Jessica Dow of Different Seasons Jewelry

by Robyn Hawk on August 4, 2008

Jessica Dow with
Different Seasons Jewelry

If you have picked up the new ArtJewelry magazine you will see there is a new type of feature – the cover pendant accounts for three different techniques and step by step instructions in this issue! This is a great idea as it allows the issue to cover more beginning techniques like bezels while also offering the advanced artists a tutorial on engraving!

The featured artist(s) are Different Seasons Jewelry better known as Jessica Dow and Mark Anderson!!

I have known Jessica for a couple years now and in that time I seen her go from an insecure talent to a confident artist that, through her new partnership, will be a force to be reckoned with!

Tell us a little about you and what attracted you to the jewelry field.
I have always loved jewelry and gems but my greatest passion is for design. When I started playing with jewelry fabrication I began to see how designing jewelry seemed to tap into my talents and passion for art perfectly. From a very young age I felt I was an artist at heart. I had played around with other art mediums since my young teen years but had never found the one thing I felt truly connected to. Once I started designing and making jewelry I felt I had found my calling and I had discovered my artistic niche. I have one main goal when designing and fabricating my jewelry... to make something of beauty and quality. I love seeing my jewelry bring happiness to others!

What type of training have you had? how did you get your start and the progression that got you where you are today.
I started making jewelry after attending a couple of basic classes taught by Joe Hesselgrave at the Parks and Rec center in Tucson Arizona. After learning the bare bones of soldering I opted out of the class and started working by myself at home. At the time I was a single mother of a special needs child and leaving home to attend classes was difficult. I found some used equipment and tools through Kent's Tools in Tucson. I also bought some books such as The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight and Decorative Techniques for Craftsmen by Oppi Untracht. I believe I spent under $200.00 setting up the entire workshop. I was almost immediately drawn to the art of piercing. I love sketching and piercing allowed me to draw my own templates and bring those drawings to life in metal. Piercing has continued to be my favorite fabrication technique.

A year ago I moved to Wisconsin and joined forces with my fiancé Mark Anderson. Mark has been working with lapidary arts and jewelry design for about 8 years. He is one of the most talented artists I have ever worked with.

I started out doing my own lapidary work - cabbing my own material expanded my design abilities and enabled me to work with gems that were previously out of my price range. I rarely cut cabs anymore. Mark handles that aspect of our business which allows me the benefit of custom cut gems to fit my designs as well as more time to devote towards jewelry. It's hard to do it all yourself... working with Mark and my mother Martha has allowed me to focus on the aspects of jewelry making that I love most. I am currently training with Mark in the art of lost wax casting. I have been carving my first wax models and have been observing Mark during every step of the casting process. We have also gotten the tools and materials needed to begin adding enameling to our jewelry.... we're both very excited to begin experimenting with various enameling techniques! Mark is also teaching me advanced gem setting techniques such as channel setting and flush setting. I am excited to watch my work transform and progress as I learn new techniques. I feel I am merely at the beginning of an exciting journey.

Give the one piece of advice you wish you had gotten as a jewelry artist just starting out.
When learning a technique, take the time to learn it the correct way! Once I started working with Mark I discovered I had developed some bad habits with a couple of techniques. I not only had to learn the technique again the correct way but I also found it took me much longer due to having to break my old bad habits. If you are not in the position to get professional instruction, be sure you're learning from a good book by authors such as Tim McCreight or Oppi Untracht.
If you had the chance what would you do differently...more formal training? less? wider range?
Being the mother of a special needs child made it impossible for me to enroll in formal training in the first years of my jewelry making. I have found myself wishing I could have had the opportunity to attend classes at a school such as The Revere Academy. I am looking into finding the means to take some classes at Revere sometime this year to learn gold granulation.

We all have one aspect of our job that we like most...what is your favorite part of the jewelry making process?
I love everything about my job. From the moment I wake up I look forward to going into the studio. But if I had to pick one aspect of my work it would be sketching and piercing. Piercing has become second nature to me and I find it to be therapeutic and relaxing. I find the saw almost becomes an extension of my hand and I feel as though I am bringing my sketch to life. I have greatly improved with my piercing skills over the years but I know I can always get better. I feel as though I have merely scratched the surface of what there is to learn within this industry and I will always have something new to learn.

I also enjoy working hand in hand with a client in the process of custom jewelry design. Creating a piece with individuality that has special significance brings me real satisfaction. I have found the ability to listen and to be open to new ideas has had a positive impact on both my finished piece as well as the overall experience for my clients. I prefer not to rush through a project. I will create multiple sketches for my clients until we both feel the design is right. This does not feel like "work" to me... I enjoy every moment and I hope the joy I feel for my craft shows through in the pieces I create.

