When I first stumbled upon a little online jewelry shop called Buffalo Lucy, I was simply enchanted. I saw stones and silver mingling in fabulous rings, earrings, and pendants. The sculptural quality of these pieces made for jewelry that was clearly beyond anything created with mass-produced metal findings–these were true works of art. And how excited I was when I realized they were made by a silversmith here in Kansas!
Julie Morris, the artist behind Buffalo Lucy, has been gracious enough to talk with me about her life and work, and I am so glad to share it all with you.
KCQ: How did you first become involved in silversmithing/jewelry-making?
JULIE: I started making bead and wire jewelry as a teenager. I think the first piece I made was a leather and stone bead necklace that I saw in a movie and just had to have. Of course I couldn’t find it anywhere, so I figured out how to make it myself. I think that first visit to a bead store was when my addiction began. In my 20s I opened an online shop (this was before Etsy!) and sold a few things, but I was unsatisfied with what I was making because what I really wanted was to learn to silversmith. I signed myself up for a silversmithing class at my local arts center but due to unexpected circumstances, I was only able to make it to the first class, where we learned how to saw, and then I dropped out.
Not long after, my first daughter was born and I put my beads and silver away for a few years. Then, in 2009, I felt the need to create tugging at my shirt again and I mentioned to my partner, Stephanie, that I wanted to learn to silversmith. She asked all the right questions about what I’d need to get started and that Christmas she got me a torch and a few other basic tools and we set up my studio in a back room of our house. I did a lot of reading and research and through much trial and error created my first piece, which was this green necklace that I gave Stephanie for her birthday that February. I haven’t put down my torch ever since.
KCQ: I see that you are Canadian; what brought you to Lawrence, KS?
JULIE: I moved to Lawrence in 1997 for a relationship. I was young and in love and excited about a embarking upon a new adventure. I’m no longer in that relationship (although we’re still friends), but I put down roots in Lawrence and didn’t even consider leaving. It’s funny because I never in a million years would have imagined myself in Kansas of all places, but I’ve come to love it. Lawrence is a great little town and Kansas itself is not all that different from my home province of Alberta.
KCQ: Why do you feel that silversmithing, opposed to stringing beads, is so much more satisfying for you?
JULIE: It’s mostly a matter of being able to make what I want to make. I’m a ring girl, I LOVE rings (the bigger the better!) and it just wasn’t possible to make the kinds of rings I wanted to with beads and wire. But I have to admit, there’s also a magnificent feeling of accomplishment in taking something as rigid and unyielding as metal and submitting it to my will.
KCQ: Aside from silver, what are some of your favorite materials to use?
JULIE: I’m becoming a stone addict. I love attending gem shows and spending hours taking in all of the earthy goodness. I go through phases where I prefer the more “gemmy” varieties (carnelian, garnet, amethyst, citrine, etc.) and then other times I’m drawn to the earthier tones of stones like the various jasper types. I have a special love for bertrandite (Tiffany stone) and charoite, both of which are generally purple. I’m always drawn to purple.
KCQ: Where do you most often find inspiration for your pieces?
JULIE: Not surprisingly, most of my inspiration comes from my stones. When it’s time to start something new, I’ll usually sit down with a couple of stones and just start sketching around them. Sometimes I’ll purchase a stone thinking I know exactly what I’m going to do with it, and then when I start sketching I’m surprised to find that something else altogether comes out.
KCQ: What makes creativity such an important part of life?
JULIE: Well, for me, being creative is such a major part of who I am that if I don’t make time for it, I start to feel like I’m losing myself. When I’m in my studio, creating, that’s when I really, truly feel like I’m being my 100% authentic self. I just get so lost in the process, I put so much of my self into what I’m doing, that for those minutes or hours or whatever it might be, there’s nothing else, just me tapping into my own heart and soul. It keeps me in touch with me.