A Conversation With Jewelry Designer Wendy Van Camp

Wendy, thanks for agreeing to chat with me about your beautiful jewelry. Before we get to your designs, Would you give a brief summary of some former career hats you’ve worn?

I’m glad to be here, Clara. Thank you for inviting me onto your blog. In answer to your question, I’ve had a rather varied work history.  I’ve been a high school teacher, a television producer/director, writer, unit production manager for a radio station, corporate videographer, photographer and digital painter.  I’ve even done a stint of teaching horseback riding and being a camp councilor in my summer months during college.  Most of what I have done in my life has been either creative or as an instructor.  It is the common thread that meanders through everything I’ve worked on.

1. I know that you are a Certified Gemologist. What exactly does that mean?

To become a Certified Gemologist means that you have successfully completed a course of study in the identification and appraisal of colored gemstones, diamonds and pearls.  Generally, this is a two to three year program at either a private school dedicated to gemology such as GIA or at a university.  Certified Gemologists become buyers for jewelry houses or designers.  It is also the first step in becoming a certified jewelry appraiser.  Most insurance houses will not accept a written appraisal for jewelry unless the gemologist doing the work is certified from an accredited school.

In my case, my knowledge has made me a much better stone buyer for my own business.  While I had a good working knowledge of semi-precious stones due to my years as a jewelry designer, the course taught me more details about the stones, how to detect imitation stones, and gave me a good foundation in precious stones and antique jewelry.  I feel that the stones and beads that I offer to my customers are of a higher quality due to my training.  I am now also a writer who specializes in the subject of antique jewelry or stones.  My being a certified gemologist lends a certain weight to my articles in the trade and art magazines.

2. Thanks for allowing us to see some of your jewelry. I’m a fan of the Rhodonite Tree of Life Pendant. Tell us about some of your other designs. And how do you decide on whether to use metals or beads when designing a piece?

My designs have undergone much metamorphoses over the years.  I started as a street vendor doing simple stringing and basic wirewrapping.  Over the years I took jewelry design  workshops to develop my jewelry making skills.  I learned how to use a torch, to forge metals, and do more intricate wirewrap designs.  Most of the classes taught me the popular contemporary designs based on the wire work of Alexander Calder, but gradually, my designs shifted into the Celtic inspired jewelry that I now create.  The designs draw from my Scottish heritage.

The choice of using metals or beads is a personal one to each designer.  I find that beginners tend to string beads more and advanced artists tend to work more in metals.  I still use plenty of stone and glass beads in my work, usually as a focal stone or in clusters to create an effect.  Sometimes this labels me as a beginner, despite my 16 years of working as an artisan jeweler, but I love beads and continue to use them.

3. The creative process of jewerly design: Briefly walk us through it.

To begin the creation process, I use examples of jewelry that were made thousands of years ago and then combine these ideas with the contemporary design techniques that I was trained with. The fusion of these two ideas is what makes my jewelry unique.

I do not draw my designs into a journal, I find that I like to play with the metal and see what comes forth in a more organic way.  I have been making a point to take notes of what I am doing as I create new prototypes.  This allows me to have a recipe to follow later if I want to make more of a certain item the next year.  I’ve learned the hard way that you tend to forget small details after a certain amount of time has passed since you made something.

4. Are your pieces affordable and where can readers find your jewelry and contact information for purchase?

I’m told that my pieces are affordable.  You have to be competitive in today’s economy.  The majority of my sales are via my booth at the circuit of highland games, Renfaires and Science Fiction conventions that I attend.  Occasionally, I do put up pieces for sale on ESTY, but honestly by the time I photograph and write up the piece, it has usually sold by more conventional means.  You can find my show schedule and examples of my work on my website: http://www.indigoskye.com

5. What do you love about being a solepreneur?

Being a sole proprietor and entrepreneur means that I’m the captain of my own destiny.  I fail or succeed because of my own efforts and ability.  I like being able to schedule my time the way that makes the most sense to me.  It allows me the freedom to travel in my work, to experience meeting people and learning new ideas, yet still have time to spend with my husband and take care of my home.  I probably work harder than someone with a 9 to 5 job, but because I love what I do, it doesn’t seem like work to me.  It is simply my life.

For more of her work, visit Wendy at http://www.indigokye.com and http://www.nowastedink.com

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