At Patina & Hue we love to have conversations with amazing women who have great style and inspire us all. For this reason I am excited to feature our latest artist–designer— Melissa Skarsten—a longtime friend and talented jewelry designer who mixes metals and infuses expressions of natural elements into her work. A couple of months ago I stopped by Melissa's studio to see her latest jewelry and discovered she was making 100 new one-of-a-kind pieces for the upcoming Park City Arts Festival. Melissa is both prolific in her work and dedicated to uninterrupted time in her studio so I was delighted to see what she was planning for the arts festival to share with all of you. Scroll down to see some of her fabulous pieces and to read more:
Images above clockwise from top right: His-Hers River Rings (River Series) Sterling silver, Her ring is set with a yellow Citrine gemstone | Fall Acorn Earrings & Leaves (Acorn series) Earrings are torched enameled copper with green jasper bead. Leaf Pendant is torched enameled copper on a oxidized sterling silver chain. | Ring Box (Twig series) Hand turned wooden box with a sterling silver twig pull. | Twigs Rooted Necklace (Tree of life series) Sterling silver with a Chrysoprase gemstone.
Top left: River Cuff links & Box(River series) Oxidized sterling silver with 14K gold cufflinks in a wooden box with a sterling silver twig pull.
Top right: River Bracelet (River series) Oxidized sterling silver with 14K gold bracelet slide on leather.
Q: Melissa, I know from our conversations that you derive a great deal of creative inspiration from being outdoors. How does that directly inform your work?
A; "The natural world is always pulling at me…. to slow down, to step outside and experience the “mystery within nature”—my work celebrates what I experience in those moments. To be more specific, old-growth forests fascinate me. As I was developing my distinct visual voice, memories from an extraordinary visit to a coastal redwood forest kept appearing, inspiring the textures and color palettes I began using. More important, it was the emotions I felt when standing in that primeval forest I started to capture in different pieces, and an organic elegance and sense of antiquity showed up in my work."
"...it was the emotions I felt when standing in that primeval forest I started to capture in different pieces, and an organic elegance and sense of antiquity showed up in my work."
Q: It must take a great deal of time to create one-of-a-kind pieces. What can you tell us about that process:
A: "Pieces can take days or even weeks. My work is done in a spontaneous manner, an idea may be scribbled out as a starting point, but materials and techniques guide the work into a finished piece. This evolutionary process keeps my creative thoughts flowing."
"To propagate this evolution of a design, I make one-of-kind pieces, each piece inspiring the next. Serial imagery or what I like to call the “kaleidoscope effect” is where I take a piece and redesign it…. and like the turn of the kaleidoscope, the variations are endless. By making one-of-a-kind pieces, I emulate nature and promote our individuality as humans, which I find a breath of fresh air in a world of mass produced, identical products."
"The ancient technique of granulation is perfect for creating organic texture. For my river series, I use a torch to fuse tiny grains of gold and raised lines of silver onto the metal surface of the piece. I then expand the technique by flowing melted gold in and around the applied textures. To achieve the rich color palette, I oxidize the piece a deep black to illuminate the gold. For my botanical pieces, the gemstones and the metal finishes I choose, allow me to express the dance of movement that light, mist and breeze create in the forest."
Q: When did you start making jewelry?
A: "I was drawn to artistic mediums that were very hands-on and fell in love, almost immediately, with metal-smithing while in high school. I later went to on study at The Revere Academy in San Francisco where I became a traditionally trained goldsmith and for a brief time I worked as a bench jeweler. The lure of creating a life in which I was a working artist led me out of the commercial marketplace to open my own studio in 2007. The arts and crafts marketplace is a perfect fit for the type of creative work I do and fits with my lifestyle."
Q: I've noticed that some women feel if they are wearing one color of gold, or other metal such as silver that they are hesitant to mix it up with their jewelry or metallic accents on their shoes and handbags. Your work has a lovely intermingling of different types and colors of metals. What would you say to someone who might be concerned about wearing their rose gold along side of their silver or white gold?
A: "Yes, I love combining different colors of metals into my work and I do know that years ago it was considered chic to keep your metals all the same color. But time has changed that concept—now women, and men alike can layer on different metals into one look and feel confident about doing so....I would say have fun with your jewelry, toss the old rules out as anything goes these days!"
Melissa was raised in Pasadena California, moved to Santa Barbara, then San Francisco, before landing in the mountain town of Park City, Utah with her husband and daughter. You can see more of her work on her website by clicking here or at the upcoming Park City Arts Festival, July 31-August 2, 2015.