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John Wise: Featured Jewelspan Member

A talented self-taught jewelry artist shares his process and the inspiration behind his dynamic works.

Bracelet No.12, Sterling, 18K Bi-metal, 14K, river stone, pearl.

From his studio in Buxton, Maine, jewelry designer John Wise shares the motivation behind his collection of finely-crafted pieces. Unafraid to experiment, the intrepid Wise works with precious metals and gemstones, as frequently as river rocks and found pottery fragments.

What inspired you to become a jewelry artist?

I earned my BFA and MFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts, moved to Maine, and spent many years exploring painting, printmaking and a number of different mediums. It didn't take me long to realize I'd better have something to fall back on, so I eventually returned to school to get my teaching certificate. Shortly thereafter, I began teaching visual arts to middle-schoolers and high-schoolers in public schools. In one of the schools there was a small jewelry studio that wasn’t being used. One day, I decided to stay after school and make myself a ring. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to inspire me to explore the craft further. I took a couple of beginning metalsmithing classes and have been self-taught ever since. That was already fifteen years ago!

Earrings John Wise
Earrings No.4, Sterling Silver, 18K, 22K with Red Tiffany Stone and Rhodolite Garnet on silver omega clips.

How did you develop the techniques you use to make your pieces?

Most of the techniques that I use are tried and true metalsmithing processes that I learned through trial and error, as well as plenty of perseverance. I really enjoy the challenge of fabricating the elements for each piece, from designing and soldering, to texturing and stone setting. I also enjoy working with those little gifts from nature: agate, jasper and other types of gemstones.

Is there any piece that has an interesting story behind it?

Each piece I make is a unique story unto itself. With some pieces, everything just seems to click—they can come together very quickly. With others, like the Mousam River bracelets, each can take as long as 20 to 25 hours to make.

Mousam River Bracelet, John Wise
Mousam River Bracelet No.7, Sterling silver, copper, pottery shards and river stones

What inspired your Mousam River bracelets? How did you select this unique blend of materials?

Ahhh, My Mousam River Bracelets! They were inspired by my love of fly fishing. One of my favorite fishing rivers in Maine is the Mousam River. One day, when the fishing was slow, I began to look closely at the river bed. I started to collect small river rocks that I felt would be interesting to incorporate into my designs. After looking harder, I began to find small pottery shards that upon researching, were remnants from the early 1900’s.

 Necklace Set 7, John Wise
Necklace Set No. 7, sterling silver set with a patina finish, 18K Bi-metal, glazed porcelain, black onyx and rhodolite garnet.

Many of your designs, such as Necklace Set No. 7, are undeniably whimsical, yet still grounded in elegance. What was your inspiration for choosing the black and white pattern?

The inspiration for Necklace Sets seven and nine actually came from a lesson about design elements and principles that I was teaching my students. Part of the assignment was to use only black and white in their artwork. This inspired me to try making small porcelain shapes and adding nice patterns of black and white glaze. They then became interesting material to use in my jewelry.

How do you market your work?

Of course, I have my websites on Artspan and Jewelspan. There are also a couple of brick and mortar galleries that sell my work. I also try to participate in about three quality craft shows every year.

John Wise Bracelet 13
Bracelet No.13, Sterling silver, copper with glass tiles.


What are you working on now?

I usually work on several pieces at once, which helps me to keep busy. Since there is always down time on each piece for planning, thinking and making changes, having a back-up piece encourages me to stay productive and not get stuck in a creative rut. Right now, I am contemplating a suite of necklaces that incorporate beads, and will likely begin sketching designs soon.

 John Wise Necklace Set 5
Necklace Set No.5, pierced and stamped with a patina finish. 


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