Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Artist Interview: Gena Robinson of Moonkist Designs

The following post is a blog interview with the talented jewelry artisan, Gena Robinson of Moonkist Designs.  Gena currently resides in Greer, South Carolina, US.

Reticulated Silver Pendant with Ruby and Copper Bale

 -Gena, when did you begin making jewelry?
My family belonged to a local Gem and Mineral club when I was young, and I was lucky enough to learn how to cut cabochons and facet stones when I was about 12. After that, I had a drive to make things from the stones I had created. I started with elaborate bead looming projects, and setting stones in wirewrapping, which I learned from a sweet lady at the Gem Club. I was eventually hired to work in a jewelry store, owned by members of the same club. From there, it wasn't long before I discovered the bench and the process of silversmithing!

-Out of all the artistic mediums you could have chosen, why did you decide to create jewelry?
I have other creative hobbies, such as crochet, quilting and scrapbooking, but jewelry has been the thing that has consistently woken me up at night with new ideas. I love that there are so many disciplines to learn, so many things to try. I will learn my entire life, and still not master them all, and that makes me excited and happy. It never gets boring, and I never find myself halfway through a piece and having to goad myself to finish - unlike some of my crochet projects!

Filigree Rainbow Topaz Ring in Sterling Silver

-Did you study or mentor with one artisan in particular?
My mentor for many years has been William Churlik, the founder of Earthspeak Arts in Asheville, NC. This gentleman was the bench jeweler in the jewelry store where I was hired as a teen, and he has been routinely teaching me and helping me figure out challenging pieces for over 20 years. I taught beginning silversmithing with his school for 3 years, before they had to close due to the economy.

Large Statement Garnet Ring in Sterling Silver - Steampunk or Cosplay, For Man or Woman

-Do you do this full-time or part-time?
If full-time means 40 hours per week, then yes, I do work full time! I am working on growing my business this year so that it can be my only job. Currently, I also work as a personal assistant to a New York Times bestselling novelist and his family, and spend part of my week with them, then work Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday in my studio.

White Topaz Promise Ring, Engagement Ring or Wedding Band Set in Sterling Silver

-Is there anyone in particular that has influenced your style of jewelry making?
When I was first learning, my teacher had a knock-off artist on his hands. I copied every one of his designs, so that I could learn how things were made, often making them in copper. Luckily, after several years of designing and working on my own, I tend to have more of my own personal style, but I still find his teaching in my approach to design. (Thank you, dear Bill!) Also, I am particularly drawn to the architectural designs of Zaha Hadid. I adore the fluid lines and grace that her designs evoke, even in a medium as solid as concrete and steel.

Filigree Opal Pendant in Sterling Silver

-Is there anyone else’s jewelry work that you admire?
Enamelist Ricky Frank, whose miniature paintings in glass are breathtaking. Charles Lewton-Brain, who pioneered the processes of fold-forming and encourages everyone who approaches him. James Binnion, whose designs are simple and uncluttered and let the beauty of the mokume gane metal show. And my friend Emilie Berls, who has a quirky and delightful playfulness in her work that I admire greatly.

Mixed Metal Ring - Patterned Copper and Sterling Silver

-What are your main sources of inspiration?
Functional objects that are beautiful because of their design, like sink faucets. Historical jewelry. Nature walks with my dog. Calligraphy, which I have done since I was in my teens, and always makes for interesting design beginnings...Pretty much, everything!

Elegant Mixed Metal Necklace in Sterling Silver with Patterned Copper

-How did you choose the name for your Shop?
Long running joke...I used to drink a ton of Diet Sunkist soda, and I'm a night owl...*grin*

Black Star Diopside Ring with Reticulated Sterling

-How would you describe your jewelry’s style?
Funny you should ask...the best word I have come up with is eclectic. I like to make things with clean and modern lines, but also love organic shapes and the intricate scroll work that is reminiscent of historical jewelry. I think the fact that I make all of it is what makes it hold together as a style!

Sterling Silver Filigree Earrings with Deep Red Garnets

-What materials do you use in your work? Why do you use those materials? 
Fine silver and sterling silver, copper, and some brass. I want my jewelry to be stable, and non-plated, so that the person who purchases it will have the opportunity to enjoy it for a long time. Because gold prices are so high, and I want my work to be accessible, I have not done any gold work in a while, but it is possible I may go back to it.

Green Jade Diamond with Hammered Sterling Band

-Do you have a favorite item you like to make and why? Rings? Pendants? 
Rings - I love all of the symbolism, and I love how excited people get about finding a ring they love that can be custom made to their size. That can be a challenge to those of us who don't wear a size 7!

Stacking Ring Set - 5 Bands, Including Turquoise, Opal, and Matte Sterling Silver Bowl

-What is the best reaction you have gotten from one of your pieces? 
The best compliment I get from my customers is when their thank you note is tacked onto an order for another piece. Having a customer that excited about your work really makes you feel like you have done something well!

Sterling Silver Heart Pendant - Unique Love Token

-What is one thing about your creative process that you think most people don’t know? 
I tend to have a box of UFO's on my desk at all times - un-finished projects that are not orders or repairs. About once a month, when I need a break, I declare it UFO day, and work on the things that have accumulated in my box. I feel like it gives me the chance to work on jewelry for myself, and to be creative without the pressure of having a deadline.

Small Flower Earrings in Copper - Scarlet Pimpernel

-Any tips and advice for new artisans ?
First, set up a clock where you can see it and get into the habit of timing how long things take you to make. It is so easy to get caught up in creating, and lose all sense of time! Use the times you record to help price your items fairly.
Second, give yourself permission to screw up when you try new things. I tell everyone that when I learn a new technique, it is about the 10th time I do it that I can stop thinking my way through the individual steps and just do it!
Third, spend a year making things for your friends and family before you decide to start selling. You need the practice, but also the self-confidence that comes from having satisfied and amazed people before you start pushing yourself into doing it as a business!

Reticulated Silver Cuff Bracelet with Garnet

-Any final message or something you would like to share with the readers of this blog post?
When you are deciding to start a craft business, it isn't enough to just love what you do. I have found that you need something that you can stay excited about, and that will keep you energized for the long haul. Pick your passion, and something you can imagine yourself doing for 40 + hours every week.

Winter White Moonstone in Sterling Silver Filigree Mounting with Floral Band

 -Do you sell your jewelry in places other than Etsy? Where can we find you jewelry on and online and off line?
I sell at Hansen Jewelry Studios, in Salt Lake City, Utah and at the Buffalo Creek Gallery in Shelby, NC. I have a website, www.moonkist.com that is currently under construction, as well as my Etsy store. You can also find me on Facebook, or on Twitter!

White Topaz Wedding Band in Sterling Silver - Promise Ring, Engagement Ring, or Wedding Ring

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