Joanne the Jeweler

When I asked Joanne Staley why she decided to take up making jewelry, she jokingly replied that jewelry, in comparison to paintings, is a lot easier to lug around at art shows. In addition, Staley believes that jewelry looks good on everybody and she loves how unique it is. She described jewelry as distinctive and original.

Staley is an Alabama painter and jeweler. Her art is often on sale at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, and she recently participated in the annual Kentuck Festival of the Arts. She got her education at Savannah College of Art and Design, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, and Penland School of Crafts. She was an art/painting major and took up a class on silversmithing during her undergraduate years.

Staley is also an experienced art educator who has taught at Troy State University and Auburn University at Montgomery. She enjoys the enthusiasm of her students and their willingness to learn new things. One of her favorite parts about teaching, she told me, is giving her pupils artistic ways to express themselves.

When creating her jewelry, Joanne Staley starts off by making paper designs, then she  cuts the materials with a handsaw and pieces them together to produce creative designs. She uses materials such as copper and brass. She, also, uses a roller mill to make interesting textures. This process contributes to one of her favorite aspects of her jewelry: its unique surface.

joanne-staley-jewelryFor Staley, smaller jewelry can take up to two to three hours to complete; bigger jewelry can take three to four days. Pieces such as her huge sterling beads, her favorite, can often take days because she likes to make each bead different.

Though she is a seasoned artist, Staley continues to improve as she continues her craft. Over the years, her work has evolved as she has learned many new techniques such as chasing metal and using patina colors.

The life of an artist isn’t always as glamorous as some may make it seem. Like every job and hobby, there are disadvantages. In Staley’s case, pursuing art causes her to make less money, occasionally breathe in harmful chemicals, and have to work with her hands a lot which can be painful. Despite the drawbacks of being a craftsmen and jeweler, Staley states that it’s a price she’s willing to pay.

Future artists may see these difficulties as reasons to give up, but Staley advises otherwise. She encourages them to not be discouraged.

“Do what places you,” she replied when asked what advice she could give to upcoming artists.

She continued by expressing the need for new artists to be their own individuals and to not worry about what other people are doing. Just continue to be better and better and remain positive.

Joanne Staley has been crafting jewelry for forty years and is still steadily doing so. Inquiries about her or her art can be answered on her website, and she and her art can be seen at the 7th Annual Artist Market at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts on November 18 from 5:30 ’til 8:00 PM.


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