Saturday, July 16, 2011

Meet Indie Artisan Cheryl Cantwell of Liberty Originals Jewelry

Meet one of Indie Artisans Resident Artists, Cheryl Cantwell of Liberty Originals Jewelry. The name for Cheryl’s business comes from the small community of Liberty Hill, gateway to the hill country where she lives on a small bit of acreage in rural Texas. She is, as she says, “... surrounded by kids, dogs, cats, horses, birds, fish and God’s beauty right outside my door.” Cheryl has two daughters, both attending college and well on their way to independence. She also has twin sons who will be seniors in high school this fall. With her sons still at home she is busy attending their soccer, track and cross country events. About her husband she says, “My husband is not exactly a patient man, but has adapted through these years and tolerated his wife going in many directions that haven’t included doing the dishes. I could not have pursued my interests without his constant love and support.” And as if she isn’t busy enough, she is also a substitute teacher for 5th and 6th graders, a job she enjoys every bit as much as jewelry design. Here are some questions I asked Cheryl.

When did you first realize you wanted to be an artist?

I’m not one who remembers being creative even as a child. Nope, not me. Although my father has created many handcrafted heirloom gifts for his family, my artful tendencies were well hidden beneath my love for animals and running amok in the countryside. Creating became important to me when my children were little and they’ve been raised with every art supply known to man.

How long have you been creating?

Over 17 years ago my twin sons were born. They joined their two big sisters and my family of six was complete. With four under four (yes, they were all little bitty), I became a stay-at-home mom. Oh, I stayed busy alright, but I missed adult interaction. I joined a club for mothers of preschoolers and shared many play dates, the all-important moms’ night out, and yep, crafting with and without the kids.

What training do you have either formal or informal?

Attention to detail carries over from my days as a legal secretary for a large corporation. I have no formal art training. Jewelry design allows me to create intuitively. I have an idea when I begin, but I allow the finished piece to form as I work.

What are the tools of your trade?

I’m especially fond of lampwork, amazing miniature works of art created by talented glass artists. Sterling silver is my metal of choice and I’m quite dismayed to see the cost of silver continue to rise. My home studio is full of colorful stones, hammers, snippers, pliers, bins of sterling and those lovely lampwork artbeads.

What is the first thing you can remember making?

Somehow, I’ve amassed a large collection of art supplies: paints, clay, paper ephemera, for folding, collaging and inking, and finally 10 years ago, I focused on jewelry design. A beaded watch was one of my first jewelry pieces.

What or who inspires you?

My dear friend gifted me with a bracelet she had made. The beads were astounding. They were lampwork borosilicate she’d purchased directly from the artist who created them. I was inspired and hooked.
Are there any particular people or artists who have influenced your art?
There are so many talented jewelry designers. My sincere desire is to be original. Artisan lampwork and the natural beauty of earthy stones and freshwater pearls are the strongest influences for the direction of my work.

Which of your works are you most proud? Why?

I most enjoy creating necklaces, but my favorite design was a lampwork and sterling bracelet. I spent a great deal of time forming and hammering heart shapes and links. Because it was one of my first attempts at forging heavy gauge sterling wire, I priced it ridiculously low. A wise shopper snapped it up within hours of listing. I still smile when I think my buyer saw quality, recognized a great deal, and is so happy wearing it! You can see the bracelet on my facebook page. It’s the avatar pic.

Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?

Always. I’ve gathered materials and taken classes on wire wrapping and precious metal clay. Somehow, umm, go figure, the time to develop new skills has eluded me. My husband suggested that I learn to make my own lampwork beads. On second thought, we both decided having a torch and a kiln might be a hazardous addition to our busy lifestyle. Plus, I would cry if my beady creations weren’t as beautiful as those I purchase from glass artists.

What makes your work unique from other artists working in your medium?

My work combines artisan lampwork, genuine stones and pearls, with fine (.99) and sterling (.925) silver, leather and occasionally, I’ll use copper or brass. There isn’t much new under the sun for jewelry design or materials to incorporate, but I try to come up with something special and different. Lampwork is always artisan-made, one-at-a-time. No mass produced lampwork from Liberty Originals! German or Tibetan silver is not sterling. You won’t find these or any plated metals in my work. Swarovski pearls are pretty, but they’re not genuine pearls and if used, they would be identified as glass. Informing buyers of details is important to me.

Here is where you can find Cheryl’s unique jewelry on the internet:


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