Nisa Smiley | Maine Arts Fellowship - Franklin, Maine

  • October 26, 2021

Nisa Smiley | Maine Arts Fellowship - Franklin, Maine

Artist Statement 2021

Everywhere I go, my eye seeks out the “quiet” beauty...moments in my surroundings that are easily overlooked for their plainness or commonness, but that I discover are stunning when I focus in on them. I allow myself to be intimately drawn into these moments, and delight in exploring how I can illuminate and elevate this beauty, so that others recognize it as familiar, but in a fresh way that catches their attention, and causes them to pause and consider. When my work resonates with viewers, I am told that they experience a sense of belonging and harmony, of renewed connection to the natural world. These experiences are something that I believe we are all in need of, regardless of personal circumstance. We are organic beings, and yet, we tend to see ourselves as separate from the natural world, creating a sense of disconnect in our sense of self, and “otherness” in our world. There is much truth to be found when we recognize ourselves as an integral part of the natural world, and my work speaks to this connection.

Eye-catching, quiet sparkle....delicate, subtle, glowing hues...curving, organic forms....shimmering iridescence....kinetic, fluid motion....translucency...brilliant sunlight.... these are a just a few of my sources of inspiration, present in my local landscape. These moments coalesce to make up my unique creative language/creative palette. With these in mind, I am in constant consideration of how to adorn and compliment the human form, creating pieces that are timeless, and designed for everyday wear.

My creative process is about reimagining and exploring tangible relationships between organic textures, patterns, and forms that I find in my environment, with the human figure as my canvas. At first glance, a piece of my jewelry might look like a silver impression of something that occurred naturally, but is, in fact, made up of, say, the shape of a bunchberry leaf, embellished with the nubby texture of a sea urchin, accented with 24k gold along the edge, and patinated to an iridescent burgundy tone. Gemstones and/or organic found objects are usually incorporated into these pieces, introducing color, depth, and light-play.

Before I design a piece, I collect marine and botanical selections from my local surroundings, which I use for mold-making, experimentation, and reference. Each mold begins with the impression of the specimen, and is then altered and modified so that it is no longer a literal impression, but a mold of my original creation. I also make small drawings (often times using my natural specimens as subjects), and then texture the drawings with polymer clay. In addition to my traditional metalsmithing skills, I frequently use metal clays, and enjoy the challenge of seamlessly marrying these metal mediums and skill sets. Silver and/or bronze clay is used to create the models from the molds, and I will likely continue to mix and match among the many components, until I reach a finished piece.

My attention is not on rules of perceived value, or trends, but to balancing form and function and beauty. When designing, I strive to be inspired and original, but not literal. Ideally, each piece will be eye- catching in a quiet manner, comfortable, functional with ease and security, and have some kind of kinetic quality that engages the eye as the wearer moves about. Precious and non-precious, traditional and contemporary, common and rare, complex and simple: be it the material, design, or crafting technique, they all have a seat at my aesthetic table.

Through my works of handcrafted jewelry, I strive to delight and beautify people, myself included, while establishing small but meaningful connections to the natural world through beauty and love. I understand from the start that each piece that I create is for someone out there, even if I do not know them yet, and so it is my honor to do this work, and my hope to see each piece to it’s intended person.

Visit Nisa Smiley's website.

Work Samples:


"Nisa Jewelry Mussel Earrings BL." Nisa Smiley.


"Nisa Jewelry Nautilus Earrings BL." Nisa Smiley.


"Nisa Jewelry Ring 3GR." Nisa Smiley.


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Ryan Leighton

193 State Street
SHS 25
Augusta  ME  04333