A! Magazine for the Arts

Jennifer Culp of Bristol, Tenn., uses the metal studio at East Tennessee State University where she is an artist-in-residence.

Jennifer Culp of Bristol, Tenn., uses the metal studio at East Tennessee State University where she is an artist-in-residence.

Jewelry Artist Likes Playing With Fire

September 28, 2009

Jennifer Culp is a young artist who works primarily with metal and makes stunning "wearable art" jewelry.

She says, "I've always loved jewelry and attached emotional significance to different jewelry items that I collected over the years. I really got hooked when I realized I could use jewelry as a fine art form to express concepts and concerns. As a wearable art form, it has potential to express personal, human issues in a more intimate way than a painting that hangs on the wall."

***To view a slide show of her work click HERE. ***

Jennifer's vision and creativity have been described as "pushing boundaries." She says, "My fine artwork is very idea-oriented and a bit more 'out there' than the work I'm making for day-to-day wear."

Of the process itself, she says, "I use an oxyacetylene torch to melt metal for small-scale casting. When using this torch, you have to wear darkened goggles to protect your eyes from damage."

Several processes go into Jennifer's work. She employs lost wax casting, smithing (shaping metal), piercing, riveting, enameling, soldering and fabrication.

"Looking at that list, it seems like a lot of work, and it is. Those of us who go into metalsmithing must have some masochistic tendencies. On the plus side, we get to play with fire AND get fantastic jewelry out of it. That makes any amount of work worth it."

Jennifer hopes to eventually earn a living making and selling her jewelry. Currently she uses a converted bedroom as her studio and makes use of ETSU's metal studio as an artist-in-residence at the university. She is promoting her jewelry at www.Etsy.com, a site where people can buy and sell handmade work, and she plans to open an on-line store to sell more expensive pieces.

Jennifer is the daughter of Dr. John and Jane Culp of Bristol, Tenn., and the sister of male fashion model Joseph Culp, featured in the March 2009 print edition of A! Magazine for the Arts (search the archives at www.artsmagazine.info).

She recently earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, Summa Cum Laude, with a concentration in Jewelry & Metalsmithing from East Tennessee State University. Jennifer received a full scholarship to the university and participated in the Honors Scholar Program's specially designed curriculum. In addition, she completed a Senior Honors Thesis in her major area of study, the culmination of a year-long project with a faculty mentor. She was editor-in-chief of Vision Magazine, president of the Student Metal Arts Club, and received the 2006 NICHE Magazine Students Award for fine jewelry.

Jennifer's metal art has been exhibited at the Kinsey Institute Gallery at Indiana University in Bloomington (2009), Nelson Fine Art Center in Johnson City (2004-09), Slocumb Galleries at ETSU (2005-09), and the NICHE Magazine Awards Show, Philadelphia Buyer's Market (2006).

In Her Own Words

Before she graduated, Jennifer installed two jewelry exhibitions at ETSU's Slocumb Galleries. The shows included "Snakes and the Fairer Sex" and "[personal] Space Invaders". Following are excerpts from her Artist's Statement for "Snakes," describing the work in her own words:

My artwork is a means through which I explore my own views and feelings about the world I inhabit. The work focuses on certain aspects of our culture's perspectives about female sexuality, revealed not only in the experience of my life as a young woman, but also in myths incorporated from other societies into the formation of our own culture.

While my work encompasses issues endured by many, if not all, of my peers, the fact that (unbeknownst to most) the work is made to fit my own body is significant; my frequent "swings" in body image, from shame to pride, reflects the larger picture of our society's messages to women about their bodies.

To view more of Jennifer's art work, visit www.jennculp.com.