Natha’s Eight Pointed Star Necklace design is obviously beautiful, but I would have to say the message behind it shines a little brighter, just giving me more incentive to add the charming pendant into my very own jewelry box. The message that stands behind the design is all about finding clarity, direction, and seeking one’s path. When wearing it, it should remind you to trust your internal guidance, reassure yourself that you know your own answers and that you, indeed, know exactly where you want to go. As someone who has been bitten pretty hard by the travel bug and tends to live life a bit off the beaten path, I’m in love with the fact that the eight pointed star symbol was the first known compass in the history of humanity. Natha’s necklace is the first winning jewelry design I’ve come across with a resonating message that touches on both my personal hopes and fears. I hope to stay on the (very loopy and sometimes off-the-cliff) path that I’m currently still paving out for myself. I fear losing sight of that direction and hopping onto someone else’s already-made yellow brick road. The Eight Pointed Star Necklace is a pretty reminder to keep going and to never doubt oneself. Meet Natha Perkins, someone who definitely knew how to pave her way into becoming our latest Jewelry Design Challenge Winner.
What’s an Uncommon fact about you and your jewelry?
I don’t journal much, or keep a diary, but I have 30 rings that I’ve made through the years for myself. Each ring has a specific story behind it and each design is totally relevant to something that was happening in my life when I made the ring. (I’ve been metalsmithing for 13 years, so for those of you counting that’s approx. 2.3 rings a year)
I love that your necklace has a lot of meaning behind it, do you mind explaining it?
I love the symbolism behind this piece! I wrote a blog post about it here, but in a nutshell, the Eight Pointed Star is an ancient and universal symbol, as well as the first compass in the history of humanity. It guides your way to a new life, giving you clarity of vision to see the future through a lens of hope, healing and beauty. It also bestows nurturing energies. A symbol of optimism, an eight pointed star assures you that unexpected help is coming and serves to help bring about a renewal of good fortune in the material world. Like with any of our pieces, wearing this piece will help bring you clarity simply by providing you with a reminder that you are indeed supported.
How did you celebrate when you learned you were our Design Challenge winner for the Jewelry Design Challenge?
We did a lot of jumping up and down and screaming!
Where do you find inspiration within your work space?
The studio itself is full of tools and stones and lots of different working areas but we have the most beautiful garden just outside with grape vines and a gurgling rock fountain and roses. We’re also basically at the foot of a great big gorgeous mountain (Boulder is surrounded to the West entirely by mountains) so when we walk out of the studio, we’re surrounded by all of this natural beauty. We can walk 2 blocks and hit a hiking trail that weaves its way up to an amazing vista of the cities of Boulder and Denver. It really is heavenly and I feel very lucky. Where do you go/ what do you do to find inspiration when you find yourself in a creative rut?
This might sound strange, but when I’m not feeling creative, I go to see my acupuncturist. In Chinese medicine, blocked creativity means some sort of imbalance in the qi and yin department. If I’m feeling blah or feeling uninspired, I figure I need a body tune up. (Did I mention I live in Boulder? We’re kind of alternative here.)
If you have a great idea for a design and want to pursue it, what’s your first step?
When I was in art school, our professor required us to have 40 sketches of a single design before we could finalize our idea and start on a piece. Thank God I’m not designing my pieces in art school any more! I honestly just dive in. I have an idea, I gather the metal, the tracing paper, some saw blades and I get going. This has led to many an end result that was really different from the original idea but like any medium, the materials co-create with the artist and it’s fun to see what comes through. Other than being an artist, what else do you do?
I’m a mama, I’m a life and entrepreneurial business coach, I teach art and jewelry classes. I went and got certified to coach because I wanted to teach people how to make intentional art. Art is such a beautiful way to get in touch with who you are on a deep level. Talk therapy is great but its heady. We all have our old stories that we tell over and over and it’s hard to see past them to the truth. Art and intentional making incorporates head, heart and hand and opens you up to new types of insights and understanding about yourself and your process. I feel really called to help guide people to this place.
When (and how) did you realize you wanted to be a jewelry designer?
When I was 20, I searched high and low for a juicy red, heart shaped ring and I couldn’t find what I was looking for anywhere. I don’t know why, but I felt such a longing for this red heart shaped ring. I dreamed about it. Fast forward 2 years and I took a small class in a strange warehouse next to a strip club (which isn’t relevant to the story at all but it’s an interesting fact nonetheless). The teacher was this eccentric man who taught me the basics of metalsmithing. I was hooked in the first class because I realized that I could actually make my heart ring. It took me 5 years to get good enough to make my ring but I still treasure it because it was the inspiration that started my jewelry career before I even understood it to be that. Do you have any special projects or events that are in the works or that are floating around in your brain right now?
