Yvonne M. Padilla, one of Rio’s beloved in-house jewelry artists, was kind enough to chat with me recently for our ongoing Rio Superstars series. Yvonne has done pretty much everything here at Rio. She’s worked in the customer center, on the tech team, as a content producer, and as an instructor for our jewelry making classes. And she can make just about anything you can dream up. Literally. We are constantly throwing half-formed project ideas at her, and she always comes back a week later with something beautiful in tow.

Heather Apodaca: What are doing at Rio now, and how did you get started here?

Yvonne M. Padilla: My current position is Content Developer. I help develop and make available all of the content we have on our website. This includes videos, how-tos, instruction sheets, charts, just about everything that is additional information on products or jewelry processes. Previously I was in our Technical Support department for nine years. When I started here in 1996, I was in our customer center and then moved over to our Liaison team. Somewhere along the way I started teaching jewelry-making classes.

HA: How did you get your start in the jewelry industry?

These BRONZclay and freshwater pearl earrings took first place in the Metal Clay category of the 2012 All That Glitters Jewelry Design Competition.

YMP: Luck, kismet, serendipity. Jewelry was always something I was interested in, but I never seriously considered it as a career. In high school I messed around with making earrings and sewing beads onto fabric (all with items from the craft stores —back then I had no idea that Rio existed). Years later, I had a friend working at Rio who recommended that I apply. The majority of my jewelry knowledge has come from on the job training here at Rio. The company is very generous in teaching anyone who has the desire to learn.

HA: What’s your favorite thing about working at Rio?

YMP: Hands down, it’s the people. I have made lifelong friends because of this place. And Rio introduced me to my hubby!

HA: Everyone has some kind of creative outlet; other than making jewelry, what do you enjoy doing?

This handsome and distinguished little fellow is an example of Yvonne’s broad and far-reaching talent!

YMP: Anything and everything crafty/DIY. I’ve always had the attitude of “I can make that.” So if something intrigues me, I see if I can make it. My crafty defaults are sewing, embroidery, crochet, and sketching. I’m in the beginning phases of researching masks and theatrical makeup, so I’m sure that will take up the long winter hours this year.

HA: What’s your favorite thing about making jewelry?

Yvonne’s (current) favorites—the Applique Earrings are made of BRONZclay™ and accented with Gilders Paste®.

YMP: Watching the process go from idea to the act of creating to the final piece. I also love making mistakes. Well, I don’t love mistakes, but I love what I learn from them. Mistakes and frustrations lead to analyzing the process, which helps me think in different directions. These different directions will lead me to better ways of doing things. And a lot of the time they lead to entirely new designs and projects.

HA: Do you have an all-time favorite piece you’ve made? Can we see it?

YMP: I imagine that this is like trying to choose your favorite child. Every piece is my favorite. Really, I’m not trying to avoid the question; I just truly love everything I make. I suppose my current favorite is my Applique Earrings, a project that was published earlier this year in Art Jewelry magazine. I have to make a conscious effort not to wear them every day. They’re big, colorful and have fun movement when they’re being worn. But ask me tomorrow, and I’ll probably choose something else.

HA: What has been occupying your bench lately? Any fun projects?

YMP: I’m in the process of rearranging and reorganizing my studio at home, so it’s not totally functional. I recently bought an oxygen generator for my torch, so once everything has a home, I’m getting back to the bench so I can start playing with fire. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to sit with Ronda Coryell to learn all about fusing Argentium®. I have several ideas bouncing around my head that I’d like to start soon.

HA: Your book Bronze Metal Clay is an in-house favorite. What inspired you to write it, and do you have any advice for people who are just starting out working with metal clay?

YMP: I’ve always wanted to write a book, I just never figured it would be a jewelry project book. I was one of the first beta testers for BRONZclay™, so I had several months of hands-on experience with the clay. This clay introduced a whole new way of thinking of how to work with and fire metal clay, so I knew that there would be lots of questions coming from the metal clay community when it was officially introduced. Plenty of mistakes were made (yay!) when I originally started working with it. I wanted to pass along my mistakes (and fixes) to the metal clay community. It was a long, hard process, and I’m thankful for every minute of the experience.

My advice to anyone starting in metal clay (or any other medium) is to have fun. There’s no need to stress if something doesn’t come out quite as you envisioned it. When I teach any beginner classes I like to remind the class that we’re not trying to paint the Mona Lisa, we’re trying to perfect the smiley face. I find this helps students relax and not be so hard on themselves. Play like you’re a kid again.

Yvonne’s BRONZclay, river rock, and jade necklace took first place in the Metal Clay – Non-Traditional category of the 2012 All That Glitters Jewelry Design Competiion.

Have another question for Yvonne? I’m sure she’d love to chat with you, just leave a comment below!