The Studio – Jewelry Blog by Rio Grande

Tanya Boutros: Most Poetic Haiku Contest Winner

Apr 29, 2011
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Bernadette Webb
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One of the two winners of the “Most Poetic” category of our recent Haiku contest was this beautiful expression of the soldering process:

Torch flame flickering,
Flux smiling a glassy grin—
Watching solder flow

(This one was my personal favorite, by the way!)

Introducing… Tanya Boutros:

Tanya at her jeweler's bench

Where you are from and what led to your passion for making jewelry?
I’m originally from Montreal, Canada, born and raised. I obtained a master’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Montreal, and then began my career in the pharmaceutical industry. I moved to the US in 1999, and have been living in beautiful San Diego since 2005.

I’ve always had a creative outlet of some sort, ever since childhood, mostly drawing or painting. About 4 years ago, I sort of stumbled into the world of making jewelry. I thought I could spruce up what I considered to be a very plain wardrobe with some interesting jewelry, but I never cared for fashion jewelry. I decided I would try to make my own jewelry rather than buy department store pieces. A local bead shop offered short evening workshops and I signed myself up to learn how to string beads. A day or two before that first class, I ran into a colleague of mine, Lei-Anna, in the ladies’ room at work and saw that she was wearing this really beautiful and unique silver necklace (as I recall, it was made of wire-wrapped Bali and Hill Tribe beads). I asked her where she got it and she replied that she had made it. I said, “Really?!” and, something clicked inside me. I knew that I definitely wanted to pursue making jewelry.

I still took that first bead-stringing class (heck, I had already paid for it), but shortly thereafter, I bought some sterling silver wire and Bali beads and started coiling and cutting my own jump rings to create some chain-maille jewelry and some basic wire wrapping. Lei-Anna soon became my “jewelry-buddy.” She would show me jewelry pieces she'd made, offer advice, and suggest places for me to buy supplies or take classes. I have been hooked on metal and gems ever since!

After spending eight or more hours a day in a highly regulated, competitive, process-driven environment, being able to go home and let my creativity flow through metal and rock helps keep me balanced. Plus, pounding and torching metal is a great way to relieve stress.

When/how did you take the next step into metalwork?
Aside from simple wire work which I mostly learned from books or online tutorials, my introduction to working with sheet metal and basic fabrication was a “Bewitching Bracelets” class I took with the wonderful Connie Fox back in the fall of 2007. In this class, I learned to saw, sand, file, heat texture and fuse metal. This was the first time I had ever picked up a torch, and I LOVED the way the silver shimmered beneath the flame as it neared its melting point. A few months later, I learned to solder in a private class with the fabulous Deb Jemmott--she literally held my hand as I soldered my first joint. After that, I was hooked—hammers and torches and saws, oh my!

Describe yourself in 5 words.
Analytical, passionate, stubborn, indecisive, meticulous

Are you inspired by any historical or contemporary metalsmiths/jewelers?
I couldn’t name anyone specific; I’ve never followed any jewelry designers or studied jewelry design. But I do have a fondness for “artisan” style jewelry from Indonesia and from Mexico. I love the different textures on the metal and the intricate details found in the granulation and delicate wire embellishments—I am somewhat detail-oriented, so this really resonates with me.

What challenges you the most?
Finding spare time to play in my studio! (ha-ha) But seriously…one of many things that challenge me is creating a cohesive body of work. There are so many techniques I want to try and different materials I want to work with that I have yet to develop my own design aesthetic. I am not at a point where you can look at a piece of jewelry I made and say, “That looks like something Tanya made.” But I’m working on it.

How do you market your work?
I have an Etsy shop where I sell my one-of-a-kind jewelry designs. I recently started writing a blog and also started using Facebook. I need a few more people to “like me” for it to become a fan page. *hint hint*

I participate in craft shows and street fairs when I get the chance. I almost always wear my own creations, even if I’m just going to the post office, and whenever someone comments on whatever I might be wearing, I never hesitate to tell them that I made it. I usually carry my business cards with me and will whip one out at the drop of a hat—I have no shame! And of course, i rely on word of mouth. I have a few regular customers at work and within my circle of friends and acquaintances. Not that I’m quitting my day job anytime soon—I need it to support my habit…

What are you working on right now—will you give us a preview?
Aside from some unfinished pieces sitting on my table my next project will be a necklace (possibly with matching earrings). I will be donating the jewelry to the 4th Annual San Diego Dining in the Dark, which is a dinner benefiting the Foundation Fighting Blindness. My jewelry will be part of a silent auction. I haven’t started working on it yet, so do not have photos to share, but I’m thinking pearls with textured silver. I am sitting on a stash of colorful freshwater pearls; this may be a good time to use some of them, and for a good cause.

What is your favorite creation to date? May we see please?!
Usually, the most recent things I've made are my favorites. Not long ago, I made a bold labradorite ring. I’m very pleased with how this one turned out. The balls are Argentium, the bezel is fine silver, and there’s a small 10K gold ball nestled inside the bloom. The rest of the metal is sterling silver, oxidized in a Liver of Sulfur bath.

Tanya’s most recent and favorite creation to date


Please share a piece of advice that has helped you.
When something just isn’t working no matter what you try, sometimes you need to walk away from it for a little while and let it simmer while you do something else, then come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes (or hands, as the case may be). Having a little chocolate doesn’t hurt either.

