“It’s thoughtful jewelry.”
Many artists take inspiration from the body; its sensual form and figure, its curvature or reflectivity in nature, its interaction with the rest of world. But few remember that other artists treat the body as their canvas, accentuating its beauty not through vibrant colors or slight abstraction, but through actual elaboration upon its physical presence.
First-year student Anna Fireman is one such artist: she has taken inspiration not only from the body, but from the struggles that sometimes entail from having one.
For three years of her high school career, Anna participated in a program called Jewelry Love, which matches jewelry-makers with cancer patients or cancer survivors. The pairs speak on the phone and discuss what sort of commission the wearer would like (style, color, personal interests, etc.), and the jeweler makes the piece without ever meeting the other in person. Then, at a special ceremony, the jeweler presents the piece to his or her pair, and the two meet for the first time.
Anna’s interest in jewelry-for-a-cause began with her interest in jewelry-making, something she was taught in her freshman year of high school. At the age of 14, Anna was firing up a torch and learning skills from her teacher, a woman who continues to inspire her (and give her access to work in the jewelry studio at her high school).
After this initial interest was sparked, Anna started to take classes outside of school, at community centers including the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (housed in the city Anna is from). These classes opened her eyes to the Pittsburgh jewelry scene as a whole, and the many teachers she’s had at these places continue to inspire her.
In terms of style, Anna often finds inspiration in specific stones, and at the moment, her gem of choice seems to be turquoise. She also seeks inspiration in imperfection; she uses a good amount of recycled silver, some of which was old silverware gifted to her by her grandmother. Recycled silver often has bumps and wear-and-tear, giving it a vintage, worn style that Anna loves for its uniqueness.
Like this recycled silver, jewelry-making as a whole can sometimes breed imperfections. Mistakes are easy to make when “playing” with fire, but Anna always finds some way to put a positive spin on things, whether that means adding another jewel or changing the design completely.
“It is so easy to mess up and make a mistake on them, but sometimes it's for the better,” Anna said.
The artist’s process is characterized by fluidity, for she tends to work on multiple projects at the same time, stopping and starting them as she pleases. When she gets stuck on one, she likes to have the ability to put it aside and work on another, rather than powering through 5+ hours on a single work that ends up being less than what she wanted.
Anna’s love for jewelry-making also goes far beyond the material or possible profit; she’s never sold her jewelry before. She’s only made it for friends, family, or charity, including a group of youngsters at her local children’s hospital. As part of her high school senior project, she and a friend visited children staying at the The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh and slowly came to know them. Of three designs that had been previously selected, they made jewelry for the many young men and women fighting for their lives.
“It’s so heartwarming to know that someone took the time to make something with their own two hands just for you,’” Anna explained.
As time passes, Anna has noticed her work becoming simpler and growing in personal style simultaneously, but what’s more important is her future goal to continue raising awareness through jewelry. She sees her work as a tool for social innovation, one from which she has yet to access its full potential.
In every piece, Anna makes a serious effort to imbue something personal. She has always believed that the physical quality of jewelry and its wearability allow it to become a part of the owner, instilling confidence and strength. The jewelry instills the wearer with positive energy and also absorbs a piece of the wearer as its final, finishing quality. Since Anna usually makes jewelry with someone in mind, she thinks about the person during the process and makes an effort to produce something to coexist harmoniously with who they are.
Putting her pieces up for sale makes this a bit more difficult, but Anna found a way to continue adding this personal touch: she has named each of her pieces for sale after one of her close friends. Therefore, whoever buys her pieces will have some of Anna’s personal love mailed along with it.