Monday, November 23, 2009

Wall Piece #2

The next wall piece that I want to share has a motif from my brocade jewelry collection rendered large and in color. I have been using a design that is inspired by chinese textiles, with a very extravagant version of the curls that exist throughout my work. Here is a sample of the jewelry inspired by this design motif:
Brocade Panel Pendant
18K and blackened silver

Here is the piece in which I enlarged the pattern, made it red and added branches with buds.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wall Pieces

copper with patina, gold leaf, enamel paint, turquoise, silk

I want to share some new work that I have done recently. I decided to take the techniques I use in my jewelry and apply them to sculptures that hang on the wall. The result is almost like three-dimensional paintings. Here is one piece from the series. It is on view at Perlow-Stevens Gallery in Columbia, MO.

The size is 8"x 10"
This pendant is direct inspiration for the wall piece. In this case, the pendant is made of blackened silver and 18K gold, and also can be worn as a pin. This pendant/pin is also on view at the Perlow-Stevens Gallery in Columbia, MO.

Another current project is allowing me to combine my tow passions of jewelry/ metalsmithing, and dance. I am going to be performing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Nov. 27th and I am making myself a collar for my costume that is based on piece from Bali, dating from the 19th century. I combined the designs of a dancer necklace with the design of a necklace worn by the royal family of Klungkung in the same era. It is made of the same materials as the original dance necklace, copper with gold leaf and gems. The modern collars are made or gold-painted leather, but I figures that since I have th skills, I might as well go for the real thing.

The inspiration comes from photos from this book:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The District

photo Jennifer 8. Lee New York Times

I have been hearing news lately about the Garment District in Manhattan. In the jewelry field, when we say "going to the district", we mean the area around 47th St. between 5th and 6th Aves. However, when my friends in the clothing business talk about their district, they are headed 10 blocks south and a few blocks west.

It seems that the Garment District is being eyed as the next underdeveloped part of Manhattan. Designers and workers are fighting to keep the district zoned for the garment industry. I agree that it is worth fighting for a district in the center of Manhattan dedicated to the making of things, in this case clothing and accessories. When I read Nanette Lepore's comments about how having all the businesses on the same block makes for an efficient business operation, I couldn't agree more.

I think that the jewelry industry has been so far spared, because we deal with high priced materials and the diamond dealers really don't worry too much about being priced out of the neighborhood. But what is lost, when the middle-priced jewelry is removed from the equation, shipped to faraway lands? I think that the spark that can happen between designer, supplier and maker is lost. When one can go have a few face to face conversations on the same block, the faintest outline of an idea can turn into achievable reality in a short time.

As a studio jeweler, making my own work, and sourcing my own materials, I can still enjoy that spark. I just imagine how much more inventive and interesting the mainstream jewelry design would be if it didn't involve so much FedEx and many international phone calls. And what about quality, when the designer can go and see if the stones being set in to the metal are really the color they should be?

I think the jewelers should get together with the garment makers and put forward the idea of buying less things, really well made and designed, conceived and manufactered in New York.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Different Tempers

Yesterday, I received this invitation card in the mail. That, of course, is my bracelet on the front, right next to the work of master blacksmith Albert Paley!

Here is the text from the back of the card:
"Curated by Suzanne Ramljak

While jewelry and blacksmithing are both grounded in metal, there is a curious gulf between the two fields. Just as George Bernard Shaw quipped that England and America "are two distant cousins separated by the same language", jewelers and blacksmiths can seem like distant cousins. Different Tempers will explore these two realms of metalsmithing to highlight their distinct properties as well as their commonalities.

Curated by Suzanne Ramljak, editor of Metalsmith magazine, the exhibition will showcase the work of fourteen prominent and emerging artists. The works of these selected jewelers and blacksmiths epitomize their respective fields, and are also in critical dialogue with their own traditions and materials. A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition."

Artists in the exhibition:
Melanie Bilenker
Lola Brooks
Pat Flynn
Sergey Jivetin
Mary Preston
Sondra Sherman
Natasha Wozniak

David Clemons
Maegan Crowley
Lu Heintz
Tom Joyce
Brent Kington
Marc Maiorana
Albert Paley

I am so honored to be part of this exhibition. As can be seen in the list above, it is quite an impressive group of artists in the show. While the show includes a whole continuum of work from the delicacy of Melanie Bilenker's hair portraits to the solidity and mass of Tom Joyce's sculptures, with my work falling in the middle. Wrought iron is the main inspiration, while the material and function fall on the side of jewelry.

