Meet the Team - Interview with Jennifer Smith Righter
Victoria in Red
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I’ve lived in lots of places, mostly in California. I tend to move a lot due to my husband's employment. My husband and I have a combined 7 children who are all out on their own now (knock on wood!). I spend my days playing around with metal clay and taking care of my fur baby, Gizmo.
Have any special hobbies?
I like to bake, but with just the two of us at home now, there’s not much call for it except for special occasions. I draw a little bit.
What is your business name and website address?
Wearable By Design
I also have a very neglected website (www.wearablebydesign.com) that I’m going to have to update one of these days soon. It has a lot of my older work on it and my bad photography. Etsy has forced me to come a long way with that! I hope to get my incorporation going at the start of the new year and then I’ll branch out a bit.
How did you find out about metal clay and then start working with it? How long?
I took a jewelry making class as an elective when I was in an Architecture program about 7-8 years ago (?) and loved it. When I finished school, I new I didn’t want to work as an Architect, but rather wanted to go back to making jewelry. That scale of work felt more right to me and I just loved working with metal. But I needed to find something that I could do that was less equipment intensive than some traditional forms of working with silver and I happened to stumble on metal clay and just loved it.
What drives you to make jewelry?
I’ve always loved jewelry and loved making things. I feel the type of jewelry I make is a cross between building something and sculpting something. I like pushing it and seeing just how far I can go with making beautiful, light, elegant sculptural pieces.
Are you disciplined or do you go with the flow and work when you feel like it?
I pretty much go with the flow. I have to be inspired to work, but I generally don’t find myself lacking in things that I’m wanting to explore.
Won any awards for your jewelry? for anything else?
I won an honorable mention in 2007 for “Barcelona” and in 2008 for “Andalusia 2” and “Blossoms” for the North American Design Competition.
Do you do any other type of art?
I draw a little bit.
What is your art sensibility - precise or organic?
I do both and love vacillating back and forth between the two.
When did you feel you had more confidence in your abilities?
About 2 years ago. I felt I’d hit a wall with metal clay and didn’t know how to move beyond it. I took another jewelry making class with Deb Jemmott and showed her my work. She really inspired me to incorporate more traditional fabrication techniques into my designs and that’s when I feel like I got beyond my block and my lack of confidence in both myself and my medium.
What is your favorite tool for working with metalclay?
I use my flex shaft the most. Oh, and my needle tool.
Where do you work?
In my spare bedroom. I’ve got a really nice set-up.
What is your favorite thing to make?
Probably necklaces, but they take the most time, the most material and are the most expensive.
Do you ever add commercial components?
Only screw-eyes and clasps.
How do you work, and when? (for ex. assembly line or one at a time)
I do both depending on the need. But usually I’m working on one piece from start to completion. Only occasionally will something sit on my workbench while I’m working out in my head where I want to take it next.
Do you have any kind of creative ritual?
I look at a lot of other people's work -- in every kind of medium and am often inspired by that. I collect ideas and get a big stack of them when I’m not at my bench. I think about things for quite a while before starting a project and then usually, I go through the stack and say “Oh yeah, I remember what I was going to do with this” and I start to work.
Sometimes I make a paper model of something. Sometimes I sketch it out. Sometimes I just make a paper template. But usually once I start, I work on it until it’s finished (with breaks for eating, sleeping, etc.).
How do you hold onto ideas that you don't have time to pursue NOW!
In my stack of clippings, drawings, etc. on my workbench. They get culled from time to time and put into an accordion file or tossed.
Do you ever use a sketchbook?
Yes, but surprisingly only when I travel.
Do you ever teach classes and where?
Not at this time. I’m more likely to tutor than to teach classes. But we’ll see.
Do you do custom orders?
No. Not now. I have in the past and might in the future.
What are you working on currently?
A square pendant that is inspired by circuit boards. But I’m working out a way to get it out of two dimensions and into three.
What's next on your agenda to make?
I saw this gorgeous picture of a woman in a dress. It was white, diaphanous and multi-layered It almost looked like a sea creature. The dress was white, but the edges of the layers were blue. I’m working out a way to use plastic and edge it in metal to resemble the look and feel of this dress. I’ve started to experiment with melting plastic, but am not yet satisfied.
How do you make time for everything you want to do?
I don’t, but I’m pretty patient and don’t feel the anxiety about it that I used to.
Anything else you'd like to tell us about yourself?
I’m not as serious as I seem. I have a pretty wicked sense of humor.
Thank you Jennifer!
It's a pleasure getting to know you.
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Wow! Very impressive and detailed work!
Thanks! You've got a really cute Etsy shop, Gumball!
I love your jewelry and I would love to have a workshop just like yours one day... :0)))
I'm new to metal clay and I'm still getting all the tools and things I need to start me on this wonderful journey of jewelry making.
I've noticed that your kiln is placed on a metal bench and rather close to the back wall. Don't they get hot? And wouldn't they damage the top of your bench?
I'm sorry if I sound ignorant, but I would like to hear from someone who has used these kilns.
Looking forward to your reply.. :0)))
Thank you for taking the time to comment on my work and studio. I hope you are enjoying your journey in the the magical world of metal clay. It truly is wonderful!
About the kiln, it stays surprisingly cool on the outside during use. I believe the instructions say that you need to keep it a few inches from any wall and away from any curtains, etc. And although you can't tell, mine is a few inches from the wall. It's kind of surprising how well it works given what's going on inside!
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