So a while back I noticed that a perpetually perky gal living in Fort Worth was following me on Twitter. In fact, this broad was always there. She’d be there over my 6 a.m. cup of coffee tweeting away like some verbose, glaring sunrise. Over lunch she’d still be there happily tra-la-la-ing while I was alternating between swigs of flat Diet Dr Pepper and bites of limp lettuced sandwich. And again, all evening long, this happy-go-lucky lass would still be there spewing sunshine and lollipops, ruining any perfectly good grousing I had going. I began to wonder, what makes her so happy? Is she drunk? Heavily medicated? What? Who is she? So I decided to investigate her overabundance of bliss.
Seems Julie Hiltbrunner, a.k.a. Silversmyth is a jewelry designer madly, deeply in love with her craft and privileged enough to be making a living out of it. Though her works range from simple bangles and stamped rings to whimsical pendants and bejeweled earbobs and rings, I found myself drawn to her custom creations and wanted to know more about their stories and hers.
Meet the Silversmyth…
Are you a Town of the Cow native?
No, but as they say here in Texas, I got here as soon as I could! I’ve lived in New York, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Florida and now Texas.
How did I end up here? Well, there was this guy and he gave me a ring and asked me to marry him…It was a nice ring!
At what age were you first drawn to jewelry and jewelry making?
I was probably in my crib. I have always loved jewelry. My grandfather was a jeweler. He had a cabinet with about a hundred or so little drawers in it. In each drawer there were different things. Tools, beads, wire, findings and some finished jewelry. I’d play for hours running my hands through the beads and playing with all the little things I found in there.
My mom, too, would make earrings to give to the hostesses when we went to parties. She showed me how to use the tools and bend the wire. I knew that we were different as none of my friends had the makings of a jewelry manufacturing plant in their basements.
How did you get started in jewelry design?
I wanted to do more than beadwork. The books that had the great pictures of jewelry that I wanted to make required soldering… I found someone on Ebay who taught soldering. I took a one day class. Later, I wanted to make pieces with prong settings, so I took a stone setting class.
How did you find the courage to strike out on your own? What drove you to dedicating your life to your craft so unabashedly?
I had a corporate job and jewelry making was my hobby. I’d sell some of what I made here and there. I wanted to be my own boss so badly that in the spring of 2008, I begged, pleaded and manipulated my husband into agreeing that I could quit my job. It was a huge risk…but it was something I just had to do.
I’ve been running Silversmyth full time for over a year now. So much of my time is meeting new people and designing. The running of the business is very time consuming. I’m definitely putting in more hours than I have ever worked before but it is at least 10 times as emotionally rewarding.
Where do you get your inspiration?
The curves of sports cars, Nambé bowls, art such as “Bird in Space” by the artist Constantin Brancusi, and designs of Frank Gehry are all inspiring to me as well as art and books on jewelry. I’ve been involved with several galleries showing and selling art and jewelry since I moved to Texas and really enjoy being in the company of creative people.
My jewelry is always about the subject… it’s about who will wear this piece. I love people. I love to think about the wearer. What does she do… what will she be doing when she wears this? How does it feel and how does it fit? Does it define her in some way? Sometimes, I wake up in the morning with some inspiration for a new design. Morning is when the mood hits me most to create. I often go to bed after talking to a customer and not know what to create for him or her and wake with a clear idea.
What’s been your favorite custom request?
My favorite was from a military guy who lost a ring years ago. He was showing it to his friends and he dropped it. They looked and looked everywhere and moved the furniture but couldn’t find it. He had me recreate it for him from his memory and a sketch he sent me. I was touched by how much this piece of jewelry meant to him.
If you could give someone advice when it comes to buying jewelry for someone else, what would it be?
Think about what this piece of jewelry will mean to the recipient. Do you want it to be symbolic or state something? How do you want to make them feel?
Seeing as you live and make a living in the Town of the Cow, I have a few Ft. Worth specific questions:
You have 24 hours to live…
Your last meal is what and where….
OMG! This is too hard… I think I’d order a whole pizza at Sammy’s in Sundance Square. I wouldn’t have to worry about the calories!
The last museum you visit is…
The Amon Carter Museum unless the Kimball or the Modern had something special going on… I have to choose just one? Unfair!
The last band in which venue would be…
If I’m dying maybe Counting Crows would come play for me at the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens. How fun would that be?
The last independently owned and operated place you shop…
I love to shop the Artful Hand on 7th Street in Fort Worth. It has the coolest collection of eclectic gifts! You think they’d let me take some great stuff to the other side? I hope so!
So there you have it folks, do what you love and your joy will leak out all over the place, including Twitter.
Shop Julie’s mind-bendingly affordable jewelry – prices start at just $5 – or drop her a line to request a one-of-a-kind work for yourself…or someone special.
Visit Silversmyth’s website here, gaze upon an up close collection of nearly 200 items on her Flickr page and, if you’re a grumpus glutton for punishment, follow her on Twitter for a daily dose of sunshine.