Meet the Designer-Artist
Where do you live?
Northridge, California (Near North Los Angeles)
Describe your artistic style.
My style changes from piece to piece and on a whim. You will find strictly seed bead items in my finished jewelry next to macramé next to metal next to leather. I get very excited when I learn new skills and always end up incorporating them into pieces that I am either working on or the ideas that are always floating around in my head. In all honesty, I cannot lay claim to the pieces that "I" create. I truly believe that my hands and mind are just a vehicle through which a higher power channels itself and I am often as surprised at the end products that I make as others are. The only thing in common that I see between all of my work is my fearless blending of colors that many would not consider putting together. That comes from my background, in fiber arts. I learned, when dying and blending fibers, that all colors go together and that I should not limit myself to what my mind or fashion dictates should or should not coordinate.
What inspires you as a designer-artist?
The better question for me is, what does not inspire me? I can find inspiration in pretty much anything, from nature… especially the coloration within flower or rock formations or other groupings, to fashion. From animals and the way light reflects off of their coats to books and literary descriptions of situations or places, especially from other artists and fashion designers. Even in pieces that I do not have much appreciation for as a whole, there are always small aspects that I can learn from. I am always armed with my camera and--with permission of course--take pictures of tiny details that may be learning tools for future projects.
What materials do you most enjoy working with?
Whatever I happen to be working with at the time. There are so many things that lend themselves to my work that I would hate to limit myself to just a few "favorites." Additionally, I am always striving to take classes to learn how to incorporate new skills and materials into my repertoire. Often I get frustrated as I am first learning how to work with particular materials (metals are a current source of angst for me), but as I practice and get more skilled, I usually learn to love them and combine them with other materials that may not traditionally be expected to go together, and end up with surprising and refreshing results. So rather than state favorite and less favorite materials, I prefer just to classify them as those I am more or less skilled in and practice always makes me thrilled to have learned how to work in new mediums. The more mediums I know how to work with, the greater the opportunity for my muse to channel new ideas through my hands.
What is the name of the piece you submitted with your success story?
Spring Flowers Bracelet
What inspired this design?
The story of this particular piece is actually somewhat painful for me. I was terribly ill with an undiagnosed infection and after many months of testing without any positive results, was left in bed with fevers over 102 degrees and unable to pursue my crafting. My brain just wasn't able to function normally in that state and I did not have the will to even try anything. Finally, I was speaking to an artist friend on the phone and she convinced me that if I was unable to do anything artistic, I could at least still be doing something with my hands, even from my bed. I looked up beading stitches on the computer, discovered the herringbone, and decided that it looked "brainless" enough that I could teach myself to do it, even in the state I was in. I did so, and made a lot of blank bracelet cuffs which I figured I would do something with later, just because that was about all I could do. I probably made around a dozen of the blanks in different colors, many of which were chewed up by my dogs who were bored to tears, but the one that I eventually used to make "Spring Flowers" with survived.
How did it come together? For example, did you plan it out or did it define itself once you began working?
Finally I was diagnosed and the treatment for an extremely rare condition began. By the second day on the antibiotics, although I was still too ill to do much of anything and spent most of my day in bed, I felt like I was about to enter a new springtime in my life, and so I dragged myself to my beading supplies and pulled all the flower beads (and the beads used as paving stones) out. I initially embellished the blank with the flower attached directly to it, but it was too flat for me, so I went back and added stems to give the piece a little depth. Later, when I felt a lot better, I looked at the piece again, decided that it was still too one-dimensional, and that's when I added the pearl "buds" to give it the texture I felt it needed. So you could absolutely say that not only was it not planned, but as I was working on it, I was not even capable of coming up with one had I wanted to.
Share Your Background
When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
I began working with beads as a child, but did not recognize how important they were to me until a couple of years ago.
Who introduced you to beading?
Although I had beaded even as a child for kicks, I did not know that it was going to become my life's passion. I was extremely lucky, though. I attended a weaving conference given by the Southern California Hand Weavers Association. At these conferences, I always took lots of workshops in fiber arts, but also made a point to take one "weird" class that was completely off subject.
At this particular one (I think in 2006 in Visalia, California), I decided to take a class in beaded tassels given by Robin Atkins. I had no idea what the class was about or what we were going to make (I envisioned traditional tassels made of fiber with maybe a few beads mixed in) and, in fact, showed up without even the materials required because I had no idea what a "size 5 or 8" seed bead or a "Delica" was, and when I queried the local bead shops near my home that I knew of at the time, they did not deal in seed beads and were of no help whatsoever. Robin was incredibly supportive, as were my classmates who had brought enough extra beads along with them that they shared with me to get me started until the first class break, whereupon I ran directly to the bead stores in the area that Robin had recommended, quickly bought up assorted "this-and-that" which I thought (hoped) might work, and ran back.
I know that I was a very non-descript student in class that day as I was feeling very ill (I suffer from an extremely serious chronic health issue), and didn't even recognize what I was making as it was taking shape, but at the end of the class when I turned my piece right-side-up and realized what I had created, I remember gasping "Oh my God!" Even though my technical skills weren't that great because this was the first time I had done any serious beading (we weren't just stringing beads). Robin was very impressed too, especially at the color combinations I had come up with and said all the right things to encourage me. I was always known amongst my peers for being very innovative in fiber arts, coming up with colors and styles of finished products that were striking and different than the norm, but as hard as I tried, my technical skills could not match up with those of my friends, many of whom have gone on since then to become royalty in high demand for their skills in the fiber world. But I realized immediately that I had come home and found my true medium in beading. And Robin, again, said all the right things to me that encouraged me to go home, find the proper beading stores to supply my beads, and I practiced and quickly became extremely proficient and inventive in my new medium.