Your early pieces have a variety of gemstones...however, you seemed to have fallen hard for the Andamooka Opal - what makes it so special?
My passion with gems began with my love affair with Andamooka Gem Matrix opal. Andamooka Gem Matrix opal came to me through my very good friends Allan and Novi Shultz. Allan has worked as a miner in the Andamooka opal fields and has a lapidary workshop and opal showroom in Port Elliot, South Australia. In October 2006 I spent a wonderful month as their house-guest. Allan was very generous in passing his knowledge of mining, treating, cutting and polishing this unique variety of opal.
I was able to see what Andamooka Matrix opal varieties look like directly after it's pulled from the earth and how to spot the potential with the untreated rough. This opal is a bit more high maintenance than other opal types. The Gem Matrix variety requires a two part sugar/sulfuric acid treatment and the Rainbow Matrix (also referred to as "concrete") requires a less toxic sugar/heat firing treatment process. This treatment has been the one factor that keeps this opal type a bit more affordable than other pure or untreated opal varieties. While the price of this opal was part of my initial draw to Andamooka Gem Matrix , the beauty and personality of the material has kept me a loyal fan.
While working with Mark has broadened my horizons and I now work with a wide variety of gem materials, Andamooka Gem Matrix will forever be one of my top choices for jewelry designs. I highly recommend Allan Shultz as a source for high quality opal in both rough and finished form. Allan's Opal shop~

Tell us about the two people you have collaborated with - Martha Borzoni and Mark Anderson - their influences and their affect on your work.
I have a rare opportunity to work with two very talented artists... my fiancé Mark Anderson and my mother Martha Borzoni. Since we met Mark has been a constant source of inspiration to me on both a personal and professional level. Mark has a wealth of knowledge both as a training gemologist, a skilled lapidary and a top notch jeweler. Mark has taught me a great deal about advanced fabrication techniques and gemstones.... rocks are his passion! His clean & elegant approach to contemporary jewelry design compliments my more feminine, art nouveau inspired style perfectly. We balance each other out and our collaborations are among my favorites in my portfolio. Most of the work I produce has Mark's influence within it in some way, whether it's the stones he cuts for me, his various advanced gem settings or the hand engraved detailing work he adds to my designs. Our Blue Velvet pendant is a perfect example. His hand engraving brings out the curves in the flower and his tension-set sapphire bail adds a modern, classy touch. I love working with Mark... I feel immense gratitude for the blessing of having a life partner who shares my passion for jewelry, gems and art.

Mark and I both consider my mother Martha Borzoni to be a valuable asset to our little company Different Seasons. Martha has developed into an extraordinary gem carver and wax carver. I have watched her progress from teaching herself how to cab opal about 2 years ago to the skilled opal carver she is today. My mother has always had immense artistic talent. From as early as I can remember I watched my mother draw and paint. My sister and I traveled with my mother a great deal as children. Her talents as an artist were often our means to a meal....she would set up her easel and do portraits on the beaches of Mexico, Maine or
wherever we happened to be on any given day.

My mother's interest for carving stemmed from her own childhood. My grandfather was a master wood carver and from her earliest years she had a desire to carve herself. Her first medium was ice-cream... she would sit and carve her bowl of chocolate ice-cream and watch it transform into flowing, beautiful shapes.

What or who inspires you?
Nature is what inspires my jewelry most. It's quite simple... I find the natural world to be the most beautiful aspect of life and I want my jewelry to emulate that same beauty. I will spend hours studying and sketching the form of flowers, leaves, trees, insects, reptiles... whatever sparks inspiration in me. I go back to my sketches and many of them are transformed into a piece of jewelry. My love for gems is also one of the most influential aspects of my design process. A unique gemstone will speak to me and it seems to guide me in designing a frame to house and compliment its beauty.

I also love to look through the work of other artists. The Art Nouveau jewelry movement of the late 1800's-early 1900's has been one of my main sources for inspiration. Rene Lalique, Georges Fouquet and Jean Paul Miller are a few of my favorite jewelers. The Belgian architect and designer Victor Horta and Alphonse Mucha are also among my favorite artists and I refer to their work often for jewelry design concepts.

It would be nearly impossible to list all the artists I admire and find inspiration in. On a day to day basis my partner Mark is my greatest source of inspiration. He has one of the most inventive, artistic minds of anyone I've ever met. He approaches every project with an extraordinary level of determination and commitment that brings out the best not only in himself but the people that work with him as well.

