Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Catherine Witherell Interview - Beadmaker and Jewelry Designer

Catherine Witherell is a multi-talented person, and exceptionally creative. She has had her work featured in Belle Armoire Jewelry Magazine, is a member of the MetalClay Etsy Team, and her work appears in the pages of the recently released book 'A Charming Exchange' by Ruth Rae and Kelly Snelling. She has been a contributor to the pages of the PMC Annuals, and will be teaching 'PMC Frameworks' and 'Precious PMC Collage' classes at Artfest 2009 next April.

Catherine is an art bead maker and a jewelry designer, and it's wonderful to see how she combines her beads and handmade charms into her finished jewelry designs. Her blog is full of examples of her sketches, digital photograph collages and other inspiring creative work. She creates in paper, silver, resin - and it all flows together seamlessly with her style and vision.

So when I got the chance to pose the beadmaker and jewelry designer questions to Catherine for the Art Bead Scene blog, I couldn't wait to hear her answers and see what's next in her plans. She very generously shared her thoughts, inspirations, plans and creative tips.

1. What is your personal name, business name, website and location?

Catherine Witherell
Orinda, California (in the San Francisco Bay area)

2. What kind of jewelry do you make? What types of materials do you prefer? what kinds of art beads do you use?

I work mostly with Precious Metal Clay and consider myself a sculptor. I used to spend most of my time with conventional clay, throwing pots and sculpting figures and animals.

In 2000 I heard about this clay that is made up of microscopic particles of silver mixed with an organic binder that burns off in a kiln to leave you with a hard object that is pure fine silver. Now I like to make charms and small 3-D objects to hang onto chain and earring hooks.

I am also a metal smith and use fine silver, sterling silver, gold in 18 and 22 karat and pretty much anything else I can think of to make chain and mixed media art jewelry. I do actually make beads from metal clay and I call them hollow forms and I have a big collection of semiprecious beads that I use to accent my assembled jewelry.

3. What kind of beads do you make? What kinds of processes do you use? What is your favorite beadmaking technique?

I like to make beads from metalclay. Sometimes I use a piece of cork or white bread and fashion a core to build my hollow beads onto. I also like to make individual pieces that I can assemble after firing, paste together with more of the metalclay and fire again to make birdhouses.

Lately my favorite beadmaking technique is using a syringe to make a fine line filigree pattern with clay onto a core on one side and then add a patterned sheet of clay to the other side to form hollow beads. I love making hearts this way and they come out of the kiln in a pillow shape. After I do a few more things to the beads, I fill them with colored resin.

4. How did you get into beadmaking? What are some of the important things you do for your business?

Someone asked me to make some beads for a book project so I tried this technique and it worked. I also decided to make my birdhouses that began in a larger pendant size into a smaller size and it became a bead with a hole vertically through the middle.

For my business, I like to take classes to further my education in any area I feel a curiosity. I like to do all the parts, making the components, assembling the finished jewelry, writing a blog, writing proposals for teaching classes, making small handmade books to showcase my work, designing postcards and my own business cards.

I enter design contests and trade things I have made with other artists when I can. I am currently in a big phase of promoting my work and also one of learning design concepts and taking classes that seem unrelated to my jewelry making. I believe it is always a good idea to branch out and do more than just what I am focused on in my jewelry so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes.

5. What is your workspace like and how do you work in your studio? What is a typical day like?

My work space is jam packed with stuff! I have tables covered with everything I have been able to collect in the last 10 years. I pretty much know where everything is but I have to get more organized on a regular basis or I get overwhelmed by all the ideas I get when my eyes rest on all my supplies.

When I work in metalclay I usually make at least two of something. If it is earrings, I make two pair. If I am feeling ambitious and I have a lot of ideas I make 8-10 of the same kind of thing but each one is different on the surface design.

On a typical day I would start by answering emails with breakfast. Then I do the first thing that grabs me or the most crucial thing on my to-do list. If I get to a stopping point on a project, I usually go on to some other medium. It could be digital art or something I want to paint.

On a perfect day I would eat something first around 11 am and then again around 3 pm and if I am on a roll I keep on working until 1 or 2 am.

6. How do you stay inspired and motivated?

I look for inspiration everywhere. I take a small camera with me at all times and take photos of even the patterns on clothing.

I take classes, read magazines, buy art books, and go with the flow of what I feel like working on. When I reach a problem I leave the project for maybe an hour or a few days, even months and then when I figure out what I want to do next I go back to it and finish it. In the meantime I go work in another medium and pursue a different idea and this way I feel I am working almost all the time.

7. What type of beads and jewelry designs do you feel best compliment your art beads? Do you design your own jewelry too?

I especially like pearls and semi-precious briolettes and I like to use vibrant colors to contrast with silver. I design all my own jewelry but I also have been known to copy while learning a technique.

8. How did you get into jewelry design?

I would get ideas and couldn't find anything like what I wanted at the bead store and I decided I had to make it myself.

9. What kinds of art beads do you look for? Is there a bead you wish an artist would make for you?

I used to just buy things on impulse by color and size but now I make a list of what I need and go after those things, like big chunky faceted beads right now. I don't think about another artist making me much anymore. I just set my mind to it and try to make it myself. I make what I want to wear.

10. What beady plans do you have for the future? Do you have new designs or ideas you will be exploring soon?

I plan to make more things as I have the time and when the ideas pop into my head. I really like the freedom of being an artist and not having lots of deadlines.

I want to make a PMC daisy chain necklace and I am working on a Jewelry Zine with Deryn Mentock due out in January 2009.

Catherine Witherell

posted by Lynn Davis - Thanks to Catherine Witherell for sharing her thoughts and giving us a peek into her studio!


rosebud101 said...

Wow! Where does all that energy come from? What an artist!

Anonymous said...

Excellent interview of a very talented lady!

HappyDayArt! said...

Thanks for this beautifully laid out interview. It was a pleasure!

Catherine Witherell

Jennifer Stumpf said...

wonderful interview. one of my very favorite artists and her blog is terrific!

Anonymous said...

I am very curious about this 'Precious Metal Clay' you mentioned. I had never heard of it before reading your blog today. It sound fascinating. I need to know more!!

Thanks for the great blog.


LLYYNN - Lynn Davis said...

Catherine, thanks for sharing so much both in the interview and on your blog, your use of silver metal clay is innovative and unique, especially the filigree work on the hollow beads and the bird cage beads! I can see a photo of your work and tell right away that it's one of yours because of your distinctive style. Your generosity is beautiful and inspiring.

Lost Aussie said...

Excellent interview, thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Oh, her work is *so* lovely!