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27 January 2010

Archives February 2009 : Jeweler of the Month

Jeweler of the Month :
Anne Choi

I was born in Boston and my family lived in New York, Missouri, and and Japan before we moved to Atlanta in 1972. I grew up around art and handcrafts. My mother did block printing, stained glass weaving and rug making, before settling into a career as a potter; one of my aunts was a painter, and another a weaver. During the four years that we lived in Japan, my family traveled all over the islands, visiting potters kilns, weavers and dyers studios, and any other craftsman who would open their workshop to the "crazy foreigners." We were met with amazing kindness and generosity; the artists always took the time to demonstrate and discuss their work. I knew as a child that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up—I just didn't know what kind.

I am not formally trained as an artist or a jeweler. I majored in film and Latin in college, spent years in retail sales, owned a toy store, and sold antiques for 13 years before I finally tried jewelry making. I had worked with my mother on and off in her pottery studio over the years, but never really felt that I could make the clay say what I wanted it to. Around 1992, I began taking classes at Chastain Arts Center with Shirley Berse. Shirley encouraged me to experiment with casting, and to develop my own style. (I think she was amused by my odd ideas...) At first I made all kinds of jewelry, but soon settled on bead making as my true calling. I have sold my work at local art shows and fairs, but now I sell only at bead shows, and through my website.

What was your first piece?
A ring - a plain silver band with at bezel set cabochon cat's eye. Anyone who ever studied with Shirley Berse made one like this as a first project.

Who are your jewelry heroes?
John Cogswell, for his dedication to teaching and his determination not to let the art of metalsmithing die out. Bob Burkett, for his explorations in casting and his generosity in sharing his skill.

What is your design inspiration?
I think of my jewelry as an intimate form of communication, a message to one's self that one wears - a talisman, or charm, a link to an inner world. I like to use images and words that have personal significance to me, but are open to multiple interpretations, leaving the wearer free to interpret significance and symbolism for themselves, as they choose. For me, a great part of the beauty and fascination of this work is the chance to examine and compare the different beliefs, myths, traditions, folklore, and superstitions of different peoples, and to incorporate them as a part of my vocabulary.

What is your favorite part of making jewelry?
The excitement of rinsing the investment off a newly cast piece, to see if the design worked the way I had intended it to.

What is on your bench now?
Literally — a huge mess - in addition to my tools, at least a dozen books on varied topics -insects, plants, poetry, quotations, symbolism, and art - piles of paper with sketches and quotations scribbled on them - clay molds, and test carvings - a cicada shell, a dead cicada, and a dead carpenter bee in a baggie.

Figuratively — I used to make silver buttons, and have recently started to design them again. I hope to have them in production by this summer.

What is you most indispensable tool?
My OptiVisor.

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