on a journey of self discovery
“My hand and artistic vision take time to come together through a process of sketches, soul searching, then execution. When they do it is the purest most satisfying form of expression there is.” ~ Holly Gage
I’m a dyslexic contemporary jewelry sculptor turning my greatest vulnerability into an asset. I’ve often felt frustrated with the slow, methodical use of written words, scratched out and rewritten to communicate an idea. However, my creativity, visual and spatial strengths, and problem-solving skills bring me solace. These are the positive attributes — the flip side of dyslexia. It is the hidden gift providing me with a voice, allowing me to create in poetic visual form and to get lost in what my family calls, “Holly’s World.”
My jewelry combines a new age moldable metal in fine and sterling silver alongside the age-old techniques of metalsmithing. I started making jewelry at age 13, riding my bike several miles away to the nearest art center in Philadelphia. For several years afterward, I engaged in a series of apprenticeships.
My first experience was with a jeweler who redesigned antique jewelry into one-of-a-kind contemporary pieces, I loved the ornate ornamentation, faceted gemstones, and lavaliere pearl drops, and find these influences in my romantic interpretations of “Botanical Jewelry.” Captured are the tiniest of details to discover, by bringing your attention to the gentle undulation of a leaf wafting down to the ground in the Fall or the tiny critters who reside in a flower bud. Some have luscious cultured opals hand-cut by my husband, and studio partner Chris. Others have the flowing movement of dancers in perfect form and elegant arm extensions echoing the grace of blossoming life in nature. I’ve recently been enthralled with creating complex multi-dimensional perfume bottles of exotic flowers with elaborate daubers.
While pursuing a BS degree in Fine Art and Education at Kutztown University, I spent after school and Summer breaks working at retail jewelry positions. During this time, I accumulated a lot of traditional jewelry techniques and design skills, I received my teaching degree, and valuable retail sales experience. I ended most days with dirty and blackened hands from my day at the bench.
It wasn’t until a brand new concept of fine silver moldable metals entered the jewelry makers market, and in 2002, that changed everything for me. Eventually, I became obsessed with the joy and fluency of self-expression. Transforming a soft malleable material infused with pure silver to a solid sculptural piece of fine jewelry seemed magical. This was the beginning of making more dimensional pieces rich in texture with flowing natural edges.
I must admit, however, it wasn’t love at first sight. My early pieces didn’t meet my expectations of beauty and movement since many of my efforts were self-guided. There were few books at the time, and a small number of users talking about this new discovery. I did find a certification class for best practices, but exploring the “what if” factor and developing many of my own techniques, and pushing the envelope was my best teacher.
My curiosity of how things work is just as strong now as when I was a child occasionally leading me into trouble as I took things apart and put them back together. My kinetic pieces reflect an interest in movement and clever connections. Additional, inspirations are drawn from slice-of-life moments. A jewelry retreat I co-hosted in Yorkshire England was the impetus for designing a series of silver, leather, and gemstone “Jorvik Purses.” Pieces of personal memorabilia become part of the design of the spinners and swinging pendulums for the “Ever Changing Kinetic Pendants” revealing beautiful sub-patterns as the parts pass each other in movement. Multi-sided “Pivotal Pendants” expose a before and after moment or secret message with low relief images and pearl accents.
It took me many years to express my humorous side in my artwork. Mixed Media and Silver “Whimsical Critters” have exaggerated perspectives and features, gleaming glass eyes such as a Zebra with a Hyena’s laugh, oversized derriere, a horsehair mane, and high heel shoes, or a Monkey with a devious glint in his eyes, a large toothy smile, and wild felted hair have tongue-in-cheek humor providing a big giggle factor.
During my 42 years of making jewelry, I have been referred to as a Master in my craft. I am humbled by appearing in more than 75 regional and national publications including the Best of America Jewelry Artists; Named 3rd in Handmade Business: Top 12 Makers, Movers, and Shakers; Metal Clay Today; Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist among others. My work has received numerous awards, most notably recognized for distinction in jewelry design as a Saul Bell Design winner. These experiences have afforded me the opportunity to travel the world teaching, speaking, exhibiting, and selling my work. You can find more information about masterclasses, mentoring, and awards, along with numerous Metal Clay tips, videos, tutorials, and an informative technical blog throughout the rest of my website.