This show will travel to the National Ornamental Metal Museum in 2010. In addition to my work being on the postcard, I have heard that it will be on the cover of the exhibition catalog as well!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More Filigree

Student work from my filigree class at the Newark Museum

In July, I taught a class at the Newark Museum, and it was very enjoyable for the students and for me. Filigree is a such a low tech technique for making jewelry, we were able to sit together at a large table and make intricate jewelry, just using a few sets of pliers. In the beginning the students felt that filigree was probably too labor-intensive to use as a production technique, however, after a few days of bending, it became clear that filigree can be used to make repeating elements. It can also be used to make very lightweight gold pieces, which is important in these days of high gold prices.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Obsession/ Passion

One my way home last night, I had a little burst of inspiration after walking into Union Square station and seeing a guy playing an upright piano! A perfect example of taking something that almost everyone thinks is over the edge and doing it anyway. Of course the sound is more beautiful than a car-battery powered keyboard and amp. Of course, it wouldn't have worked if he didn't play well, but since he did, it was a lovely moment on the platform. A few people broke the taboo of talking to strangers in NY to share the joy of this moment, at the end of a very hot and humid day. A perfect arguement for taking an idea to the other side of sanity once and a while. The effort will be surely be rewarded.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Trunk Show

L to R: Natasha Wozniak, Laurie, Sydney Lynch, Liz Hayes at 3rd Ward Jewelry during Gallery Night in Milwaukee

What is a trunk show? Basically, it is a show at a store or gallery which features a broad array of work from one designer. Usually for a short period of time. The name comes from the fact that the designer often comes with a suitcase (aka trunk), full of work. With larger companies, the designer may or may not be present. The gallery can just represent them, or they may send an assistant. In my case, I usually appear in person at the gallery to meet the clients.

Last month, I had a trunk show, along with the designer Sydney Lynch at 3rd Ward Jewelry in Milwaukee. This gallery has recently changed hands, and the new owner, Liz Hayes, is doing a great job at the helm. This gallery is a special place for me. Not only were they one of the first galleries to carry my work, but they also are located in SE Wisconsin, where I was born and grew up.

The trunk show was during the gallery night in the 3rd Ward district in Milwaukee, and I was pleased to see how many people came out to enjoy and support the arts. No, it wasn't for the free wine as galleries are no longer allowed to serve wine!!

Even though my full array of jewelry is no longer at the gallery, I always have a collection of work on display there, so please visit when in the area. There is a lot of exceptional jewelry art on display.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bali and Filigree

Although I didn't have enough time in Bali to really get connected with the local jewelry makers (and my focus for the trip was the performance arts), I did get to visit some jewelry workshops. I have been using the techniques of filigree and chasing repousse in my work quite a lot in the last couple of years, techniques that can be found in places such as Bali, where the amount of tools and equipment available are minimal. In fact, the woman shown below has just one pair of pliers to work with to create the filigree for the earrings she is working on.
A closeup of the earring. She had a number of finished ones in the drawer below her bench.I recycle gold scraps in my studio as it is more economical to make new wire with the scraps than to send it in to be refined and get fresh wire in its place. However, in Bali, they go through the trouble of making their own silver wire. Almost nobody does that in the US as it is too much trouble with silver. It tends to crack as you are reducing the size of the ingot through rolling. Here is an image of a brick that has been carved to serve as a mold for the molten metal to be poured into.A torch in Bali. I am not clear about which fuel they were using in it, combined with a foot bellows to add air to the mixture.
The point of this post being, there can be some fantastic jewelry made without the benefit of elaborate tools. Here is a tray full of some earrings that one of the jewelers was working on.Here he is at the bench.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

A New Arrival

No, not a baby! The good news is that I am expecting a new laptop to arrive tomorrow. For the last five years, I have tried to limit computer-related distractions in the studio by keeping the computer at home. However, I have realized that saving all of the computer work until I get home can be detrimental to communication, such as my blog. So, finally, I am going mobile. Add to this the fact that my new computer will have an empty hard drive as opposed to the current hard drive, filled to capacity. Photo downloading should be much less of a struggle.

Now to the most pressing question...can I keep the facebook related procrastination at bay?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Open Studio!

Custom ring of blackened silver and paisley-cut rhodolite garnet

Considering the recent upgrades in my studio, it is fortuitous that the annual Atlantic Avenue Artwalk is this weekend. Although, I didn't get on board in time to be in the official listing, there will be several other studios in my building open over the weekend, and I decided to open as well.

In addition to some of the new work, I will have some older designs at great prices and the paintings of my husband, Jun Ishida, will be on display. All along Atlantic Avenue, there will be art on display, whether it is on the walls of local merchants, or in some of the hidden studios along Atlantic and neighboring streets. Have a look a the schedule for details about all of the performing art events as well as special deals offered by local restaurants.

