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Jeannette artist crafts unique jewelry

| Wednesday, June 5, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
PHOTOS:Margie Stanislaw | The Jeannette Spirit
Pocket watches feature miniature reproductions of original watercolors by Laurie Leonard.
An original watercolor by Laurie Leonard was miniaturized and used in the bracelet pictured.
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Laurie Leonard is a local artist and jewelry maker.

The old saying “talent will not be denied,” definitely applies to Laurie Hartman Leonard of Ashbaugh Road.

“I've always been artistic. As a kid, I always got art supplies for Christmas,” said Leonard.

For 25 years, Leonard worked professionally in watercolors. She also made her own frames and did her own matting.

Leonard used to participate in about 21 art shows each year and did direct sales of her watercolors. She was a juried artist at the Twin Lakes Arts and Heritage Festival and was also a juror for the show.

In 2008, she decided to start “playing around with jewelry- making and it just took off. It was fun to do something different, and I felt really creative,” said Leonard.

Even though she is making jewelry, Leonard is still using her drawing and watercolor skills.

Much of her jewelry starts out with a design or picture that she draws and paints herself, and then incorporates into her jewelry.

The process involves making painted watercolor, then scanning it into the computer and making a miniature reproduction of her artwork that will fit into a jewelry setting.

Her images are covered with a fine jewelry grade artists' resin to protect the artwork.

In the beginning, Leonard used settings she purchased, but then she decided to try her hand at sculpting her own settings. She sculpts the settings out of air dry clay which dries hard enough to make a mold that can be cast.

Leonard sends her molds to Rhode Island where they are cast in pewter and she can then get as many as she needs.

Leonard has won numerous contests and awards. This March she was featured on the back cover of one of Somerset Studio's artist magazines, “Cloth, Paper, and Scissors.”

She was a first-place winner in “Rings and Things: Your Designs Rock.” This win entitled her to show jewelry in the company catalog.

Two of her necklaces, “Checkered Tree” and “Goddess of the French Post Card,” were finalists in the 2009 Fire Mountain Gems Contest.

Leonard's work has also been selected for inclusion in a new book, “500 Art Necklaces,” being published by Lark Books and is also featured in “Niche” a specialty magazine for galleries.

Leonard now sells wholesale and is featured in various galleries all over North America including an American Craftsman Galleries at Manhattan Times Square Hotel in New York, the Fireworks Gallery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Locally, interested customers can purchase Leonard's work which is on display at Wink Salon on Locust Street in Jeannette and the American Place on Pittsburgh Street in Greensburg.

Leonard will attend several large shows this year including the Baltimore American Craft Council show which is both wholesale and retail.

“The ACC show is museum quality arts and crafts and it is hard to get into,” said Leonard. She will also be at the Three Rivers Art Festival. “You really feel like an artist there,” says Leonard, “all the work is so nice.”

She is on the board of Shadyside's “A Fair in the Park,” presented by the Craftsmen's Guild of Pittsburgh, and edits the newsletter.

“I love what I'm doing so it's not like its work,” said Leonard even though she admits that it has been quite lucrative.

Leonard, a graduate of Jeannette High School, lives with her husband Brian who grew up in McCullough and works for BASF. The couple has two daughters who reside at home, Valentina, 24, and Tamara, 19.

To learn more about art and jewelry making, get to know Laurie Leonard. Visit Laurie Leonard Designs at home.comcast.net/~laurie.leonard/site for more information.

Margie Stanislaw is a freelance writer.

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