This week we're introducing a wonderful artist named Colleen Kelly, a native to Albuquerque, but now based in Loveland, Colorado. There is no denying that her art is inspired by the rich and abundant charm indigenous to New Mexico! In talking to her about what inspires her now, I couldn't help but be reminded of psychologist/spiritual leader Wayne Mueller, who once said, "the eye follows what it loves". Colleen has an innate ability to know what impact a certain crystal, gemstone, or other piece of vintage material will have on her creations. Her jewelry is one of a kind and something that sets itself apart from all other pieces.
Colleen's work is magical and fun! She wholeheartedly believes in the healing qualities of crystals and stones, and each creation embraces a powerful energy -- whether it be the history related to vintage items, or the healing energy she finds in crystals and stones. She finds a special 'magic' in antique jewelry and buttons – especially items from garments. Having a piece of cloth still attached to a button, for example, makes her feel a bit of the history associated with the original owner. She uses a wide array of materials – both old and new fabrics and fibers, in addition to the gemological components.
In the example shown here, she has created simple yet delightful earrings named 'Hidden Treasures', because of the open shadowbox effect. The work incorporates handcrafted circular copper beads, showcasing two royal purple fire-polished Czech beads. A single glass bead on a handmade head pin serves as a dangle – and even the ear wires are handmade. Using colors and materials that have healing qualities is her way of bringing these attributes to those who wear her jewelry. In this instance, copper, having been used since antiquity to heal the mind, body and spirit, embraces the color purple. Purple is a said to be a grounding color, representing power and respect, helping the wearer to define ambitions, have self-assurance, focus on dreams and imagination, and calm their emotions.
This piece also reflects Colleen's commitment to recycling and re-use. This is one of the really special things about her work. When growing up, her family values were that you did not just run out and buy an item when you needed it. If something had broken, they fixed it; if they needed clothing, they sewed it. She learned to use a hammer, nails, screwdrivers and saws at an early age. Common sense and creativity became her primary tools; for her, 'the craft' has been an everyday endeavor. Now, when contemplating a piece of art jewelry and applying her unique design process, she feels that previously used materials are the best.
Professionally educated in the healthcare field, Colleen couldn't deny her passion for creating. A voracious reader, she taught herself everything she knows from books and magazines, and 'just plain doing'. One of her favorite resources is Belle Armoire Jewelry Magazine. I wasn't familiar with this publication until she pointed it out to me; check it out – it's full of exciting projects such as necklaces, bracelets, earrings and brooches – and also tips and techniques for jewelry making.
To the left, Colleen's Fancy and Rustic Brass Necklace incorporates ruby red rhinestones set in a raised and filigreed base float on the hand-made base of brass. She cut a small heart in at the bottom and then added a patina.
She realized some time ago that using findings made by others takes away from her ability to keep the piece focused on her vision -- so she often makes her own! She is also very mindful of how jewelry 'works' for those with hand and upper body movement disabilities. Having been challenged herself with arthritis and hand/shoulder pain, she says "being able to put on your own jewelry is important, as I found out when I could not do it." She adapts her customers' jewelry with easy-to-use clasps for necklaces and bracelets, ensuring that they can always wear their favorite pieces.
In the set shown at the right, she has used a vintage hand-made carved Mother of Pearl button, wrapping it in a free-form style, and hanging it from a necklace made from a 1950's costume piece of faux pearls. She added deep copper-colored glass beads and copper findings to bring out the pink and copper highlights of the gorgeous button.
The image below (on the left) is a perfect demonstration of Colleen's true love for natural gemstones -- in her 'Spirit Bear Earrings'. These were made with American Picture Jasper and textured gunmetal beads. Even the handmade ear wires carry the theme of the Spirit Bears.
Colleen is both an incredible artisan and a creative optimist; she inspires us with her passion and her approach to life and work. Beyond loving Colleen's work, we admire her philosophy about how a new jewelry designer should approach their life and work. Here is her sage advice, in her own words:
"Be the person you truly are. Art RULES, and you are a member of that royalty! You are an ARTIST! Go forward with inspiration and love for your creations. From this moment on, call yourself an Artist. Even if you have never started the work – much less finished – except in your dreams. Turn that dream into reality! Realize there is nothing wrong with moving from one art medium to another and back, until you are focusing on your favorite medium – or whatever you choose to do. And never, ever let anyone tell you that you aren't good enough at what you're doing. People like this are usually jealous of your talent and ambitions. They feel inferior to you so they will try to kill your dreams and goals. On the other hand, constructive criticism from a truly sincere and caring person will give you a sense of elation and pride. Value those who will look thoroughly at your work and share their insights and knowledge. Trust your inherent wisdom about who is to be listened to and who is not."
You can find/follow/like/buy Colleen's eclectic work and collections at the sites listed below.
Until Next Time,