How many times have you stopped to pick up a pebble as you walked along a beach? Jewelry artist Andrea Williams, a fast rising star of the studio jewelry world, collects beach stones, too, and creates necklaces, earrings, bracelets and pins fashioned with them.
Williams was inspired to create these works while visiting a favorite beach in Maine, where she discovered a row of stones, long, narrow and smooth, lined up side by side at the water's edge. They looked to her like a beautiful bracelet and with that, a world of creative ideas was revealed, ideas which continue to evolve.
Her materials and techniques are as straightforward as she. Beach stones are central to the design and provide the basis for the rest. Williams uses 18k gold and silver to create bezels, links and hinges that combine the stones into works of jewelry. She sometimes etches them, too, and inlays precious metals or sets them with gems. Her fabrication methods are deliberately simple, to complement and enhance the elegant simplicity of the stones.
"Growing up in Maine, I spent my summers sailing the coast, exploring its forests, rugged islands and tidal pools. By the age of six I could recognize most native plants and animals and was forever fascinated with the limitless variety that nature provides.... My jewelry is an expression of the wonder I sense in the over looked intricacies in nature."
Williams' reverence for nature informs her work in many ways, including her business practices. She uses only lab grown gems and reclaimed metals because of the impact of mining on the environment and native cultures. As she so clearly explains, "After all, what good is it to compost my kitchen scraps if through my work I contribute to environmental and social disaster elsewhere?....I recycle. I drive a hybrid. I try to walk the talk."
"Someone approached me recently for a commission using a piece of lapis. I explained that I don't use mined stones and they asked me to make something using beach stones, instead....I think people should be able to wear a beautiful beach stone and feel as good about it as they did a ring with diamonds from DeBeers."
Collectors respond to the directness of her work because it is beautiful, sometimes elegant and very honest. Critics agree. Williams has been honored in the past year with numerous awards and has been included in several important juried exhibitions. She is the 2011 recipient of a prestigious Mort Abelson Scholarship from San Francisco's Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts and a Saul Bell Award in the Bead Category. Earlier this year she was among a small group of jewelry artists selected to provide works for "Geography," an exhibition sponsored by the Art Jewelry Forum and Society of North American Goldsmiths.
She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in metalsmithing in 1993 and for a time made and sold her work with some success. Then she took a break, a long one, of almost eight years. She returned to the studio in 2007.
"Stones" will open September 2 and run through September 25. The artist will attend the opening September 2 and present a gallery talk, beginning at 4:00.
Andrea Williams is also a bee keeper, which provides a lovely segue to Patina's next exhibition which features the works of another bee keeping artist, Laura Foster Nicholson. "Being Here" is an exhibition of Nicholson's latest weavings. Examples of her work are included in the collections of the Cooper Hewitt, the Chicago Art Institute and the Museum of Art and Design. "Being Here" runs from October 7 to October 30, 2011. The artist will attend the opening reception.