Interview on Studio Jewelry with Designer

handcrafted ring
Tavern ring, photo by Hank Drew

LoveToKnow recently had the pleasure of talking with jewelry artist Amy Tavern for the studio jewelry interview. Tavern is a studio jeweler and metalsmith who creates one-of-a-kind jewelry that explore her interest in the interplay of lines, shapes, patterns and negative space. Her simple and elegant designs have been exhibited in museums and galleries as well as worn by celebrities such as Amy Lee of Evanescence. This interview introduces you to Amy Tavern and her artistic vision.

About Amy Tavern's Art Jewelry

To Amy Tavern, jewelry is sculpture. She cares about making every little detail of a piece of jewelry into a work of art.

Tavern holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Metal Design from the University of Washington and a Bachelor of Arts in Art Administration from the State University of New York. Since 1998, Tavern has worked in the field of jewelry design as an artist, instructor and lecturer. Her jewelry has also been featured in books such as 500 Plastic Jewelry Designs.

Based in North Carolina, Tavern creates studio jewelry, custom wedding rings, and production line jewelry. She is also currently a resident artist at the Penland School of Crafts. She was recently chosen by the American Craft Council as a 2009 Searchlight Artist and as an Emerging Artist for the 2009 American Craft Expo.

Studio Jewelry Interview with Amy Tavern

A Special Ring Inspired A Career

LoveToKnow (LTK): How did your interest in jewelry design begin? At what point did you realize that you wanted to become a jewelry designer?Amy Tavern (AT): I started making beaded jewelry in high school. Around this time I was also introduced to the idea of metalsmithing when a friend showed me a sterling silver ring her mother had made in a workshop. I was really impressed by that one ring. A friend's mom had made it and I began to think very differently about jewelry.

I realized I wanted to be a jewelry designer in the last year of my first undergrad experience. I had been taking lots of studio art courses and was also making beaded jewelry in my free time. In my final semester, I took a sculpture class and began seeing parallels between the jewelry I was making at home and the pieces I was working on in class. To me, jewelry was small-scale sculpture. I also never forgot about that ring from high school.

LTK: What led to your interest in studio jewelry and metalsmithing?

AT: It was ultimately that ring from high school. It changed my perspective and made a huge impact that I would not discover until years later. Once I began learning the craft I knew I wanted to go as far as I could. I absolutely loved the techniques, the process, and the materials.

metal spiral brooch

Tavern's Artistic Vision for Jewelry

LTK: In your blog profile, you describe your art jewelry as "simple in design, incorporating my interests in shape, line, pattern, subtle visual movement and negative space". Could you give examples of how you incorporate those ideas into your jewelry?AT: These ideas can be seen specifically in my "Line Drawings/Borderlines" series. This body of work uses formal elements like line and shape as the basis for the design of each piece. I fabricate 3-dimensional forms with wire and sheet metal that I have cut and formed into simple curved or straight lines and angular planes.

By placing certain pieces together in a very specific way I am able to create interdependent and interactive spaces and patterns. The visual interplay that occurs in the finished piece, whether it is a necklace or a brooch, causes positive and negative space to become equally important.

LTK: According to your website, the Regal Graffiti Series was inspired by "graffiti and historical jewelry." How does the jewelry use elements from graffiti and historical jewelry?

AT: I am interested in graffiti and urban decay. I am also interested in the history of jewelry. Regal graffiti combines these interests through design and technique. The designs themselves are modeled after various historical pieces from the Renaissance and Victorian eras, to name a few.

I enjoy reading about the history of jewelry and turned to my books for inspiration when creating this body of work. I noticed the rich colors, the use of the teardrop shape, repetition of specific motifs, the lush inclusion of stones and pearls and thought it would be interesting to create my own minimal or stark versions by combining these characteristics.

Then I applied layers of spray paint to the sterling silver elements. Once the paint had dried, I chipped, carved, drew on, filed, sanded and otherwise distressed the surface; similar to the way graffiti and the buildings is found (to) change over time. I like the combination of opposites here, the suggestion of history, the subtle irreverence for the elegant designs and the materials themselves; all coupled with admiration and respect for the history of jewelry.

metal necklace

LTK: What do you hope people will see in your jewelry?

AT: I really hope people see thought provoking pieces that encourage them to reconsider what jewelry is and how it is worn, just as my ideas changed when I saw that ring in high school. I would like them to see innovation in materials and design as well as gain some insight, no matter how small, into my own identity as an artist and jeweler.

Celebrity Jewelry

LTK: Amy Lee of Evanescence wore one of your necklaces at the 2004 Grammys. How did this come about? AT: Amy wore a one-of-a-kind sterling silver twig necklace. It was made with cast twigs (that) I had collected around the metals studio at the University of Washington and it hung like a collar around the neckline. When Amy purchased the necklace, my work was available at Fancy, a jewelry store in downtown Seattle. Evanescence was on tour at the time and Amy must have been out exploring before her show one night when she saw my work at the store. She did not buy the necklace then, but a few days later she called the store and bought it over the phone. This will always be one of the most exciting moments in my career.

artistic brooch

Tavern's Future Plans

LTK: What are your future plans for your jewelry?

AT: Over the next two years, while I am still in my residency at Penland, I plan to work extensively on my studio jewelry…When I am done in 2012, I hope to be making one-of-a-kind work more often and to have more gallery representation. I will resume new production work at some point in the future. Beyond my residency, I would like to teach more frequently in places like the Penland School of Crafts both in the US and abroad. I might enjoy more residency opportunities in other places, too. I will continue lecturing on professional practices.

Where to Purchase Amy Tavern's Jewelry

Learn more about Amy Tavern by visiting her official website or blog.

LoveToKnow thanks Amy Tavern for the interview and insight into her art. We wish good luck and great future success.

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Interview on Studio Jewelry with Designer