Mining her talent
North Georgia artist melds silver and glass into unique jewelry
Imagine growing up thinking you really have no artistic ability and then taking a class that rekindles childhood interests and blows that belief sky high. Such was the case for jewelry-maker Sherry Moser, whose unique and beautiful creations pay homage to her upbringing and her deep love of her surroundings.
Nestled in the North Georgia mountains—the foothills of the Appalachian Mountain chain—is Dahlonega, home of the first major gold rush in the U.S., which began in 1828, 20 years before the more well-known California Gold Rush.
Among the many gems that surround Dahlonega's historic courthouse (now the Gold Rush Museum) in the middle of the town square is Hummingbird Lane, a mecca of arts and crafts developed by local artisans. Inside Hummingbird Lane you'll find metal art, paintings, pottery, textile art, and handcrafted wooden objects from bowls to walking sticks. Inside a glass case in the shop you'll find the luminous work of Sherry Moser, a jewelry-maker who finds inspiration in the "shapes, textures, and geometry" of the North Georgia woods.
Drawn to Color
Combining glass with sterling and Argentium® silver, Moser use glass cutters, glass saws, lapping wheels, sandblasting equipment, propane and oxygen torches for lampworking glass, and kilns to fuse glass into unique works of art that catch the light in ever-changing colors (Figure 1). In fact, when asked to use one word to describe her art, Moser chose "color."
Moser's affinity for art and color developed as she watched her father paint. She spent a lot of time as a child sitting beside him with her paint-by-numbers sets while he painted. Moser's father, who worked as a sign designer and a neon tube bender, often took his daughter to his shop on weekends, where she would watch as he created neon signs. Moser believes her love of bright, luminous colors is "a carryover from my growing up and watching my father do neon. I always thought the glowing colors of the neon were pure magic."
Although she had a deep appreciation for her father's talent, Moser thought the gift stopped with him and did not pursue art as a vocation. Instead, she went to nursing school and practiced nursing full-time until 1985. In her mid-30s, she took a class that rekindled her love of stained glass and discovered that she loved working with the material.
"My family attended a church in Atlanta that had some Louis Comfort Tiffany windows. I probably spent more time looking at those windows than listening to the sermons," said Moser.
The stained glass class was just one of the classes Moser took that helped her develop the skills she needed to create her art. She also has had instruction in drawing, fusing glass, lampworking glass, and metalsmithing, primarily through craft schools such as Penland, Arrowmont, and the John C. Campbell Folk School.
The first creation Moser sold was a stained glass box at a craft show in Atlanta. She now is a full-time artist who works in her studio every day, creating one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry (Figure 2).
The Creative Process
Moser creates the glass portion of her pieces first and then creates the metalwork to finish them. "The shapes of the glass pieces develop as I am sawing or lapping the glass. From the initial shaping, glass may then go into the kiln to be heated until the edges soften. You don't want to overheat, as the glass will begin to lose the crispness of the shape I want it to be. From the kiln, the glass may have a resist [a substance that can cover and protect a surface] added to the surface, which then is sandblasted, forming a pattern in the glass.
"After the glass is finished, I begin the process of creating a sterling silver bezel around the glass. I acid-etch brass plates with patterns. I match patterns on the silver to be complementary of the glass surface design. I then use plates with sterling silver sheet that has been annealed in the torch and then roll the plate and the silver together through a rolling mill to imprint the plate pattern on the silver.
"The bezel is soldered together and a bail soldered to the piece. Buffing and polishing the silver is one of the last steps to complete the piece."
From the Heart
One of Moser's favorite creations is a commissioned piece she designed to commemorate a couple's 30th wedding anniversary (Figure 3). Describing the piece and how she produced it, Moser said, "I decided to incorporate three hearts into the design. Each heart represented 10 years."
Moser first cut two glass heart shapes with a glass saw. She then fused each to have rounded corner edges. Next she roller-printed sterling silver with a pattern that gave a starburst look and then sawed the silver to create a smaller heart-shaped version of the larger glass heart.
Moser then placed the smaller glass heart on the center of the silver starburst, and a heart-shaped bezel was soldered onto the silver heart to hold the small carved heart. She then created a sterling silver bezel around the large glass heart. The silver back of the bezel also reflected the roller-printed design of the starburst heart.
The silver heart with the smaller carved heart then was applied to the glass surface of the large heart. Moser buffed the piece to remove any scratches and polished it. Finally, she cleaned the piece in an ultrasonic cleaner to remove any buffing compound.
Commissioned by the husband, the anniversary heart was designed for a couple of Moser's close friends who also are artists. "I had a lot of emotional investment in the piece, which isn't the usual case."
Emotional investment aside, Moser said that in reality, "I guess I would say my favorite piece is usually the last piece I have done. I really can't pick one piece."
It's easy to see why choosing a favorite would be difficult for Moser, because each piece has a singular beauty, much like the aspects of nature that inspire her creations.
Moser derives much inspiration in her daily commute to her studio. "I have a separate studio building on our property. I have the great pleasure of just walking out my back door, over a bridge that goes over a small creek to my studio."
A Woman of Many Talents
And when she isn't working in her studio, Moser can be heard playing musical instruments—cello, fiddle, and the Appalachian dulcimer. She also is learning to play the standup bass. Not bad for someone who felt she had no artistic talent.