Materials and Techniques
Because Diane’s jewelry is so unusual, she is often asked questions about her work. People wonder where she gets her ideas, what techniques she uses and why she chooses unusual materials. Below are some of the questions she has been asked and how she has answered those questions.
Question: Where do you get ideas for your pieces?
DIANE: Ideas build upon ideas. I find the natural world endlessly inspirational. I love plants and animals and their cycles of birth, growth and return to the earth. I am also inspired by chance happenings, juxtapositions, and relationships. I might, for example, see a fallen leaf lying on the ground. Not only do the leaf's color and texture appeal to me, I am also intrigued by the angle that the leaf assumes in relation to a crack in the sidewalk upon which the leaf is lying. I carry these impressions with me as I work on my jewelry. They are like mental sketchbooks.
An example of my fascination with the natural world is my study of a pond near my studio. The pond is covered with tiny, tiny duck weed, which is the smallest flowering plant on earth. The shape, texture, and color of the duckweed became embedded in my visual memory, and as I started to work at my jewelry bench, I created duck weed imagery in wax. Although I was no longer looking directly at the duck weed itself, I was working with my knowledge of and feelings about duck weed. I produced a pair of earrings that combined duck weed imagery with Herkimer diamonds. I love the contrast between the green glow of the duck weed shapes on the earrings, and the clear sparkle of the Herkimer diamonds. It’s almost like duck weed floating on water.
Question: Why do you choose the particular stones that you use?
DIANE: I love stones of all kinds. I love beach stones, tiny sand grains, jasper, citrine, lava, Herkimer diamonds, rough emeralds, agates, druzy, and dozens of others. I have studied stones and love how they were made deep in the earth by enormous pressures. I also love glass, and I often pair glass with stones. I have a large collection of sea glass that I found underneath the Verrazano Bridge. I use the sea glass in my work, and I love that each piece of glass contains the mysterious story of its origins. I also use reflective glass beads that are applied on top of the white and yellow lines on highways. I love to contrast stones — rough, smooth, faceted, sparkly, or dull. Several of my favorite stones contain a lot of mica. I found the stones in river beds in North Carolina, which used to mine massive sheets of mica for windows before window glass was invented.
Question: What kinds of tools do you use?
DIANE: My favorite tool is a dental tool that I use to solder wax. The tool is called a waxer, and I can control its temperature and change
"The materials I love to work with evoke the emotions and sensations I feel when I'm in nature."
the size of its tip. Almost all of my pieces are made of wax that is cast into metal using the ancient lost wax process. The waxer allows me to solder very fine pieces of wax together and to create fine details. I also love my Foredom Flex Shaft, which is a rotary tool for grinding and polishing metals. I have a drill press, a rotary and belt sander, a band saw, and a jig saw. Someday I would love to have a metal sheer, but they’re very expensive. As well as traditional jewelry tools, I also use ordinary materials as tools — toothpicks, nails, straws, freezer paper, brushes, hammers, and vices.
Question: You use many different kinds of materials. Why is that?
DIANE: I use whatever material I need to communicate the vision that I have for a particular piece. In addition to stones, glass, and metal, I use paper, resin, cardboard, textiles, wood, plastic, and found objects. Each piece of jewelry requires the perfect material, and sometimes it takes me a long time to discover what that material is. Fortunately, I am an insatiable inventor, so I am constantly cooking up new combinations of materials and ideas. I have boxes and boxes of idea-materials that I have put together over the years. I rarely throw things away — or regret it when I do — because I often find the perfect material or combination of materials for a new piece at the bottom of a box I haven't searched in a long time. Fortunately, jewelry is small, so I do not need a warehouse to hold all of the materials I have!
Question: What are your current projects?
DIANE: I am currently working with the idea of mushrooms and fungi. A large tree near my studio got diseased a couple of years ago, and the tree had to be removed. The tree was cut to the ground but its root system remained. Over time, a fungus that looks like bracket fungus began to colonize the tree roots, and the process of decay ensued. I think the fungi are beautiful and fascinating. They are also alien in appearance, very unlike our flowering plants. I developed a deep interest in the fungi and did research to learn more. I discovered that the roots of most plants are inhabited by fungi. The fungi and the roots have a symbiotic relationship in which the roots of the plant give sugar to the fungi, and the fungi give micro-nutrients to the roots. I discovered that the fungi also serve as a communication network among the plants. Mushrooms are a type of fungi, and we have so many associations with mushrooms — some are delicious, like Portobello mushrooms, and others are deadly poisonous to humans. We think of a mushroom cloud and of mushrooming ideas or activities. Alice, of course, got larger or smaller because of which mushroom she ate. All of these associations are finding their way into new pieces that I am making.
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