Wednesday, September 15, 2010


An artist creates from internal and external experiences. And in the mix of this creative process the unconscious merges with the conscious. In the very broadest sense, whatever I encounter on a visual, auditory, and tactile level informs my work and inspires me.

Of course there are some influences over time that have been more obvious and meaningful to me than early passion for drawing, the magic of metals in welding and casting,
mixing actual light colors in space to create changeability and a purity unattainable with pigments...Yet, whether I draw, paint, sculpt, or make jewelry, regardless of my materials or techniques, nature has always been a primary underlying source of inspiration.

Spider's Web Outside my Window

Everything passes through this filter. My design ideas usually relate to natural organic qualities and asymmetric balance which in turn influence how I visualize three-dimensional construction.

Moon Outside My Window

Ocean beaches and the northern woods are my meditative spaces. In the late fall, when tree limbs are bare and the linear character of a landscape is exposed, my artist's eye considers the aesthetics of line, texture, shape, color, and space in nature all around me.

Asymmetric-Organic Bangle No. 8 in Argentium Sterling

Presently, I'm combining the unlikely arts of drawing and sculpting to create linear spatial forms which I think of as drawings in space. There's a spontaneity expressed in nature that engages my imagination in forming some of my wearables. I work towards a simple, minimal statement.
Please read what inspires other members of the Handmade Division Team:

Andes Cruz, Susan Moloney, Alice Istanbul,
Rebekah Meddles (Lunasa Designs Jewelry),
Jewelry by Natsuko, nanotopia, Bella-Bijou Jewellery,
Beth Cyr, Lisa Hopkins Design, Thomasin Durgin,
Abhaya Fibers, NEDbeads, Delias Thompson.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I've been working with small linear sculptural forms for the past five or six years, having transitioned away from casting and welding metals to create without heat, using simple cold joining methods.

 Hanging Sculpture 4, resting as a stabile

Making larger shapes with the same materials and techniques I use in my jewelry has been a natural progression. It suits me to work spontaneously. I love the immediacy of realizing an idea without moving through various stages of a slower process. It's like drawing in space to create a new reality.

Saltwater Pearl etc. Locking Earring

Lately though, I've imagined sculptural pieces that will present some different challenges. As a graduate student and later when I taught art, I often worked larger in wood, stone, clay, fibers, metals, and plastics. Now I'm thinking of using some of these materials again, but in new ways.

Before cold joining, casting and welding made joinery easy. I remember it was a little awkward making the transition from heat to cold methods, beginning to visualize using new skills. I've riveted, stapled, folded, wrapped, snapped, glued, and sewn.
Now as an artist still in transition, the thought of increasing the size and range of my work once again is exciting. Moving back to my roots in sculpture, I'm also beginning to discover the impact on my jewelry designs. This time my new ideas will take form from methods and techniques evolved over time and inspired by intuition.

It will be an exploration, building on what I already know.
Rather than looking outside for someone to show me more skills, I've reached a point where advances in my creative vision suggest going deeper inside to create very personal solutions. To realize my own changing voice as an artist, the emphasis is on my design idea rather than how I achieve it.

Please read how other Handmade Division Team members view the issues of creating, skills, and techniques:

NEDbeads, Lisa Hopkins Design, Jewelry by Natsuko,
Beth Cyr, Abhaya Fibers, Purified Art, Nova of Sweden,
Bella-Bijou Jewellery, Pink Crow Studio, Sand Fibers,
Alice Istanbul, Thomasin Durgin, Moxie & Oliver,
Andes Cruz,
Tosca Teran, Delias Thompson.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Color has always sparked my creative imagination; it's where my artist-life began. I did my first oil painting of a landscape en plein air when I was nine. Later my work became progressively abstract and non-objective.

Sun by J. Dunsford

Color Dancing Series, 1994. Abstract non-objective colored pencil drawing. (11" x 13.5")

When I studied 3-D design, my momentum and direction shifted dramatically from flat art to manipulating shapes in space. Experiencing the world with this new awareness of the element of SPACE inspired a broad exploration of sculptural forms.

Stone Wire Sculpture No 3 by Jan Dunsford

14K gold-filled and violet-colored niobium wires with semi-precious stones for color and shape detail, 2005. It lies flat here, but also hangs and moves in constant (slow) motion with air currents. (11" L x 6" H x 4" W)

As a sculpture grad student and later while teaching art, I worked with welded steel, cast bronze, clay, wood, stone, fibers, plastics, paints, fluorescent lights, and color theory. Thinking and working in these various materials and disciplines gradually evolved into designing and making some jewelry.

Asymmetric-Organic Wrist Sculpture No. 7 by J. Dunsford

This one-of-a-kind wrap is from my new asymmetric-organic series. It's made from heavy 16 and 14 gauge sterling silver wires used for strong shape integrity. The stones are jasper, turquoise, tourmaline, citrine, and adventurine.

Now I use shapes and colors in a non-objective linear, fibrous context whether
I'm making jewelry, creating a piece of sculpture, or painting. Understanding metals as a sculptor, colors as a painter, and fibers as a weaver, I see the endless possibilities in combining these approaches to create mini-sculptures to wear. This perspective shapes the character of my creative output.

