Alton artist stretching her creativity and learning new techniques

August 21, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“We were closed for 94 days.” said Anne-Marie Warburton, owner of Gallery Gemma in the Alton Mill Arts Centre. “Of course, the Alton Mill is in Peel, so, it was designated a mall, but in the end, we have opened. I also reached out to by my regular customers; I gave 50 pairs of earrings to give out to front line workers because without community, you’re nothing.”

Her comment: “We opened in late June and we had the best July ever.”

The Citizen was interviewing Ms. Warburton, as she was driving to the Alton Mill and she began to talk about her life at the moment.

“Every year I travel somewhere to learn something new, to advance my skills – some artists are doing online classes – Zoom is part of it. 

“This one I’m doing now is a six- month course, which I’m doing on line. These classes are videos and then you have Facebook groups to talk about trial and errors, to say how you’re doing and then, with the instructor to see how you’re doing. This is a female instructor I’ve been following for some time.

“This course is on creating Talisman,” Ms. Warburton said, defining it as, “kind-of a more personalized kind of jewellery: symbology, with precious stones, hand-made chains that sit on the body in a meaningful way, as dictated by the client. The jeweller is running this course and I picked up on it to broaden my creativity and my idea of beauty.”

As things go: “Then, someone came in and said it was her 50th birthday and she wanted something special – a talisman. I’m actually just at the beginning of the course, the first month. That was the first conversation: what does that mean to her; so, this is something special to her.”

She went to say, “For me, no matter what I’m creating in a piece of jewellery, it takes love and meaning. The talisman is taking it a little more, moving to different shapes when you’re making jewellery. You probably wouldn’t put a found object in a ring ordinarily. In a talisman, you probably would or could. It could be a stone on a beach holiday, a tooth of an animal, some money – a coin, a button. So, really stretching the boundaries. It will be wrapped in gold or silver. We will use precious metal and gem stones, shape and symbols with perhaps found objects that you wouldn’t see in the one of a kind jewellery that I usually make.”

And so, how was it that Ms. Warburton decided to make talismans her forte?

“I happened upon it – it came to me through Facebook,” she told the Citizen. “I follow this particular artist on Facebook. She’s just completely the opposite from what I do. This is just stretching your creativity, using the same materials and adding some materials you never thought of for fine jewellery, expressing the unexpressed – if that makes any sense. 

“She’s very – I don’t think you would define her work as beautiful – edgy. Generally speaking, I’m making jewellery for people. So, it’s not about what I want – its about what they want. 

“I’m making things that haven’t been done before – expanding my skills and having fun: even if its online, you’re meeting people in this new world.”

Having said which, she added “Going forward, I sure hope I’m going some place physically, safely. 

“At the same time, I’m doing another course in an ancient art – creating chain. This goes back to the beginning of metal really, spiral chain; it’s very beautiful. So, I’m learning this ancient technique, which is classical.”

The Alton Mill Arts Centre was closed for 94 days. Quite a time for artists to have to make ends meet without a real source of income.

“We survived this by virtue of staying in touch with emails and social media. I feel so grateful for support from the community. That the Mill could survive 94 days of being closed says a lot about the Mill. It’s a beautiful place for social distancing – outside, inside – you can easily keep that social distancing.

“My ambition,” speaking to the future, “is, behind the scenes, I’m putting together my first online store so that people can still shop, if they feel more comfortable, they can. It’s really when people are shopping for other people that they’re more comfortable to buy online. I want people to have that option; I want to continue to grow and create jewellery that people will love forever. 

“A big part of my business is re-creating other people’s jewellery. Silver and gold are going crazy right now. When things are unsettled, people go back to gold and the prices are higher than they’ve ever been.

“It’s interesting – if we come back to the online shopping, for jewellery people still prefer to come into a bricks and mortar store and they prefer not to go into a mall.”

She summed it up for her business, Gallery Gemma, “At this time, we ‘re ready willing and available; we have wonderful individual pieces and I’m creating things for people and I’m just full of gratitude for everything the Alton Mill Arts Centre is and how much the community supports us, our creativity and the community realizing what a beautiful thing they have here.”

She said, “It’s that back and forth that makes it special.”

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