Who doesn’t get happy just by looking at the whimsical, brightly colored enameled charms made by Cathleen Zaring? I certainly do. To be honest, I have amassed quite a collection of her beautiful art beads of which I can’t seem to part (‘my precious…). I will, in due time, I promise I will. For now, we all get to know the artist and woman behind these beauties a bit more, as she is this months’ guest.
Q: Can you tell us more about the beginning of your career as a bead maker? Were you always an artist? If not, what made you decide to change your career and how did you experienced this transition?
I was fortunate, as a child to have been taught how to loom bead by my mother, who used to make the beaded leggings and yokes for the costumes used by an American Indian dance troupe. I also had the good fortune to have had good, encouraging art teachers thru out elementary and high school. So, yes, art has always been a part of my life.
I spent most of my career in the event catering field. Because of the erratic schedule of this kind of work, I always grounded myself, by working on crafts, which lead to making jewelry. Over time I began to spend more time with my art and less time catering. Now I work on an on-call basis with a few catering companies in and around Napa Valley and San Francisco. It is great because I can work around my production schedule.
Q: Do you work full time as an artist?
Yes, except for some occasional catering work.
Q: At the moment you work with metal that you enamel yourself. Why did you choose this medium? Are you planning to explore other materials as well in the future, like glass, polymer clay or ceramic?
I actually worked with polymer clay before I began the enameling. I enjoyed that medium because of the 3 dimensionality and that I could fabricate anything. My favorite part was making beads look old and weathered. I chose to work with metal and enamel, because it is real and it is coherent, and I get to work with fire. I love the effect that the torch can have on the metal, and I greatly enjoy playing with color, vivid color, rustic color, making crazy combinations work in the designs. As far as other materials, I am going to begin some construction work using silver and I have some Thai Hmong fabric on the way for making some colorful pieces. I guess I need to balance creating with the sharp and the soft.
Q: Are you self-taught?
Over the years, I have taken several intensive workshops on different jewelry making techniques as well as worked as a bench jeweler’s apprentice. I am a hands on learner and I have a deep need to experiment. I am always asking myself, “what if?”
Q: Can you tell us more about the work involved in making enameled beads and charms?
After doing this work for a couple of years now, I have discovered that, because there are some less than fun steps that it makes sense to do a “group task” each day. By this I mean, perhaps on Monday I will cut out dozens of shapes, on Tuesday I will do my counter enameling (enameling the backs of the piece) Then a couple of days of putting down the background colors, followed by the fun and games of creating the design. This way I can focus and concentrate completely on the colors and executing the design with as much care as possible, without worrying about any other tasks. I think the clean-up is the hardest, but critically most important part of the process, which includes, filing, buffing and polishing of each piece.
Q: What inspires you in your work?
The number one inspiration for me are the great Master Painters, like Brueghel, Manet and Utrillo. With Matisse being my favorite. I think, also my memories have inspired quite a bit of what I have been doing lately. I am a little bit sentimental for the past, and I have found great enjoyment in bringing back to life my memories of the 1964 World’s Fair and the colors and patterns from the fabric and furniture from my childhood homes.
Q: The name of your brand is Blue Hare Art Wear. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind this name?
Hahaha, only one other person has asked me about this until now..It really is a play on words. Back in the day, we used to call our grandmother and her friends, and ladies of that era, “Blue Hairs” because of the blue toned rinse they used to put on their gray hair to make it look pretty. I created the Blue Hare brand as I am creeping up on my own senior citizenship.
Q: Can you tell us what a typical day in the life of Cathleen looks like?
Pretty much I begin my day with a cup of tea or coffee and I check my emails, while playing catch with Tucker, my feisty black rescue kitty.
Yes, I know, he’s a cat, but he likes that game. After that, I like to put on some music, lately it’s been country music, and do some simple household chores. This helps to ground me and connect me to my soul. From there, I will usually go to work out on the Porch and handle whatever task needs
to be handled as I wait for the sun to come up. Once the daylight is sufficient, I can work on the charms. Middle of the day, I take a break and walk around or take a swim (or a nap if I need it) After that break, I will finish more work or shipping and usually knock off around 7pm.
Q: Your beads sell the minute you list them and they are used by many well know jewelry artists. You have achieved a lot in the bead world. Is there a next goal you want to accomplish?
I am planning on incorporating some of my enamels into the construction of wearable art pieces.
Q: Is there a particular bead and/or jewelry artist you admire or whom you consider a role model?
As far as role models, Soji Wada, my high school art jewelry teacher, showed us how to put joy into our work and Iris Sandkuhler, who I only met once, but I admire her calm and confident way of creativity and that nothing is impossible to construct. As far as jewelry artists that I admire, there are quite a few, mostly it’s the people who push the envelope, keep it simple, make me smile or make bold statements that excite me the most, like Lynn Ferro, for her eclectic, organic vision, Nikki Zeller and Temi Kucinski for their use of stones and minerals, Suhana Hart for her whimsy and Richard Salley for his simplicity and exactness.
Q: If you were not a bead artist, what would you be doing?
Probably still be catering, because I love that thru this kind of work you get to go to some amazing places and meet some very cool people, who ordinarily I wouldn’t get a chance to meet. If we had a local bead store, or a proper venue around here, I would love to teach young people how to make stuff.
Q: Do you have a life motto and if so, would you like to share this with us?
I have a couple that keeps me grounded: “Integrity, Patience, Fairness and Generosity” and “If you learn by your mistakes, you may as well make plenty of them”
Q: Do you have tips, tricks or advise you like to share with us?
I don’t remember where I first heard of this idea, but the biggest tip I’ve got as far as design, is to once you think you’ve got something finished, take something away, until you can take away no more. This concept keeps things from getting too crowded.
Don’t be afraid to try something that has never been done before. Take a chance. Learn by your mistakes. But mostly, take some time to listen to and act on your intuition, because this will lead to the cultivation of your true nature. Whether it is gardening or teaching or art, I believe that’s were true quality creativity comes from.
Thank you so much Cathleen for this wonderful interview. You made me smile with your story about the origin of your brand name. And your beautiful charms never fail to make me feel happy, just by looking at them.
Dear readers, to get extra brownie points (yep), it would be wonderful if you could send Cathleen a message on her facebook business page and tell her what you think of this interview and of her lovely work.
You can buy these bead candy at Cathleen's Etsy shop. More info can be found on her
Facebook page. She has a closed group on Facebook as well, where you get to see (and buy) her latest work. Just ask her to add you to this group.
This month we have two wonderful gifts to give away.
Give Away 1
Cathleen created these lovely earrings with her own enameled earring charms.
Give- away 2
Of course I couldn't stay behind. I created these earrings with a pair of her earring charms I have been hoarding for a long time (my precious.....). Combined with handmade lampwork glass beads and vintage swarovski crystal. These were the star in my post of last monday on Earrings Everyday.
How can you enter this give-away?
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The draw will close at 10am GMT on Sunday April 3, 2016 and I will randomly select and announce the winners later that day.
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Want to read the interviews of 2014? Here is where you go. In the coming months I will publish all the interviews of 2015 in an E-magazine.