Apr 122010

Today we feature a wonderful wire worker or wire weaver or ummm maybe a wire wizard?

Jill, of Twisted Sister Arts, transforms wire into fantastical designs that are elegant, inspiring, and sometimes, well, a little creepy. No matter which direction her muse takes her, the designs are ALWAYS interesting with so much movement that my eye never gets tired of looking.


Where are you located?

In my office. Actually in the Western Suburbs of Chicago, Naperville, Illinois

Describe your studio space.

It’s the larger of two extra bedrooms in the condo I live in. I’m blessed with the space, and I use the room entirely for me. Selfish, yes, mine, yes. I love it there. I’ve got all the mess I want, with a large two level glass and wood desk/workbench. I’ve got a paper file cabinet with a antique typesetters chest on top with a thousand little compartments to put all my little beads, stones and supplies in. There are 12 drawers with compartments, it’s a fabulous find. I have my photography area set up on one wall, and my favorite chair and ottoman to snuggle in. Sometimes my husband, to see me, will come sit there.

How did I get into jewelry?

Long story made short… I was selling hand dyed scarves and I needed scarf rings. I used aluminum wire, and copper core wire to start with, then switched to finer and finer wire, until I settled for 2 years with parawire. A year ago, a customer came into my store and bought 24 pieces, which gave me a foundation to believe in myself and the finances to buy sterling silver and the tools that I needed. She came back this week and bought another 12 pieces.

If I could go back to the beginning and do one thing differently, what it would be.

Disobey my parents. I love working with my hands, I love creating. I was told that I couldn’t make a living at it, that my art was not worthy of my attention. (Ha Ha, so there!)

How would I describe my style?

One word…organic. Furthermore, steampunk, art neuveau, twisted, rosettian, roccoco. The busier, the better. It’s very hard for me to keep it simple.

How do you deal with periods of creative “block”?

What’s that? I don’t have period of creative block. I have an over abundance of ideas, so I write them in an “idea book” that I keep in my purse so that I can jot them down.

What’s the best piece of advice I’ve received relating to my business.

Set goals. The reason I say that, there was a time in my life I wanted to (do) great things, but had no idea how to get there. If you set goals, no matter how small, you’ll get there a whole lot faster than if you don’t.

What’s the best piece of advice you could give to someone just starting out?

Set goals, see above. Break it down into a daily routine that you can manage. Baby Steps.

Who are your favorite artists and crafters?

Not restricted to wire…or jewelry…Pink Martini. I listen to them while I work.

Jewelry…Mary Lee Hu. Linda Chandler.

How do I deal with the business side of my art?

I have a dear husband that has taken that responsibility from my shoulders. He also takes care of the house, and fixes dinner nightly. There was a time in my youth, when I had a top 500 floral shop chain, that my late husband and I worked together and I did my share of numbers and taxes. It’s much nicer on this side of the fence.

What do I do when I’m not working on jewelry?

My day job is a green and blooming plant buyer for a top 10 floral shop chain. I import plants from Canada, local growers and Florida for 8 retail locations. I love doing it, but the hours are long and the holidays are murder.

What would you be surprised to find out about me?

I like ABBA. Whoohooo!

Define “success” for us….what does that mean to you?

Success to me is the freedom to create what I want, when I want, to please myself creatively, without worry of selling it for money, or to sell my soul.

Where would I like to see myself in 10 years?

See above…I really wish to quit my day job, and be able to support myself and my household with health insurance and an IRA

Anything else I’d like to share?
I’d like to be able to help women if they are in abusive situations, to get out, to grow, to support themselves with truth and beauty. I’ve seen too much hurt and anger in the world to let it continue.
Just a sampling of Jill’s wonderful wirework!
See more of Jill’s work in her Etsy shop:



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See previous SPOTLIGHT! interviews: SPOTLIGHT! archive

Apr 062010


Today we have the best of two worlds – jewelry and rocks!

I found Barney when I was still new to Etsy and was just browsing around.

I came across his jewelry first and was immediately smitten. Later I discovered there were “rock sellers” on Etsy and I eventually wandered into his other shop – although I didn’t know at the time that the two were connected I fell in love with his lapidary work as well.

Both shops offer some of the best on Etsy so be sure to visit them! (links at bottom)

Read on!


Where are you located?
On the far left coast, Eugene, Oregon

Describe your studio/creative space:
Well, I have two spaces, My jewelry studio is a reworked bedroom, is quite homey and friendly, has two benches and being the tool collector I am fairly packed with a wide array of widgets and gadgets. My lapidary shop is attached to my converted garage that is also my machine shop. Its pretty packed with whatever rough stone wont fit in my garden shed and yard!

