How does an English major end up becoming a jewelry maker? For Wellfleet resident Jody Craven, it was quite the happy accident.
The 49-year-old Craven admits that the arts were not originally on his radar. At the University of Massachusetts-Boston, Craven studied to be an English teacher and ended up completing his student-teaching post-college at Nauset High School in Eastham. At the time, he says, there were no openings in the school’s English Department, but Nauset was looking to transition its old auto shop into a space to teach metalworks—all they needed was someone to run the program. “Nobody applied for the job,” Craven recalls, “and the principal asked me, ‘Do you want to try this metals thing out for a year?’”
Within the first year of his foray into metalworks, Craven says he realized a latent passion—and four years later he expanded the metals program to offer jewelry-making classes. Learning such an intensive craft on the fly was daunting. “What helped me most in those beginning years is that I was as excited about learning new techniques as my students were,” he says. By attending workshops, networking with local jewelers, and eventually earning a master’s degree in art education from Boston University, Craven slowly but surely honed his metalsmithing techniques and built a program that regularly sees students bring home state and national Scholastic Art Awards.
From rings and pendants to hand-woven chains and men’s cufflinks, Craven creates—predominantly from scratch—a little bit of everything, taking inspiration from the gemstones he works with or his observations from nature. “I’m not a big sketcher, so I let the process take me where it goes and make turns along the way based on how I see the piece worn,” he says. “I like my pieces to look handmade but very well crafted.” Among Craven’s most unusual creations are his painted pendants, which feature his hand-painted scenes of local vistas on watercolor paper with antique watch crystals—some as tiny as a half-inch by a quarter-inch—placed over the paintings to protect them.
Although he never became an English teacher, Craven says he still values his English background. “When I’m making a piece of jewelry,” he explains, “just as a writer would deal with the subtleties of punctuation or one word meaning over another, the placement of something on that piece of jewelry is equally as intricate and cerebral. My writing background has helped me in having the patience and the grit to actually make jewelry.”
Jody Craven is represented by Left Bank Gallery, 8 Cove Road, Orleans. For more information, visit Jody Craven Jewelry on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.