Local artist inspired by nature

| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 8:17 a.m.

Ligonier artist Cheryl Robertson is inspired by nature and she uses that inspiration to create wearable art.

“I make jewelry that celebrates our connection with nature,” said Robertson. “Nature's inspirations are unique and beautiful.”

She said she is constantly influenced by the shapes, textures and colors nature provides. Whether it's an unusual rock, leaf, seashell or flower, Robertson's jewelry reflects the beauty of nature while she also shares her time and talent with others.

Robertson retired from teaching art at Ligonier Valley School District in 2006 and then followed her dream to become a full time artist. She started Ligonier's Loft, modeled after an artist's loft she visited as a junior in college in the New York City section known as Soho,

“After this trip I would dream about someday having my very own loft,” said Robertson.

She admits her full time studio is not the quite a hip loft but it is her ‘sanctuary.'

“It's a place that I can get lost in my art and connect to a young artist's dream,” Robertson said.

The love for teaching remained in her heart which is the reason her artist's loft soon became an art studio and workshop as well.

“I discovered I missed sharing knowledge and new ideas with my students,” said Robertson.

She teaches various workshops on metal clay jewelry, clay, raku pottery, beading, Pysanky, print making and drawing, in both workshops and private sessions as well as offering open studio hours for area artists at Ligonier's Loft on Route 711 in the Oakgrove area.

Robertson has always loved jewelry making specifically casting silver, however the cost and the unforgiving fabrication process, which made design changes very difficult, made it impossible for her to set up a jewelry studio until a new patented process came along which brought about the beginnings of Cheryl Robertson Jewelry

Robertson's jewelry begins with a process called Precious Metal Clay. a technology patented by Mitsubishi in the early 1990s, begins as a putty like substance which contains silver particles. After the PMC is formed and dried it is fired in a kilns to burn out the organic matter and fuse the silver particles, resulting in 99.9 percent pure silver.

“The process is like magic,” said Robertson. “The material has all the advantages of working with clay and the result can be extremely versatile. The jewelry can look like cast or fabricated jewelry.”

Today, many types of metal clay have been developed as well as ways to combine and add color to the clays. Robertson uses copper clay, bronze clay, steel clay, white and rose bronze clay and sterling silver clay.

“The most exciting part of this process is that there are always new techniques to learn. I will always be challenged to grow as an artist,” Robertson said.

She acknowledges this year she has been experimenting with adding colored patinas to the copper, bronze and silver clays and next year hopes to experiment with combining various metals and making rings.

Robertson's timeless, handcrafted necklaces, bracelets and earrings reflect the artist's love of nature by prominently featuring things like flower petals, dragonflies and starfish created through the PMC process. Robertson feels her jewelry is destined to become a family heirloom. She believes that nature is a reflection of our inner beauty, as well as the source of all artistic expression.

“I have learned many techniques that I combine with natural designs to create jewelry that are as unique and beautiful as the women who wear them,” said Robertson.

Robertson's jewelry designs can be found as well as a list of classes and workshops she offers can be found on her website ligoniersloft.com

She is now joined in her studio by a former student who is now interning at her studio. Rebecca Perry-Soike is completing her master's degree in ceramics and museum studies and creates intricate and porcelain figures at Ligonier's Loft. Robertson said it has been helpful having Perry-Soike share her studio space.

“Being an artist can be a very isolating experience. It's great to be able to brainstorm ideas and share studio chores,” she said.

The two artists are planning to teach new workshops at the studio this spring and will begin sharing a space at “Twisted Vine,” a new eclectic market housing various artisans and antique dealers on Route 30 near Ligonier that will have their grand opening in mid-November.

Perry-Soike is gaining valuable experience working closely with Robertson.

“I am going from academic into the real world. Cheryl is helping me to transition and learn the business side of being an artist,” said Perry-Soike.

Perry-Soike also acknowledges the similarities in the work the two artists do.

“Cheryl and I have the same aesthetics. We are very organic in the way we work,” she said.

Robertson travels the county seeking natural inspiration while also taking part in many craft shows and demonstrations.

She is a constant at the Ligonier Country Market and this weekend you will find Robertson and her unique and beautiful jewelry in the city parking lot during Fort Ligonier Days.

Cheryl Roberts jewelry will also be on display at the Arts & Cultural Celebration at Hidden Valley on Nov.3, at the Glades Pike Winery Show on Nov. 11 and she will travel to Spooner, Wisc., to display her work at the Purple Pelican Gallery later this month.

Roberts' jewelry can also be found at Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor in Latrobe and at the Jean Bonnet Tavern in Bedford.

The artists hopes that her jewelry will make women feel special and beautiful and to continue to learn and grow as an artist, and inspire others to create and appreciate the arts.

In the future, Robertson would like to expand her wholesale business through showcasing her work in more galleries while exploring more retail shows.

Robertson resides in Ligonier with her husband, Rob, whom she calls her right hand and the patience and understanding behind her work. The couple has two grown daughters and a grandson.

Diana Lasko is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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