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A marriage of metal and stones: Local jewelry maker “feeds soul” with creative process
Sandra Kramer is wearing earrings that look like opaque teardrops dripping from silver loops.
At most any given time, one might say she is riveting.
But of course hammering, fusing and beading are other verbs to describe her jewelry-making activities.
The part-time Yuma resident from Everett, Washington spends winters with her husband in Yuma, in the mobile home she has artfully decorated in a Spanish theme and refers to as their tin-can hacienda.
In a detached studio out back, strings of turquoise beads, flat pearls, coral and precious stones hang from shelves lined with containers of beads, coils of wire and sheets of brass, copper and silver.
A retired interior designer, Kramer spends a lot of time in the studio, playing with stones and wire, hammers and pliers, torches and a tiny anvil. The result is a unique collection of bold statement jewelry, including the pineapple quartz and silver loop earrings she's wearing.
By a process of silversmithing, she cut thin strips of silver from a sheet with jewelry scissors and pounded them with a special hammer to flatten them and create a textured finish. Then she slipped the wire through holes in the pineapple quartz (also called lemon quartz), formed it into loops and attached hooks.
“These earrings are very simple,” she says. “They're very loose … and the light is what I love – when the light comes through. They're good for the holidays.”
The 70-year-old mother of five and grandmother of nine enjoys the creative process of jewelry making. “It feeds my soul,” she says. “It just feels so neat. There is such a wonderful feeling that comes over me.”
She says design ideas often come to her when she's doing other thought-liberating activities, such as washing dishes or riding her bike. “I kind of get a concept and then the materials, the beads and everything will take their own form,” she says. “And what I oftentimes start out to do does not even come close to what I've done, and that to me is a divine process.”
Sometimes she finds inspiration on two Web sites she frequents: Neiman Marcus and Sundance. The earrings she's wearing were inspired by Sundance.
Other times, she takes a strand of stones, coral or beads she has purchased, and believing she cannot possibly make the strand itself more beautiful, simply adds one of her signature clasps and/or a medallion to it.
Her clasps and medallions are not simple, however. She creates big, bold silver clasps that are designed to make the jewelry as attractive from the back as from the front.
The medallions are also typically large and bold. She delights in using a large mallet to pound textures onto various circles, rectangles and strips of brass, silver and copper she has cut from sheets of the metals.
She arranges and re-arranges the various shapes, sizes and colors until she ends up with a piece that satisfies her sense of design, and then rivets them, or fuses them together with a torch.
At that point, she has fun deciding whether a medallion is finished and ready to attach to a strand, or if it would be enhanced by the addition of an inset precious stone.
She draws on her interior design experience to combine – or not to combine – certain colors or materials.
Her craftsmanship has evolved over time, beginning in 2008, when a friend invited her to a bracelet making class, where she created a copper bracelet with a intricate lace design rolled into it.
“I fell in love that day,” she says. “It was like, I get this! I understand this. I understand how this whole thing works.”
From there she started beading, and before she knew it, she had taken several more classes and made all the earrings, necklaces and bracelets she could give to loved ones. So about 18 months after creating her first bracelet, she gathered up her courage and a collection of her jewelry to present to an art gallery in Washington that immediately agreed to exhibit it.
Since then, she has exhibited and sold her designs not only in Washington, but also online and at Yuma Fine Arts. She is saddened by the recent closing of the latter and hopes a decision will soon be made to reopen it.
Meanwhile, a corner of her seven-foot by 12-foot studio is now dedicated to the display of her jewelry collection.
She attributes her productivity to the fact that she makes a point go to out to the studio each day, even if just to dust or organize things. It's a form of discipline she learned from one of her teachers in Washington.
Back in Washington, she has a large studio where she does acrylic mood paintings rather than making jewelry like she does here.
The Kramers first arrived in Yuma in an RV in 2002 and later bought their current place just outside of town. They mostly live outside, where Sandra does flower and vegetable gardening.
“I also enjoy 12-step programs in the area,” she says. She plays Mexican Train (a tile domino game) with friends every Friday, and she regularly does yoga.
“They have great yoga studios here,” she says. “I am completely arthritic from earlobe to big toe. For yoga, I do everything I can possibly do, but I am not a master. I just enjoy stretching for the physical fitness of it and the serenity of the mind after yoga class.”
All of her beloved activities tie into the craft of jewelry making, she says. “They're all organic. They just feed into each other. It's a continuous cycle of creativity, just about all aspects of my life.
“One of my life mottos is to ‘die young at an old age,' and in order to do that, I will have to continue to learn and be open to be teachful.” The process of designing jewelry does that for her.
Her work can be seen online at Sandra Kramer Designs on ETSY and Facebook.