Jan. 14 2014 08:59 PM

Sondra Sherman, Michell Galindo, Jennifer Will and Amanda Packer


There's perhaps no other type of art that's as interactive as jewelry. Not only do we physically interact with it—we put it on our own bodies, sometimes on other people's—but it's often the first thing we'll notice about a person. Here are four designers whose work catches our eye. 

Sondra Sherman: Sherman, an associate professor of art in jewelry and metalwork at SDSU, recently had one of her pieces, "Flowers and Still Life"—a brooch embedded in a carved-out book—acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). But, years ago, Sherman thought she'd be a painter, not a jewelry designer—"perhaps the naïve default idea of what being an artist meant to students from my socio-economic background," she says. She earned a bachelor's degree from Temple University in painting and metals, figuring jewelry design would pay the bills and support her painting "habit." But, jewelry won out, and Sherman went on to earn a graduate degree at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts in Germany.

"True Happiness" is from her FTDs series of brooches, "hybrid abstractions of traditional flower corsages and medicinal herbs," as she describes it. The series' name plays on two meanings of FTD: Most recognizable is the flower-delivery company, but in the psychiatric world, FTD stands for formal thought disorder—disorganized thinking that manifests as disordered speech—"all the more apropos of the botanical inspirations of aphrodisiacs and psychotropic plants" in the series, she says.

As for her work becoming part of LACMA's permanent collection: "I relocated to the West Coast seven years ago for my current teaching position at SDSU, and I am still acclimating!" Sherman says. "So having a piece acquired by LACMA actually made me feel more at home—some sense of being represented in a public collection as a San Diego resident and participating in the regional scene."

Michell Galindo / Gala is Love: Galindo, a Tijuana native, says jewelry making started as a hobby, after her mom gave her a piece of pink quartz as a Valentine's Day gift. 

"I started playing with it with a metal hanger for clothes, and I made a big and bold ring that caught the attention of everybody every time I wore it," she says. In 2003, she left her 9-to-5 corporate job in Tijuana to pursue jewelry design full-time. 

Galindo (whose Instagram feed is an eye-candy collection of her designs and inspiration) says this earcuff was inspired by a fern at the entrance to her mom's house. "She always says, 'Ferns welcome good luck.'" She named the piece after her mom, Gloria. 

Galindo has showrooms in Tijuana and Mexico City, and her designs have been featured in the Mexican editions of Vogue, Elle and Nylon. Given her place in the international scene, we asked her who she's looking to these days for inspiration. She's digging the work of Parisian designer Gaia Repossi and the refined whimsy of Haim Medine.

Jennifer Will / J.W. Metal Art: As a kid, Jennifer Will spent rainy afternoons "ransacking" her mom's jewelry chest and, in better weather, roaming the woods behind her house or combing the beach for rocks and shells that she'd shine up in a rock tumbler. 

"As I got older, I developed an insatiable fascination with geology, science, art and design," she says. After earning a degree in fine arts and photography, she shifted her focus to jewelry, completing the graduate jeweler program at the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad. 

The earrings shown here, from her Meet the Ancients line, were inspired by an exhibition of Ancient Egyptian jewelry at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"I was fascinated with the precision, attention to detail and use of gold and beads on display," Will says. "I specifically recall the gold was a glowing golden-yellow, and it just kind of stuck with me."

When she returned to San Diego, she purchased some ancient stones but wasn't initially sure what to do with them. 

"I sat at my bench practically all day spacing out on these beads, and the ideas began to take form," she says. "Within a short time, I knew I wanted to draw upon and accentuate the beads and beautiful shapes of the ancient world and showcase the natural beauty of yellow gold with a modern-minimalist interpretation."

Amanda Packer: As an undergrad at Rhode Island College, Packer took a jewelry-design class and fell in love with the trade. In 2013, she earned her master's degree in jewelry and metalwork at SDSU and was given a Lydon Emerging Artists Program award from the Society of Arts and Crafts in Pittsburgh and a Graduate Prize from Gallery Marzee in the Netherlands, where some of her pieces are currently on display.

Packer says her work's inspired by autobiographical memory—"our relationship with our past and the people, places and moments that construct our identity." This necklace was one of the first pieces she created for her thesis. "It's a pendant that hangs low and can be clasped in your hands while worn," she says. "The entire piece—including the chain, was created by hand and the pendant, which is formed in metal—is finished with glass enamel fired over the surface."

A lot of Packer's work is unconventional, leaning more toward art than, as she puts it, "what people typically understand to be wearable jewelry.

"I enjoy making work in both respects," she says—"making more conceptual one-off work, as well as less-involved, smaller-production pieces."

Email kellyd@sdcitybeat.com or follow her on Twitter at @citybeatkelly.


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