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For the week of August 6 - 12, 2003

Features

Jeweler Petersen returns to SV Arts and Crafts Festival


By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer

Idaho Commission of the Arts fellow Jodi Petersen, of Victor, claims that putting art into words is nearly impossible. But, read how the jeweler who combines precious metals with layered enamel describes how the world influences her art.

"While out hiking I follow a frigid, ice blue, opaque glacial stream and find that it flows into a scalding hot spring the color of a freshly split pumpkin," she writes. "Not only can scorching heat exist alongside arctic cold, but weird and wonderful colors are perfect mates for one another. The dance of these paradoxical compositions is what intrigues me most about life."

Petersen has long been on a road to honing her skills as a jeweler, although she has only been using her current techniques for five years. She started with beadwork when she was still living in Jackson, Wyo.

"I was a bead stringer for 12 years," she said. "I was sick of it after six. It is just so limiting."

When she finally hit the wall with beads Petersen moved to Victor and finally got the tools and training she needed to pursue metalwork.

"I was in pain in my life until I could get this going," she said.

As a child Petersen said she felt she could never become an artist because she could not draw.

"I wanted so badly to be an artist," she said.

Even with her frustration with basic drawing skills, Petersen was undeterred. She studied artists and their work and, at age 16, she hitchhiked from her home in San Fernando, Calif., to Pasadena to see exhibits of work by Kandinsky and Paul Clay.

"It just knocked me over," she said.

After working in a Burger King long enough to buy a Ford Falcon, Petersen drove to Jackson, Wyo., and got a job as a waitress at the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.

"I told them I was 19," she said.

Petersen has been recognized with a dozen top honors. Part of what has made her successful is her mastery of her unusual enameling technique.

Petersen combines metal work with torch-fired enamels. To provide a surface for the 25 to 40 layers of clear, opaque and colored enamels, she uses copper forms as a base.

Traditionally, enamel is layered with the higher temperature enamels on the inside. Petersen combines enamels with "incompatible" temperatures. The final "mix" is a big part of what makes Petersenís work special.

"I didnít know anything about incompatibles," she said. "Iíve accelerated quickly."

Petersen attributes much of her success to the state she calls home and the people who appreciate her work.

"When I first moved here the reason was to go hiking. That discovery is non-stop from the smallest flower to a square foot (of land). Itís endless," she said. "Sometimes I really get transported."

She says she also feels supported by the Idaho community when she goes out on a limb to create some of her really unusual ideas. She says she is also tapping her "dark side," which is an energy she says she needs to get out.

"Iíll be in the garden and an object will click and dovetail with a feeling I am having," she said. "Everyone likes things that are pretty, but it can be one part of the flower coming up in a strange way."

Petersen likes to name her more challenging pieces. One of them called "Flowers for Neruda" is named after the Chilean writer, Pablo Neruda.

"He has a poem about flowers," she said. "But a lot of his stuff has a dark vein running through it."

"The hardest part of my work is finding time to work on one-of-a-kind pieces," she said, acknowledging that 25 percent of her work is "production" work. "I have a very low tolerance for repeating things. Itís like fingernails on the chalkboard.

"The more I do one-of-a-kind pieces (the more) I am amazed at how people respond."

Although she still makes some "lower end" pieces to stay in business, she is proud that sticking to her heart and making the things she wants has paid off.

"Usually the right person will come along," she said.

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.