Posted by Dakota Stones on 11/28/2014 to Featured Designers
Name: Andrew Thornton
Company Name: Allegory Gallery
City & State: Ligonier, Pennsylvania
Andrew Thornton is a professional fine artist who left the hustle and bustle of New York City for rural Pennsylvania. His work can be seen in private collections around the globe. He is a regular contributor to books and magazines. Andrew is also the Creative Director of Allegory Gallery in Ligonier, PA.
My sister and her husband own Green Girl Studios, which is a metalsmith-based company that produces whimsical cast fine pewter, silver, bronze, and shibuichi beads and jewelry components. They needed help with a trade show and I had some downtime while I was preparing for a painting exhibition and offered to help. I think the key to good salesmanship is knowing your product and I quickly absorbed as much information as possible about jewelry making and construction. It helped that I had a background in fine arts, as some of the concepts are similar. That's where it all started! A show in Pittsburgh!
How did you get started in jewelry design?
Do you have a method, source, or tool you look to use for inspiring your designs?
My main source of inspiration can be found in the actual materials. I feel like they all have a story and it's my job as a designer to help tell that story and coax it to life. I live in "controlled chaos" with beads and jewelry-making supplies everywhere. Looking at what some would consider a mess, I find patterns and relations. I'm also a visual hoarder and cover my walls in bits of textiles, postcards, art, and prints. I surround myself with visual stimulus. Nowadays though with Pinterest, I can keep virtual boards that help spark ideas. Having it on the computer is a little less shocking to visitors who get overwhelmed by my total immersion process.
How often do you work on your jewelry designs?
Before my partner and I opened Allegory Gallery, I would say that I spent at least a few hours every day making things or gathering supplies. Our business is part bead store, jewelry boutique, and fine art gallery and I find it hard to separate myself from my work. I would say that on average I spend at least five hours a day actively working on jewelry making... but usually it's more. When I'm not physically working on my projects, that doesn't mean that the designer in me takes a break. I'm constantly absorbing ideas and filtering information.
How would you describe your design style or technique?
I work with a little of everything. I work with metal, metal clay, ceramics, polymer clay, resin, bead-weaving, and more. I tend to gravitate towards techniques that best suite the materials that I'm working with. When I first started out, I looked at the jewelry as sculpture and tended towards more elaborate pieces. Recently, I've rediscovered simple stringing and have a love affair with the satisfaction of creating more wearable pieces. This doesn't mean I've stopped making over-the-top haute couture pieces, it just means that I've become okay with making things that can be lived with and can adorn without overwhelming.
Do you work in any other mediums besides jewelry design?
As a creative person, I think it's important to work with as many mediums as possible. The ideas spark other ideas and I have found different tricks and techniques working with things other than jewelry design. I love collage and painting. I love drawing and writing. I love cooking and baking. I love trying new things. I know... it's a lot of love, but this is more than just a hobby for me: it's my passion.
What are your favorite stones to work with and why?
I'm a magpie and can just about appreciate any stone you put in front of me. I adore labradorite, as it was my first "stone crush". If it was made of that rainbow-infused grey stone, I had to have it. It'll always hold a special place in my heart. Over the years, I've come to fixate on rubies and sapphires. The rough stuff please! While the stones with pristine clarity and razor-sharp facets are certainly lovely, I enjoy the character of the inclusions and color variations of the more natural stones. I would be remiss in not mentioning hessonite garnets. I am a smitten kitten with the saturated color that hovers between burnt orange and red wine.
What are your favorite shapes and sizes to work with and why?
Like the question about my favorite stones, I have a lot of different favorite shapes and sizes. But one shape that I'm definitely drawn to is the faceted oval about the size of a cough drop. It looks like "treasure" to me. I think back to my childhood fantasies of having a treasure box filled with precious gemstones and the faceted oval looks most like those imaginary gems. It has beautiful way of display the stone, glinting facets that showcase the depth and character of the stone. One stone can simply be strung on a headpin and wire-wrapped to create a stunning earring. Or they can be used in a chunky multi-strand necklace to give off a rich, opulent feel.
What's your favorite jewelry trend right now?Trends can change so fast, that I always encourage people to create pieces that speak to them and will be timeless. With that said, I do enjoy the resurgence of long, flapper-style necklaces. I imagine that period shows like Downton Abbey are partially responsible for bringing back the dripping necklaces. What I like best about the long necklaces is that they can be doubled-up and worn as a multi-strand necklace or wrapped around the wrist to capture the look of wrap style bracelets. Versatility in design really interests me.
If you could pick one person living or not to wear your jewelry, who would it be and why?
While it's tempting to pick a young starlet or celebrity, but I think I would want the artist Kiki Smith to wear my work. If you've never seen her, she's got long flowing waves of gray hair and she's covered in tiny star tattoos. She looks like a fairytale character from one of her pieces. She's got a bohemian, artsy style, but is still classy. I also like the idea that my designs would appeal to other artists and makers of things, and that as a storyteller, they'd appreciate what I try to do with my work.
What's next? What are you working on now?
We're in our third year of business at Allegory Gallery and that's really exciting! Being a little more established, I can devote my attentions to building our brand and furthering our mission of being a source for creative inspiration, instead of being focused on the everyday operations. We're working on more events in town that network art venues and developing retreats that spotlight talented artists and highlight the beautiful region that we live in. I'll be teaching in New York at the Whole Bead Show in the spring and at Bead&Button in Milwaukee with my sister in the summer. Currently we're working on the back-end of our online store, and I'm looking forward to adding more unique beads, findings, and components. I'm also working on some secret projects that I can't quite yet spill the beans on. Let's just say that the projects are a long time coming! If you're interested in keeping up with me, I encourage you to visit my blog: andrew-thornton.blogspot.com and keep up with Allegory Gallery at allegorygallery.com. Like Allegory Gallery on Facebook to stay on top of the things we are planning, new products we're carrying, and little bits of life in our charming town, Ligonier.