. Sometimes, I have gone so far as to copy something that I want to try out, but I would never mass produce that design and sell it as my own, That is what I would define as “too far”. We all mimic one another to some extent, trying on styles and techniques, and then moving beyond them. I think we need to expect that, but not abuse it.
How did you start teaching jewelry/metalsmithing?
I used to teach high school, so teaching is comfortable for me. I looked everywhere in my area for metals classes to take, but there were none. I saw that as a niche that I could fill, so I approached several bead shops and proposed some classes. I was really lucky that the shop nearly around the corner from me was interested, and I have been teaching there since January 2009.
Where do you teach and what are you presently teaching
Right now, I teach metal work at the Garden of Beadin, in Bartonsville, PA. My classes are project oriented, and range from basic metal work with no heat, through annealing, fusing, and soldering. I hope to be starting soon at a new shop as well.
What is the best part about teaching jewelry/metalsmithing?
So many things! I love interacting with the students. I love introducing beading students to metal work. I love that moment during soldering when understanding strikes, and the “aha!” happens. I love it when students new to metal work tell me they have set up their workbenches and adapted my designs to become their own. Of course in this economy, I love the extra income, but even more, I am pleased to be generating income through jewelry.
What is the most challenging part of teaching jewelry/metalsmithing?
Since my store doesn’t have a stocked metals studio, it’s a challenge to be sure I have everything I need. Trying to teach soldering when I brought everything except flux was a real challenge! (It didn’t work, of course. I had to call home for flux.) The unexpected is always the most challenging. Recently, I had all beginners at one intermediate soldering class, they didn’t even have tools, while the next week, I had my most advanced students in my beginner’s class! You have to roll with the unexpected. If everyone comes out with a piece, it was a success.
How did you get into jewelry making?
I have always made things. In college, a friend showed me how to do macramé, and I still have some of the macramé jewelry I made back then. About 10 years ago, I bought a beautiful triple-strand amethyst bracelet at a craft festival. I was really fascinated with it; I loved that the beads were real stones (I had a geology degree by then), and I wanted to learn to make jewelry just as wonderful. My friend gave me a catalog from Fire Mountain Gems, I picked up some books from the library and the book store, and that was how I began making. Bead strands were cheaper 20 at a time, and that was how I started selling. I began to hammer out simple links, learned to anneal silver, and I was hooked. That’s how I started metal working.
If you could go back to the beginning and do one thing differently, what would it be?
I wish I could go back and eliminate procrastination. I often hesitate about taking new directions, trying new things. I can’t imagine what more I would be doing now if I had gone with my impulses instead of wondering “what if?”
How would you describe your style?
My work is usually very organic and nature oriented, full of trees, vines, and leaves.
How do you deal with periods of “creative block” or low creativity?
When you don’t know what to do, do something. If I can just make something, anything, I’ll often get ideas as I go, and that helps get the creative juices flowing again. I might just polish some tools, or make jump rings, or make some stock pieces, any work might help break my stalemate. And I look through my sketch books, or browse through websites of many talented jewelry artists to remind myself of what I love.
What’s the best advice you could give someone just starting out?
Learn as much as you can about what you like to do. There are so many great craftsmen happy to share what they know. Find some and enjoy the ride!
Who are some of your favorite artists and crafters?
I love Betty Helen Longhi’s elegantly curved forms, John Cogswell’s beautiful forged (and other) work, Michael Boyd’s amazing stone work and use of color, Michael David Sturlin’s clean perfection.
What would we be surprised to find out about you?
I’m a vegetarian for 25 years, like to live in the woods, and sometimes pick wild plants for my own herbal tinctures. I’m sort of the family doctor.
Define ‘success’ for us……..what does it mean to you?
When strangers compliment my jewelry, not knowing that I made it, that is one kind of success. The first time a customer entered my booth at a show, saying “I have been looking for you everywhere! I bought your bracelet last year…” (fishing for it in her bag… uh oh – it broke… offer to fix it for free…) “Do you have some earrings to match?” Whew! Success! When I get great feedback and repeat purchases from my customers, I know they like my work and consider it good quality, and they measure my success for me.
Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?
I would love to be earning a living from my jewelry in 10 years. I don’t know if I’m brave enough or skilled enough to make it happen, but it’s a goal.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Can I have some of Christy’s tootsie rolls? She’s good at sharing.
A sampling of Lisa’s work:
You can contact Lisa or view more of her work on her website or Etsy store.
Leave Lisa a comment below!