Which came first for you – lapidary or jewelry art?
I started collecting polished stones at the age of 6, so I suppose that was first.
I made a few pieces of jewelry prior to high school, but it was there that I got the first class on it. Oddly enough, it was my frustration with the way the class was run that spurred me on after school to pursue things I didnt get there.
Actual lapidary work I only brushed on here and there throughout my life. I never really had money or space for it. Though I always knew someday I would and thus always have collected rough.

Which do you spend more time on? And do you try to strike a balance or do you work as the inspiration strikes?
Great question! Ultimately, jewelry. But right now my time is a bit limited so I am kind of going with what is more popular sales wise, and that is my stonework.

My Jewelry tends to center on one of a kind, specifically inspired art pieces. And those dont move as much as commercially repeatable designs would.
My jewelry bench is a bit dusty right now, but its also covered in quite a few sketches. And I also get really amped from time to time to work on something that has really moved me on its concept– somethings just cant wait!

How did you learn your art?
Oddly enough, I am largely self taught. As I said the high school class just irritated me to no end. I knew there had to be more to it, and more satisfaction in doing adornment work. I started making a piece here and there for friends and what not, slowly gathering tools and materials. A few years out of School, I met some folks that ran an actual brick and mortar jewelry store. A father and son team.

I would hang out there after work and absorb from watching them.
Getting a taste of the real world of jewelry from two masters of the craft gave me a lot of incentive to create.

It was a great springboard to me, yet it was a very informal, mostly social interaction. I dont think they knew I was taking in as much as I was. Nor how important at the time they were to me.

If you could go back to the beginning and do one thing differently, what would it be?
Well that same Father Son team offered me an apprenticeship after seeing some of my work. But I worked in a large steel foundry at the time, had a fair amount of debt, and just didnt think I could handle it financially. And probably a fair amount of self esteem issues helped me to say no as well.
I would take that job in an instant if I was to repeat it all.

While I would have spent a lot of hours doing commercial work I didnt care for, I would be hundreds of times more productive today.

And thus many more of my thousands of sketches would be metal and stone.

How would you describe your style/work?
All over the map. Ha ha. I have been told by more than one gallery, that my lack of discernible style holds me back. Oh well. Then again, I have folks that have told me they could tell a Joyful Crow piece a mile away. Go figure!!

What makes your work unique?
As a continuation of the last question. I dont want a style. My work reflects the moods and emotions of life. The inspirations that come our way are rarely felt inside the same way twice.

Do you feel 15 anymore? Well not in the same way. We just chase that feelings memories. My work captures bits and pieces of those fleeting moments.

And yes they will all be different. I think that is a unique perspective to create jewelry from.

What are your favorite materials?
I like the precious metals, obviously. Silver, High karat Golds, Platinum, Palladium. But many other materials have their place as well, Copper, Brass, Mokume gane’.

It isnt the preciousness of the materials as much it is their properties.
In stones, I like the mineral gems in cabochon form quite a bit more than faceted colored stones. Though I do appreciate those as well, I just feel the mineral stones have such individual character.

Has the internet affected your work/business? If yes, how so?
Oh, very much so. Especially etsy. I tried tinkering with creating a website on my own, but it was just too involved for me to make any serious sort of entry. Etsy enabled me to put my work in front of so many more people that appreciate the handmade independent approach to adornment.
And its enabled my stonework to get in front of a much larger audience of stone using jewelers. While it isnt perfect Etsy is a very good augment to the limited amount of shows I am able to wrestle out of my schedule, and augments my web exposure very well.

How do you deal with periods of “creative block” or low creativity?
I leave it all sit for awhile. Do something that reconnects with the passion of the Earth itself. Nothing inspires or makes me balanced as being out in nature.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received related to your

Two little printed cards over the bench of a Mentor. “Crank it out, no prima donnas in this shop” and “No Bullshit Jewelry”
And the advice of one of the same Mentors to go into goldwork. He said folks wouldnt pay me for my silver work despite the dozens of hours I spent on a piece unless I had a name. But they would if it was gold. He was absolutely right. Only if it was to understand the need to sell some of the work to be able to afford to create more.

What’s the best advice you could give someone just starting out?
Maintain an attachment to your inspiration. Dont be afraid of mistakes. Learn as much as you can. Acquire tools and materials as you can afford to.
Sketch A LOT.

What are your thoughts on:

“inspiration, imitation, infringement – when similarities in work go too far”

While its somewhat true, there isnt anything new under the sun, I wouldnt spend a bunch of time looking at others work. Especially commercial work.
Look at work that is beyond your limits by light years. Study Etruscan and ancient works. Then look at your fancy tools and sigh.
Stay humble in the approach and you wont catch yourself copying.

Who are some of your favorite artists and crafters?
Well, I dont approach this from a commercial vantage. At this point in my life it isnt (jewelry) for income, so I tend to look at work beyond the realm of who created it and just that it IS created. I let the work stand alone in that, and see things as art pieces. I do have one absolute hero though.

And that would be John Paul Miller.

