Joanna Craft is a jewelry maker from California specializing in metalsmithing and enamel. Her works are aesthetically beautiful, joyful, and elegant, perfect for any outfit or occasion. I was fortunate enough to interview her about her career as a jewelry maker, I hope you enjoy reading!
As always, I first asked Joanna about the effects of the pandemic on her work and business. She told me “COVID-19 has had an immense effect on my jewelry business. All of the orders that I wrote at the American Handcrafted trade show in January 2020 were cancelled or postponed after March 13, except the ones that shipped in February. I normally would have been filling and shipping orders from Feb -Sept. I worked on some new ideas in the first few months of the pandemic, but it was hard to stay motivated to create new pieces. I found other ways to occupy my time, such as gardening, hiking, kayaking, pottery and projects around the home that I never had time to do. It will take more time for things to return to normal, but I’m looking forward to being back in my studio full time. My jewelry practice has been a joy, even with the challenges of the past year and I still look forward every day to being in my studio.” We’re hoping things return to a similar normal for Joanna and her small business soon. In the meantime, it sounds like this pandemic has offered time to explore and do things that working doesn’t always allow for, which sounds like the best situation possible!
Next I asked her how she got started making jewelry. “I started making jewelry in high school. I started out in college as an art major, with an emphasis in metalsmithing, but I switched to landscape architecture. I had a long career as a landscape architect/planner, but always made jewelry on the side. I made the decision in 1999 to make jewelry full time and have never regretted it.” One of my favorite things about interviewing artists is hearing the path they took to get where they are today. Often the road involves several changes and periods of exploration, trying to find out what speaks to them and what they could see themselves doing for a long time. I’m also partial to artists who have worked with the landscape, and enjoy the forms, textures, and colors they take with them once they move onto the next art-making thing. It’s powerful to hear Joanna bold in her conviction to make her life about art-making and not regretting that choice. All very inspiring!
After hearing about her start as an artist, I asked Joanna about what keeps her inspired to create, what ideas and images are her starting point when making work. “My jewelry reflects my interest in the natural world and architectural forms, with a textural, organic feel. In the past few years, I have also added enameling to my work. I’m passionate about traveling and draw inspiration from ancient cultures and from the natural world. Texture, color and pattern define my work.” I enjoy the breadth of creations derived from being inspired by nature. It’s exciting to see the different forms inspiration can take, because it relies on the artist’s own sensitivities and interests. I’m interested in Joanna’s zoomed-in inspiration, especially with working with small pieces like jewelry. Containing the vastness of nature is a task, and textures, color, and patterns can distill vastness into something small, simultaneously displaying the micro and macro found in nature. Her previous work in landscape painting and metalsmithing shows this dedication to distilling and abstracting nature down to simpler, pocket-sized forms, which takes a lot of work! So cool!
Talking about inspirations in Joanna’s work led us to discussing her creative process and her art community. “I keep notebooks of sketches of ideas for pieces, but in a lot of cases, I just start working with the metal and ideas take shape. I work primarily in silver and other metals and start with sheet and wire and, using traditional metalsmithing techniques, such as sawing, forming and shaping, texturing, soldering and enameling, manipulate the metal. Sometimes a piece starts out as one thing and turns out as something unexpected. That’s the fun of fabricating with metal. The enamel is kiln fired. I work alone in my studio, but during normal times, I have a community of fellow artists that I see at shows and events. It’s a supportive group of people and I miss being around them. My husband, family and friends have always encouraged me.” As a person who has never worked with jewelry or metal before, I was surprised and intrigued to note that metalworking can involve a kind of spontaneity like other art forms. I like imagining the ways that material can inform and change a piece, it’s a practice that is very grounded in the physical and visceral, the felt experience and material reality of art making. The idea of crafting things to be worn and imbued with personal and individual meaning is very hands on and grounded in the tangible, and it’s nice to see that translation of the material process carried over into the final product, these personal items people can wear.
Finally, I asked her what experience she hopes the viewers gain when they interact with her pieces. “My goal in making jewelry is to create timeless small works of art. I see jewelry as a means for the wearer to express their creativity and personality. Craftsmanship and ease of wear are important.” Her pieces act as a vessel for the owner’s creativity and personality while holding their own uniqueness and charm, goal fulfilled!
If you want to check out more of Joanna’s gorgeous work, you can browse her Facebook page here.
Thank you to Joanna for answering my questions so thoughtfully, and thanks to you, reader for reading!