I consider myself a bit of a plate spinner. I always have a great multitude of projects in the air. It is a precarious balancing act I perform on a daily basis while running my boutique, Adorn Jewelry and Accessories, in Canandaigua NY. I always laugh and apologize to my customers because my workspace rarely stays confined to the actual designated studio behind the curtain. The designing process, works in progress, tools, random bits and pieces, all spill over into checkout area. I’m sure to many, it looks as though those “plates” I like to spin have all dropped and smashed to bits. More often than not the customers seem to love having the chance to see all the different projects I have going on in their various states. (Or perhaps they only like to peek behind the counter to say “hi” to my constant companion Penny, my shop dog —I am never entirely sure…;)
Ok, let’s rewind a bit — how did it all start? I have an AAS in Graphic Design from Finger Lakes Community College (1998) and a BFA in Metalsmithing from Syracuse University (2001). I honestly have to say that my time in graphic design has always influenced my work, particularly during the initial layout process. I tend to create most of my layouts and templates using Adobe Illustrator. Because my jewelry is what stocks my store, I am often very focused on creating elements that have a consistency people depend on. Creating the templates allows me to easily reproduce, for example, a specific set of Ginkgo leaves.
The invite to this wonderful exhibit at Main Street Arts has given me the chance to step back from the day-to-day routine of creating jewelry for the retail world. I was able to expand upon my favorite body of work and experiment with the form and structure. It was so much fun having a reason to push my boundaries slightly. I am the type of person that often feels guilty if I take time to experiment. I fear that if the piece did not work out, those precious moments would have been wasted. Running the shop leaves no minute of the day unaccounted for. Being a part of this show was such a luxury to be able to hit pause on my overly sensible brain and create with a sense of freedom!
Here are some progress shots of the piece I had the most fun with.
I really wanted to design something that felt as ancient as the Ginkgo itself. So I dug into my memories of the historical jewelry I have seen over the years in different museums. Gazing at jewelry that is thousands of years old always mesmerizes me. I could stare at the ancient pieces for hours, puzzling over the stories of how they were made, who they adorned, and how they came to be in front of my eyes. I wanted to take this opportunity to pay homage to those works — jewelry created impossibly long ago from a single ingot, with rudimentary tools and incorporated rough stone, clay or glass elements.
While I was not interested in starting from my own cast ingot of brass, I opted to start with a pre-formed sheet…the advantages of our age. Then I searched my vast collection of stones (seriously, my family thinks I am a hoarder when it comes to stones and beads…I am beginning to agree with them) and came across this great slab of seriphinite that I have been hanging on to for a few years waiting for the right moment. This was the time.
Some of you may be asking at this point, “What is with the Ginkgo theme?” I have had the store for 13 years and have heard a lot of personal stories — stories of bravery, heartbreak, of illness and also of the people who heal and comfort those who have been through it all. I would listen to these stories and later think to myself, “ugh…and what do I do? — sit here and make jewelry, what good is that to anyone?” Then little by little I began to notice that the reason I was hearing these stories was because my customers were often coming in to purchase my pieces to lift the spirits of someone going through a tough time, or to celebrate overcoming a difficult situation. I knew I was not a person that truly helps or heals, but if there was some small way I could contribute to others through my work, I wanted to with all my heart.
I searched for a theme that carried with it a powerful sentiment and could be translated in many ways. So I looked to nature which I love so dearly, for inspiration. I was walking to work and pouring over my thoughts on the subject, and a leaf dropped off of my neighbor’s tree in front of me. I realized right then that the Ginkgo would be my symbol. It fit perfectly.
With every jewelry piece I include the words:
“The Ginkgo has existed for 250 million years, unwavering in its uniqueness and beauty. They naturally resist the negative and are survivors against all odds.
May we be like the ginkgo and carry with us the strength, resilience and natural beauty that resides within. “
It is not much in the grand scheme of things, but I create each and every leaf with as much love as possible in hopes that the love will carry through to the wearer.
PS—If you get the chance after visiting Main Street Arts, head east up Main and visit the grand Ginkgo Grove that are a little piece of Clifton Springs History!
Stop by Main Street Arts to see Erica’s work in our current exhibition “Multifaceted: An Exhibition of Fine Jewelry” through August 18, 2017.