How do you deal with the business side of your art?
HA ha, Not nearly as well as I could! But I am getting better. And in that manner, Etsy has also helped a great deal. The business end of things would be better handled by someone else. Its a time vacuum.

What do you do when you aren’t working on jewelry ?
For my day job, I am a partner in a Soy Foods manufacturing business. We make Organic Tofu and Tempeh. Its rewarding being able to bring good Organic food to the community and to be able to provide employment for folks.

What would we be surprised to find out about you?
That despite not owning a TV, I have seen just about every Simpsons episode. More than once.

Define ‘success’ for us……..what does it mean to you?
Being able to do what you love for a living. And to remain passionate despite obstacles to that passion in the things you do.

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?
I would love to be able to retire and spend a good solid twelve hours a day making my artwork and my stonework. While I love my job in the natural food business, it takes a lot to do it all, and I have more desire at this point in my life to work full time in metal and stone.
We shall see……..

Anything else you’d like to share?

Every 4.2 days there are another million people on earth.


Barney and some of his wonderful works of art

You can see more of Barney’s work here:



Mar 172010

What do blinking eyes, felt, and faux bone have in common?

Just wait until you see!

I have been an enormous fan of  Vicky Hunt ever since we stumbled into one another on the internet. 

Her work is whimsical and fresh and completely unique. And there is SO much to look at in every piece she creates.

I finally took the time to send Vicky some questions so I could SPOTLIGHT! her here and she was gracious and quick in her response!

READ ON………….


Vicky Hunt - GingaSquid

Vicky Hunt - The Original GingaSquid!

What drew you to jewelry making? How long have you been at it ?

 I was living in South Africa and had been banned from doing any more paintings by my other half (we were out of wall space). SA is full of people selling beautiful and intricate beadwork on the sides of the roads and it really interested me. So I bought some seed beads, some clear fishing thread and a beading book and got started. Also, as I had my first newborn at that time, it was an easy hobby to pick up and put down. So I got started in 2005 and things progressed from there.

If you could go back to the beginning and do one thing differently, what would it be?

 I would have studied medicine at university instead of engineering.

If you mean about jewellery making – I wouldn’t do anything different. Its the fact that I haven’t been able to do a formal metalsmithing course or experiment with soldering equipment and torches at home that has taken me on my journey so far – using wool, cold connections etc.

Having said that, I would love to have soldering equipment at home now though as there are lots of things I’m itching to be able to do and learn.
How do you deal with periods of “creative block” or low creativity?

 I don’t fight it. I’m in one at the moment. I just do something else that doesn’t require any creativity. Right now I’m knitting a jumper by following a pattern in a magazine – no thought required!

Who are some of your favorite artists and crafters?

 I have heaps of favourite arists & crafters, but my current top 3 are:

Natalya Pinchuk

Jillian Moore

Jacey Boggs (Insubordiknit)
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received related to your craft/busine

 To spend time trying to get my photos better. As I mainly try to sell my work online, photos are so important. My photos still are not as good as I would like, but I cringe when I think of how badly they sucked when I first started my website!
What’s the best advice you could give someone just starting out?

 Go with the flow of what interests you. You may have an idea of say, wanting to learn wirewrapping but halfway down the road something else takes your fancy – just go with it. Don’t be afraid to change direction. I also reckon you cannot have too many books.
What do you do when you aren’t working on jewelry ?

I’m a mum to 2 kiddies (ages 2 years and 5 years) so they take up most of my daytime activities. I also love to spin art yarns and knit and crochet.

At the moment most of my time is spent trying to find a ‘proper’ job which will pay me a wage that I can live on! But I just keep getting rejections, hence I am in a completely pissed off, uncreative mood.
Define ‘success’ for us……..what does it mean to you?
‘Success’ to me would be being able to support my family on earnings from my craft/jewelry creating activities. So as yet I’m ‘unsuccessful’!

What would we be surprised to find out about you?

Hmmmm. I’ve led quite a varied life. I have a Masters Degree in Engineering from Oxford University (UK), am a Chartered Accountant & Tax Accountant, was in the Army for a while, taught scuba diving in Thailand and also worked on big motor yachts for a couple of years around the Pacific/Carribean.

I was born in the UK but have lived and worked all over the world, currently living in New Zealand. Land of the sheep.

I also have a full back tattoo of an octopus and am a Ginga. That is where my shop/artist name ‘Ginga Squid’ comes from (‘Ginga Octopus’ just didn’t sound right).

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?

 I would like be living and working on my own pearl farm in Tahiti (or Oz). I think it would be cool as I could combine my business skills with jewelry and scuba. And I don’t like to eat oysters, so my investement would be safe.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I don’t think I would be at this stage in my jewellery-making life without the friendships, positive attitudes and help that I have found on this Forum. Its really awesome.


For more about Vicky and her work, please visit her website:



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