Christina Tyler EM Student Member Interview

Christina Tyler is a 2014 BFA Graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University. "I was president of my high school environmental awareness club and was a member of Green Unity for Virginia Commonwealth University in undergrad, but I had never heard about mining issues."

Christina Tyler PortraitHow did you first become aware of the negative impacts of mining for materials in the jewelry industry?

I have always been concerned with environmental issues of other kinds. I was president of my high school environmental awareness club and was a member of Green Unity for Virginia Commonwealth University in undergrad, but I had never heard about mining issues. During my junior year at VCU, I was introduced to Susie Ganch and I switched my major to Craft, focusing in metals. Susie showed us videos about mining impacts, encouraged us to educate ourselves and sign petitions, invited Christina Miller of Ethical Metalsmiths to speak at our school, and got our entire class involved in the Ethical Metalsmiths project Radical Jewelry Makeover. It worried me that I was partaking in an art that had such a negative environmental impact. But Susie explained her own reasoning for continuing to work as a jeweler. As there will always be a jewelry industry and jewelers, the least we can do as advocates is to:

  1. spread awareness amongst our own customers and other jewelers,
  2. practice proper disposal and re-use of materials,
  3. stay active and educated politically, and
  4. check the sources of our materials.

Oval necklaceWhen did you start making jewelry, and how difficult was it then to begin finding ethically sourced materials?

I only started making jewelry a couple of years ago and I’m lucky that it’s been getting easier. We were encouraged in school to order from Hoover & Strong, which happened to be located locally in Richmond, VA. It’s a fairly new idea for jewelers to be aware of sourcing, so it’s a work in progress. I understand that and so I try to pay special attention to companies that are working with this goal in mind.

Twist cuff braceletWhat do you think sets your jewelry apart from art being done by other jewelers?

I am just beginning my journey to discover my jewelry style as I have not been out of the classroom for long. After graduating in May, I was a studio assistant at Penland School of Crafts, and then I returned to take a two month metals concentration there. My background is in ballet and, though I’ve met a few well-known jewelers (Linda Darty, Betti Helen Longhi) who were also dancers, I still think it separates us from most other jewelers. I’m interested in movement, figures, the look of fabric, and the body as a way to display jewelry as public art. My studies with Linda Darty taught me very specific and traditional enameling techniques not used often in contemporary jewelry and I hope to continue enameling in this way. My newest interest is in powdercoating (which I learned this past fall under Aran Galligan) and I love the rustic look of white, sanded and filed powdercoat on soft, satin silver.

Olive branch enamel broochesYou use a lot of recycled and sustainably sourced materials in your artwork.  Tell us if this is to set an example to your colleagues and/ or more of a personal expression.

I make an effort to save every bit of scrap and I have jars of metal filings to melt down or re-use. I have always felt compelled to save, but as I use scrap pieces and negative shapes, I realize I’ve always had an affinity for silhouettes and negative spaces. I often design my next piece based on the scrap shapes from my last piece. I hope I can set an example to my colleagues at least to pay attention to the amount that is really necessary and how the waste from a piece is not really “waste”. I also use social media to spread word about mining issues, political issues related to metalsmithing, petitions, etc.

What do you love most about your work/profession and what else would you like to share about your career?

I love the contemporary craft world and the direction of contemporary jewelry. Jewelry has always been a statement for the wearer, but today it is becoming more and more an art form and a conceptual way to express the self or to invite people who are not normally art viewers into the world of handcrafted art. I am currently based out of Winston-Salem, NC and I am learning about the steps to start my own business, both online and in physical spaces. I’m currently building my studio while searching for internships or apprenticeships under a contemporary studio jeweler.


Christina Tyler, Visual Artist -
Christina grew up on a farm near Winston-Salem, North Carolina and dreamed of a future in dance and theatre. She studied ballet extensively and, later, concentrated on theatre. After attending the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (selective arts high school, appropriate mascot name “The Fighting Pickle”), Christina first studied Sculpture, and then Glass and Metals at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. She incorporated her background in dance and movement into her sculptures, performance, glassblowing work, and jewelry.  Her studies abroad in Certaldo, Italy helped solidify her passions for enameling and jewelry, where she worked under Linda Darty, Marissa Saneholtz, and Tim Lazure. She returned to VCU to work under Susie Ganch and completed her BFA in Craft and Material Studies, specializing in metals and jewelry design in 2014.


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