Copper in the Arts

December 2011

Layers on Copper: The Cloisonné Jewelry of Julie Glassman

By Michael Cervin

Arizona Dessert Landscape enamel pendant Arizona Dessert Landscape enamel pendant.

Photograph courtesy of Julie Glassman

What teenager takes a metal-smithing class at age 14? Moreover, what 14 year-old lights up when she holds blow torch and discovers their life's work? Meet Julie Glassman.

"I was always obsessed with jewelry, even when I was wee little," she recalls. "My mother and both my grandmothers always wore jewelry and at family functions I asked if I could get into their jewelry boxes."

Her copper journey started one summer as a teen when all the other kids were off at summer camp.

"The next town over a woman offered jewelry classes in her basement," so she signed up. Her first task was to make a twisted copper bracelet. "I knew I wanted to make jewelry for the rest of my life. Soldering was just magical to me," she admits. Her mom enrolled her into a jewelry class in high school. She went on to graduate from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City with a degree in jewelry and gems.

Glassman decided to learn the ancient Byzantine technique of cloisonné enameling, which she continues to do from her home studio in Western Colorado. She has several jewelry lines which are enamel on silver, but Glassman also has a successful enamel line on copper substrate. Glassman's cloisonné is seven to 10 layers, even up to 15 layers painted on a metal substrate; silver, gold or copper. "It's liquid enamel, like a painting and this is fired on copper." She still uses silver, but copper keeps her cost down. She will fire a layer of opaque white enamel on copper, let it cool, then she will do line work with enamel pencil, then fires that, then fills in with liquid enamel, and fires it once more.

evil eye pendant Evil Eye Pendant

Photograph courtesy of Julie Glassman

"I use a lot of copper accents in my work," she says. She used gold until the price went up, however copper has the same effect of gold. "I think copper is more beautiful, it gets this oxidized, antique look. When I do copper earrings I love to polish them shiny, then take a torch for a few seconds. The color that comes out is absolutely magnificent," she says.

Having worked with many different metals, copper has a unique place. "Copper is such a forgiving metal," she admits. "You can heat copper to death and work it to death, it takes a beating, that's what I love about it -- it's a magical metal."

She sources her materials and her copper from two main sources; Rio Grande in Albuquerque, and Naja in Denver. She typically buys one square foot sheet, usually 16 and 22 gauge, as well as copper wire. Though she generates approximately 30 percent of her sales on-line, the bulk of her sales are derived by selling at a variety of shows in places like Tempe, Arizona; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; and close by in Denver. From arts and crafts shows to music festivals, and art fairs (she typically does between 15 and 20 shows every year) she goes where the people are and it allows her to connect with her clients.

Glassman's next live appearance will be January 20-29th at the Tyson Wells Sell-a-Rama, in Quartside, Arizona.


Julie Glassman, Grand Junction, CO, (970) 464-4843

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