Catherine Walker is an equestrian and horse breeder with a background in advertising. Cindy Bumstead works in the printing industry. Tiffany Anderson is a mother of young children. All three Columbia-area women share that making jewelry is a way for them to express their creativity. What they have in common is artistic expression as an outlet — a transcendent experience that is a momentary escape from any daily pressures.
Catherine, who has an interest in high fashion despite her daily attire of muck boots, decided after riding 13 hours in the back of a trailer with young horses from Pennsylvania that she needed a little glamour in her life. Creative by nature, Catherine has dabbled in watercolors, print-making, photography and other mediums. One day in 2003, using a kerosene lamp and an anvil, she began experimenting with metals to create tiaras that could be used as headbands or necklaces. Eventually she made an “S” hook puzzle catch, cuffs and earrings. At her first show at Finleaf Gallery in 2005, she sold enough pieces to afford two weeks at Penland School of Crafts, an international center for craft education located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
“It was there that I learned how to use a torch,” says Catherine. “Each metal has its own personality with fire.”
Besides a torch, which enables her to bend, draw and shape the metal, her other primary tool is a hammer. “I’ve figured out that I enjoy working with silver.”
Walking around the farm while feeding the horses, Catherine is inspired by nature. The designs can take weeks or months before they are transformed into the luminescent forms and curves of her jewelry. In her home studio, she spends hours of prep work on up to 10 pieces at a time — and then immerses herself in the artistic release that becomes the finished product. “I don’t think about anything else when I’m in my studio making jewelry. My pieces are very organic, and during the flow of creation I do not worry about making mistakes.”
If she does get an artist’s block, she puts the work aside and allows it to become something else later. She is always trying unique techniques. As an example, she melted some silver and threw it into cold water to evaluate the effect. Catherine’s pieces sell from around $75 to upward of $350. Primarily sterling silver, her jewelry’s price is often dictated by the weight and cost of the metal, as with most art, not the hours expended.
Off and on for years, Cindy made jewelry for co-workers, friends and family. It was not until she walked into Artizan on Bull Street wearing one of her own pieces that she caught the attention of Clayton King, the gallery owner, and began to sell her creations professionally. That was four years ago.
Cindy says her many years in the printing industry help her pay the bills, but her work with copper, silver and brass wire to craft detailed cuffs, necklaces, earrings, pins and pendants is most gratifying. She sometimes adds beads or leather and enjoys mixing materials. Cindy gleans ideas from Etsy as well as by perusing various magazines and books. “I doodle designs and sketch out ideas first. Sometimes I rework a piece three or four times. I like to try something different each time, and I’m constantly learning. There is so much going on in one piece, inspirations from nature, different colors and different materials.”
Her artistic bent was expressed early on in drawings and crafts, yet the jewelry design is what provides the most joy. “Sometimes I even wake up with an idea that I have dreamed.”
On a long table with supplies and a sketch board, Cindy primarily uses a dremel tool for sanding and buffing. Other tools are a saw and a hammer. She works on her days off and says she gets into a focused zone. Some pieces can take the better part of a day or two to complete. Prices are sometimes difficult to peg, but Cindy’s pieces begin at $20. Her favorite so far has been one made with abalone beads, resulting in vibrant blues and greens.
“Even if I like a piece, I will still try to sell it. It feels good when someone wants to buy my work.”
When Tiffany could not find beautiful pieces of jewelry that she felt would make her feel feminine, she decided to make them herself. Her imaginative spirit allowed her to dabble with jewelry design over the years; she took a few classes, but mostly taught herself. Then, in 2008, she began selling pieces to friends and acquaintances and discovered the online source Etsy as a viable retail site. “Before I knew it, I was setting up booths to sell jewelry at various trunk shows and markets.”
Tiffany’s focus is semi-precious stones and 14k gold fill wire. Sometimes she incorporates motifs such as gold arrowheads or feathers into pieces. Prices start at around $50.
“I create a lot of earrings by shaping and hammering wire and wrapping stones,” she says. “I also use silk thread to knot together stones for longer necklaces.” Her goal: to make a statement. Her creative vision is to make wearable art that is delicate, feminine and sometimes bold with color. “Everyday shapes and colors trigger ideas in my head,” she explains.
When she is not being a mother to her young children, Tiffany is working in her home studio. If she has an idea, she feels like she needs to bring it to fruition as soon as possible so that the artistic flair does not dissipate.
Tiffany’s jewelry is sold under her company name, Pixie Belle Jewelry by Tiffany Anderson, on her website, at Row Gallery in Columbia and in boutiques in downtown Greenville and Pawley’s Island. She also creates custom pieces, especially for weddings. Or, she says, “A customer may bring me a special pendant that he or she wants incorporated into a necklace.”
Tiffany says the most rewarding aspect of jewelry design is seeing a customer wearing her jewelry. When a bride-to-be decided that Tiffany’s earrings were perfect for one of her wedding accessories, Tiffany admits she was brought to tears. “It just made me feel so happy and fulfilled.”