Jewelry artist Pookie Weatherburn shares her elegant collection, inspired by culture and ceremony.
ABI: What is your background, and how does that influence your jewelry?
PW: Art and design have always been a part of my life. My mother moved to West Africa as a young bride. Living in the bush, without electricity, she was inventive and creative as a clothing designer. I spent many days going to markets with her, searching through beautiful African fabrics. She gave me hems to sew and seams to undo. Sometimes I would grumble at the detailed work, which makes me laugh when I think of the fine work I do today.
As an adult, I became interested in batik and cassava-paste techniques and made wall hangings. Experimenting with different printing materials, I began working with metal. The contrast of fabric against metal led me to an interest in hand-weaving techniques with wire to make jewelry. My work is influenced by African ceremonial adornments. Also, historical fashion and, certainly, the natural, organic world.
ABI: Tell us about your technique. How do you design and create?
PW: I use a simple crochet hook and fine silver or copper wire to build three-dimensional pieces of jewelry. It’s crazy how small the tool is in my hand and how big some of the pieces are. I might incorporate semiprecious beads, freshwater pearls, cut metal, or mesh, or other materials. Some pieces require a lot of precision and counting. Others are created on the fly, without plan. But I record all my work on paper in detail.
Often I feel as though I’m drawing with the wire. I might put shapes inside others to create a window into the composition. I like to change the mood of my work: some are intended to be fun and informal, while others royal and processional. My work ranges from dramatic, large pieces to light, delicate, lace-like designs. I can use as much wire in a single piece as would stretch the length of a football field. The wire offers me the opportunity to create structure but the method gives the feeling of fabric and fiber.
ABI: How do you see your jewelry business evolving in the future?
PW: It was exciting to have my jewelry displayed at the SOFA show in New York and the national juried show Craft Forms. Going forward, I want to see my business move in several directions. One goal is to get my one-of-a-kind pieces shown as art in galleries or worn in high-fashion settings. Commission work is another area that interests me.
While teaching preschoolers, I was asked to create a piece that would incorporate the work of the children. I like the idea of making a special piece that reflects an individual and touches her personally. I also enjoy collaborating with other artists in installation projects (I’ve had some experience there). I like connecting with customers at shows and on my online shop. It’s my aim to make jewelry that can be worn on any occasion, offering a unique, individual style.