ETA July 28, 2011: Congrats to Audi Arellano, for winning a handmade Bouquet of Roses necklace!
Next month, we’re hosting an Uncommon Jewelry Challenge, with an open call for jewelry and accessories from designers across the US. This month we’re highlighting our favorite jewelry and accessories makers. Find out more about our design challenges and learn how you can become UncommonGoods’ next favorite jewelry or accessory designer. And read on to find out how you can win one of Ellen Thurmond’s handmade necklaces.
Ellen Thurmond says she’s never been particularly “girly” or a “flowery” person, but when she was asked to create a rose necklace for UncommonGoods, she couldn’t turn down the opportunity. Instead, she thought about how to carry themes from existing designs into her new piece and looked to nature for inspiration.
The California-based artist has plenty of experience problem-solving and coming up with new ideas. She actually worked in jewelry for years before discovering her love for wirework, and took on the medium as an outlet for her creativity during a move, while she was staying in a hotel. Because of the mess and lack of a kiln, she was unable to work in her then-preferred medium, clay.
Wirework–the process of skillfully wrapping wire–started out as a hobby, but as she learned new techniques and developed new designs, Ellen realized people were paying more attention to her new wire pieces than some of her other work. The switch to wire as her primary medium came after she created her first tree necklace (now one of her most recognizable designs) for her best friend, who happens to be a tree lover.
According to Ellen, it took several tries to get the Tree of Life just right, but when she did, she knew she had something special. She then made one for herself. “I got about 10 compliments on it a day and people started asking if I sold them—so I decided I should start,” she explains.
We loved them so much that we put them on the cover of one of our catalogs last year. And we asked Ellen to develop a new design just for UncommonGoods. Ellen got to work experimenting with different wrapping techniques and searching for the best semi-precious stones to represent the roses and the perfect sterling silver wire to create the base of the bouquet.
She says that with the Bouquet of Roses Necklaces, as well as with her other pieces, trial and error is a big part of the design process. She experiments until she gets the product just right, then takes photos writes down her steps and the exact dimensions of the wire she used, so she can recreate the piece. Of course, since her necklaces are handmade, no two will ever be exactly alike.
“I buy the best quality materials I can possibly get my hands on, then I put my love into it, and I am really passionate about my work,” she says. “It isn’t worth it to make a product you can’t stand behind.”
Ellen is always working to improve her process and refine her skills as an artist, and offers this advice to aspiring designers: “Practice and hone your craft, use tutorials, try new concepts and techniques, keep your eye on trends—but use them to create new things rather than just copy what’s out there. When you copy someone else, your work lacks soul. People can see that, and they won’t like it.”
What do you put your soul into? What’s your passion? Let us know in the comments below, and you could win one of Ellen’s Bouquet of Roses Necklaces.
And as always, double your chances by leaving a comment on our Facebook wall.
Winner will be announced next Wednesday, July 27. Good luck!