Jamie Smedley has a jovial and spontaneous personality that is reflected in her endeavors as a designer/artist. Living in Southern Oregon, she describes herself as a historical maven, a creative expressionist and a cultural enthusiast who dabbles in many art forms. Art such as artisan sewing, alchemy, ceramics, painting and eclectic jewelry to name just a few. Jamie's home and studio have a welcoming feel. They are like visiting your favorite grandma's house or an old mercantile with undiscovered stock. The nooks and crannies contain all sorts of curiosities she has collected or made. For instance, a row of colorful crystal-encrusted raku ceramics, shelves full of books on diverse subjects and rows of dainty teacups from years gone by that beckon a spot of Darjeeling.
The closets aren't for coats. Each one is filled to the top with a lifelong collection of neatly organized specialty fabrics, old lace trims and vintage treasures that would take months to explore, and Jamie remembers the story of each piece. Although Jamie is humble about her learning, friends who know her refer to her as "encyclopedia" because of her vast knowledge on so many topics. Her passion for learning about classical literature, the arts and history fuels her imagination, giving depth and meaning to the story she tells with her art. Speaking of the books she has owned, she said, ''a lot of my books have notes and sketches in the margins because as I read, a great idea will just hit me. My apologies to George Eliot--but I couldn't help but design a golden necklace for Silas Marner. All those ideas, all that stimulation. It's like a cacophony of spices you know are in a delicious meal. It's difficult to separate and decipher which ones might be mixed in, but the blended flavor is just something you enjoy as a whole. "That's why I love Indian Cuisine! Such elegant spice mixtures ... it's like tasting a thousand years."
Jamie's knowledge base and skill inventory increases with each new idea she develops. If there is a skill or craft that interests her, she will plow through waves of Internet information, read a tower of books and acquire all the tools and materials necessary to practice her newfound ability. Then, through trial and error, she will perfect her own version. She usually has several of these trials going on at the same time, and as the projects begin to overlap, they often merge and evolve into new creations of delight that set her artistic abilities apart from most.
Jamie's drive for designing mixed media art has deep roots. Through memories of project-filled summers spent with grandmothers to rummaging through old junk stashes in order to curate rustic collections, she has turned resourcefulness and patience in preparation into key skills to keep her thoughts and work organized. She learned creativity from her grandmother Gini, whose home was similarly filled with magical creations. Together, Gini and her sister Nedra taught Jamie to accept and embrace her creative talent and how to grow within it. Patience and planning she learned from her grandmother Dorothy, who after seeing her exhibited talents, advised Jamie to learn all she could from sewing and art classes in school. Sadly, Dorothy passed away a few years later, so she never saw her advice come to fruition in Jamie's artistic endeavors. It was Dorothy's advice, and death, that served as a catalyst for Jamie to grow and refine her capabilities.
When asked what her influences are, Jamie responded, "Well, if you listen to me chatter on and on, you will hear me talk about music, history, world cultures, nature and color. But really, it all started with the people who supported me. I think of my husband, sisters, mothers and grandmothers that were key influences to motivating me as an artist. However, I also love a good story. The history and stories that are hidden within a scrap of aged fabric or a rusty old bit lure me to discover its mystery and make something that showcases and displays that delicious nugget. Antiquated relics, like vintage lace, corset stays and rhinestones, are staples to my designs. I enjoy repurposing fabulously ethnic, old or dingy pieces that are worn from years of use. It is important to me to carefully re-use them without unraveling their story in a modern artistic way that has never seen before. Making something so fantastic that it makes people do a double take or stare with a head-scratching curiosity--I love to see a look on someone's face that says "'how'd she do that?"
I often inject elements of my own Inupiat Indian heritage that I get from my mother into my art as well. I frequently incorporate intricate tribal patterns along the surface of fabrics, flashing mirror-work, scrolling bullion embroidery, dainty tucks and faceted crystal beads that capture light and reflect in fiery flashes like the Northern Lights with every fluid movement.''
While sewing was the first art that Jamie became successful with, her subsequent artistic endeavors and current career are certainly not secondary. Jamie participated in an internship as part of her business degree with her favorite bead supplier, Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®, and was hired as a creative writer and marketing specialist after her graduation. After seeing what Jamie could do, they settled her into a full-time jewelry design position. Her creativity plays a vital role in her day-to-day work there. She also creates captivating jewelry projects for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads that demonstrates new and innovative ways to use findings that can be seen published in each flyer.
When asked how art is a part of her life now, Jamie responded by saying, ''Art will always be a part of my life, and I truly enjoy where my path is going. It's important to be content. Besides, who knows what the future holds. Learning and being creative is still a huge part of my life. Working full-time means I must share my talent and time with my employer, so I don't do as much at home as I used to. But that is okay for now. If anything, it just means that the next time I sit down and work on something big, it will be extraordinary because it will have many days worth of thought devoted to its inception. The day will come when I will get to make something imaginative, something that reflects my soul and it will be when I least expect it!''
Jamie's advice to other artists is, ''I am not alone in yearning to be immersed in art constantly. Haven't we all had a chance to read about what someone else is doing and feel that envious 'I wish I was doing that' feeling? Don't let yourself feel envious or unimportant. Instead, just do what you do, wherever you do it in the world! Just do it--do it with all your heart so that YOU are proud of it, and the world will follow your lead.''
View all of Jamie's designs in the Gallery of Designs.
Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, Inc. - One Fire Mountain Way, Grants Pass, OR USA 97526-2373
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