Judith Ebert, Jewelry Sculptor
After umpteen prior lives, I’ve emerged as a sculptor. But my sculptures are little. Tiny even. And are meant to be worn. I hand hammer with chisels on both sides of metal sheet to produce the depth of the pattern. It’s physical work. I don’t coax. I insist the metal takes the shape I want. Then, I add enamels, patina, set stones or inlay to make three-dimensional jewelry that is one of a kind.
It all comes from my unstructured childhood.
Allowed to be a kid, I developed my passion for creating with my hands; drawing; living in nature. Those summers running pigtailed and barefoot through meadows collecting weed bouquets. Picking coppery Japanese beetles off Granny’s pink roses. Raising fat tadpoles into fat frogs. All kinds of activities we don’t let kids do now. It was childhood heaven. Even now, every figure evolves from a kernel of memory.
I grew up in the riverside Pennsylvania town of Coraopolis outside Pittsburgh. Back then, it was surrounded by feral woodlands and clear running streams thick with minnows and water striders. In the tradition of ‘it takes a village’, my brother and I grew up ‘free-range’. Exploring, wading after crayfish, digging for prized arrowheads. Unsupervised. We had no use for shoes from June to September. Granny’s garden, in town, occasionally served as summer school. Rainy days meant I could play with my Mom’s hoard of art supplies while my parents were at work. So, in fifth grade, my school picked me to go to the Pittsburgh Carnegie Museum young artists program. I went every Saturday through Junior High School. In Senior High, I took life drawing and sculpture at now Carnegie Mellon. I won awards. I was encouraged.
When it came time for a college decision, I could have continued with art. But I graduated from Juniata College with a B.S. in Clothing Design and a minor in Studio Art. This led first to a major department store and then a boutique chain as a lingerie buyer. The jobs were fun, but the pay was so low it was like working for a discount on clothes. So, I went back to night school and got another degree, but in accounting.
I’ve been asked ‘when did you know you were an artist?’
I remember a Christmas in the late 80s working as an auditor at Dana Corporation. I traveled for weeks at a stretch. There hadn’t been a free afternoon to get a present for my husband and time was running out. Here I was, on another business trip. But I located an art supply store and, in the evenings produced a pair of drawings I thought he might like. Christmas morning, he unwrapped the surprise without noticing the signature. Gosh, I hadn’t realized it had been longer than our marriage since I had picked up a pencil or paintbrush! He didn’t know my art. When he asked where I got the drawings, I floored him with my answer. He told me to stop fooling around with accounting and start painting. It was time for a change. My hero!
So, I retired from accounting and revived my favorite kindergarten activity. I drew horses. My husband and I were living in Wayne, Illinois, outside Chicago. There, fox hunting, pony club and horse shows were the thing. I offered my services as a portrait painter: pets and people. And, to my endless surprise, there was a market. Over the next twelve years I showed my paintings at local and national equestrian events.
We decided to jump in with both feet.
I opened my own working studio/gallery ‘Your Place or Mine’ in nearby St Charles. We closed after ten years when we retired to Florida. But I had produced and sold hundreds of works. Commissioned art in oil, watercolor, pastel, colored pencil, graphite and silverpoint. They hang in private homes all over North America and Europe.
After caring for my elderly parents in Florida, I searched for a new creative outlet.
Over the years I’d gone through “phases” of handcraft from raku pottery to lace making. But I am constantly fascinated by how humans decorate their bodies. Indeed, I’d have a tattoo, but my European husband would have apoplexy. (Shhh! Our secret!). Instead, I chose jewelry. I began stringing beads, but having an online shop soon drove me to do more. Now, I’m working with artisan techniques. Methods like silversmithing, goldsmithing, chasing and repousse, enameling, and engraving. Happily, my work is finding success.
Since re-imagining my art as jewelry, I’ve taken quite a few technical classes.
I figure If I’m going to be a master of my craft, then I need to learn from a master. My teachers include Karen L Cohen, Anne Havel and repoussé master Valentin Yotkov. And many others. And, I’ve taught drawing for adults, oil painting and enameling, myself.
During my painting years, I was included in Spur magazine’s top 50 artists. Three times my paintings were on the cover of the Chronicle of the Horse magazine. I’ve just written a project chapter for a book. It’s the second edition of Karen L Cohen’s popular how-to, The Art of Fine Enameling, due out this fall. I’m so honored to be included!
Needless to say, THE major influence in my jewelry design is my art training.
As a painter, when I decided to make jewelry, I took everything I know about creating an image into this new medium. Yes, painting secrets do translate into silver and gold. Principles of composition, color theory, draftsmanship are all relevant. And in three dimensions.
I’m in love with beautiful things. Nature, culture, people who are kind. It’s a personal philosophy. Gardens bring me happiness, so I bring that joy indoors with flowers. My closet contains a few classic pieces instead of hundreds of trendy fashions. My home decor is simple, with colorful finds from traveling, or handed through family. Every piece speaks to me and for me. It’s the same with my jewelry. These pieces are the punctuation of a statement, or the statement itself. My jewelry has something to say about me before I speak a word. I think it should do the same for you.
I make only one of a kind pieces, because I believe they are precious objects.
Today printers can pop out anything from a high-rise building to a new left ear. Art made completely by hand using basic tools is borderline endangered! The ultimate in personal luxury is exclusivity. Pieces that are one of a kind, made one at a time, by hand are by definition, exclusive.
You’ll find flowers, birds, bugs and travel impressions in my work. Memories of a carefree time. Living in tropical Florida has had a profound effect. Everywhere you look here is another blooming plant! Or exotic creature. You wouldn’t believe our giant rainbow grasshoppers! And the fragility of our ocean and ecosystem never leave my mind. My images from nature are meant to be reminders of what we can lose. And remembrances of what we’ve known.
Appreciation from my customers comes from all corners of the world. Such as Australia, Israel, Italy, Scotland as well as throughout the US. “Outstanding jewelry. Outstanding service! My wife was so thrilled to receive this necklace. It is absolutely lovely.” and “I cannot explain how exquisite and positively beautiful these two bracelets are. Your craftsmanship and care that goes in to each design; the color choice and the stones themselves are exquisite. I absolutely love them.”
I make unique wearable sculptural art to enrich your life.
I believe jewelry is ornament, statement, conversation, bulletin, shield … And every time a piece is worn, your story grows.
Are you as concerned about the life of our earth as I am? Rest assured this artisan is doing all I can to make my methods earth friendly. Read more in my Blog post: Sustainability in the Studio ADD LINK