Fine art jewlery, by Andi Callahan
Signpost featured artist
The fated jewels of Andi Callahan
If you find yourself driving behind a car with a bumper sticker that reads, “easily distracted by bright and shiny objects,” you just may be sharing the road with Placitas jeweler Andi Callahan. The artist has forever been drawn to vibrancy and possesses “a love for all things color.” She’s worked extensively in Raku pottery, glass, precious metal clay, and traditional metal smithing, building an expansive and radiantly colorful body of work.
Despite her sincere appreciation for the aesthetic, Andi has not always been an art-maker and refers to herself as the “antipode” of her former self. For years she worked as a director for a nonprofit engineering society in Atlanta. “That was a wonderful job and a whole other world,” says Andi, who eventually moved westward to Oklahoma to be with her husband. She experienced a bit of a shock upon relocating, finding herself in an unfamiliar environment and suddenly without a career. But with the transition came a new identity, fueled by creativity and an eagerness to learn. One pottery class was enough to pull her onto an artistic highway. Says Andi, “I thought, maybe I’ll take a pottery class. And I did it. And I went right into it. It’s been a journey, I’ll say that.”
In Tulsa, she located a production potter who worked in a large warehouse with a variety of glazes. Andi rented space from him, bought her own wheel, and welcomed his advice and knowledge. She mastered Raku pottery—which beckoned her due to the glaze options it offers—and created a few dozen pots each week, successfully selling them in Sedona and Tulsa. It depends on the glaze you use, but Raku can lend itself well to color. There are certain glazes where you just get amazing ranges.”
Another learning opportunity later steered Andi away from pottery and toward glass. Along with a dear jeweler friend, she travelled to Dallas to complete a Glass 101 course. “Glass was just coming to the forefront of the art field. And the class was all I needed.” Prior to the Dallas trip, Andi had minimal exposure to or interest in glass, but always believed in the power of the new to stimulate the mind. “I realized I could get all the colors I want, right there. I didn't have to stand out in the cold doing Raku firing and hoping it comes out right.” When she returned to Oklahoma, she dove headfirst into three-dimensional glasswork—buying a kiln, making mistakes, and developing a relationship with the medium.
Placitas has been home to Andi and her husband, Chuck, for 21 years. “I love it,” says Andi. “I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.” Her love affair with the state began serendipitously. When she was working with the engineering association, she traveled all over the country setting up meetings. She was to attend a regional meeting in Colorado and was convinced by one of the association’s volunteers to extend her trip a few days and fit in an introduction to New Mexico. That volunteer, and his wife, took Andi on a fun and culture-filled tour of the state—from an iconic tram ride to the Santa Fe plaza, to Chimayo and Taos (where she recalls being “indoctrinated to a Michael’s breakfast”). In the years that followed, Andi found time each fall to come back to New Mexico. She’d spend days looking at artwork in galleries and carry her inspiration back with her to Oklahoma. When Chuck retired, the duo made Placitas their permanent home.
The artistic communities in Placitas and Bernalillo were immediately welcoming to Andi. She is especially indebted to Bernalillo artist Jake Lovato, who carried her work in his gallery for many years. Andi was an early participant and committee member of the Placitas Studio Tour, having been with the tour for the entirety of its twenty-year run. In 1999, Andi enrolled in yet another course, this time in Santa Fe, to study precious metal clay. She was immediately enthralled by the material and started fashioning jewelry. Says Andi, “To me it was just like, ‘I’m home again’! Like playing with pottery, but on a lower scale.” She jokes, “And the rest of my life went downhill from there.”
Precious metal clay came naturally to her, but traditional metal smithing, necessary for her growth as a jeweler, demanded a bit more practice. Kilns were easy for Andi to grasp, but the torch was not. Says Andi, “I don’t think I will ever love the torch, but it’s a means to an end, so I had to learn to use it.” Andi’s fine metalwork, which is often intricate and yields organic patterns and forms (some evocative of nature), highlights the stones that serve as the central focus. She concentrates on creating a harmony between each element in her work. Most of her stones are purchased in person at the Tucson Gem Show. “It sounds a bit woo woo,” says Andi,” but the stones kind of talk to me.” Rather than seeking out specific stones, she waits to see which ones “turn a switch on” inside of her. Often a unique stone is all she needs to mentally compose a ring or pendant.
Look for Andi during the Placitas Studio Tour this May (placitasstudiotour.com), or visit her work at Jeff Warren Fine Arts in Old Town or in Santa Fe at John Rippel U.S.A. You can view Andi’s current pieces on her website (www.andi-coyote.com) or schedule an appointment with the artist by phone (771-1111) or email (email@example.com).