INTERVIEW: OLIVIA CRAMER

CSA co-founder, Kristy Bishop, got together with Fall share artist, Olivia Cramer to learn more about her work and process.  Cramer discussed her time in LA, her interestingly named tool, the crucible, and so much more in this interview.

KB: When did you first start making jewelry?

OC: The first time I made jewelry was in my metals class at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville, SC. It is a two year boarding school where students from across the state can apply as high school sophomores and can spend their junior and senior year in a rigorous arts intensive program specific to their artistic talents. I instantly fell in love with the process of transforming metals into something that was nothing like the wire and flat plain sheet of silver that I started with, and became a metals major.

KB: How did your time in LA influence your work?

OC: The funny thing about Los Angeles is that I have never felt more southern anywhere else in my life. Everyone is from somewhere else and it is an instant connection that you have to a lot of people that you meet there everyday. While I was in school at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising I instantly started sketching things I missed from home; sassafras leaves, stink bugs, oak trees, and Spanish moss. I wanted to share where I was from with everyone I met because it took me living so far away for me to realize just how beautifully haunting and unique the lowcountry is.

KB: What are some tools that you couldn’t work without?

OC: I could never work without Le Pens! I am obsessed with these things and I honestly have a hard time writing with anything else. I also would be completely lost without my miniature drill press.

KB: The crucible - I know it’s not as scary of a machine as it sounds.  Can you explain what you use it for?

OC: The crucible is a ceramic bowl that I can place silver, old jewelry, or failed pieces into and use a large torch tip to apply heat and melt everything down to pour into a new mold. Once the metal gets to a high enough temperature it gets a molten look, I then sprinkle some borax on top and continue heating until everything fuses together to make one smooth silver puddle of metal in the crucible’s bowl. The next step is to maintain the temperature of the metal and quickly pour the molten contents into the new mold that I am casting. Once I plunge the mold into some water to cool it down and wash away the delft clay I have a raw casting.

KB: Your jewelry is so inspired by the natural world.  What is a plant or animal that struck you immediately and led to the creation of new work?

OC: One trip home from California I remember seeing a luna moth and rushing inside to grab my sketchbook to make some notes and a few drawings. As soon as I got back to school I made some pieces that were inspired by the shape of their wings and antennae.

KB: What is an average day like in your studio?

OC: I have a few different types of days in my studio:

Sketch and idea days are spent picking specimens, reading field guides, and drawing forms and figures that I find exciting and interesting. Then I will do a few line drawings that put the shapes into the context of being wearable, and after that I love to do gouache renderings of what I envision the pieces looking like.

Mold carving a casting days are spent realizing these initial ideas in a three dimensional form. I will carve the various pieces out of wax or build them out of sculpey, depending on which masting process I intend on using. After I have the models done I can make the molds and cast them.

Finishing days are very transformative. I take the unfinished castings, cut off rough edges, and use a combination of various sanding wheels and sandpaper to get the surface to my desired texture and shine. If I want to have a high polish finish I will switch to my large polishing motor or I will submerge the piece in liver of sulfur to give it a naturally worn look.

KB: What is the most difficult challenge that you have encountered?

OC: The most difficult challenge I encountered was deciding to make jewelry and metal smithing my ultimate goal. When I first started at the College of Charleston I decided to major in Art History and Historic Preservation, both of which are amazing fields, but I knew after a year that it wasn’t right for me. I decided to take some time off and figure out what it was that I really wanted to focus on. A few months later I found myself working as a goldsmith’s apprentice and I have been creating with metals ever since.

KB: What do you want to take away from being a CSA artist?

OC: CSA has provided me with a platform to show my work to patrons of the arts as well as other practicing artists who also work and live in the Charleston area, which is a real honor. I hope to showcase some original works at the Fall pick-up event that shareholders will be excited about wearing and will promote my work in the future. It is also a great way to be involved in a community with some of the most talented and creative people Charleston has to offer.

KB: Your jewelry is very androgynous. Was this a conscious decision?

