Monday, January 4, 2010

Melissa Lew green jewelry Part 2

Melissa Lew, 27, is a local jewelry designer among other talents in art and photography. She is the recipient of numerous competitions for her use of recycled fine silver and bamboo.

The following is part 2 of a recent two-part interview.

KL: Is each piece unique or do you create multiples of the same design?
ML: While I do create multiples of some of my work (i.e. bamboo tile pendants), each piece of silver jewelry I create is unique because nothing is cast. There are no patterns to follow; I hand carve each one individually.

KL: Why is it important to you to use alternative materials?
ML: Because with each piece I create, it is one less thing that ends up in a landfill. It's taking something that was considered trash and turning it into something that someone can love and wear. It also raises awareness, and I love it when customers ask questions about the materials when I'm at art shows/events.

KL: Do you consider yourself an "eco" or "green" jewelry designer?

ML: Yes, most definitely. Not only do I use eco-friendly materials such as recycled fine silver and bamboo, but I also steer away from using chemicals as much as possible. For example, I love adding patinas to my silver work and most artists use a chemical called Liver of Sulfur to tarnish their silver. I don't - it smells horrible and is a hazardous material for both transport and disposal. I use a boiled egg! The sulfur in the yolk is enough to tarnish silver within hours. Liver of Sulfur is instant, but I don't think it's worth using. I'd rather wait! I also use linen or recycled boxes to package my recycled fine silver work, and reusable tins for my bamboo pendants. Linen comes from the flax plant and takes very little chemical fertilizer and MUCH less water than cotton to cultivate; once the fiber has been extracted from the plant, the rest of the plant is used to make other goods such as soap, cosmetics, inks, etc. Nothing goes to waste.

KL: Your jewelry truly captures the spirit of nature, where does that come from?

ML: My design aesthetic is organic, modern, and deeply rooted in my Chinese heritage, especially the culture's deep respect and esteem for nature. I love flowers, especially cherry blossoms.

KL: How is working with alternative materials different from conventional materials?
ML: Because I work with the fine silver clays, I feel like I have more freedom to work organically. I can get a lot more detail into my cherry blossoms. I'm not restricted by hard/harsh metals. Other than that, it's not really different!

KL: How do you personally lead a "green" lifestyle?
ML: By day, I'm a graphic designer for an engineering firm that specializes in sustainable, green engineering solutions. It starts with the little things - like watching paper waste, recycling, and considering green alternatives (no lamination, 100% recyclable paper, linen binders, etc). My husband and I also purchased a home close to our employers and I drive a fuel efficient car. And then there are the small things at home - like using reusable lunch containers and those nifty Nalgene bottles. Going green really makes you think about your choices/decisions.

Part 1 posted on 1/2/10