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Maker Moment: An interview with jewelry designer Andrea Williams

Posted by Melissa Massello  April 20, 2013 09:00 AM

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Photo: Mark Craig

As a hearty New Englander, Andrea Williams grew up learning the names of plants and animals native to the Maine shores. Her inlaid stone and metalwork jewelry is grounded and breathtaking, like that Atlantic coast. Her line, Bound Earth, is based in her belief that jewelry isn't just a status symbol to raise us up, but can instead bring us closer to nature, the place where the materials come from. Check it out in person at CraftBoston today and tomorrow.

What's the first project you remember making/crafting?
When I was a young girl my mom and I would make Daisy and Dandelion chain necklaces. I still do! My neighbors give me funny looks when I show up with a flower necklace or crown, but all the neighborhood kids love it!

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Photo: Mark Craig


Most successful project? Biggest fail?
My new Vinculum necklace was by far the most challenging, I built a huge chain out of stone, working out the technicalities was nerve racking. But I am pleased to say that the piece has been chosen as the cover image for the next Lark Book's release, 500 Art Necklaces! My biggest failure was my career as a jeweler just after graduating college, starting out I was so concerned with designing what I thought the market wanted that I forgot my own voice. I was designing what I thought would sell rather than what was in my heart. After a few years I got so dissatisfied that I stopped making jewelry for almost ten years. After having my son, I found my voice, and now I am no longer afraid to use it.

What do you DIY the most?
Absolutely everything, jewelry design, renovating houses, gardening, growing mushrooms, home brewing, and beekeeping to name just a few! I love learning new processes. I just learned how to etch glass so I could make custom bottles of the mead I will be bottling shortly.

Favorite tools/materials?
In my jewelry I love to do inlay in fine silver, it is so soft and supple and easy to work with. Like soft butter in the crannies of an english muffin. I just invested in a lapidary cabbing machine, it is such a workhorse it has cut my production time in half! I cannot imagine how I ever got anything done without it!

Has a project outcome ever surprised you?
When I start sanding down all the inlay, the final result is always a surprise. I never quite know how it will look until it is done. The first time I used Venetian Glass instead of gems I was shocked at how the center of the glass looked as though it glowed from within. That was a wonderful discovery.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
Take my time, don't get frustrated. When I first started learning to make jewelry in high school I was so excited that I rushed things, it would show in the end result. I didn't have the eye for details then, fire scale, scratch marks, crude sawing, imperfect planishing. My teacher at Gould Academy, Jim Owen, who must have seen the spark in my eye gave me some of the most simple best advise, "slow down, the devil is in the details, take the time to do it right and it will reward you in the end". His voice still echoes in my mind every time I try to rush piece.

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Photo: Mark Craig


What's your top tip for first-timers?
I get emails from people new to jewelry every week. Most are asking about my techniques — how to do the inlay in particular. What I tell them is when I started working with stones, I looked around at what everyone else was doing and made a point of taking my work in different directions than had been done before. I then had to experiment and fail and struggle to make work that is completely unique. My advice is to find your own voice — don't copy other's work. Invent your own techniques — plan to fail a lot in the process! But in the end, your work will be unlike anything that has come before. The Vinculum necklace I mentioned earlier is a perfect example of that. It took 3 weeks to construct and I was not at all sure I could pull off my design until near the end. Embrace the successes and learn from the failures. And isn't that one of the great joys of being an artist?

Anything you DIY now that you never thought you would?
Honestly, I come from a long line of DIY, I was raised to always try to DIY first, if that fails then just learn from it and fix it! My parents used to renovate houses. Now I find that my husband and I are onto our forth house renovation and we are getting better with each one. Our sincere apologies to the person that got our first loft. We learned a lot on that project!

What won't you ever DIY/when do you call in the experts?
Tree trimming- I would rather have a professional handle the chainsaw while dangling from a rope 100 feet up. Electrical work too. I don't mind scrapes and bruises, but I prefer to keep life and limb intact.

"When I'm not making stuff, I'm..."
Searching for more stuff to make! Every morning I walk about four miles in the woods or head to the beach to collect stones. During this solitary time I really investigate my surroundings to find inspiration for new pieces. I take a lot of pictures, bark, frozen puddles, raindrops on the pond, fields. When I get back to my bench I recall what I have seen and try to express it in my work.

Thanks, Andrea!

Visit Andrea at the CraftBoston Spring show, today and tomorrow at the Seaport World Trade Center, 200 Seaport Blvd, Boston.

~Tara

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the Authors

Melissa Massello is a newspaper journalist turned startup junkie and lifelong Bostonian who prides herself on her do-it-yourself attitude. From making her prom dress out More »
Tara Bellucci is a Boston-based writer that lives for fonts, food, and flea market finds. Whether decorating jars of her homemade jam for The Boston More »

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