By Stacy Keith
Dawna Gillespie is a powerhouse of talent and vision. This talented metalsmith fabricates wearable art and adornments for the home through various metalsmithing techniques which result in earrings, necklaces, cuffs, brooches, ornaments and wall pieces. Her creations are remarkable and distinctive, and I was excited to get to sit down with her and talk about what inspires her and her process for making these extraordinary pieces.
Dawna is a Fort Worth native who moved to Lubbock as a young adult and achieved her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Texas Tech University. She originally thought her medium would be paint, but after taking a metalsmithing class, that quickly changed. Dawna is a dedicated full-time artist, along with being a mother and wife, who devotes her time to her craft.
Each piece is designed based upon life experiences, whether that’s a marriage, a birth, a death or the end of a relationship, Dawna’s designs are deeply personal. Her business tagline is “From the Soul-For the Soul” and in visiting with Dawna it becomes very apparent that her designs are an intimate expression of her feelings. She also stresses the importance of sharing with her eight-year-old son the significance of hand fabricated work and fine craft. Her pieces are not made hastily, there is an arduous process, very counter to the instant gratification culture of today. She hopes to set an example for her son and instill in him the value of individualism, patience, and artistry.
Each piece is individually created using a sheet of brass and copper. Dawna sketches her design first on a piece of tracing paper to allow the shapes to be laid over each other as she’s developing how the finished piece will appear. She then cuts the paper shapes out, glues them onto the metal and begins to saw out the shapes with a handheld jeweler’s saw. This process is her favorite, she says it is a meditative experience requiring complete concentration to cut precisely. Next, she uses a fine tip sharpie to hand draw on lines that will then be etched into the metal. All the pieces are cold connected with handmade rivets and the beautiful colors are coaxed out by various processes including heat and natural processes to create a patina. Each piece is named and no two are the same of the 116 different styles she has created.
Dawna’s work is extremely striking, and she has been noticed by multiple publications with features in the “Texas Techsan” and “Belle Armoire Jewelry”. She has also been featured on an episode of Texas Country Reporter with Bob Phillips. Her work can currently be seen and purchased in the Society of Arts and Crafts: CraftBoston Holiday Online exhibition and sale which features a beautiful collection of fine craft from across the country. https://societyofcrafts.org/artist/dawna-gillespie-adornments-dawna-gillespie/
Dawna stays true to herself as an artist and doesn’t follow trends, but rather allows her heart to lead her to each creation. She explains that the connection between herself and the collector is the most important part of her art. That human connection that the purchaser feels with the piece which can’t be explained on the surface, but occurs from deep within. There are people across the country who have felt this connection and live beyond the Texas borders in such states as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and more.
Dawna continues to create and will be working on a new collection in the coming year. Her recognitions continue to mount and on her bucket list is to participate in the Smithsonian Craft Show to which she will be applying in 2023. She was waitlisted for the 2019 show, her first time to apply; this is an accomplishment all on its own.
To view Dawna’s work you may visit her website and find her on social media Instagram at dawna_gillespie_adornments and Facebook at Dawna Gillespie Adornments. She is always happy to share her work with potential collectors through appointment at her home studio.