Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: The art of jewelry

  • Two Pittsburg State University art graduates will present a free public lecture on their work from 4 to 5 p.m. Thursday in room 409, Russ Hall.  A reception will follow from 5 to 7 p.m....
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  • Two Pittsburg State University art graduates will present a free public lecture on their work from 4 to 5 p.m. Thursday in room 409, Russ Hall.

    A reception will follow from 5 to 7 p.m.

    Their jewelry exhibit, “Reunited,” will be on view through May 1 in the Harry Krug Gallery, Porter Hall.

    Palone is studio manager in the metals department at the Southwest School of Art in San Antonio, Texas. Pennington is associate editor of “Art Jewelry” magazine in Waukesha, Wis.

    Both received bachelor of fine arts degrees in jewelry from PSU and also earned master of fine arts degrees from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville.

    Their exhibit features work by each artist, along with collaborative pieces.

    Pennington said that the idea for the collaborative exhibit came from Palone.

    “About two or three years ago, Jill asked me to send her a few images of my work, but wouldn’t tell me why,” she said in an e-mail interview. “Oh, the suspense! Later, she revealed that she had set up our collaborative exhibit here at PSU. We had always talked about working collaboratively, and now we had a reason to make it happen.”

    To create the collaborative pieces, each artist made a small part or parts in her own style, then shipped it across the country to the other.

    “After that, we incorporated the part we were given into a wearable piece of jewelry that showcased not only our personal work, but the part provided by the other,” Pennington said. “This was an interesting and surprisingly difficult task. Even though we were familiar with each other’s work, incorporating our styles together in a single piece proved to be a fun challenge.”

    After they completed the piece, they traded it again, and each artist got to see what the other had made with the piece she provided.

    “We hadn’t shared ideas or images of the piece while we worked on it, so part of the excitement came from opening the box to reveal the final piece,” Pennington said. “We set only one restriction for each trade, that each had to be a specific type of jewelry, such as brooch, ring or necklace.”

    Page 2 of 3 - Both artists said they are pleased with the results.

    “The collaborative work between us gave us both a creative challenge and who better to do it with than each other,” Palone said in an e-mail interview. “This show represents us both as independent artists, collaborators and best friends.”

    Pennington added that, because the exhibit showcases both their individual work and their collaborative projects, the joint work is placed in context by showing how each of their personal aesthetics was incorporated into their collaborative work.

    “We went to the same school for our metalsmithing masters of fine arts degrees and have the same metalsmithing ‘family tree,’ but it’s interesting how different our work is,” Pennington said. “Our pieces complement each other perfectly, but we work in different materials and have different methods of working.”

    Both said that their interest in art started at an early age.

    Pennington credits her mother, nationally known quilt artist Susan Stewart, who encouraged her to do anything artistic that she wanted to do.

    “Before I was in second grade, I loved paint-and-take clay figurines,” she said. “Precurssor to jewelry making? I remember taking classes at the Springfield, Mo., Art Museum when I was quite little, and I had beads, markers and polymer clay galore. If there was any creative activity, I probably tried it. I knew from an early age that I was supposed to do something art related.”

    However, Pennington admitted that she got a little off-track in her late teens/early 20s when, for a brief time, she planned to study Japanese and become a translator.

    “I was pulled back,” she said. “Making art is something that is simply a part of me. I’ve always worked in a variety of media for as long as I can remember. It challenges me and keeps me sane. Just as important to me as breathing, making art is integral to my existence.”

    Palone said that she knew she had a calling in art by the time she was in middle school.

    “I couldn’t get enough of any medium or art class, which made it difficult to choose a field to specialize in,” Palone said. “Throughout high school and college I found myself enjoying both the two-dimensional and three-dimensional fields. I loved drawing and painting and I loved creating sculptural forms.”

    Page 3 of 3 - Both credit PSU jewelry teacher Marjorie Schick with their decision to become jewelry makers.

    “I decided to take a jewelry course as an elective,” Palone said. “I never imagined I would choose this field as a career, but after my first class I was smitten. I was always challenged in every aspect of the class and spellbound by the possibilities of creating on the body and for the body. Not only was I mesmerized by Marjorie’s larger than life work, but also by the limitless possibilities there were for medium choices and dimensions.”

    Pennington had a similar reaction.

    “As soon as I walked into Schick’s class and saw her dressed completely in black with bright orange hair and lipstick, I knew I was home,” she said. “In her class, my eyes were opened to a world of jewelry I had never known. I learned that non-traditional, and easily available materials, other than diamonds and gold, could be just as valuable as jewelry-making material. It all depends on the artist using the material.”

    Pennington assisted Schick during her 4 1/2 years at PSU, and she said this taught her the ins and outs of being a working artist.

    “I learned that it’s possible, no matter where you are or what else you do during the day, to continue to make jewelry and push yourself to be the best you can be,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade my time at PSU for anything.”

    Both also stress that it is possible to make a living in the arts. After graduating, Palone applied for residencies around the country, and ended up at the Southwest School of Art in San Antonio.

    “This was a great opportunity for me, which in turn is the reason for my current position as a faculty member and studio manager there,” she said.

    Because Pennington spoke to someone who had juried her into a publication, she learned that a position was available at “Art Jewelry” magazine.

    “My advice to anyone looking to the arts as a career is to never stop learning, don’t settle, keep entering juried exhibits and never be afraid to talk to someone,” Pennington said. “And always look for doors that are beginning to open. Nothing will just fall in your lap, but be open to possibilities you may never have considered.”

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