Wire Artist of the Month

Wire Artist of the Month March 2011: Rhonda Chase

March Artist of the Month Rhonda Chase

About Rhonda

Always an artist, I can't remember a time when I wasn't drawing, painting or building. I had my first showing of drawings in New York when I was only 15. I received my formal training at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and then went to work in a NYC ad agency. I ultimately settled into high-end corporate design, working for clients like Intel and Wells Fargo. This was great until I had two little children who needed me as much as my clients did. I packed up my Mac for a while to concentrate on my kids, and with my computer collecting dust, I realized I couldn't go back to the corporate world. I needed to have my hands back in my art again, literally. And that brought me around to ceramics and jewelry making. I am certainly hands-on again, and I love what I do.

Whether I'm throwing a bowl or sculpting a silver pendant, my work is very flowing and organic. I love good materials; natural stones, porcelain with rich glazes, and precious metals. I also enjoy a really full-bodied color palette. I treat my glazes like watercolors and my gems like oils. And I hope that while everything I make is functional, each piece is first, a work of art.

I've come to know many jewelry artists over the past few years, since I started making jewelry myself. I've noticed many people use the opportunity of their kids getting older or retirement to try an artistic endeavor like jewelry making. I'm the opposite. I'm a classically educated and trained artist who needed an artistic outlet, while meeting the demands of being Mom. In looking for projects I could take with me to soccer games and didn't include clients demanding brochure changes at 2:00am, I found an art form I truly love.

It is common for me to jot down a few notes or sketches in the middle of a hectic day. Then I look forward to getting to that idea realized and expanding on it. As a former graphic designer and illustrator, I am always conscious of the lines and balance of every piece I make. I love working with wire and I love working with color, so wire-wrapped pendants are probably my favorite thing to do, especially the more involved pieces. I have a website and I do some shows, but mostly I sell my work through local galleries.

Artist Name: Rhonda Chase Location: California Where you can find her: ChaseDesign on Etsy

Tell Us About Your Work

Niagara Fall Pendant
Rhonda's Featured Piece, Niagara Fall Pendant

In spite of the fact that I grew up in New York, I visited Niagara Falls for the very first time in autumn 2009. Niagara Fall is one of two pendants I made over several days after enjoying that spectacular park. One pendant depicts the rapids leading up to the falls and this one, the cascading Falls themselves. Niagara Fall was inspired by the turbulent water soaring over the falls, with its roiling waters and trees clinging by bared roots to the banks. I made a sketch, but worked mostly by feel. I wanted to capture the wonder I felt on that rainy fall day, as well as the force and fragility of the scene. As you look at this pendant, I hope you can envision the wondrous falls churning under the trees. The branches leaning precariously over the water. And the constant spray sparkling over it all.

Made in sterling silver and copper wire, and Swarovski, metal, and gemstone (amber, autumn jasper, coral, agate) beads; measures approx. 4" x 3".

Fluorite Wrapped in Gold Filled Wire
Rhonda's Featured Piece, Purple Rain

I find wrapping faceted gemstones to be an interesting challenge, like a puzzle. I like to try to do something interesting and creative that shows as much of the stone as possible and often use unorthodox techniques. I got this beautiful stone from wirejewelry a couple of years ago. I didn't measure or use any pattern. I just wanted something a little regal and went for it.

I had to be very careful. The fluorite was extremely soft and would scratch easily otherwise. That extra big bail serves two functions. It looks good with the design and it keeps the stone from tipping to the side on its pointy back. This is a little tricky to get right. The balance has to be dead-on.

Purple Rain is a checkerboard-cut fluorite stone wrapped in gold filled wire.

The Sky and Earth and Sea Pendant
Rhonda's Featured Piece, The Sky and Earth and Sea

I've always loved turquoise and silver Southwestern jewelry. When I was young, I saved up for many months to buy a bracelet and hair clip that I felt I just couldn't live without - I still have them. So, even though turquoise isn't a big seller where I live, it makes me very happy to work with it.

I wanted to make a statement piece that has the feel of Native American jewelry, but with contemporary lines. I also wanted to incorporate this soft white gemstone donut, as I thought it offset the turquoise beautifully. I started with a rough sketch, and then let the wire and the bead forms take me the rest of the way. I like pieces that have some movement, so I added the drops as a final touch. I used only cold-weld techniques and work-hardened the wire.

The Sky and Earth and Sea is made of stabilized turquoise beads, in several shapes and sizes, sterling silver beads, a 55mm donut (either frosted white agate or snow quartz) and sterling silver wire. Measures 2" x 5.5".

Dale's Comments

Niagara Fall Pendant: Imaginative, can see the water as well as the autumn foliage; great execution using round wire and combining techniques.

The Sky and Earth and Sea: Good execution of techniques and artistic interpretation; nice multi-wire bail.

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