Everybody"s Fancy

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Interview with Sarah Loertscher

What's the first piece of jewelry you ever purchased?

You know, I have no idea- it probably had a unicorn on it. I can tell you the first piece of jewelry I remember, though- when I was born, my grandfather came to the hospital with a necklace with my name on it- the kind of necklace that comes from a gift or truck stop- the huge rack of jewelry with all the common names on them. That was, without a doubt, was my first piece of jewelry; I wore that necklace on and off until I was 24 or so- then I lost it. I also remember a pearl heart that my aunt and uncle gave me- it had my name painted on it, with roses, and somehow smelled like cinnamon.

Do you have an art collection, or prefer to make your own?

I'm starting to amass a small collection, through trading with friends. My favorites are a mug from my dear friend Natalie Tornatore, a screenprint from Matthew Landkammer, and a mirrored class sculpture from Thor Bueno. I just got that one last Friday and I love it!! I love bartering and filling my life with handmade objects.

Favorite materials to work with?

Sterling silver, steel, gold, ebony. I feel like silver and I are old friends now- we have been working together for 8 years or so. I like gold a lot, but have much to learn to feel comfortable and confident with it. Ebony is so satisfying to carve, and I love the way that wood smells, versus metal- wood is so much softer, and you seal it with delicious-smelling oil... it's a treat to work with.

Where did you get started, and how long have you been working in steel?

Officially, I got started at Ball State University in Indiana- I had to take all these survey courses as an undecided art major, and six weeks into my metals class I declared metals as my major. Working in that shop was the first time I can remember vividly losing time; sinking so far into a project that hours would drift by unnoticed. I remember the feeling that I had found a partner- like, THIS THING was what I was going to spend my life exploring. The only other time I felt that was when I met my (now) fiancee.

Unofficially, I started when I was five or so- not necessarily making jewelry, but collecting sparkly things. I was obsessed with fools gold, and would painstakingly inch up our enormous driveway looking for the faceted gold mineral. Anything sparkly- anything- caught my attention in a ridiculously focused way. I loved watching Wheel of Fortune so I could see Vanna White in her (always) glittery dresses. My family would make fun of how much I loved her... "oh, VAN-na!" they'd say, when Wheel of Fortune came on. "oh, Sarah, VAN-na's on TV!" Anyway, the work I am making right now just makes sense with what I've always been fascinated with- facets, rocks, sparkling glints of light, which are then paired with a healthy dose of (almost OCD) precision. It gives my need for precision and order a healthy outlet, I think.

Steel: I took a steel fabrication workshop with Kim Cridler when I was a core student at Penland- sometime in 2005? Kim is an amazing instructor, and she got me really fired up to work with steel. It's cheap, accessible, and strong as hell, especially compared with silver. And, somehow, I think it smells really nice, too.

What is your design process?

I liked reading what the other girls said about this- we all work in such a similar way. I usually don't have any idea what I will be making- like Rachel has these glorious drawings of what she'll make, and then she makes it. I just make parts- building blocks- like when I'm making my structure work, I'll have two or three days of just making hexagons. And then I'll start piecing them together, piling them up, drawing with the shapes. When I'm visually happy with what I have, I'll tack all the hexagons together and then start adding supports to make it structurally sound. By this time I'm usually deciding what the pieces are- like I'll make two piles of hexagons look similar, and these will be earrings. It's a really organic process, and I rarely measure anything, which sometimes surprises people. It feels very akin to how crystalline structures are formed. or, ah, accumulate.

Resources you're willing to share with other jewelers & the public?
hmm. My absolute favorite tools are snap-on sanding mandrels for the flex shaft. My new favorite non-tool-as-a-tool is a bocci ball- it's now used as a forming stake. For inspiration, the book "Snowflakes" by Kenneth George Libbrecht is just cra-zy. High-magnification images of snowflakes... and the way they're formed- it's really amazing. Did you know that some snowflakes are hollow barrels?!

Anything to add?

If you have any interest in craft, I would highly recommend watching Craft in America- the PBS series. Sometimes being a maker can feel like a pretty solitary pursuit, and this series reinforces the lineage we're all a part of- it's really well done. Like Dixie, I can geek out pretty rapidly about anything that interests me, and I'm also glad to hear from people... you can always contact me through my website at www.sarahloertscher.com.