From time to time I surf the web in search of new talent. Recently, I found Tina Gasperson, jewelry artist. Tina’s studio is here in the Tampa Bay area, and she customizes jewelry for all occasions. I had the pleasure to sit down with Tina and get to know her and her talent in a bit more detail.
What got you interested in jewelry creation?
I’m very much a sensory-driven artist. By that, I mean the elements that go into the final product, and how I interact with those elements and how they interact with me, are all very important ingredients. I like to “get my hands dirty.” I discovered that silver and copper wire are quite sensuous in the way they respond to being worked, and I find that very enjoyable. I have always loved stones, gems, and crystals, and so that love aligns well with idea of bending and shaping the wire. The fact that what results is a thing of lasting beauty, is deeply satisfying. Jewelry making seems to be particularly fulfilling in that way. Maybe it’s because we wear our favorite jewelry on our body and keep it close to us, we lock it up at night, we pass it on to our children. It makes an impression in a unique way.
Did you go to school for this trade or was it something self-taught?
I taught myself the actual craft of putting the jewelry together, mostly from reading books, online articles, and watching cool YouTube videos; then trying the basic functions myself, practicing over and over again to learn the right touch with the wire, to learn how to wrap a loop just so without nicking it all up, to figure out the right amount of pressure to put on the wire to make it bend smoothly without angles. The whole thing started when I decided it would be a great idea to hand make 50 tiaras for a women’s conference – and I had never worked with wire before and had no clue what I was going to do. I found a book about tiara making, ordered it, and taught myself that way. I even came up with my own design, because the ones in the book were really pretty but didn’t quite fit the bill. I went through quite a bit of 26 gauge silver wire and spent hundreds, maybe thousands of hours working, tearing apart, and reworking those crazy, beautiful tiaras. Ah, memories.
How many years of experience do you have with creating jewelry?
My artistic journey has led me around many twists and turns. I have been creating literally my entire life, using different mediums and building on that creative expression. In this part of my journey, I am working on jewelry. I’ve been doing that for about a year. Many of my creative pursuits overlap, for instance, I’m a writer. I’ve been supporting myself with that for ten years, but I’ve been doing it for much longer than that. I’m not going to stop writing now that I’ve begun creating jewelry. Those two things can work together quite nicely. I also play the acoustic guitar and sing and write songs. I attended the International Academy of Merchandising and Design (back when it was called that) and learned how to draft patterns, and do fashion illustration, and work with textiles. But before (and after) that I was always sewing. I designed wedding gowns and embellished them with crystals and pearls and sequins…. kind of sounds like what I do now, except I’m embellishing wire instead of fabric. I’ve recently become much more focused on my photography skills, especially composition, because I take pictures of all my jewelry work – but I’ve been interested in photography all along. It all overlaps and interweaves, and I think what I am doing now is really just a culmination of all the other things I have done — though I will say that jewelry-making is a particularly rewarding and soul-satisfying endeavor and I believe this is one of those things that I will want to keep doing forever. I think it’s a part of my soul. It just took me a while to discover it.
I think that it depends on the individual. Some people make and/or wear very beautiful jewelry that isn’t necessarily unique. And some jewelry artists are very successful in selling pieces that are made with commercially-manufactured findings and beads. For me, I like to make each piece of mine by forging the clasps, jump rings, links, ear wires, chains, stuff like that myself, instead of going to JoAnn’s and buying a bag of factory made clasps. Now, I do use Swarovski crystals or faceted gemstones and things like that, but in my work I think the major focus is on the metallic elements and how they work with those occasional embellishments of a really nice agate or citrine briolette, or that deceptively beautiful labradorite chunk. So, it’s not hard to be unique, but it does take some extra work, maybe? Or maybe it’s just a different focusing of energies.
What kind of jewelry do you make, what materials do you mainly work with?
Right now I am working with silver and copper, sometimes oxidized, which is a very special quality in itself and really beautiful. I like stones, wood, crystal, and gemstones. I have been looking at gold-filled, and I have also used aluminum from time to time. I don’t want to box myself in or label myself as an artist, because a year from now I might have discovered something and started following a different direction in my path.
Do you do custom pieces or is it standard from a catalog you create?
Neither or both, depending on how you look at it. I would tend not to make multiples of most things I do. This might sound way too artsy-fartsy, and I don’t mean it that way, but there’s a certain “spirit” that goes into some pieces that you just can’t duplicate easily. Then there are other fun, cute little things that I can whip up several of, like my swirly rings, for example. Or there may be a certain motif that you’ll see repeated in a lot of my designs, but the piece itself may not ever be duplicated. As far as custom work goes, if someone has a request I can certainly consider that. I’ve recently been commissioned to make a necklace and bracelet featuring a ginkgo leaf design. I find that challenging and really hope it will be a growth experience for me. Would I do just anything that anyone asked for? No. And I’m not sure ahead of time what would prompt me to decline or accept a commission. I think a big part of it is, how much artistic freedom are you willing to give me? Just like I don’t manufacture certain things over and over, I don’t want to simply “produce” someone else’s vision. We can perhaps co-envision, though. So if you have an idea, ask!
Are there any notable people that sport your jewelry today that you know about?
I’m quite sure not. I do know there’s a politician out in Hawaii who bought one of my bracelets for his wife, and a college professor out in Indiana picked up an ear cuff the other day. I think that’s about as notable as it gets.
Who is your greatest inspiration in the Jewelry field and/or art field
I don’t know that I have one source of greatest inspiration. I look at everything around me, and I look at jewelry specifically, and just absorb it all. I think there’s a danger in focusing too much on one person or source because I think then your work starts to reflect that, maybe more than you would want it to. Having said that, I greatly admire and respect artists who have captured the essence of beauty and are able to express that beauty using the elements at hand. I think a true artist can use whatever he or she has available to them to create beauty. I’m not a big fan of artists who purposely look for and express horror, gruesomeness, or perversion in their work. I’m not against expressing those feelings, because I think we need to express those things and get them out, as artists, but then turning around and casting that negativity on the world is, in my opinion, irresponsible. I believe that artists hold a certain power of expression, and we’re better off using that power for good.
Any advice for artists in your field or art in general?
Don’t be afraid of your talent. If others are moved by something you’ve created, believe in that, and act on it. And always follow your heart – it may lead you “out of the box” and in many different directions over the years, but you will be a much better person and a much better artist for it. Just because right now, for example, you’re a photographer, doesn’t mean you have to stay in that box if you’re feeling drawn and captivated by painting, or wire-work, or knitting, or whatever. Don’t let people paint you into a creative corner. Don’t let other artists get you down when they’re feeling negative about life or about their work. Exercise your freedom to be who you were created to be, and if you really honestly do that, you will be successful.
Where can people find your work today to view and/or purchase it?
I sell on Etsy, at tinahdee.etsy.com, and occasionally blog about the creative process and what I’m thinking about, at tina.gasperson.com. I am planning some local art/craft show appearances for later this year. I’ll also be at the Books-A-Million in Kissimmee (The Loop) on August 9th doing some free jewelry-making and wire-wrapping demonstrations.
To contact Tina Gasperson you can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave me a voicemail at 813.230.1328.