Studio Visit appears first in print, in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. Here, Melissa Merli visits with Georgia Morgan of Urbana, who makes jewelry from polymer beads she makes herself. In the Nov. 11 newspaper, we'll have a visit with Lincoln Machula is playing Claudius in the Celebration Company’s production of ‘Hamlet’ at the Station Theatre in Urbana.
Q: When did you start making jewelry and why?
A: Around 1990. I have no idea. I have racked my brain trying to remember why I started making jewelry, but the more I got into it, the more fun it became.
Q: What materials do you use?
A: Metal — copper and silver — and polymer, beads and semi-precious stones. All of the polymer beads I use I make myself.
Q: I've always loved your polymer beads. Why did you start working with polymer?
A: Honestly, the Fourth of July, 2002, I was trying to remount a hole in a turquoise bead so it would fit on my 18-gauge wire. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remember my kids had given me polymer clay 15 years earlier, and I knew where it was. After I started working with it, I discovered I could make a bead in any shape or color, with any size hole I wanted. That was it. I was hooked.
Q: I absolutely love that bracelet of polymer beads that look like pebbles.
A: My daughter calls this my "Betty Rubble bracelet." It's much lighter weight than a rock bracelet — which would be uncomfortable, too.
Q: Do you use any other materials in your jewelry?
A: I dry leaves and press them into copper to make texture. I use soybeans in my jewelry as well. These are freshwater pearls inside what looks like a copper soybean pod. I have some with actual soybeans.
Q: What kinds of paint do you use on your polymer?
A: I don't use paints. The designs are in the polymer itself. The designs are made by arranging little pieces of colored clay together and squishing them around. I hardly ever use paint, and when I do, it's just for antiquing.
Q: Have you ever taken classes in polymer?
A: I have taken workshops in polymer clay, and they last three to four days. And I've taken art classes at Parkland College. They didn't deal with polymer, but they did deal with design.
Q: What do you like best about working with polymer?
A: There is no limit as to what you can do with it. When I sit down to work, I'm not sitting down with a blank mind. Something is going to happen, but I don't know what it is.
Q: Weren't some of your polymer pieces in a book?
A: I have one piece in the book "400 Polymer Clay Designs."
Q: So you were a linguistics professor at the University of Illinois before you started making jewelry? How long were you there?
A: For 30 some years, and then I retired in 2001. I was just barely old enough to retire. The first thing I did was sign up for a class. The first one I took was metalworking at Parkland.
Q: Where do you sell your jewelry?
A: Mostly at local art fairs. I'll be at the Craft League of Champaign-Urbana art fair (this) weekend at the Urbana Civic Center, and I do the Boneyard, Taste of Champaign and Downtown Festival of the Arts. I also have some nature-themed work right now at the Museum of the Grand Prairie in Mahomet. And I have an ever-changing collection of my work at Wind Water and Light in Lincoln Square Village and in the Illinois Artisans shops in the Thompson Center in Chicago and at Rend Lake. I also sell on ETSY at oakGeorgia.etsy.com. I post new work frequently. Or people can email through my website at http://www.georgiamorgan.net .
Q: What do you think of the Craft League sale?
A: I love the Craft League sale. There's always so much exciting work there. They have different artists every year along with some of the same ones. My only regret about the Craft League show is I don't have much time to get out of my booth and explore.