Feature Me Friday: Rachael Brooke

This week we have Rachael Brooke Winkley of
Rachael Brooke Art Jewelry, from Madison, Wisconsin.

Who is Rachael Brooke?
Rachael Brooke is a one-woman art jewelry studio.
My name is Rachael Brooke Winkley.
Rachael Brooke Art Jewelry is my business name which leads
people to assume that Brooke is my last name. My design aesthetic
is “high-style/low-tech” which means I design and craft stylish
jewelry using low-impact metal smith tools and techniques.
I have three design lines in my Etsy shop. The Classic Collection
has a simply elegant design focus. It’s a line of beaded jewelry
(semi-precious stones and cultured fresh water pearls) on my
handmade sterling and 14k gold-filled findings.
The Simply Striking Collection is my line of hammered sterling
and 14k gold filled wire jewelry. The Vintage Redux Collection
features jewelry made from vintage, antique or simply
second-hand metal objects: candy, tea and tobacco tins; aluminum
drinkware; serving trays and such. The sterling silver wire I use
in all my jewelry is 100% recycled.

Saffron Yellow Dahlia Earrings

What’s the first thing you remember making?
Geez Louise, I have no idea.
We were always making stuff in my family. My dad and I would
make Christmas ornaments and little sculptures out of salt dough.
He was finishing his sculpture/art history BFA when I was in
grade school. My mom made clothes and stuffed animals for me.
She was finishing college, too. We were broke, but I had no clue
back then. Doing without or making do with what we had fueled
their creativity, I guess. I also remember making gowns for my
Barbies out of plastic produce bags and twist ties.

Why work with recycled materials?
I think I may have answered that above. My parents taught me to.
Besides, it’s much more of a design challenge to take discarded
materials and try to find one more use for them.

Where do you work?
In May, I became an artist-in-residence at Mendota Mental Health
Institute on Madison’s north side. I’m part of a group of artists
who volunteer to teach art classes for the patients in exchange
for very low rent on our studios. The facility is located on a hill
overlooking Lake Mendota. My studio has high ceilings and
three big windows that look out into a park like setting.
It’s the bestest studio I have ever had!

How do you get from A to Z?
By singing the alphabet, of course.

What are your favorite tools?
My jeweler’s saw, hammers and well worn set of Swanstrom pliers.

What music do you listen to while you’re working?
I often work without music because it’s nice to listen to the sounds
outside. I find I concentrate better without it, too. I do listen to
classical on the local public radio station and jazz or world music
on WORT-FM 89.9 which is Madison’s community radio station.
If I ever get around to loading my i-pod it will have Laurie Anderson,
Beck, Janelle Monae, Cyndi Lauper, Brand New Heavies, Prince,
Mike Doughty, Angelique Kidjo, Harmonious Wail, Stevie Wonder
and English Beat on it.

What are the five best things you’ve purchased on Etsy
and where did you find them?

Please don’t hate me or kick me off the team, but I haven’t done
much shopping on Etsy. However, my favorite things include:
a really lovely handmade bag by rosybird and a vintage French
magazine style playbill for a nightclub featuring topless dancers
from VintageEye.

Recycled Sterling Lyre Necklace with Smoky Quartz

Read any good books lately?
I’m currently reading the Narnia series with my daughter, Bella.
I just read a collection of Dashielle Hammett’s fiction, which
I can’t believe I’ve never read before. The Thin Man movies with
Myrna Loy and William Powell are some of my favorite movies.

Been to any great exhibits?
The most recent one that comes to mind is the Chuck Close
exhibit that was at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
in 2006. His work makes my jaw drop to the ground in wonder
and amazement every time I see it. Seriously, how does he do
what he does?

Who inspires you?
My 87 year Tata Martha (French nickname for aunt).

My aunt has been through it all and still keeps on going with
a cigarette and a glass of wine. She still knits and can whip up
flawless cabled baby sweaters from memory. My mother told
her recently that I collect Vera scarves. This prompted her to
think she might have one from the days when
“we wore silk scarves with our wool suits.”
She found it, re-rolled and stitched the hems which had loosened
and sent it to me. Did I mention she’s 87? My Tata has more
energy and a sharper mind than many people I know.

Golden Hammered Hoop Earrings

What do you do for fun?
Crochet, shop flea markets and junk shops, tweet, hang with my
daughter when she’ll tolerate me, put my vast knowledge of
useless pop trivia to good use when Guy works on the New York
Times crossword puzzles.

Besides Etsy, where can we find your work?
Absolutely Art in Madison, WI has been a long time customer.
They are phenomenal at supporting local artists.
There is also a list of shops on my website.

How do you promote your work?
I’m trying to be a 21st century babe by doing a lot of tweeting and
Facebook-ing (hey, if google is a verb then so is facebook).
The Etsy teams I’ve joined and the blogs I follow have been helpful
in promoting, too. I have an email and postal mailing list from
doing art fairs for 12 years. Yes, I still mail post cards.
Yes, they work….really.

Red Finch Tea Tin Necklace

Have any words of wisdom?
It has taken me a long time to become disciplined about my
artwork. Creativity may be spontaneous, but it goes to waste if
you’re not prepared to do something with it. To quote Prince,
“there is joy in repetition”. So, dedicate a space to your craft and
dedicate time to it each day. The size of the space and the amount
of time isn’t the important thing. The discipline of creating,
brainstorming and visioning on a regular basis is important.
Holy cannoli, did I really just spout that bit of wisdom?

What’s in your future?
More coffee. More jewelry making. Fewer outdoor shows and
more indoor shows. More wholesale business and, hopefully,
more Etsy sales. But first, more coffee.

Blogs: flea-bitten


Tubby Tabby's SquawkBox said...

Great feature on a great artisan!

alexkeller said...

so envious of your work space!

Rachael Brooke Winkley said...

Hey, Tubby Tabby, thanks for the kind words :) Alex, it's the first studio space I've had that I feel I can really call a studio - not the basement, not the rec room, not a closet (did that once in an apartment).

Anyone's Guess said...

Love your vintage tin earrings! And I agree with Alex, your studio space looks heavenly- filled with natural daylight.

Cindy said...

Love seeing other peoples work spaces! Also love to hear what inspires other artists. Great article!

Bead Lola Bead said...

So much fun reading about you and your awesome studio, Rachael! As my "studio" consists of portions of our dark basement and a small corner of our kitchen. I am IN LOVE with your work space and all those windows and light! As for the bit of wisdom you shared? You can bet your cannoli my wheels are spinning as to how I can best update my spaces to encourage this discipline and creativity you speak of! =D

Anonymous said...

Oh my have to have to coolest studio ever! Love it! I wonder if there are any of these programs available locally. Great stuff!