Today I am going to feature three RISD grads whose work really caught my eye and whose stories and inspirations were both interesting and thought provoking. There is so much talent at RISD and it was very hard to choose just three, so I narrowed down my artist search to those that would have their wares for sale at the 20th annual RISD Alumni and Student Art Sale, Saturday, October 11, 2008 from 10 am to 4 pm on Benefit Street (Between Waterman and Hopkins Streets). That way, if you are in the area, you will have a chance to meet these lovely ladies.
Jennifer Wells-Dickerson had such a wonderful story attached to her work, that she immediately intrigued me! Jennifer grew up in North Western New York farm country and her mom was a high school arts teacher. Although Jen always loved creating art projects, she decided in high school not to take any art classes because she would have had her mom for a teacher (high school student’s nightmare!). She continued on to college and tried to pursue a degree in psychology, until an elective jewelry class changed the course of her life.
Jen went on to receive her MFA at RISD, a school she chose because it dispelled the myth that to be an artist, you must be starving! Now, you can find Jen teaching (this spring) at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, taking care of her new baby and working hard to create jewelry that is simple and well made and can be passed on from generation to generation. She especially enjoys making custom engagement rings and wedding bands because it is important to Jen to make jewelry that has meaning behind it.
(anyone who is interested in purchasing anything or ordering a custom piece can email Jen at [email protected])
Jennaca Leigh Davies begins her artist statement with this thought, “The work I make is meant to be worn, but I also intend for it to be an interesting object when off the body. I think of my jewelry as small sculptures or miniature architecture.” I guess this should be expected from a women who is a practicing architect, working on high-end water-front properties in Providence. Her focus on detail and new techniques is evident by her pendants, which are made using new technologies such as laser cutting and cad cam as well as ancient metalsmithing techniques including enameling and metal fabrication.
Jennaca was raised in Rhode Island and always felt that RISD was the “ultimate art school” and so it seemed an obvious choice when she went back to school for her masters. Upon graduation, she was given a prestigious grant from the American Austrian Foundation to study at the Salzburg Summer Academy. She was also awarded a four month residency at the Oregon College of Arts and Crafts in Portland, Oregon. This gave her a chance to focus exclusively on jewelry making and allowed her to try new techniques. Now settled in Providence, she spends as much time outside of work as possible focusing on her jewelry making.
Update: you can contact Jennaca via email right here.
Claire O’Neill, born and raised in Providence, graduated from RISD in 2006 with a MFA in Textiles. In an unlikely combination, she also holds a degree in Montessori teaching, so in addition to working on her line of childrens and womens wear, Owl Clothing (http://risd.digication.com/claireowl/Welcome/), she also teaches at a small Montessori school on the east side of Providence.
I was very drawn to the graphics on her line of childrens t-shirts, and I wasn’t at all surprised when Claire told me that her designs are inspired by her large collection of old toys, books, and puppets that belonged to her parents and grandparents. Claire’s graphics have an innocent, old-fashioned quality about them, invoking images of Peter Rabbit and other beloved childhood characters. While at RISD, Claire’s thesis focused on the concept of carrying our childhood with us and how that shapes the person we become.
All of her beautiful products are spun from yarns from Jaggerspun in Maine. Claire uses as many local connections for her raw products as possible and particularly likes that Jaggerspun is a family run business devoted to producing high quality materials.
Thank you ladies for sharing your stories!