It is my great pleasure to combine two favorite passions whenever possible: travel and jewelry. Travel is necessary for my perspective, knowledge, and empathy. I try to fuse travel with visiting jewelry designers on their turf. Often, it seems that the place a designer works from is part of their muse; their inspiration.
On a trip to San Francisco, I met Jenny Reeves. Artist, teacher, metalsmith, she works extensively with Argentium Silver, a metal you should know about. Her mini-sculptures, created with her own hands at her bench, fuse–literally–modern metals and design sensibility with ancient techniques. I found interesting contrasts in her jewelry designs that mirror the city she resides in: contemporary versus history; natural beauty versus high tech. The surfaces of her work literally reflect the juxtaposition of polished versus raw. There is a pleasing tension in this paradox.
My travel to San francisco also included a visit to Manika Jewelry, where Jenny’s jewelry is represented locally. Peter Walsh has created a carefully curated gallery of emerging and established independent artisan jewelers: Manika is a must-visit for any jewelry collector visiting San Francisco. On April 3rd, 2014, Jenny is debuting brand new designs at a trunk show at Manika, 645 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94105, located in the Historic Palace Hotel Building. Go meet Jenny and see her spectacular jewelry if you are able!
Jenny Reeves Interview
idazzle.com: What drew you to metalsmithing in the first place?
Jenny Reeves: I arrived in San Francisco in 1995, and worked in retail accounting. In 2003, while also bartending, I took art classes. I took a metal working class that turned out to really be about making jewelry. As my final project, I made a hollow form ring that my instructor sort of flipped out over. In a good way! I wore it to my bartending job and people saw and admired it, and a local gallery owner asked me to make some jewelry for the gallery. That was really the beginning.
It sounds as if it came about pretty naturally.
Actually, I thought it was really difficult at first. I went through a LOT of little saw blades that first class, and was thinking…maybe jewelry isn’t really my thing. It’s not really natural learning to manage a torch and getting the solder to flow where you want it.
How would you describe your signature style, or the basis of your collections? How did it come about?
I would say that I started out very arty and funky at first. When I was introduced to the American Jewelry Design Council (AJDC) and the Contemporary Jewelry Design Group, it illustrated to me that jewelry could have an artistic aesthetic, but also be very finely crafted and executed. Around this time, I took a granulation class (a jewelry technique where tiny amounts of metal are heated and applied to the surface of the base metal) at the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts. This was in conjunction with an introduction to working with Argentium Silver. I also took a surface class with Andy Cooperman, and suddenly made this connection with Argentium being conducive to texturing. It all developed at the same time. I loved that granulation is an ancient technique, and I was exploring it with a brand new metal (Argentium).
How did you go from student at the Revere Academy to instructor?
I enrolled at the Revere Academy in 2007 and graduated in 2009. I was asked to teach in 2011!
That seems really fast!
It was a pretty quick transition from student to teacher. It’s funny, when I first started at the Revere Academy in 2007 I thought that some day I wanted my skills to be good enough to teach there. That day came much sooner than imagined when an instructor moved to Texas and Alan needed someone to teach the Argentium classes. Knowing that I’d worked extensively with the alloy he asked if I’d be interested in teaching the classes and I immediately said “yes!” I had learned so much and been so inspired by everyone who taught me that I wanted to share my knowledge and enthusiasm with others.
Why did you feel it was important to teach? After all, you could be producing your own work full-time. Is there something you find particularly rewarding about teaching?
Because of the unique class structure at Revere, I’m still able to produce my own work full-time (and then some!). Metalsmithing is unique in that it is one of the few professions that has changed very little in it’s 7000 year history – indeed, one of a few ancient professions that still exists. Even with advanced tools and modern advents like electricity(!) and CAD/CAM, we still use fire to join metal and hammers to form it… It’s one of the only arts in which the materials themselves have inherent value, withstand the test of time, and can be completely recycled. There is something almost magical about the process, and seeing that passion ignited in others is incredibly rewarding!
A big thank you to Jenny Reeves for sharing her city, jewelry, and inspiration with me! There is a lot more that we talked about: read the whole interview here at CJDGjewelers.org, and see her collection on her website at www.jennyreeves.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her adventures on Instagram.