For more information
natasha at

Hope to see all of my New York readers there!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Highlight of Snag

Fred and I pose during the opening reception

I made a quick trip over to Philadelphia for one day of the SNAG conference last week, and to my surprise, I saw my professor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Fred Fenster. He generally doesn't go to the conference, much preferring to stay home and work in his studio. He is the person that taught me what I know about making holloware as well as many other skills; toolmaking, craftsmanship and pewter, to name a few. It was hard to leave, as I had a just a short time to catch up with him, along with the many other friends that I ran into at the conference.

Sorry as I was to leave, I had plenty of work waiting for me back in Brooklyn. After five years of sharing a studio, I now have the space entirely to myself. All week I have been re-arranging the layout of the studio for maximum efficiency and creative flow. I have a soldering area that is seperate from my small workbench and I will have a wall that is dedicated to inspirational images, and my own drawings. I am planning to have a party soon to inaugurate the redesigned space, details to follow once I figure out a date.

Getting back to the conference, there was an informative seminar focused on professional development, but I will leave it to Gabriel Craig, Emiko Oye and Lynette Andreasen to give their insights.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


As of tomorrow, I will be the sole occupant of my studio. I have been sharing the studio for 5 years now, but my studio mate has relocated to upstate NY, so she will be setting up her studio there. This is a big change for me. It involves replacing some of the tools that she has very generously allowed me to use over the years. It will also give me more space to work with. At this point, I plan to use some of this space as a consultation area for meeting my ever-increasing number of custom work clients.

I am also thinking about my past work as a sculptor. Mabye the extra space will inspire me to make larger work. I have been talking about that for some time now....

Starting tomorrow is the Society of North American Goldsmiths conference in Philadelphia. I had planned to attend the whole conference, but with the trip abroad and my upcoming equipment purchases, it's not in the budget. However, I do plan to go tomorrow for a special seminar on professional practices, and I hope to catch up with some colleagues and friends afterwards.

Later this week, I will add more Bali photos to the flickr account and talk more about that lovely place!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Back to New Yrok

Dance headdresses on display.

I have now been back in the US for a few days. I am not quite fully back in my mind, however, and all of my dreams still take place in Bali. Aside from the confusion and jet lag, I feel very refreshed. It is great to remember that there is a whole world out there, and most of them aren't thinking about an economic crises. I was talking to a Balinese guy and he tried to tell me not to go back to the US because of pig flu. I though there must be some kind of translation issue going on because I had no idea what he was talking about. Besides the internet cafes being slow, I just didn't want to spend a lot of time there, with all the charms of Bali at the doorstep.

Most of my time was spent working on the costumes for the show with Akim Funk Buddha and the Starship Crew, and studying Balinese dance. It was a challenge to arrive and very quickly get to work sourcing materials and working with tailors to get everything sewn in time. I had to make some bodysuits and finding an overlock machine in the town we were in, Ubud, was quite a challenge. I ended up learning how to make a bodysuit pattern on the fly. It was also a stretch of the imagination to go to the market and try to create from what was in front of me, rather then what I envisioned finding. In the end, the costumes looked great and that was very gratifying.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Off to Bali

It seems as though there has not been that much going on in my jewelry life lately. It is true that it has been squeezed in, between all of the preparation for my trip to Bali. I wil be departing in a few hours. I would like to share some of the jewelry making techniques there, although that will depend on how easy it is to download and post photos from an internet cafe there.

I do have a workshop planned for early June that will draw on some material that I collect in Bali. It will be in early June at the Newark Museum. The focus will be on filigree, which I have been using extensively in my latest work, and is also a highly developed technique in Bali.

While I am gone, there are some interesting, annual events going on here on the east coast.


Smithsonian Craft Show

In the meantime, I definitely learned two Indonesian words:
perak- silver
emas- gold

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bali Spaceship

Akim Funk Buddha, the leader of the crew

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, I am off to Bali in a couple of weeks. Two members of our crew are heading there this week, so I set up a blog to document all of our adventures and discoveries in Bali.

Have a look: Bali Spaceship

Pardon me if I post over there a bit more in the coming weeks!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pro Bono Jeweler

I have been following the blog of metalsmith Gabriel Craig for some time. He has been thinking very deeply about the world of craft and the handmade and how it fits into our contemporary life.

He never mentioned this project on the blog, but I was delighted to read this article in American Craft. Love the idea. I get some very strange questions about how my work is made, and it is true that in our society the connection to hand work has been lost to the point that many cannot even fathom how pieces of metal are alloyed, formed into sheet and wire, manipulated into various shapes, joined by heat, and finished through texture or polishing.

Bravo to you Gabriel!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Art Jewelry, Bubbling up into public consciousness

A very affordable and accessible piece of studio jewelry of blackened silver, 22K and rhodolite

In doing some research lately, I discovered that one of my long-held dreams has been implemented. Yes, this would be the exposure of art jewelry to the realm of the art and design collectors. I used to frequently drop the idea of an art jewelry contingent taking rightful place at the Art Miami art bonanza that takes place every year in December.