I have to say that I was extremely lucky in meeting Robin. I did not know who she was… that she was also very well known (royalty) in the beading world (a regular from Interweave Press) and she hailed from well out of the area. I only wish I had been feeling better that day, more myself, and could have made enough of an impression on her that we might have become friends. I follow her blog regularly, and admire her… both for her beading skills as well as her life struggles which she handles with dignity and style… and aspire to incorporate many of her personality traits within my own person.
Do you have an artistic background?
Yes, I have always loved arts and crafts and have pursued them with a vengeance. Nothing was out of bounds for me. I was lucky, as even though I lived in a somewhat dysfunctional situation growing up, my Mother, who had very little patience in most areas, was the most patient, influential, and encouraging person you could ever have imagined as I was learning crafting skills. She got me involved, and I owe her everything for that. Many of my closest artistic friends are a direct result of her actions. Additionally, while she is more of a craftsperson than an artist (her main work is in knitting and weaving, usually by pattern rather than innovation), everything she makes is absolute perfection and she sets the bar for me, and high. It makes me very proud when she is proud of what I have achieved.
On the other hand, while I take as many classes in as many craft related subjects as I can as an adult, I never studied arts or crafts in school. I am proof that if the drive to create is there, the discovery and the skills required to create extraordinary things of beauty can be developed at any age. Sadly, I only had a couple of things ready to enter this competition because my illness is very hard right now. I would have loved to have shown you a wider collection of what I can do. It's only self-imposed restrictions that limit what is possible if you are pursuing what you love.
How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®?
Two separate friends recommended you to me. I followed up and was extremely impressed.
What other hobbies do you have?
I am a Richard Simmons success story, having lost over 200 pounds in my middle age naturally thanks to him, and I love taking exercise classes with him and his other teachers, and am sometimes lucky enough to be able to make media appearances for him to inspire others. I still pursue fiber arts, and still take "weird" crafting classes in subjects other than fiber and leading just to see what they're like. I am an animal nut and am trying to prepare my newest girl--Lucy, a Black Lab rescued on her execution day from the Sough Los Angeles Dog Pound--for obedience trials. Sadly, dog discipline is not one of my strong suits, but she is so anxious to please that I figure it will only take us a year or two for her to be ready to start actually entering competitions--lol! I am engaged to be married to a man with full legal and physical custody of four kids, all young, all of whom I love. I also love my sister and her family, especially my nephew Ian who I believe the sun rises and sets upon. He is destined for great things in the future, and I know deep in my gut that he will be famous like Bill Gates or Albert Einstein when the timing is right. He has all the makings of a magnificent scientist or mathematician/computer/technology expert and excels in all of those things right now, decades beyond his chronological age.
Do you belong to any beading societies or beading groups?
No. However, I take many classes and get advice and help from The Creative Castle in Newbury Park, California. They have been incredibly supportive.
What role does jewelry-making play in your life?
First and foremost, it is something that I love, something that I excel in, something that I can always learn new aspects of, and something that comes out of me without having to be summoned. Additionally, as a chronically-ill person who has been sidelined from the corporate world for years on disability, it gives me a purpose for my existence. I have been able to help friends and clients achieve exactly the jewelry they would like, and have been fortunate enough to have one client who has involved me in a family heirloom project working with beads and buttons collected by her family since the early 1900s and making them into finished jewelry. Finally, it settles my mind when I am feeling particularly stressed.
If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourself and your jewelry?
I have a website--www.LauraRSilverman.com--and two Etsy stores--http://makingit.etsy.com and http://ArtiZenBeads.etsy.com--through which I sell my work, but the majority of my sales come from private contact with people in various forums from my exercise class to grocery shopping to almost anywhere you can imagine. To that end, I always wear my work wherever I go, and I always carry a large supply of business cards (which I make myself, too) with me.
Do you participate in any charity fundraisers?
I participate in pretty much any venue that will allow me, from health causes to animal rights, from parenting classes to school functions, if I am asked. Unless there is something about the organization that I fundamentally disagree with, I make contributions. It gives me an opportunity to post a picture of my work with a little boast about it in Facebook, explaining the details of the piece and who I am donating it to with contact info for the group, sometimes increasing their own donations and attendance. And yes, I have made business contacts and sales because of these types of posts.
Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
This is a serious hot-button issue for me. Without fail, when I take classes, the teachers are always initially nervous about my attendance in class because I make no bones about the fact that I am an artist and do sell my work. Their concern is justified; I have seen, over and over again, students take a class in a particular project and then make it again and again, selling it in different forums as their own idea. This is wrong on so many levels! In my own case, they generally settle down quickly because even my class samples usually take a left turn from what the other students are making, and rarely look like the project that the teacher is teaching by the time I am done.
There is a vast difference between getting inspiration from a teacher and/or other artist and incorporating some of their ideas in your own work, and stealing other's work outright. True artists share amongst themselves freely because they know that they all gain from the collective creativity. But we have to be careful who we allow into the fold because of this kind of behavior. If you are unable to modify an idea enough to call it your own, at least have the decency to give the artistic credit to the person to whom it is due if you plan to sell your work
View all of Laura's designs in the Gallery of Designs.