Please read what other Handmade Division members have to say about their work:

Andes Cruz, Thomasin Durgin, Jewelry by Natsuko, Lisa Hopkins, Maureen BZ (Cosmo's Moon), Abhaya Fibers, Susan Moloney, Tamra Gentry, Bill Martin.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What's In An Object? Treasure

Prehistoric man made icons to worship and express his beliefs. Today we still consciously or unconsciously imbue objects with certain powers. We value and experience them as repositories for ideas and memories.

The creative maker processes his aesthetics through the objects he creates. Artworks become a visual manifestation of the artist's perspectives. Patrons complete the cycle...maker /object / patron...appreciating the inherent message in the work.

While teaching ceramics, I discovered an affinity for small forms that express an eastern (Zen) philosophy. Robert Yellin puts it concisely discussing Japanese tea bowls. We must "...understand their "spirit," in which simplicity is depth and intelligence, asymmetry is beauty, and cracks and "flaws" are attractive."

This approach relates to naturalism in western art where the purpose is to reflect the imperfection of our real existence rather than the ideal. The work of the sculptor Peter Voulkos is a good example.

These thoughts came to mind as I considered my choice of a treasured work by another artist. I have a small glass vessel created by a friend from graduate school who was one of the most unpretentious and down-to-earth people I've ever known. One day, as I watched him working in his glass studio, he invited me to choose a piece for myself. After careful deliberation over
many fascinating shapes, sizes, and colors, I settled on the modest form you see here. It's one of his earliest and smallest works.

Small Glass Vessel by R. Luttrell (2.5 inches high)

Some might say it has "soul". It has a colorful warmth that flows freely without seeming contrived. The form slouches, expressive of a naturalism I admire. It looks comfortable and relaxed, much like its creator, accepting of the imperfection in life. This small treasure had a lot to teach me. I keep it close to remember.

For more about glass-blowing you might enjoy the work of a consummate master, Dale Chihuly.
Read about artworks cherished by other Handmade Division members:
Andes Cruz, Jewelry by Natsuko, Abhaya Fibers,
kerin rose, Sand Fibers, Purified Art,
Tamra Gentry,
Tosca, Rickson, Beth Cyr,
Ceeb Wassermann, Susan Moloney,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Copying work has been copied. Once I came across a reproduction of one of my jewelry designs on display in a gallery I might have enjoyed showing in. Such revelations never make me happy, but mainly for reasons you might not expect.

No one creates in a vacuum. Everything experienced on a conscious and unconscious level impacts our self-expression. Inspired by the world around us, we attempt to find our own creative center and define an individual point of view.

 Hanging Sculpture 4,  detail
Inspired by the paintings of Wassily Kandinsky.

Every artist knows the difference between being inspired and copying. Inspiration is a positive influence. It ignites a creative spark and encourages self-discovery. Copying has the opposite effect. It cancels out the opportunity to find our unique vision because it circumvents our inner creative process.

This was one of the most valuable ideas I explored with students when I taught art. The issue of copying concerns
self-awareness and being clear about personal motivation. For instance, I know that I create to discover my authentic, evolving aesthetic. Connecting with my artist-self is the most dynamic part of my process. Growth expands and transforms my perspective as well as my output. What I go through to produce my work is as important as any actual piece I make. It's often more important as it shapes the character of my art.
__________________________________________________Read what other artists in the Snow Leopard Network think about copying: Andes Cruz, Jewelry by Natsuko, Beth Cyr, Tosca Teran, Tamra Gentry, Mary Spencer, Thomasin Durgin, Susan Moloney, Rosy Revolver.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

New Insights, New Series...Treasure

Mobile / Stabile 5

Last July I lost a brother whose courage and brilliance have inspired my entire life. Our conversations had often been about art, building things, and sailing. For a time in my grief I had absolutely no interest in creating anything.

One afternoon in August, while I was viewing a recent video of us discussing art and creativity, I had a breakthrough experience as I imagined making a linear sculpture that expressed our dialogue. Continuing in my current direction with sculptural forms, it was the beginning of a new series that I call "Kites", concerned with the concepts of soaring, sailing, overcoming.

Mobile / Stabile 5, another view

This is the thing that I have created that I treasure most. It is my first "Kite". Because of the experience that guided my work, I've gained fresh insights into the creative process. On a personal level, the piece symbolizes a connection that is alive in me now, just as it always has been.
Learn what other artists in the Snow Leopard Network have created that they treasure most: Andes Cruz, Jewelry by Natsuko, Alice Istanbul, Bill Martin, Rosy Revolver,Thomasin Durgin.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Winter Day in the Maine Woods

                                                      A Winter Day in the Maine Woods

What do you do on a winter day in the Maine woods? If you're lucky you work on a custom Etsy order.

The client has a very small wrist (the same size as mine), 5.75 inches measured over the wrist bone. So I'll make a 6.5 inch bangle.

The first step is to cut about 11 inches of wire. I'll use Argentium sterling since it rarely needs polishing. And I'll use 10 gauge wire, the heaviest I can work freehand.

The second step is to file, sand, steel-wool, and polish the ends.

Tools with Bangle in Process

The last step is to form the bangle. Be careful. You only get one chance. A bend cannot be undone without showing---it's like footsteps in the snow. 
Finished Asymmetric Bangle