Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Studio Visit: Erica Schlueter, Metalsmith Jeweler

Two weeks ago, Jae and I visited the Midwest (see previous post) to celebrate a wedding, see some great architecture, and visit the studios of two wonderful metalsmith jewelers whose work we offer at Greenjeans: Erica Schlueter and Janice Ho.

Today I will share the story of our studio visit with Erica. Click here for a slideshow of pictures from our visit.

We arrived at Erica's home and studio late in the evening after dining with Erica, Janice, and Janice's husband, Adam, on State Street in Madison. The drive from Madison to Paoli (near Verona) took about 30 minutes, and ended in a short driveway in front of a massive white clapboard building, not a house, but an old dancehall and storefront. We stayed the night in Erica's cozy apartment at the back of the building, and in the morning she gave us a tour of the dancehall and all the strange antiques housed there, including a huge old map of Wisconsin on which she pointed out our location.

Then we peeked into her tiny studio and admired the works in progress on her old workbench, well patinaed with use. She showed us some of the fabrics she uses to create the texture in her pieces, and a little pot of filings to be sent back to the supplier for scrap refund, showing that recycling pays! She also showed us some cool new jewelry ideas further incorporating fiber and metals that I won't divulge here, but that I'm excited to add to the shop if she decides to make them.

We took a look in the garden, but the mosquitoes drove us out, so we headed up the street to visit Artisan Gallery and Creamery Cafe, a big, airy space filled with work by American craftspeople. Jae and I had to keep ourselves from drooling over the ample square footage and sculpture garden out front -- if you haven't visited Greenjeans, we have only about 350 square feet, including storage! But then, just about everything is bigger in the Midwest...

We also stopped in to Zazen Art Gallery down the street, a neat little space at the front of a woodworker's studio. We somehow managed to not buy cheese and frozen custard at the quaint little creamery along the way, where the proprietor watered her flowers while exchanging morning pleasantries with Erica. Ah, small town living!

We had to leave for Spring Green before noontime, but it was a pleasure to see where all those precious earrings and necklaces are made, to get a better understanding of her work in fiber and in metal, and to spend time with Erica, one of the first artisans at Greenjeans and someone we look forward to working with for many many years to come!

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