Lisa Cushing Kent received her B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Georgia in 1976, and has been making jewelry ever since. She currently resides in south Georgia and is known to be a silly and magical sort of person, active in community theater and promoting the arts in many forms.
An Interview with the Artist
Why do you make jewelry?
I think, on some level, there’s an intrinsic need for jewelry. Because people attach so much meaning to it, either symbolic or sentimental. Your choice of jewelry shows your individuality, so you should pick jewelry created individually, by hand, that really shows your personality through it’s choosing – who wants to be sentimentally attached to some piece of junk from Walmart? Partially this feeling comes from the fact that I have a lot of pieces like this myself, because they were passed down from my mom.
Can you talk about your techniques and materials?
Each piece I make is individually handcrafted used piercing, chasing, repousse, applique and fabrication. I like working with old fashioned metals – sterling silver, jeweler’s bronze, copper, brass – unplated metals – meaning they’re not coated with a different metal. Sterling silver is one of the oldest metals that’s ever been worked – it’s very satisfying to work with, same with the other non-ferrous metals. As for combining the metal with beads – I use semi-precious stones, pearls, and some glass – but no crystals because they just don’t look right with the traditional metal. They’re too glitzy!
I also feel like there’s an honesty in the traditional metals – perhaps in the way they tarnish. I love copper colors, and they do tarnish, but sometimes I really find the patina quite beautiful. As bronze turns, it becomes some really gorgeous colors before it needs to be polished. However, silver doesn’t tarnish as quickly, especially if you wear and handle it often. I know most people find it really inconvenient – and I do put lacquer on some of the copper pieces to keep them from tarnishing as much. But I know there are also people out there who like real metal. And I do like shiny stuff just as much as everybody else! I just started using some gold filled wires that don’t tarnish, and I do use gold-filled findings and clasps so they don’t turn people’s ears green, of course!
What about the shapes – which sometimes seem difficult to photograph?
Overall, I like things that are sculptural – things that are interesting from all sides, especially for earrings and hanging pieces. I also seem to prefer natural shapes – they seem more feminine and individual on some level. Geometric shapes can be stamped out by a machine and I’m not a machine. I don’t have any interest in that.
I’m still making some nature-influenced shapes and designs: leaves, rocks, shells. It’s a common theme – lots of jewelers are inspired by nature, one of the oldest motifs that has ever been used, but with good reason.
I especially like the natural tumbled shapes of stones, asymmetrical and irregular. And natural looking, imperfectly round beads blend better with my work – especially freshwater pearls. Also, curvy lines are much more fun and prettier to do with the techniques I’m using. I like flow and movement in my work – static and straight lines are boring!
I’ve got these little earrings that are curlicue-y wires – but they swing! They swing around on your ear, so they move around! That’s a neat thing to incorporate.
Anything else you want to say about your work?
I feel like I don’t know how to say the words, I just know how to make the art!
I’ve come up with new work because of my recent rebranding process – before I could start talking about logos, I had to do a lot of journaling and analyzing of my own work. I realized that my wire pieces are like a line, and the shells are another, and the “fun” newer ones are a separate line – they’re not as strictly based on anything, just more free-form organic motifs.
Before that analyzing, I hadn’t been honoring the wire stuff very much because it’s so much simpler to make – I really like to use chasing and repousse but the wires don’t need that. The point of the wire is also to keep them less expensive. But they have a lot of movement and spontaneity – I’ve started to call them my inner-child work – it’s like playing! I’ve grown to like the process of making the pieces more – the hammering and formation really is fun and satisfying.
(Interviewed January 26, 2015 by R.Kent)