I’m actually knee deep in a handful of projects right now that I’m really excited about. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been coaching and working on some art classes that involve intentional making. Myself and two other women; a life coach and a photographer, are formulating a curriculum that we’re planning to take into local high schools. The idea involves working with young women and teaching them empowerment tools through a combination of intentional making, student led photo documentation and teaching of emotional skills. I’m also working to develop some cool art classes to offer to the participants of The Boulder Tattoo Project, a large scale community art project involving a”love poem” to the city of Boulder and 200+ residents (including me) who got bits and pieces of the poem tattooed on their bodies. My friend Chelsea (who spearheaded BTP) and I are collaborating on the classes and they will include making art that centers around the actual words that each person chose to get inked with. Everyone involved chose words that were particularly meaningful to them in some way and we want to offer a venue for them to explore that on a deeper level. What are your most essential tools that you must have by your side while you design?
I do most of my designing in my head, usually when I’m walking in nature, alone. I come up with a word or a line from a poem or song and the piece takes shape around that. I also love to design using stones and stone colors. I will go through my 15 or so boxes of stones just pulling out shapes and colors, just to see how the colors play against each other. I’m fascinated with color play and color theory and it shows up often in my pieces.
Where does down time fit into a day of being productive?
Funny you should use that word productive. It’s been on my mind a lot lately because I realized that I have this uncomfortable tendency to feel unproductive if I’m just relaxing. So to answer your question: I practice yoga 4 times a week, I walk the dogs, I read lots of articles and books, I cook food for my kids. All of which sound suspiciously productive, don’t they? What was the toughest lesson you learned as a freelance jewelry artist?
I hired a press company that cost an absolute fortune. They promised me more than they were actually able to deliver and they kept about $5,000 in samples too (that were supposed to be be returned). But I had my part in it as well; I wasn’t prepared for the experience. I didn’t have the fundamentals in place, like line sheets and tight production collections. Knowing what I know now about editorial coverage, media, wholesale, retail and business in general, I see clearly that my approach was doomed to failure. I was trying to build a mansion on a slippery foundation. It was a disaster but I learned so much, I would never make those same mistakes again! Today in fact, I’m a much stronger and more savvy business woman which is a very different skill set than ‘artist’ but a necessity when you’re trying to sell art. What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
You create your own reality. If you can’t learn to relax, the world will meet you with un-relaxing situations. If you don’t appreciate the things you do and create, the people around you won’t be able to either. If you’re constantly trying to control the world, you will will exhaust yourself trying to make the impossible possible. Everything is perfect. You are loved. You are amazing and strong and more powerful than you will ever know. (Okay, I’m getting teary now, but it’s all true. Again, the old stories that we tell ourselves about not being good enough, smart enough, not being enough…such lies. But I’m getting it now, I’m seeing the truth.)
Which artists do you look up to?
I’ll say this: I look up to anyone who has the courage to make their art, to express themselves in that way and to put themselves out there. Our art, our creations; no matter the medium, comes from the depths of our individual souls and anyone who has the courage to show up like that, to lay themselves open to the appraisal and opinions of others has my respect.
What does it mean to you being a design challenge winner?
I’m thrilled to be the winner of this challenge! My studio assistant Whitney and I had so much fun working on our newest collection Divine ~ Align. We put so much thought into the symbolism and meaning of each piece. So to be recognized in such a prestigious way for one of the pieces in the collection is a huge honor.
What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
“You set the standard for how you are treated. People will treat you the same way that you treat yourself.” It’s lovely and it’s true. I’m not sure where I found this quote but I came across it during my certification program with The Secret to Life Coaching Company (with whom I got certified) and I’ve learned to see the world through a new lens. We really are responsible for everything in our lives, we create everything, which is actually a really empowering notion. What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
Management tools! I adore metalsmithing and my business Luscious Metals. I love to create art but I’m transitioning my business into something that’s bigger than just me and my personal skills. My amazing studio assistant, Whitney, is ready and willing to take on more responsibility and wants to help me grow the business and this is just the beginning. I know that in order for this to work out, I need to transition from artist and designer to manager and leader. I’m ready and excited to see where we go next! What advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work into our Jewelry Design Challenge?
Some of the best business advice I’ve ever gotten was from a book called The Science of Getting Rich, by Wallace D. Wattles (great book!). “Act now. There is never any time but now and there will never be any time but now. If you are ever to begin to make ready for the reception of what you want, you must begin now.” In other words, make sure your ducks are in a row (good product, great pictures etc.) and then GO FOR IT! You can’t win if you don’t enter right?