Are there favorite instructors so far who have contributed to your growth?
I am very fortunate to have a network of amazing jewelry teachers right here in San Diego. I have taken several metalsmithing classes with both Connie Fox and Deb Jemmott over the last 3½ years, and continue to take classes with them as time, and budget, allow. I also learned to work with metal clay through Senior ArtClay World Instructor Pattie Phipps and even became a Level 1 ArtClay World Certified Instructor in the fall of 2008.

Which prize did you choose and why?
I was undecided between the Fretz hammer and the Rio gift certificate, but in the end opted for the gift certificate because I can never make up my mind on what I want and I figured this would give me the most flexibility. Plus, with the ever rising price of silver, I can use all the help I can get!

Did you know that you were a poet? Do you have experience in this area?
Although I don’t consider myself a poet in any sense of the word, one of the creative outlets I dabbled in for a few years was writing poetry. Again, something I sort of stumbled into. This was about 8 or 9 years ago when I first met my husband, Steve. He had written some poetry that he posted online on an interactive poetry community website. I would visit that website now and then to read what he’d written—and then before I knew it—I was writing too! I don’t think I was particularly good at it, but I enjoyed it. It was a good way to express whatever I was feeling at the moment. I would write anything from humorous poems about spiders in my shower (I’m arachnophobic), spiritual pieces about life and death, to love poems for my honey. However, once I discovered the world of jewelry making, my poetry-writing days were over…’cept of course for the haiku that got me here (thanks Rio Grande!)

Is there anything spontaneous or additional you would like to tell us about yourself?
I have to mention that my husband, Steve, has been very supportive of my sickness….er I mean hobby. Last year, we were in the market for a house, and one of my wishes (non-negotiable demands?) was that I would have a room all to myself—this was to become my “studio”. Up until then, we had been renting a small townhouse, and I did most of my work in the kitchen. He has built a few pieces of “jewelry furniture” for me, including a small table where I spend most of the time designing and assembling pieces, an 8-foot long workbench where I do most of the heavy stuff, and a small rolling cart for my kiln. He converted the studio “closet” into a more user friendly storage area by installing shelving. His next project is to build me a new soldering station. He’s a keeper!

Can you share your etsy site once more and some additional pictures of  your work?
My website: Here are some recently completed rings, available on my etsy site:

Kyanite, copper, argentium, fine silver and sterling silver ring


Yellow window druzy, argentium, fine silver and sterling silver ring

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A Career of Discovery

Apr 27, 2011
Richard Paille
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The jewelry business has been my profession for 40 years. It’s been a career full of new adventures, discoveries, interesting friendships and continual learning. I’ve seen places I’d only read about in books during my school years, met customers who have become life long friends and shared experiences doing what I love with other people who feel the same way. . .

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Apr 25, 2011
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Mark Shipman
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The 2011 Saul Bell Design Award will be presented at a gala dinner during JCK in Las Vegas June 4th. Leading up to the event we’re taking a look back at some of our previous prize winners. Apichart Warrachart came to America from Thailand and found a freedom to follow the next possibility – and the next – and that has kept him here. This is Apichart’s beautiful, otherworldly piece from 2003. . .

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Every Day is Earth Day

Apr 22, 2011
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Krista Klein
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For more than 40 years April 22nd has been designated the day to act for the planet, the day to celebrate the beauty of our mother earth, and on this day we acknowledge our humility and offer her the respect that she so deserves. Wait, back up! Is one day really all she gets? No way! For some of us, everyday is Earth Day. . .

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Apr 20, 2011
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Kevin Whitmore
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Rio Grande has joined a new and much needed fundraising organization set up to help the victims of March’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Instead of just asking for direct donations, Jewelers for Japan is asking members of the jewelry trade to donate their gold and silver scrap. Simply send in your scrap to Rio Grande, and we will refine it and turn over all proceeds to the Red Cross for the relief effort to Japan. . .

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David C. Freda: 2002 Saul Bell Design Award Winner

Apr 18, 2011
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Spencer Baum
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As we lead up to the announcement of the 2011 Saul Bell Design Award winners this June, The Studio will be profiling a few winners from previous years.
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Rio Grande’s Jewelry Haiku Contest – The Winners!

Apr 14, 2011
Spencer Baum
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Last week, Rio’s blog group stepped into a conference room, closed the door, and read your jewelry haikus. More than 150 entries in all, ranging from beautiful to witty to hysterical. How could we possibly pick just one?? We couldn’t. There were so many amazing entries, we felt compelled to give out multiple prizes. We broke your haikus into different categories, and have awarded a winner (or in one case, winners) for each category. . .

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Rio Grande’s Wellness Program: Supporting Healthier Ways of Living!

Apr 13, 2011
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Michael Ross
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At Rio, we started an adventure seven years ago to address the health and wellness of our associates and their families. It started as a program to reduce our rising medical insurance costs and, in the beginning, was a classic first attempt at a new program: It took some time to engage associates and build internal support. Over time, however, our Wellness Program has shown huge improvement and associate involvement has snowballed. In addition to reducing our insurance costs, we’ve benefitted from the positive side effects of healthier associates, including increased productivity and less absenteeism. . .

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Spotlight: Rio In Motion Attendee Margaret Swartout

Apr 11, 2011
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Viqui Sanchez
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In taking a PMC® class with Yvonne Padilla and CeCe Wire, Margaret discovered she could transfer incredible detail to metal forms and a new world opened before her. . .

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Saul Bell Design Award Competition: Judging Jewelry’s Elite

Apr 7, 2011
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Mike Schelle
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Unlike nearly any other jewelry design competition, the final judging of the Saul Bell Design Award Competition invites five unique jurors to a day of lively collaboration and incredible artistry . . .

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