Fine art jewelry designer Andrea Williams transports us into a into a world of wonder and beauty. Her extraordinary use of organic materials gives us a sense of awe and reverence for the world that surround us.
It is with great honor that I share this interview and her work with you. Andrea’s commitment to Echo-conscious jewelry production and ethical metalsmithing ethical metalsmithing is something that every fine art jewelry designer and all human beings should strive for.
How did you get started making jewelry?
I started as a child making treasures out of the shells, twigs and flowers that I found. I was lucky enough to go to boarding school at Gould Academy in Maine where they had a fantastic jewelry department.
My teacher, Jim Owen, took me under his wing and before I knew it I was on my way to RISD (Rhode Island School of Design). I always knew that jewelry would be my path.
Tell us about your first experiences as a jewelry artist and designer?
Fresh out of college I worked as a finisher for a goldsmith in Chicago, there I learned a lot about what kind of jeweler I wanted to be. I used to design what I thought would sell. Although I was successful, it left me feeling hollow and burned out- so much so that I stopped making jewelry for a number of years.
When I started again it was because I was inspired to make works of art. I made a commitment to myself to design jewelry that reflects the beauty of the earth that created the materials. I need to design for myself and what inspires me, regardless of marketability. I find people respond on a much more visceral level to my work now.
You have a strong and profound ethical message; tell us how can other fine art jewelry artist begin to take the first steps towards more echo-friendly and ethical jewelry making?
Always question the answers. There are always better, cleaner, lower impact ways to do things. The hardest part is to find them (or create them). Once you make the commitment to yourself to make it happen, the battle is half over.
Take a look around you workspace and try to see small changes. Start simple, what kind of light bulbs do you use? Is your studio (and therefore your work) filled with lots of chemicals?
For example, traditionally, jewelers use sulfuric acid to clean metals. Citric acid works just as well but is much less harmful. What metals are you using? Go reclaimed! The quality of reclaimed metals is fantastic! Are you conflict free? Better yet are you mine free? A lot of small steps can make a huge impact.
Don’t give up if you don’t find a solution today. 10 years ago when I started looking for recycled precious metals, I was laughed at. Now because jewelers demanded it, they are readily available. There is power in numbers. One designer approaching a supplier has little impact. A co-op of 10 or 20, tends to get their attention.