Tuesday, October 27, 2009

2 Artists for the Price of 1... My Collaboration with Jewelry Designer, Shannon Conlin

I recently joined forces with Charlotte jewelry designer, Shannon Conlin of Musette, to complete the finishing touches on one of my most-recent creations, Mack's Shades-of-Lake Sweater Vest. This was a lot of fun and something that I would definitely like to do again sometime!

Shannon is an amazing artist who creates one-of-a-kind jewelry, as well as paintings. She has considered herself an artist since childhood and received her formal training from the Savannah School of Art & Design (ummm... can I say "jealous!?"). Shannon also sells her wares on Etsy, so be sure and check out her shop.

Here is a little bit about our collaboration and the finished product...
When I found this vintage sweater vest from the thrift store, it was already a handmade treasure. Knit by hand in a wool yarn that appears to be hand-dyed, this vintage top has amazing workmanship. I kept the original navy blue buttons for their interesting shape and brilliant color and updated this vintage piece with a few choice embellishments. A colorful Mack the Mallard has been applied to chocolate brown felt, and I've hand-stitched him on using a tobacco brown thread. I worked with my seamstress to add a pieces from a vintage necktie to the neckline. After all this, I still felt that the piece was missing something.

I have a collection of brooches that were passed down from my grandmother and great-grandmother, and there was one that stood out to me every time I thought about the vest. I really liked the design and the dynamic it added, but I wanted something newly created to finish off the vest. That's when I thought of Shannon, a jewelry artist I had met at Snug Harbor's Craft Bazaar back in the summer.

Like me, Shannon combines different looks and textures, as well as the new and old. It was a perfect fit! We came up with an idea for a brooch using an antique safety pin that I ordered from a fellow Etsy seller in Singapore. The brooch has the same basic idea as my grandmother's - a horizontal piece as the base with pieces vertically dangling down - but this is a charm brooch of sorts, an idea that I love.

Shannon also loves things from the past and has spent time collecting vintage beads, chains, and trinkets. "Sometimes I find something old that I like and take it apart to use the pieces," Shannon explains. So she was able to include treasures from her collection of vintage supplies: a tiny locket, metal chains, and Lucite and wooden beads. The dangling pieces are all secured by the a large antique safety pin.

The finished piece is even better than what I had imagined! Shannon did an amazing job tying together all the colors - from the thread I used to the beads she choose, it's a perfect compliment. I think the vest has a 1920's country gentleman flair. It's a classic look with a modern, masculine twist.

It adds so much to my craft to be able to work with other artists and artisans. What I do is so rooted in heritage and folk crafts, and those things used to so often be community activities. I feel that collaborations like this bring back that spirit. I am so happy to include other people in my work!

Here's a lovely quote from Shannon: “Collaborating with Amanda has been a dream! "Her style and aesthetic, along with the meaning behind all her pieces, really speak to me as an artist. For her to like my work enough to want to include it in one of her pieces is an honor! I really think working with other artists is a great way to get out of the creative box we sometimes find ourselves in. Collaboration always brings in fresh ideas that can take your work in new directions."

I hope that someone will enjoy wearing the vest and knowing the story behind it, that so many people and hands have touched this project - from the person long ago who hand-knitted the sweater, to the person who once wore and treasured it, to Shannon and myself, and now onto someone new.
Mack's Shades-of-Lake Sweater Vest is available online at www.verabelle.etsy.com. Shannon's jewelry is available under the Musette label at www.musettemade.etsy.com and the Beet Functional Art Gallery and Swooz Salon, both in Charlotte.

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