Anna Johnson studied metalsmithing and jewelry design at Appalachian State University. After college, she moved through Western NC from Boone to Spruce Pine and then to Asheville. Anna credits the region with “its plants and animals, its mountains, its rich artistic culture, and its people” for greatly influencing her development and work as an artist. Her jewelry is in tribute to holistic life cycles, intra-nature relationships, and nature-human connectivity.
Anna is drawn to collecting, inspecting, making, and nature. Her jewelry designs are driven by nature, the love of technical processes, creating intimate objects, and a deep fascination of life, death, impermanence, cycles, and personal value. Anna creates small, wearable ecosystems that are direct connections to nature – combining bones, plants and other natural found objects with gemstones and cast metals. In 2016 she was named one of American Craft Week’s ‘Thirty under 30’ rising stars.
How did you get started as an artist?
I have always loved making things, it came like an instinct. Making jewelry was incredibly gratifying starting as a little girl. Nature was another love and I felt deeply connected to it, an urge to protect it. Through college at Appalachian State University I learned technical skills and created pieces of jewelry and other objects usually inspired by nature. When I began to explore why I was creating these forms is when I got started as an artist. Instead of just making an aesthetically pleasing object, they grew intention. The passion I had for creating and for nature homogenized and sprouted into a deeply intentional and heartfelt practice. “He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hand and his head and his heart is an artist”– Louis Nizer
What five words best describe your work?
soulful, living, cyclical, memento, adornment
How does your love of nature influence your art?
Nature is the driving force of my art. I make my work to be a visual and wearable statement to protect and honor nature and provides a physical connection between nature and wearer. It is a homage to the preciousness and intricacy of our natural world, a reminder that we are connected with it on an intimate level. In this political climate it is important for us all to remember how important it is to protect all life forms and open our eyes to the world around us. Jewelry inherently precious, valuable, and beautiful on the materialistic level. Nature is inherently precious, valuable, and beautiful in the ultimate, deepest, most essential way possible. I love and cherish nature, I also love and cherish my craft of jewelry making and I hope my artwork influences people to love, cherish, protect all life whether it be our natural environment or other people, especially when so many in our country and world have so much at stake.
Tell us a little bit about your technique.
I utilize collecting, casting, fabrication, and setting. I work almost in a collage format- I collect a lot of pieces and arrange and rearrange until parts speak to each other through a composition, then I bring it to fruition. Plants and fragile objects I cast so they are permanent and strong. Lost wax casting is a process of taking a mold and making a highly detailed duplicate of it in metal. I fabricate settings and organic design and utilize different stone setting techniques to incorporate and create my pieces. I utilize recycled metal and conflict free stones.
What is a typical workday like for you?
They are all over the place. My ideal workday would be 7 hours making at my bench and another hour keeping up with computer work. This is usually spread throughout the day into late nights, split up by errands, dog related stuff, and misc activities.
What do you listen to while you work?
Music, news, books on tape, podcasts. At this very moment its either news on NPR, the book “Far From the Tree” by Andrew Solomon, the Soundtrack to Hamilton, or TEDtalks Radio Hour podcast.
What is your favorite thing about being an artist?
Creative freedom. Working with my hands. Working for myself. Problem solving. Doing my passion for my career. Being a part of an amazing community. I love all of the aspects really, even the high levels of stress that can come with it at times.
Images via Anna Johnson. Final Elytra Earring image via Lark & Key.