Tag Archives: Heather Bivens

When Jewelry Isn’t “Just Jewelry”

Installation shot from Beyond Ornamental

Installation shot from Beyond Ornamental

I don’t wear jewelry, however, I will often see amazing jewelry come in to the gallery shop at Main Street Arts and I will try it on just to make sure. Wearing it isn’t for me, no matter how hard I try! (I do this all the time, just ask Sarah. I even did it today) However, the idea that I am drawn to it always sticks with me. I see many of the pieces as something to look at and think about, just like any other art form. That is the impetus for our current exhibition, Beyond Ornamental.

A sculptural necklace by Myung Urso and brooch by Loraine Cooley

A sculptural necklace by Myung Urso and brooch by Loraine Cooley

While jewelry is certainly meant to be worn, there are other aspects of this art form that are even more interesting to me. Thinking about the craft of jewelry making, I have such an appreciation for the often minute details that must be considered. The forming of links for chains, cutting shapes out of metal, shaping and polishing stones, threading beads into ornate patterns… These are things that the average person may not consider when they look at handcrafted jewelry, but that is what makes one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces different from their mass-produced counterparts. These things were all made by the hands of the maker in their studio and they are special for that reason.

"Domentzia Collar" by Ashley Landon-Halabuda

“Domentzia Collar” by Ashley Landon-Halabuda

Jewelry often transcends being strictly functional and becomes an art object in its own right—a painting, a sculpture. There may be some kind of narrative or meaningful symbolism behind the work. Loraine Cooley often uses the shape of a boat as a symbol to represent the journey each of us takes throughout our lives. Some pieces may have very specific titles that make you recall historical people or  events. Ashley Landon-Halabuda titled one of her more ornate pieces in the show, Domentzia Collar, referencing an Empress from the Byzantine Empire.

"Brown Coil Zulu Necklace" by Katie Nare

“Brown Coil Zulu Necklace” by Katie Nare

The materials may be chosen for very specific reasons, as with Myung Urso who uses Asian inks—among many other materials—as a way to connect to her birthplace of South Korea where she learned the techniques of Korean calligraphy. The patterns could reference those found in another culture, as in the work of Katie Nare. Her passion for travel is a way for her to celebrate the diversity of the human experience.

Ulterior Triple Band Double Finger Ring by Brittany Rea

Ulterior Triple Band Double Finger Ring by Brittany Rea

Sometimes, jewelry can be about the experience of actually wearing it. The work of Brittany Rea is sculptural and interacts with the body in ways that won’t let you forget that you are wearing jewelry. Other times, it can be strictly about whats happening on or in between the surface(s), as with Heather Bivens‘ enamel glass work where lifelike insects seem to rest on the neck of the wearer, causing a second glance from passersby.

Brown Recluse

Brown Recluse Necklace by Heather Bivens (will get second glances for sure)

All of this is to say that jewelry isn’t “just jewelry”, it is another way to communicate ideas through artwork. So, whether you are an avid jewelry collector or if you are like me and you’re contemplating buying brooches to frame and add to your art collection, do yourself a favor and pay a visit to this exhibition before it closes.


Beyond Ornamental features work by 6 jewelry artists from our region. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shop. Beyond Ornamental runs through August 16, 2019.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Heather Bivens: Weathered Heather

Throughout the years, creating has been something that I must do. The medium and process has changed and evolved, but my desire to create remains the driving force. Whether they are tests, collections, samples, mock-ups or finished works, they are simultaneously bridges and destinations.

When I was in high school, I studied illustration and copy preparation. In 2007, I obtained my BFA from SUNY Oswego with an emphasis in sculpture and drawing. During that time, I created a range of work that explored performance art, digital imagery, video and installation. In 2010, I obtained my MFA in Sculpture from Syracuse University. My graduate work investigated the art of adornment through wearable sculpture. During that time, my connection with nature became more profound and could be seen as a common thread between all of my works.

Wearable Art: Butterfly Neck-piece, Latex Party Dress, Latex Garden Dress

Wearable Art: Butterfly Neck-piece, Latex Party Dress, Latex Garden Dress

Soon after graduate school, I taught a range of studio art courses as a part time instructor at Cazenovia College. There, I had the opportunity to work in a glass studio, where I learned to work with kiln formed art glass. Based on my interest in adornment, it felt natural for me to make jewelry from this new medium.

Art Glass Jewelry: Underwater Rocks Necklace, Pebble Design Earrings, Amber Stripe Earrings.

Art Glass Jewelry: Underwater Rocks Necklace, Pebble Design Earrings, Amber Stripe Earrings.

My glass work has opened new doors for me as an artist and maker while connecting all of my prior experience into one art form. Today, I consider myself fortunate to be self-employed and make work full time in my home studio. My business is Weathered Heather, named after myself and my inspiration.

Weathered Heather

My jewelry making process begins by assembling compatible glass. The glass can be cut, crushed into small pieces or made into strands with the use of a torch.

Crushed glass (frit) and stands of glass (stringer).

Crushed glass (frit) and stands of glass (stringer).

I layer the glass using a temporary adhesive to ensure that they stay in place during the firing process. Earrings are designed at the same time to ensure that they are similar in nature. It is important to make sure that the same amount of glass is being used on each piece. If it is uneven, the design can become distorted or they can end up unequal in size.

Prepared glass designs on a kiln shelf before entering the kiln.

Prepared glass designs on a kiln shelf before entering the kiln.

After each design is assembled, they are properly fired in a kiln up to 1500 degrees. In some cases, multiple firings are necessary to achieve the desired result. After the firing process, they are shaped and cold worked with diamond abrasives.

A small groove is ground along the edge of each piece of glass using a diamond disk. This grove provides a space for my wire setting.

Side view: Wire setting.

Side view: Wire setting.

Some of my newest work is created by hand painting the image with glass enamel. The enamel begins as a powder that is made into a paintable form using a liquid medium.

Dry enamel pigments and prepared pigments with a liquid medium.

Dry enamel pigments and prepared pigments with a liquid medium.

I then cut a piece of glass slightly larger than the pendant or earrings that I would like to create. I paint the image directly on the surface. The image can be painted all in one sitting or it can be completed in layers if the design is complex. Each layer is fired to solidify the bottom layer before more enamel is added.

First layer of painted enamel before firing them in the kiln.

First layer of painted enamel before firing them in the kiln.

Painting enamel in layers. Various stages of completion.

Painting enamel in layers. Various stages of completion.

After painting the image, I often place a clear sheet of glass on top of the image before firing it. This step embeds the image in the center of the glass, encapsulating it like a preserved treasure.
The excess material needs to be ground away with a diamond abrasive, giving the piece its final shape and size.

Final stages: removing excess and giving the work it's final shape.

Final stages: removing excess and giving the work it’s final shape.

The bubbles you see within the design are often described as “champagne” bubbles and are a characteristic of kiln formed glass.

“Phoebus Butterfly”, Hand painted glass enamel on clear art glass, kiln formed, with a 2.8mm, 20” Argentium sterling silver chain, soldiered links and toggle clasp. Glass Size: 1 15/16" x 1 1/16".

“Phoebus Butterfly”, Hand painted glass enamel on clear art glass, kiln formed, with a 2.8mm, 20” Argentium sterling silver chain, soldiered links and toggle clasp. Glass Size: 1 15/16″ x 1 1/16″.

For more information on Weathered Heather, visit Heather’s website at www.weatheredheather.com. You can also follow Weathered Heather on Facebook and Instagram (@weatheredheather).

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post, by painter Melissa Huang.