Jennifer Gastelum

Jennifer Gastelum

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Jewelry-Making Contest 2011 featuring Metal Clay, Metal Beads, Wirework or Chain

Category: Earrings

Silver Medal Prize Winner

Jennifer Gastelum

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Jewelry-Making Contest 2011 featuring Metal Clay, Metal Beads, Wirework or Chain

Category: Bracelet

Bronze Medal Winner (Tie)

Meet the Designer-Artist

Where do you live?
Tucson, Arizona

Describe your artistic style.
A customer once told me that she viewed my style as primitive. At first I felt a bit insulted, but then from listening further I agreed with her. She explained that my designs are simple and straightforward. I love styles that can be worn with any number of outfits.

What inspires you as a designer-artist?
Nature is my biggest inspiration. As I stated my styles are simple and straightforward. If you look around in nature, most of nature’s creations are the same. Many of my pendants are representative of nature, such as shells or leaves. Nature has very healing qualities and I love creating pieces that remind people of its power.

What materials do you most enjoy working with?
My preferred medium is metal clay. Specifically within metal clay, I really enjoy working with copper clay. I find copper the easiest to work with and I love the look in the final state.

What is the name of the piece you submitted with your success story?
Palmetto Skyes

What inspired this design?
I live in Tucson, Arizona where there is a rich heritage of Native Americans. My family has been in Tucson since the late 1800s and I have been raised with the Native American culture and designs. This piece reminds me of the Native Americans and the Southwest.

How did it come together?
Since metal clay dries fairly quickly, I almost always design a piece on paper ahead of time. For this piece I first cut a template out of cardboard for the overall shape. I rolled out the clay on a texture plate and cut it out using the template. After it was dried, holes were drilled in the top to connect the earwires. It was fired in a kiln and then polished in a tumbler. To give the black background patina was then applied to the low areas. Finally the piece was assembled.

Share Your Background

When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
I took my first beading class at a local bead store about 5 years ago. From there I took classes in hand knotting pearls, lampworking, chainmaille and then I branched off into metal clay about 4 years ago. Since then, I have become a Level I instructor for Art Clay.

Who introduced you to beading?
Honestly, I can say nobody. I wanted to learn how to make a necklace to go with an outfit that I could not find jewelry to match. I researched beading classes and signed up with a local bead store.

Do you have an artistic background?
No, I do not have an artistic background at all. I grew up with a father who taught auto mechanics. From this I learned how to work with tools. This has been very valuable in working with metal clay.

How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®?
When I started in bead work, my parent's neighbor (who later opened a bead store) told me about this awesome jewelry supply store that had a huge inventory--Fire Mountain. I still, to this day, remember her raving about the catalog.

What other hobbies do you have?
Other hobbies include hiking, long distance bicycling and working out.

Beading Success

What role does jewelry-making play in your life?
I work full-time in law enforcement and I have a husband, a 3 year old and 4 dogs. I use my jewelry-making time for de-stressing. It is the one time where I am in control and it makes me feel great when the pieces are complete.

If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourself and your jewelry?
I sell my pieces online at and at juried shows around Arizona.

Do you participate in any charity fundraisers?
I have donated a number of pieces for charity over the years. I have friends, family members and customers who approach me on a frequent basis to donate pieces to various causes. I always donate pieces when asked. I truly believe in karma and I enjoy having my designs help worthy causes.

Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
Be patient. It takes time and a lot of failures to become good at designing and creating jewelry. Also try different mediums because while you may not be good at one, you might end up being great in another. For me metalsmithing is very challenging but metal clay has been relatively easy.

View all of Jennifer's designs in the Gallery of Designs.