OC: Absolutely. I like to think of my work more as wearable sculpture that appeals to people who can enjoy the forms and details, rather than appealing to someone because of their gender or age. A lot of it also has to do with the scale of my work. I like everything to stand out and be something that really grabs people’s attention.

KB: What is a future piece or concept that you want to create?

OC: I did a rendering of a hair comb a few years ago that I keep tacked up on my inspiration board in my studio that I have been dying to make for ages. It features a deer skull with antlers as well as 20 or so bezel set moonstones. I have been collecting the right stones since I designed it and I’m almost there. I can not wait to see how it turns out!

 

Olivia Cramer is one of the Fall Season artists.

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IN THE STUDIO: OLIVIA CRAMER

Jewelry artist, Olivia Cramer, gave us a tour of her studio at her downtown Charleston home.  Read on to hear what she had to say about the tools she uses, antique finds, and her process.


This retro lunchbox is one of my finds from my time in California.  It holds all of my wax for carving pieces.

Gouache renderings and pen/pencil sketches help me to plan the scale of my pieces and create a cohesive collection. I love that haid painted renderings are still professionally acceptable in the jewelry industry and not every design has to be done on a computer.”

Going outside and bringing plants, insects, and other finds to draw keeps me practicing.   It also gives me new ideas for shapes and forms in my work.

Currently, I’m putting together some bezel settings out of sterling silver which I’m going to set with oval pieces of petrified wood.

(left) This machine is called the crucible.  It is where I melt my silver down to pour into a mold or a delft clay casting. I add borax to the molten metal to give it a more even texture so that it can pick up all of the detail in a mold when poured.

I found vice grip this in an antique shop in Camden, SC, that specializes in old tools and salvaged equipment.

Artist-thumbnail-365x365-3

 

Olivia Cramer is one of the Fall Season artists.

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INSPIRATION: OLIVIA CRAMER

Fall artist Olivia Cramer creates jewelry inspired by an array of things, from Dolly Parton to historical jewelry from a time when keeping someone’s hair was en vogue.  Read on to learn more about what has influenced Olivia’s new collection for CSA.

HENRY DARGER

One of my favorite artists is Henry Darger. I am inspired by his beautiful color palette and elaborate scenes that usually depict whimsical flowers and fanciful creatures. His use of scale, color, and highly intricate scenes painted in a childlike manner make it easy for the viewer to feel as if they could step right in.

DOLLY

As any of my close friends and family can tell you, I have a deep love for Dolly Parton. Her music is the perfect blend of old country, Appalachian tradition, and pop perfection. Her music never fails to make me sing along while I am sketching out new designs or carving molds at my bench.

“When I’m inspired, I get excited because I can’t wait to see what I’ll come up with next.”   Dolly Parton

ART NOUVEAU JEWELRY

Rene Lalique is the jeweler that I look to most for inspiration. He was primarily a glass artist but his art nouveau jewelry always leaves me taking a second and third look just to make sure that I have seen all of the exquisite detail. The subject matter of insects, flowers, and leaves is also something that I am naturally drawn to and often have in my work, but it is the craftsmanship and beautifully naturalistic modeling of these forms that most intrigues me.

PERIOD JEWELRY

Other historic jewelry eras, such as the Georgian period with hand crafted flowers made of platinum and dripping in diamonds, and the Victorian era, where mourning jewelry made out of deceased loved ones hair was all the rage, also influence my work.

ANTIQUES 

I frequent antique stores, estate sales and thrift stores looking for anything that catches my eye. I collect records, skulls, jewelry, furniture, and art that I just can’t wait to surround myself with in my home and studio. I often look to them when I start my brainstorming and sketching process.

OBSERVATION AND FINDS IN NATURE

I also often just take a sketch book outside and draw leaves, sticks, insects, and flowers that I find interesting. I also normally have a ziploc bag or two on me just in case I happen to stumble upon a specimen that I can’t live without. When I go home I put everything out on my drawing table and just start to arrange them in various ways to get a good idea of the scale of the object in relation to the human form so I can get to work on my next piece.

 

Olivia Cramer is one of the Fall Season artists.

 

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PURCHASE OLIVIA’S SEASON