American Craft Show Maker Interview / Liz Parent
Where did you grow up? How did your upbringing shape your ideas about being creative or owning a business?
I grew up in Central Wisconsin, in the woods for the first half and then in a small town for the second half. I think my young years spent out in the country really forced my siblings and I to get creative and crafty with our free time. My Dad, who was a tool and die maker, and Mom, an elementary school teacher, always encouraged us to try new things and instilled a strong sense of independence from a young age. Interestingly enough, we’ve all followed a path of either metalwork and/or design.
How would you describe your creative path?
Lots of twists and turns. Art class was always my number one and that extended all the way from elementary through college. After finishing an individualized degree in Architecture, Art and Design, I really didn’t have a clear vision of what I wanted to do. Years of employment in the food industry and other random side jobs left me feeling burnt out, and at that point, in 2009 there really weren’t a ton of job options. It started to seems like lots of people were just setting out to do their own thing during that recession, including one person who I became really interested in getting to know.
How did your business, Liz P Jewelry, come to be?
My path to jewelry making began when I started dating my partner, Hans Early-Nelson, and at that point he had already started down the path of creating his own business doing custom metalwork and welding. Hans had previously done an apprenticeship with a local jeweler and had a few jewelry tools laying around that I was familiar with from a short stint of jewelry making way back in high school. In order to have a legit reason to be hanging around his studio, I started hand cutting tiny Minnesota shaped pendants out of his aluminum scraps. Basically, it snowballed from there. I went back for a semester of jewelry manufacturing, which included casting and mold making as well as a re-introduction to basic metalsmithing and also worked at the bench for two jewelers in the area. In more recent years, Hans and I have melded our skills and begun working collaboratively, as Anvil Vibe, to design and create custom, often upcycled, wedding and engagement bands.
Where does your connection to and passion for sustainability find its source?
This likely stems back to my childhood, an early founded appreciation for the outdoors and the influence of those in my life to only take what you need and not be wasteful. Being resourceful and respectful of our planet has just always seemed like such an obvious thing to do. I’m passionate about being part of this movement because the future really depends on us to all search for ways to integrate our businesses and buying power, as well as lifestyle choices into ones that are more environmentally friendly.
What do you find interesting about using mostly up-cycled silverware and recycled materials as a medium?
Choosing to specifically use up-cycled materials imposes a handful of limitations that I feel really boost my creativity. Honing in on this specific medium has pushed me to use the same shapes (i.e., spoons and forks) in new ways over and over again.
Could you talk about your process of etching hand drawn designs onto metals?
Sure, it’s a process called electro-etching, basically the reverse of plating. I use salt water and a battery charger to etch the silver off the flatware. The designs I draw on the surfaces act as a resist and the outcome of the lines has a lot to do with the wear of the piece as well as the alloy of the metal beneath.
Could you talk about the development of your style? What are the most important elements of your designs?
It’s important for me to create pieces that are loved for their uniqueness and will also stand the test of time, both in the quality of the construction and in a fashion sense. I’d hate to think that my jewelry would only be worn for one season and then left to collect dust in a box. I want to make pieces that become one of your most beloved things you own and then in turn, inspire others to also get onboard with the whole less-is-more ethos.
There’s so much to learn along a path like this. What advice could you pass along to someone who is struggling with their creative path that you wish someone had given to you?
Look to your past, what are the things you really enjoyed doing as a kid? What would you do if you could do anything? For those who have the big dream but feel stuck - what’s one thing you could do today to move in the direction of your dreams? Take the first step, then wake up the next day and do the same thing. It’s a process that you can’t really skip, you just have to move forward, day by day and then one day you’ll find yourself down the path and looking for ways to redefine it or improve it or even switch it up all over again. Because, to be totally honest, it’s a never ending quest.
I think the best thing you can do is to ask the questions and find those answers, be honest with yourself and rather then feeling overwhelmed by the idea of choosing a new creative path or feeling like a beginner or doing something out of your comfort zone - be mindful. Take a deep breath, refocus on the big picture and just make the decision to get after your creative dreams, the world needs you to align with the best, most fulfilled version of yourself.