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5 questions with Ann Marie Crosmun

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Facet's Design Challenge for March, CELTIC, brought us some stunning submissions. But the story behind the SILVER OGHAM PENDANT,  created by Ann Marie Crosmun of Durham, NC, had a truly special story behind it. Ann Marie describes it like this:

Ogham is one of the earliest forms of writing in Ireland. It dates from the 4th century A.D. and was in use for over 500 years. The Ogham alphabet is made up of a series of strokes across a line or edge. Ogham is also referred to as the "Celtic Tree Alphabet" as various letters are linked to old Irish names for certain trees. The alphabet was carved on standing stones. They are read from the bottom of the stem line up (as if you were climbing a tree), or from the left hand side.

I want to keep the simple beauty of the Ogham Language alive. I love the mystery of the Celtic people. My heart feels a strong affinity to their past because of their love, respect, and connection to their environment. I want to evoke this emotion in my art and in my jewelry.

We just love the idea of preserving something so meaningful in a way that is so delicate and lovely! Ann Marie is a bead weaver and jewelry artisan with an old-world flair and attention to detail. She began her journey when she was very young, working with her grandmother, beading wedding dresses in their tailor shop. Nana tutored Ann Marie in design and rich color schemes. Her European influences are very apparent: Ann Marie went to school at the University of Sorbonne in Paris, France, where she studied art, architecture and theatre, and spent time touring museums and art districts throughout Europe.

After a 20-year career at PBS, she met and married William, who encouraged her to "go play with her baby beads." When Ann Marie is not on the road exhibiting her work at shows, or working in her community garden, she lives and works out of her home studio in Durham, NC, with her husband and their four cats. After an anniversary trip to Ireland, she transformed her art into jewelry with a Celtic flair. She has even taken her designs further, focusing on jewelry, canvas tableaux of tree branches, home decor including tree branch candle pillars, Penny Boxes, "stone" clocks and tree trunk candle centerpieces--all of which incorporate the ancient Celtic Ogham language. We caught up with Ann Marie to learn more about her and her jewelry making. 

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Are you a professional jeweler? How long have you been creating?

Yes, I am a professional jeweler. I've been creating beaded pieces since I was in grade school and have been exhibiting and selling my work since 1985. With a temporary pause with my creations, commissions and sales for the last couple of years, I am getting back into the design and creation of jewelry and theatre props (theatre was one of my five majors in college).

How did you learn jewelry making?

I am a self-taught jeweler, but have enhanced my jewelry skills with special studies in Precious Metal Clay (PMC) and bead weaving. I was certified under the tutelage of master metalsmith Tim McCreight, and specialty Keum Boo classes with Celie Fago. I learned bead weaving techniques taught by Virginia Nance and Sally Lewis. I've had the opportunity to use my jewelry creating techniques and knowledge of Celtic writings and symbolism in some recent theatre productions.

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What style of jewelry do you make?

I am focused on any creative way that I can keep the Ogham (Celtic) language alive and vibrant in today's artistic landscape. Whether it is using BronzClay and PMC to create Ogham pendants with vintage and precious gemstones to interweave them into necklaces, or to transfer the "language of the trees" onto items I create for home decor.

What is your design aesthetic? 


My jewelry designs encompass sensual as well as intellectual qualities that have an appeal to a wide range of people; everyone has responded well to my work. It is casual, yet elegant; made with ancient techniques, yet modern styles. The mysterious splendor of the Ancient Celts gets tempered by the aesthetics of 21st century color and form. But it is always about beautiful materials and wonderful exotic gems and pearls. Everyone seems to be captured by the sensual response to something unique and intense but, with further wearing, continues to find delight in the "quiet  elegance" of my jewelry. My philosophy is that my jewelry is more than just something to wear-it's an heirloom to be passed on to the next generation. If it's not art, don't wear it! My bead weaving and use of
Keum-Boo on Precious Metal Clay, is the ultimate romantic commitment. This process of manipulating gold involves fusing 24kt gold foil to fine silver by heating them until their surfaces melt and intermix to form one unit. At the moment of fusion, the two surfaces reach out, kiss, and remain forever connected by a tiny bridge of gold. They become one unity, inseparable but distinct, much like the bond between two people.

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What's the goofiest/most embarrassing mistake that you ever made?

My husband and I were visiting his mother's home in California while she was away. We were exceptionally tired, but it was too early to go to bed, so I pulled out my beads to work on a project. He knocked over my large floss box that had seed beads in various shades of red and green. Hundreds of tiny glass beads were scattered over her living and dining room carpets. We spent hours picking up those beads and putting them back into their slots! Years later, my mother-in-law still finds some of those beads when she vaccuums. At least now, she's stopped mailing them back to me!

That's hilarious! What is your current workspace like? Any seed beads on the floor?

My workspace has at least 5-10 active projects that I am working on. My workspace looks out over a 35-acre lake (complete with my very own heron!) which increases my creativity.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Looking out my window, and also at the photos of castles and real-life carved Oghams that my husband and I took while we were in Ireland. Gazing at and touching my collection of stones & ephemera.

What's the next step for you? What projects are you working on?

I am trying to come up with some innovative ways to incorporate Ogham jewelry designs into pieces of home decor and transform the traditional concept of interior art into classic artisan accent pieces. Coming up with new ways to interpret Classic Celtic and Ogham designs into modern jewelry.

That sounds fascinating. Where can people see more of your work?

You can check out my business,  Classic Celtic Creations by Ann Marie.

And I just want to add that it was an added privilege to have won [the CELTIC Design Challenge] alongside my good friend and fellow bead-a-holic, Lynn Hedgecock. I was a co-founder of the Triangle Bead Society and its president for a number of years, and was so pleased to pass the baton to Lynn a few years back.

FIND MORE: metal , bead weaving , pendants

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