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Artist of the Month - August 2005

Carrie Walsh Combines Rocks, Metal and Glass
into Stunning Jewelry

By Annabelle Numaguchi

When I walked into Carrie Walsh’s home to interview her, I knew it was going to be fun. Her home is appealing and eclectic; a restaurant booth with silver seats, a glass-topped coffee table made out of an old door displaying scattered dominoes and dice, vividly colored posters of old French and Italian ads for wine and pasta. Walsh herself reflected this originality and blend of modern-retro style and elegance.

She evokes a contemporary look evocative of the Fifties with a black and white scarf tied behind the nape of her neck and a choker length necklace sporting a stunning pendant.

It is the pendant that has brought me here. Carrie Walsh is a jewelry-maker and a metal-smith. Her work fits into the image she has projected through her home decor, dress and personality; original, funky and classy.

Her sense of originality probably comes from her family, of whom several are artists (in particular, her mother is a sculptor). Growing up amid such a high level of creativity has imbued Walsh with an apparent natural ease in following her own sense of creating beauty.

Since she was eleven or twelve years old, Walsh has been making jewelry. She began working with easy-to-manage materials, such as hemp and glass beads. The transition from making jewelry as a hobby into pursuing it as an art form occurred serendipitously.

While working for Earth Studio, a Moab shop that sells a variety of local art, she befriended the daughter of the studio’s owners. Walsh gave her friend a necklace made out of a triple strand of beads for her birthday one year. The girl’s mother was so taken with the necklace that she commissioned Walsh to make similar necklaces for Earth Studio.

This was Walsh’s first sale of her jewelry and she continued selling her creations on consignment through the store for three years. Having seen her mother and aunts manage to earn a living through their art, she knew it was possible to do the same and was ready to embrace subsequent opportunities for creating jewelry.

The next step in Walsh’s development as a jewelry-maker led her into metal-smithing. Two years ago, she began apprenticing herself to Wendy Newman, a goldsmith, who has a studio in Moab (which participates in the Art Studio Tour in the fall) and displays her creations in regional art fairs.

As Walsh’s skills have increased, so has the intrinsic value of the materials she uses. She now works with silver and golds, along with semi-precious stones. She uses cabochons (rounded stones which she usually shapes herself) and faceted stones. Often times she uses one as an accent to the other, taking into account color and opaqueness. Her current line of jewelry, which includes pendants, necklaces and bracelets, also incorporates captivating square beads made in the Venetian millefiori (thousand flowers) tradition of blending concentric circles of colored glass.

Working with these various materials that reflect light differently and turning them into a piece of three-dimensional jewelry that must look beautiful from many angles requires a true artist’s eye. Walsh possesses such foresight, a skill she most likely inherited, but certainly honed while obtaining her Graphics Design degree from the University of Dayton in Ohio.

A series of galactic-inspired pendants and brooches evinces her talents. The cabochons and facets reflect a myriad of colors, depending on the light and its angle. One pendant features a mesmerizing red Mexican fire agate that when held up to the sunlight reflects greens and golds in a wave-like pattern. Walsh used a fire opal, a small scarlet faceted stone, to bring out the bold reds of the agate. These warm-colored stones are set on the edges of a gold arrow framed within a larger silver oval.

The contrast of fiery stones with the cool metals accentuates the futuristic designs of the pendant. The inner matrix of the agate that appears in sunlight also enhances the multi-layer texture of the piece. Walsh facetiously says that the design for the piece was inspired by the cartoon, The Jetsons, but the elegance of the pendant belies this simplified description of the jewel’s origins.

Although Walsh’s pieces exude an elegance, they are timely and non-conventional. Walsh claims that she prefers to “wear more casual jewelry,” so she imbues her work with a certain amount of whimsy. She showed me the prototype of a bracelet she’s recently created.

The bracelet is made up of square millefiori beads nestled in silver. Each segment features a unique geometric design that is hand-drilled and -carved and individually hinged to the next segment.

An appealing characteristic of this bracelet is its reversibility. On one side, the square beads shine through the silver designs, playing with color, shape and composition. On the other, the silver squares are used more conventionally as a border to the decorative beads. The bracelet easily reflects the two sides of Walsh’s art; funky and elegant.

The artistry and craftsmanship evident in this original bracelet show how far Walsh’s skills have developed since she began beading necklaces. She works with expensive materials that allow for very little waste, so precision is another important skill she has honed.

Carrie Walsh is wasting no time blending her natural artistic talents and acquired smithing skills to create unique pieces of stunning jewelry. She is a young artist with considerable ability who will be interesting to keep an eye on as she continues to create eye-catching ornaments that are at once contemporary and elegant, timely and timeless.
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