5 questions with Challenge winner Ellen Chappelle

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Ellen Chappelle of Limelight Designs won the October Facet Design Challenge, ECHO, for her Stardust Collection. In Ellen's words, "Barks and meows of furry friends past echo in the minds of animal lovers. This collection incorporates the ashes of precious pets into the grout between the colored tiles in these fused glass memorial pendants so we can wear them close to our hearts forever."

Prior to making jewelry, Ellen first exercised her creative juices on the stage (hence the theatrical name of her jewelry business). Some of her earliest memories are of singing, dancing and acting in musicals and plays. She went on to major in theatre and journalism in college, followed by touring with a professional theatre company and performing on a cruise ship.

Ellen is now a full-time jewelry artist and freelance writer. She lives in the Seattle area with her wonderfully supportive husband and their energetic young dog.

HOW DID YOU LEARN JEWELRY-MAKING?

I took my first class in beginning wire wrapping at a local bead shop as a birthday present to myself. I was instantly hooked! I scoured the internet for classes, tutorials and books. I ordered the beginning 3-weave chain maille kit from Urban Maille. I also took online classes from Beaducation. And I bought waaaay too many beads!

A creative highlight in those early days was attending one of Beaducation’s Hooked on Wire retreats in San Francisco. After four days of classes – evenings, too – wow, did my hands ache on the plane ride home! But I had a blast and was thrilled to find this new passion. An aspiring life-long learner, I continue to learn new techniques and hone my skills. I love online classes and printable tutorials. Favorite magazines include Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry, Art Jewelry magazine and Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. I’ve kept every issue and still refer to them.

Ellen Chappelle earrings

WHAT IS YOUR DESIGN ESTHETIC AND FAVORITE MATERIALS?

I love detail, color, sparkle and shine! My friends and customers call my wire pieces delicate and intricate.

I love to work with Argentium sterling silver – I love that I can fuse it! And I’m just starting to use fine silver more in wire wrapping. Despite being a shiny silver girl, I have to admit that the warm glow of copper is growing on me. I love the natural beauty of gemstones and the perfect uniformity and sparkle of Swarovski crystals.

EllenChappelle

WHAT IS YOUR WORKSPACE LIKE?

I have a room in our house dedicated to my jewelry business. It’s not huge, so I’ve made use of every corner, but it’s my happy place. And there’s a cozy spot for my dog to curl up, of course!

We also have a shed in our backyard that has power, so my kiln lives there. I built my own simple ventilation system with two fans and some duct work from the hardware store to pull fresh air in and across the kiln and push air out the other side. I am NOT what you’d call handy, so I was proud of myself for figuring out how to make it work!

Ellen Chappelle stars

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION FOR YOUR WORK?

I’ve always loved elegant, scrolling patterns, such as those found in ornate ironwork and architectural stonework. I also love chandeliers; the juxtaposition of the sparkling crystals and the matte curves of the framework creates such a beautiful look. I often try to replicate that feeling with my more intricate wire pieces.

My pet memorial pendants are inspired by colorful glass mosaics that I used to make before I discovered jewelry design.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON?

I’m currently making two wire and crystal ornaments to be used onstage in a musical theatre production. Most of the story takes place in the past where the first ornament will appear, shiny and new. At the end of the play, we see present-day characters, who find the (now old) ornament in a trunk in the attic, so that one needs to be exactly the same, but tarnished with time. It’s fun to be able to still participate in theatre in some small way!

I’m also working on my first-ever collaboration with another artist and it’s really rewarding and fun. Being an artist can be a very solitary pursuit, you know?! A friend of mine paints beautiful pet portraits, so we’ve been talking off and on about collaborating. Just this year, we finally launched two pet memorial packages, each featuring one of her portraits paired with one of my pendants.

See more of Ellen's work at her website, Limelight Designs, and also on Facebook and Twitter. 

FIND MORE: glass , pendants , wirework

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