A round of congratulations to Ornamentum Gallery for taking the plunge and exhibiting in 2008 at the Design fair that has developed alongside the main art fair.

It wasn't just the high price tags of the art and one-of-a kind furniture that got my attention. It was also photos of attendees at galas, enjoying cutting edge art while wearing the most boring, yet extremely expensive, diamond necklaces and stud earrings. It left me astounded that people that were spending the time and money to seek the most innovative in art and furniture design were oblivious that they could have the same for their jewelry. Oh, and it would actually NOT cost the small fortune that the diamond necklace commands.

Well, I could go on, but this article really lays it all out nicely, including reasons to believe that the tide is turning for those of us in this under-recognized field.

While I make work that is more accessible in content and price than some of the names mentioned in the article, I do believe that what is good for those at the cutting edge will be good for all of us. After all, the collector is likely to start with work that is wearable, probably more traditional in material and construction, and not at the top end of the price range.

So, despite the current gloom, there are reasons to see a bright light at the end of the tunnel for those of us in the studio jewelry, art jewelry, handmade jewelry realm.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


As many may already know, I spent two years in Nepal, one year during college, and another year post-college as a Fulbright scholar. Both years were spent studying the traditional art of the Kathmandu Valley as I created my own sculptures using traditional techniques. This experience really made my own work take shape and has had a lasting imprint. It was also my first introduction to working full-time on my work in a very self-directed manner. This made me realize that I really did want to be a full-time studio artist.

Subsequent trips to Tibet and Mongolia added new themes and approaches to the mix and kept me fully charged with ideas for a very long time. This all happened before I started my own business. Once I went off on my own, I put everything I had into the business and it occupied all of my waking hours. I had to put thoughts of travel abroad out of mind for a very long time. Not only did it take all of my energy and financial resources to get things off the ground, I felt that taking two or more weeks off was out of the question.

Lately, I have been feeling that the creative battery has been running a tad low. There are still so many ideas to explore, but I have been wanting to really re-arrange my thoughts in a big way. Another thing I have been longing for is a more collaborative experience. I didn't necessarily expect this to come as a jewelry-related collaboration and my involvement in the Middle Eastern dance and music community exposed me to the way in which performers collaborate.

Enter in the picture a performer called Akim Funk Buddha. He is a consummate collaborator and has worked with many dancers that I have studied with and admire. My husband, Jun, and I became big fans of his work, and in fact, I had the feeling that he was the performer with whom I wanted to collaborate. Through conversations with him, he told me that he was planning to go to Bali with as many of his people as were willing and able. We had the miles, and the abilities to work on the visual aspect of the show, and through those converging circumstances, a new project has been born.

In April, we will head to Bali, and I will be working on the costume design, shopping for materials, contracting local craftspeople, and seeing what kind of incredible creations can be made from the wide variety of materials.

I am trying to not to anticipate too much what kind of effect the trip will have on my work, I want to just experience it in the moment. I do expect that the trip will have me all fired up and ready to get to work in the studio exploring many new ideas and maybe new materials.

Do you know someone interesting in Bali that I should meet? Please drop me a line!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Latest

I just got back from the latest show. This one was for gallery owners scouting for new work. While the show exceeded my own expectation, it is true that we are in the thick of some really unexpected realities. As the Chinese proverb says, "may you live in interesting times".

Well, as we all hold on and see how things will shake out with these interesting times, I have been in the studio, yes, making new work. I have been adding new pieces in the Wrought Inlay Collection. I also started playing around with some paisley-shaped cabochon peridot and rhodolite garnet that I have had in the studio for some time.

I have some big news about a trip I am taking this spring, but I am just going to save that for another post. In the meantime, the bracelet above is a new addition to my Brocade Garland Series. It has some repousse 18K gold, combined with blackened silver.

Monday, January 19, 2009


These days, I am feeling that the zeitgeist is community. Whether it is my neighborhood or my country, or my small field of art jewelers, I am tapping into a broad feeling that many of the superficials are being stripped away, leaving us looking straight at each other. I admit I am a bit terrified of what will happen in the next year or two. However, when I spend time with other people. I feel that if we can all get together, we can face whatever challenges that emerge.

I spent today, the National Day of Service, helping a spirited entrepreneur with her side project. She helps battered women furnish themselves with housewares and clothes after leaving shelters, giving them sewing skills along the way. I think that this has a strong connection for me. As a craftsperson, I understand that working with the hands can provide mental comfort, and the finished work can provide a sense of accomplishment.

I am also planning a community focused on art jewelry. However, that one is still a germinating seed, so I will keep it under wraps for now.

Happy Inauguaration Day and Happy 2009!