The NEMAA blog is a platform for us to share our members work and their stories, and a hub for information about the NEMAA community.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Interview with Julie Burkhart

A Conversation With Julie Burkhart

Photos by Ian Kacungira

How did you get started doing jewelry?

My first piece of jewelry was for an art class, and I loved it. My instructor saw that I really enjoyed it, so she sent me to another woman who was a jeweler, and she helped me make a piece. I was just fascinated by it. Anytime I could get around any kind of jewelry making equipment I would play around with it and try to learn. I finally went to jewelry school in Paris, TX and learned the basics. I was there for two years, and then worked for a diamond importer in Dallas. I loved doing custom work, so I also started working at a custom design store.

What kind of custom work did you do?

A lot of bridal work, some upkeep or redo of work to make new jewelry out of old stones and metals. I did a lot of work with unusual stones, cuts, and colors. A lot of times, I would get an unusual shape and design around the shape of that stone.

What do you do now?

I do a combination of the custom work for other jewelry and companies, I do stone setting, diamond setting, and my art jewelry, which is what I call the modern micro mosaic.

I like it all. Being self-employed I can do all of those things. I can say yes or no, and make my own choices. I like having the variety of doing all of those things.

"Educating the people is something I cherish, because a lot of people don’t know what it is. I love opening minds to new possibilities."

You put a lot of emphasis on your modern micro mosaics, why?

It’s unusual, you won’t see another like that. You don’t see a lot of micro mosaics. I like explaining the process and how each technique is done. Educating the people is something I cherish, because a lot of people don’t know what it is. I love opening minds to new possibilities.

My first mosaics were inspired by the Gee's Bend quilt makers. These are women who had no money, and they made quilts out of the clothing they had. They didn’t have the money to buy fabric so they just used beat up old jeans and whatever else they could find.

How’d you hear about these women?

You know sometimes you run across something and it just speaks to you. Their quilts really speak to me. I love that they’re all wonky. I really love intuitive art. These women are so intuitive, I mean, look at the colors and how they piece it together. Everything’s a little wonky, it’s not perfect. No straight lines.

I love the fact that they’re not trained to be a certain way, they created from their heart. They really inspired me.

Bringing it back to the hand carving, this is something that computers can’t replicate. Computers can’t bend lines like the human mind does.

Exactly, that’s beautiful.

What’s your involvement with NEMAA and how has this experience been for you?

When I came to this area, I was looking for studio space and I feel like I just stumbled into it and I feel like I hit the lottery. I love this building, it’s a perfect fit for me. I joined NEMAA right away and then I realized that this is a big deal. I didn’t know about Art A Whirl or what NEMAA had to offer, but I learned about how much they have helped this area. This is a thriving, wonderful, strong arts community here. 

I dove right in, and when I really believe in a cause I like to dive right in and give service. After some time, I was encouraged to join the board and it’s been wonderful because NEMAA has done so much and it’s an honor to be a part of it.

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