I remember your first posts to the Yahoo Groups that we were both on - talk about the journey from fabricating your early designs to the commission work you do today - how did you get your name out?
I had been making jewelry for just over a year when I sent a photo of one of my pierced opal pendants to Lapidary Journal's Jewelry Artists magazine along with the photos I had taken during the fabrication process. I never expected anything to actually come of it.... I had assumed only an experienced jeweler with a solid reputation could get into a magazine the likes of Lapidary Journal. Lapidary Journal had been one of my biggest sources of inspiration when I first started making jewelry & cutting gems. I had dreams of getting my work within its pages someday. I literally nearly fell off my computer chair from shock when I opened up my e-mail and saw a message from one of the magazine's editors. She told me she wanted to print an article with one of my pierced opal pendants! I was thrilled and intimidated at the same time. It ended up being more work than I had anticipated but it was one of the best learning experiences I've had within this business thus far. That first article was just the beginning... since then Mark and I have had four full length step-by-step articles published, two gallery features, our recent cover with Art Jewelry magazine and we have another article coming out sometime this fall or winter.

Our "Sunstone Waves" article in Jewelry Artist was actually more of an assignment than a submission. The magazine had an issue coming out with a focus on Sunstone. We were asked to carve and set a sunstone gem in a sterling silver pendant. Mark did an amazing job with the carving and I designed and fabricated a pendant to compliment the gem carving. It was a fun project.

Have you been influenced by the opinions of teachers or other artists?
This is actually an interesting question. As a novice jeweler I enjoyed challenging myself with new fabrication techniques. Before I embarked on my process of self-education I had taken a few beginner jewelry silversmithing classes at a local Parks and Rec center. I had told my teacher that I wanted to make a reversible pendant. He discouraged me and told me it was too ambitious. He also thought it was silly to decorate the back of a pendant when it would be hidden... it was, in his opinion, a waste of time and work for something that didn't have good selling potential. Hearing his comments made me even more determined to attempt the reversible concept. At first I had quite a few ugly, half-melted disasters. One of the first reversible designs I was proud of was a piece from a series inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphs. It was a sterling silver pendant with the Eye of Horus pierced out from the back exposing the blue-green color of the chrysocolla cab I had cut.

Mark and I are still experimenting with reversible jewelry designs. Most recently we'd done a series of reversible spectrolite pendants. My sketchbook has been my most powerful tool with my progress as a jewelry designer. I will sit and draw for hours with a beautiful stone as my inspiration. Sometimes I get something wonderful very quickly and at times I have to return to my sketchbook multiple times until the right design comes to me.

Recently Mark and I started collaborating with other artists. The first artist we've chosen to work with is Casey Swanson. Casey is an amazing wire-wrapper and jeweler. Mark started teaching Casey some advanced gem setting techniques. During one of our three day sessions with Casey the three of us collaborated and completed our first pendant together. Mark used the piece as an opportunity to show Casey the entire process of channel setting, flush setting and bezel setting. More collaborations with Casey, Mark and I are currently in-process. I highly recommend doing collaboration projects with other artists. It's an extraordinary learning experience.


These are the books that I learned and lived by in my first 2 years making jewelry.... and I still refer to these books and others by the authors below...

The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreightMetal

Techniques for Craftsmen by Oppi Untracht

The Ganoksin Website~ The Gem and Jewelry World's Foremost Resource on The Internet.

There is a wonderful Artisan Crafts community within DeviantART. Monthly contests, jewelry and metalsmithing groups, and a high level of artist-to-artist interaction has made this our favorite non-professional art related site to exhibit our work online.Different Seasons Jewelry on DeviantART~

Robyn Hawk's Blogger sites (The Daily Jewel, Jewelry and Gem Artisans, A Fly on the Wall-View & Reviews, Tucson Gem Show~ Live!)

Allan's Opal shop~

Art Jewelry Magazine~ Check out Art Jewelry’s website for free projects, forums, subscriber’s gallery, forums and blogs.

Lapidary Journal’s Jewelry Artist Magazine

Yahoo’s “Jewelry Arts” Group ~ This group gave me support and encouragement during my first years of making jewelry. I highly recommend this group to a jeweler of any experience level as a source of inspiration, support and jewelry related information.

The thing we have always loved about Jessica is that she is so willing to share her art...for more great photos and how-to help check out:

#1 Casting Tree before and after.Here is a blog on a recent casting project. It's not exactly a tutorial but it shows all the wax models before and after casting as well as the casting tree Mark made.
Casting Blog Link~

#2 Pierced Andamooka Matrix Gem opal Pendant from Jewelry Artist June,2007.Step-by-step photo for my pierced opal pendant from June, 2007 Lapidary Journal.

#3 Process photos from one of my older pieces called "Carnelian Flame"Carnelian Flame Fabrication w/ soldering photos~

Different Seasons Jewelry at:

Follow Jessica on:
DeviantArt -
MetalChasers -
MySpace -
Facebook -
Xanga -

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