I’ve always loved butterflies, so when I saw Lisa Wilson’s entry in our Jewelry Design Challenge, I’ll admit my heart was just a bit aflutter. Her Butterfly Cloud Necklace depicts a fleet of lovely Lepidoptera positioned in such a way that they almost seem to be moving their delicate wings.
While none of the butterflies in Lisa’s piece actually flew away, the design did manage to fly through the voting process, flit about our judging round while our team admired its quality and craftsmanship, and then landed in our assortment. In fact, our buyers loved the design so much that we also decided to carry matching Butterfly Cloud Earrings.
I’m not sure when or where my personal fascination with butterflies started, but luckily, Lisa has a better memory than I do. She knows exactly why she chose the colorful winged creatures as the subject for her winning design. As Lisa watched the butterflies that fluttered by her Colorado garden studio, she thought of “a wanderer’s heart” and the idea of fluttering around the country until finding a place to call home.
Read on to learn more about Lisa’s love for Colorado, her inspiration for new designs, and her advice for aspiring artists.
How did you celebrate when you found out that you won our design challenge?
I love getting good news first thing to start off the week, and hearing I won the design challenge definitely made my list of favorite Monday mornings ever! I literally did a little happy dance right then and there while I was on the phone with UG. Of course, my husband was just as thrilled as I was and later we went out for a lovely dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants.
When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist?
On some level I think I always knew. Not that I’ve always wanted to be an artist professionally, but I think we all start off with at least some sense of adventurous creativity. For me, a love of tinkering, making, and just putting different things together for the sake of seeing what happens has always been a fundamental truth of the way I understand and interact with the world.
You mentioned that this necklace reflects on your time “fluttering” around the country before landing in Colorado. How did you know you’d found your home?
I knew I’d found home because I couldn’t stay away. After finishing my MFA, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in an Artist-in-Residence program at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and teach metalsmithing and jewelry design classes at various colleges and universities around the country. Necessarily, this meant a lot of far and frequent moving around. At the time it was all one big adventure and moving on from one part to the next was always a happy experience with exciting new things ahead and good memories in the wake. When it came time to move on from Colorado though, the thrill of heading out into the world again seemed to pale in comparison to the life I had happened into. I had just spent a lovely summer enjoying the beautiful mountain landscape with my (now) husband Michael, dancing my feet off nearly every night, and working away in my studio each day. I did actually end up moving away to Indiana for a semester of teaching, and for the first time, knew what it felt like to feel homesick. So, at the end of the appointment, I packed my bags, headed home, and haven’t looked back since.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
This is a question that has always been a bit tricky for me, because really anything is fair game! Ideas for my designs come from the many people and things in my surroundings that inspire me to celebrate life. Inspiration can come from an object, a sound, or a material process. It can come from something simple and pretty to see, something complex, bittersweet or even painful. Spring is budding here in Colorado right now, so new designs are taking shape in the simple and universal delight of the landscape coming to life.
What’s your creative process? In other words, what happens from right before you’re inspired to make something new to when you have a finished product in front of you?
Usually at the beginning, one of two things happens. Either something I see/hear/etc. strikes me, and I immediately want to start designing, or I start to feel antsy; I want to be designing and making–but I need a starting point, so I start looking for one. Usually, once that ‘restless’ feeling sinks in, it isn’t too long before something is in the works.
The two most important parts of my process are by far daydreaming and playing. I will spend hours just thinking in my head about what I might make before I even start sketching. Sometimes I’ll spend so much time just conceptualizing that by the time I get to the making part, the rest of the process flows from sketch to fabrication to finished piece in just a few hours. I also like to play though, by which I mean I like to just get my hands on some materials and see where the day takes me. This more ‘hands on’ version of my process often yields several prototypes, what I describe as ‘3d’ sketches, or even a whole mini-series of separate designs over the course of weeks.
Describe your work space. Is there anything there that’s particularly inspiring to you?
One thing is certain, and that is that there is no such thing as too much work surface! Like so many other artists and craftspeople, I tend to ‘grow to the size of my container,’ so somewhere along the line, I decided not to have one. I keep a sort of core studio space, that may not be pretty, but houses larger tools, materials storage, and more permanent fixtures, but I also will set up to work wherever the mood strikes. When the weather is nice (it is gorgeous in Colorado throughout the spring, summer, and fall!) I will pick up whatever I need to work with and set myself up outside in the garden, or for lighter work throw open all the doors and windows in the house and work right in the living room.
What’s your best advice for aspiring artists and designers?
In a sentence…Be generous with yourself. If you are passionate about what you do, afford yourself the time to do it. Make it a priority right alongside everything else that it takes to pay the bills, maintain relationships, and whatever else is a basic necessity in your life. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and enter that competition, apply for that job, and attend that professional conference, because you are your own best champion and to get that first ‘yes’ is worth however many ‘no’s it takes to find it.