Hello everyone! I had the very good fortune this week to interview Sasha Crow, a talented art jewelry designer and component maker. Sasha is a versatile and curious artist who has worked with many, many different techniques and materials over the course of her jewelry-making career.
If you’re familiar with Sasha’s work, you’ve probably admired the way she uses decorative tin work to make beautifully imaginative, fantastical, one-of-a-kind jewelry:
Sasha also creates components for other designers, applying her embellishments to artisan headpins. This summer she held her first local workshop in her home state of Oregon, and shared her favorite techniques with some very enthusiastic (and talented!) students. Here are some of the things they made in their two day workshop with Sasha:
That is really impressive!! Clearly, she’s not only a talented artist, but a gifted and generous teacher. I think you’ll enjoy getting to know her better. So let’s get to it!
Hi Sasha! Thanks so much for taking the time to give us a glimpse into your process. I’ve been following along for a while now, and one of the things I love most about your work it is that it conveys such a wonderful sense of freedom and experimentation. You’ve fearlessly explored so many different techniques, and always share the things you’re learning with your followers on social media. How do you make time for exploration, and learning new things to incorporate into your work?
I don’t make time for exploration – exploration is what I do. And I am lucky in that this is not only what I love to do but what I do to make a living This gives me the justification to immerse myself into it completely.
I bore easily so I must constantly be trying new things or I will implode. But a lot of the ‘freedom’ and ‘experimentation’ you see is really a trait of the medium. As I explain to people who see my work at shows, 50% of the end result is what I intend for the metal to do – and the other 50% is what the molten metal does in response to what I am doing. I think this creates a good tension of balance between control and surrender – between chaos and order. I like walking on that line.
Wow. “Exploration is what I do.” I LOVE that! It can be hard to remember that inspiration and play are at the very heart of it when creativity pays the bills too.
On the subject of exploration, let’s talk about your tinned headpins. You’ve created them out of everything imaginable – beach rocks, semiprecious stones, artisan beads, Czech glass beads, polymer clay, broken china pieces… And now you’re branching out, creating your own ceramic components to embellish. I must say, these headpins really caught my eye!
The rustic shapes and textures are so beautiful and the combination of clay and metal is lovely. But ceramics is a totally new medium for you. That’s a big challenge! What inspired you to start working with it?
It is a very new medium for me and one I had not anticipated getting involved in. But, a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to buy a digital kiln, 125 jars of glazes, as well as bead racks at a miracle of a price and I couldn’t pass it up.
Oh goodness. What an incredible find! It was meant to be! What do you like most about the process of working with clay?
It requires an entirely different way of thinking than I am accustomed to. But I’m finding it a contemplative craft. It slows down my million-miles-a-minute brain. It takes me back to childhood and making mud pies – that sort of timeless play. I think I need that.
Play is crucial – I totally agree. So, after making jewelry for over 20 years, about a year ago, Crow’s Cache Artisan Jewelry Components was born, and you began making components for other jewelry designers as well. How did that evolution take place?
I was already making components for my own jewelry and I thought that others might appreciate them for their own designs. There is such a strong trend for rustic jewelry now and most of my components have a definite rustic edge. I already had a shop on Etsy where I sell jewelry components and beads from my “overflow” so I just began adding the components I design to my shop.
I’m curious to know whether your creative process differs depending on whether you are making jewelry or making components. Are those two skills satisfying or meaningful to you in different ways?
When I am creating a jewelry piece, I create components that work well within a design I already have in mind – the components are created as part of the entire vision for the piece – not chosen from a collection. But when I create components for others, I don’t think beyond the component itself. I think of what I – as a jewelry designer – would like, and try to make a good selection of color and designs to choose from.
Creating components is definitely more of a “job”. Once I create the initial component, there is no surprise or challenge left in it for me. But there is an unexpected benefit in seeing what others do with the components! They use them in ways I would never have thought of. And it’s quite a nice feeling to know that I am a small background part of their creative process too.
People really are making amazing things with your components. I especially love these earrings by Belgian artist Anne-Marie Tollet with a pair of your tinned Czech glass headpins (and enameled copper charms by 4ophelia):
Do you ever encounter fear or doubt in your creative process, Sasha? How do you work through that?
I think it’s quite normal, as artists, to feel both fear and doubt at times in our creative pursuits, just like in the other areas of our lives. It comes and goes.
But my real demon is the “IS IT MARKETABLE?” imp who, when it is successful, stifles any real creativity by insisting I keep my designs “safe” and appealing to the “majority”. This imp steals the joy of creating and dulls my work. I spent most of last year under its spell and my work and sales struggled. I finally decided this past winter that I was just going to have fun, to enjoy creating.
You shared with me the first pair of earrings you made when you decided to let go of being led by the ‘marketability’ of your work. They just scream spontaneity and freedom – and they look like they must be such a true expression of who you are as an artist. Wow! How did that mental shift change things for you?
I began to create solely for the pure joy of it – with no concern about what anyone else might think about it or how much they might pay for it. And when I had successfully shucked off that nasty little marketing imp, that’s when I noticed a tremendous improvement in my jewelry. As this is my sole living, it is important that my designs are marketable – but I just cannot allow that concern to go with me into the studio or I might as well not bother. And when I can’t shake him off, I do something else instead now.
That makes total sense – often when the creative winds aren’t blowing in the right direction, it helps to adjust your sails. Sasha – I so appreciate you sharing your insight, and I am looking forward to seeing where your muse takes you in the coming weeks and months.
Thank you Julie! I am so humbled and pleased to be interviewed for Art Bead Scene.
If you enjoyed hearing from Sasha, leave her a comment below! I’m sure she’ll pop by later to check them out 🙂
Thanks for reading, everyone! See you next time.
Julie is a glass beadmaker with a passion for building community and inspiring conversation around her writing. Her best work comes from that magical place where nature meets creative flow. You will find her hanging out most days in her Uglibeads Facebook group
or on Instagram
, and you’re invited to join the adventure by signing up for her weekly email newsletter