Darlene Armstrong 2014
Naja Featured Artist Interview:
Naja Art Gallery 2014
Darlene Armstrong started creating jewelry in the 80’s, but had known she wanted to be a metalsmith her entire life. Armstrong states, “I am Cherokee and Scottish, making jewelry is in my blood.” Since the age of 5 Darlene dreamed of creating beautiful silver jewelry. Spending a vast amount of time in her grandmother’s garden, young Darlene developed a creative imagination. She would spend hours in the garden, inspecting flowers, counting petals, examining the seeds and studying the detail of colors. Darlene’s Metalsmithing career began with beading and sewing. She would sew deer skin flute pouches and attach metal findings and turtles that she had beaded. Darlene also created beadwork jewelry both on and off the loom. Wanting to expand into metalwork, Darlene enrolled in an adult education class. After taking two beginning Metalsmithing classes Darlene found that she learned better through trial and error rather than in a classroom setting. She began to collect materials and experiment, starting out with basic stamping projects, drilling holes, and wrapping beads. After years of experimentation Darlene built up a vast repertoire of beautiful, inspiring work. The immense amount of time she has put into learning her craft has led her to become not only a successful jewelry artist, but an extremely dedicated teacher, determined to share everything she knows with her students.
Darlene has an incredibly unique style that is easily distinguishable throughout her bodies of work. The time she has put into her craft is well reflected through her jewelry and her teaching. Between teaching at the Denver School of Metal Arts, running the school, and doing her own personal jewelry work, Darlene’s life is consumed by the craft that she loves so much.
Why did you pick working with metals as your art form versus another medium?
Jewelry is something that has always fascinated me. I have dreamed of making jewelry since a young age, at about 5 years old I knew it was what I wanted to do. In a way I guess I always knew I wanted to be a metalsmith, it wasn’t deciding to work with metal over another medium, it was just obtaining the skills to do so.
Do you have an all time favorite piece you have made? Where is it now?
My favorite piece of all time would have to be a cuff that I just recently made. This wire cuff bracelet with pearls down the front has become my favorite piece due to all of the challenges that arose while I was creating it. It was definitely one of the most challenging pieces I have ever made, which is why it is my favorite. I love to figure out the complexities of how things are put together. The piece is currently at home in my personal collection.
What is your favorite part of the creative process?
Taking a design out of my imagination, creating it and bringing it into reality for everyone to see would definitely have to be my favorite part of the creative process. The course of actually fabricating my design is a long progression in which many challenges arise, that is why it is my favorite part. When it comes to constructing a piece I love to assess the challenges that occur, I love the process of figuring out how things are put together, step by step.
What does a perfect day in your studio look like?
A perfect day in my studio would be a solid 8 hour day, working in my shop like crazy the entire time. In the morning I would listen to some music with no vocals, something like Joe Satriani, and just get er’ done. After lunch, lots of green tea and snacks, I would go back into the studio for some uninterrupted time by myself, where I could unplug from the world around me, feeding my soul and spirit in an inspirational, creative place.
What is on your bench right now?
Currently, nothing is on my bench. I tend to work in bodies, creating multiple pieces that flow together cohesively. I am excited to say I just recently finished my latest body of work and cannot wait to start my creative process all over again.
How has teaching affected your jewelry career?
I think that my jewelry career has affected my teaching more than my teaching has affected my jewelry career. Being a metalsmith for 25 years has really set me up to run a school. I love teaching; I get a kick out of it. I really enjoy teaching people how to do things, I enjoy people in general, meeting and getting to know them. We have a lot to offer at the school and I really love making jewelry. I am always making jewelry, even while I am teaching I make the projects with the students. Although I do not have as much time as I used to for my own personal work, I find the time to work on what I love.