Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How does a cattle veterinarian become a jewelry artist?

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It is a rather interesting combination isn't it? I love every minute of being both; veterinary medicine allows me to serve the agriculture community and the jewelry and art nurtures my creative side. So just how did all this get started? I am reposting a blog entry from October 2010 with a few additions in red type.

*This is reposted from October 2010.*

It's hard to believe this collection of cow art has been online for two years now! (Actually, it's almost 3 years now. Our official first day of business was September 1, 2008.) I have loved every minute of making art and connecting with cow art lovers worldwide. One question I continue to get asked, just how did this get started?

I decided to become a veterinarian when I was 11 or 12. (I promise, I will get to the question at hand.) (I really don't remember what precipitated that decision, but I remember being a young girl and decided that was what I was going to do.) Once I made that decision, I knew I had to do everything possible to get into veterinary school. This meant taking lots of science based classes and other academic classes to get me into college. While I took art classes in high school here and there, they just didn't fit into the schedule to take as many as I would have liked.

I went on to college, still with a love of art, but still with a desire to go to veterinary school. Veterinary colleges spell out very clearly what it takes to apply. Unfortunately art classes aren't a prerequisite. While I took a few arts and humanities classes in college, I didn't get to fully investigate any potential art talents. In fact, I didn't do any art activities in college. Looking back, I wish I had done some of that.

The hard work and dedication paid off. I was accepted to veterinary school and headed off with zeal. This time, there was not even the option of taking art classes. (imagine that -- although I insisted on using colored pencils to draw what I was learning in histology class) I continued to explore art museums when I had the chance, but veterinary studies still took priority.

When I graduated veterinary school, I took my first job as a cattle veterinarian and moved to Florida. While I wasn't crazy about living in Florida, I did love that art and culture seem to be the "norm" here. In the spring and fall, there are regular art festivals and within the city of Gainesville, (where the University of Florida is and where I live now), visual and performing arts are just a way of life. Call it karma, call it destiny, call it fate or call it pure dumb luck, but I know if I hadn't moved to Florida, things wouldn't have turned out the way the have. (I can't remember why I took this cow's picture, but I suspect it was because she had quite the special head wrap from her favorite veterinarian. Thinking now it must have had something to do with a dehorn job if things were bleeding enough to warrant a head bandage. Anyway, it's an example of what I do as a cattle vet.)

It was in the summer of 2001 that, at a friend's barbecue (in fact, another large animal veterinarian), I met a well known local jewelry artist. She explained that she was teaching a beginner level metalsmithing class in a couple of weeks and suggested I take it. I did and I was instantly hooked. That was the beginning. Actually, too, that was the beginning of a great friendship as well. The jewelry artist, whose name is Susan, has been incredibly giving with her time and knowledge. I will forever be grateful for inspiring my artistic talents.

That year for Christmas, I made jewelry gifts for close family and friends. It was after a friend of my mom's saw the necklace she was wearing and asked if I could make her one too that I made my first sale. I continued to take a few classes from my original teacher. She was impressed with my skills and encouraged me to apply for art shows. I chose a small local show, applied, and was accepted. (I think my reaction was, "OMG, they accepted me??!!?? Now what do I do?") That was October 2002.

In the summer of 2003, I had the opportunity to study at the Penland School of Craft. Now you might think as someone who might be considered "intelligent" would have a huge advantage. Yeah...not so. I joked that I was the class moron. Everyone else in the class was in some stages of an art degree, not to mention the first person I met in the class that day had just finished a huge sculpture for the city of Rochester, New York. Somehow when the others asked if I had been published, I don't think they meant the articles I co-authored in the Society for Theriogenology journal.

Okay, maybe this isn't going to work, I thought. But once again, call it fate, karma, destiny or pure dumb luck, the teacher of the class (who was a replacement for the original teacher who had been in an accident), was a gifted jewelry artist who's father was what else? A veterinarian! The teacher and I hit if off in a big way, and I was pretty lucky to get the equivalent of a bachelor of fine arts degree crash course in two weeks. After that is when things really started clicking for me.

While I was making jewelry during this time, it was much more "artsy". My agriculture friends asked if I made cow jewelry. I simply looked at them like they had 3 eyes and replied, "No." As much as I love cows, I really didn't want to make jewelry of them. Veterinary medicine doesn't leave much room for creativity and I really wanted to do something different when I was in the studio. As I realize now, though, I just hadn't found the right idea yet. (The pendant at left is from 2004. It is a pin/pendant of chrysocolla, sterling silver and bronze.)

My farm friends continued to pester me about making a line of farm jewelry. It wasn't that it was a bad idea, I just wanted something extra special. I wanted something very unique and classy, but most of all realistic. While attending a local veterinary meeting in the fall of 2007, I saw someone selling charm jewelry pieces of cats and dogs. (It was more like, "What are all those people doing in that booth?" It was so crammed full of people that it took me a couple of minutes to get to the counter to see that it was cat and dog jewelry. Oh yeah -- major light bulb moment.) It was then that the idea of the cow jewelry came to me. After doing a little visual research on the internet, I realized I had some unique ideas to make realistic farm jewelry. I knew my experience within agriculture would allow me to make cow jewelry that not only I found to be realistic, but agriculture enthusiasts would too.

Along the way of my jewelry career, I also met other artists who had a fascination with cows and created art representing them. I thought it would be great to include them in my venture as well. The planning for Cow Art and More began in the spring of 2008. I began production of the charms and recruited other artists to become a part of my "family". I officially launched Cow Art and More on September 1, 2008, with a few charms and a handful of artists. I now represent over 25 cow art artists and have 7 charms, with 3 more to launch any day now. (Left is my rosette charm, shown in 18 K yellow gold).

I'm very enthusiastic about the future of Cow Art and More. I was excited to be asked to sell cow art at the 2011 National Holstein Convention and honored to have coordinated the unique stained glass trophies given last month at the All American Red and White Holstein show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It is quite satisfying knowing that the beauty of agricultural art can bring joy to people's daily lives.

Isn't it great how things work out? I never would have guessed in a million years this is where things would be.

What did I miss that you're still wanting to know more about?

1 comment:

Valentina's Equine Blog said...

I love your story! Very inspirational!

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