LoveToKnow welcomes original Celtic jewelry designer Mary Lynn Maloney for an interview about her mixed media art jewelry. Mary Lynn designs Celtic jewelry that celebrates her Irish heritage, her family and her travels.
Original Celtic Jewelry Designs
Mary Lynn always loved art and crafts. However, she worked for years as a graphic designer and writer before becoming a jewelry designer.
Artistic Expression In Many Forms
LoveToKnow (LTK): When did you first become interested in art? What led to a career as a jewelry designer?
Mary Lynn Maloney (Maloney): I always liked to make things when I was little. I have a very early memory of making a doll's skating skirt out of a cupcake paper. Art was a favorite activity in school, and I learned lots of art and craft skills from my mom, grandma, grandpa and aunts. They all stressed neatness and pride in your work, so I'm grateful that rubbed off!
I like working with a variety of materials, so my projects have a mixed media, artistic feel to them. I am always game to try any new art or craft product, so when a jewelry magazine editor asked me to design some jewelry projects, I just jumped in and started experimenting with beads and charms, fibers and findings.
Inspirations from Family and Celtic Culture
LTK: Your jewelry is inspired by your Celtic heritage and your family's work in the post office. Could you please share with our readers how this inspires your work?
Maloney: I'm Irish and just love Celtic history, music, literature and dance, and I try to incorporate a Celtic spirit into my work. When I look at images of ancient Celtic manuscripts, knotwork patterns or jewelry that was unearthed from burial mounds, I want to do a modern interpretation to capture the elegance or the metallic patina I see in these artifacts. I'm not really interested in the clichéd shamrock and leprechaun imagery; I'd rather dig a little deeper and look for the artistry in the culture.
The post office connection is an interesting observation. My dad was a postmaster for many years, and my brother is a mail carrier, so the workings of the US mail system was something in the back of my mind growing up. I always liked seeing new stamps that Dad might bring home, and I loved writing and-even better-receiving mail. I had a few out-of-town pen friends, and we corresponded for several years. Getting my very own mail, often with interesting stamps on the envelope, was cool. I think I developed an appreciation for these humble little squares of perforated paper. They were so ordinary, but they were actually the magic finishing touch that made communication possible. I use Irish postage stamps and coins extensively in my jewelry designs. I think simple, everyday items like stamps and currency are part of a country's culture, and I enjoy elevating them to an artistic level.
LTK: How does Celtic folklore and culture inspire your jewelry designs?
Maloney: Celtic tales contain lots of battles and references to many things metallic: treasured possessions, weapons, chariots and the like. When I read the legends, I envision metal brooches, cups, armbands and swords, so my designs tend to be very metal-centric. Some of the postage stamps I use in my pieces feature mythological Celtic creatures, such as hunting hounds or stags, and I love making these miniature works of art the centerpiece of a necklace.
Jewelry Materials, Techniques and Mixed Media
LTK: You work in mixed media. What type of materials do you commonly like to work with?
Maloney: I like working with paper, metals, fabric, ribbon and any kind of found object. Vintage books, maps, fibers and discarded pieces of jewelry end up in lots of my mixed media collage work.
LTK: What type of jewelry do your collections feature?
Maloney: Right now, I have just my CelticBelle line, featuring coins and postage stamps from Ireland and other Celtic nations, such as Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man. It consists mostly of necklaces and bracelets. I am working on more wrist cuffs that I make out of fabric scraps. I use metal bezels that I purchase from a US manufacturer. I do not fabricate any of my metal. I prefer to use lead-free pewter pieces that are cast in the US and plated in antique metal finishes. This gives my work that ancient, oxidized patina that I like. It also allows me to create affordable pieces since I don't use sterling or gold.
LTK: What types of jewelry design techniques do you commonly use?
Maloney: I mix metals and play with chain combinations. I do some wire wrapping. I add beading where it seems like the thing to do. I set coins and stamps into bezels using various sealants, and I pour resin over most pieces for shine and protection. I would say the thing I spend the most time on is the design. By that, I mean the constant combining and assembling and experimentation with various configurations of all the jewelry making elements into a visually pleasing, finished piece.
Mary Lynn's Favorite Jewelry Creation
LTK: What is your favorite jewelry creation?
Maloney: My most recent favorite is a necklace that features a postage stamp depicting a piece of ancient Celtic jewelry. The stamp was part of a set designed to honor ancient Irish artifacts and treasures. I love it that a country would commission a stamp to celebrate jewelry that carries historic significance. My necklace is a mix of warm metals and textures and has a powerful vibe to it; I can imagine it being worn by a Celtic huntress!
LTK: What are your future plans?
Maloney: Beginning with the (2011) Seattle Irish Festival, I will exhibit and sell at select Irish and Celtic festivals a few times a year. I also plan to develop my wholesale market and will focus on attending several wholesale gift shows that cater to the Celtic retail storeowner.
More About CelticBelle Jewelry
To learn more about Mary Lynn Maloney and CelticBelle jewelry, visit her website, Top Floor Designs, where she features some of her art work. Customers can purchase Mary Lynn's jewelry at her Etsy shop, CelticBelle. Her jewelry is also sold at the following galleries and shops, some of which sell jewelry online as well as on location:
- Port Townsend Gallery, Port Townsend, Washington
- Wandering Angus Celtic Traders, Port Townsend, Washington
- Galway Traders, Seattle, Washington
- The Trinity Knot, Wilmington, Illinois
- The Tinker's Cart, Clinton, Massachusetts
Based in Port Townsend, Washington, Mary Lynn Maloney is a jewelry artist who designs one-of-a-kind art jewelry inspired by Celtic art, literature and music. She is also a freelance writer and a project designer for craft publications. She has published three art and craft books - Favors With Flair, Memory Art and Decorated Boxes. Mary Lynn's background includes graphic design and a degree in arts and humanities.