Artist’s Interviews – Debra Cobia

Our member artist Debra Cobia shares some insights into her process in our current Interview…

Q: In a nutshell, tell us about what you are currently working on? Any major themes or ideas?

I am currently experimenting with Argentium Sterling, a low oxidizing silver that contains germanium rather than copper as its main alloy. To be marked sterling, an alloy must contain at least 92.5% pure silver. Traditional sterling is alloyed with copper. Although there is a learning curve, the advantages are significant in the style of art jewelry that I design and fabricate. Notably, the ability to fuse rather than solder most of the components of a piece of jewelry, and the lower oxidization of the material.

Q: Is this a new direction, or does this align with your overall oeuvre?

My personal aesthetic has not changed; however, I would say that this material has allowed me to advance my style in significant ways. Specifically, I am able to create some elements that go into a piece without a visible solder or joint seam. As well, a fused seam is unlikely to open up with each subsequent torch use so I am able to add more complex attachments, such as hinges, without “undoing” a previously soldered joint.

Q: What about your techniques and media?

I use traditional silversmithing techniques such as sawing, filing, soldering, polishing, and riveting. My primary material is silver with some high karat gold embellishments using specialty techniques such as keumboo. Keumboo is the fusing of a very thin layer of gold foil, 23.5 or 24 karat, to another metal. In my case, that metal is silver. I believe that finishing techniques, along with design aesthetic, is what separates one jewelry designer from another. My finishes are typically more matte than shiny, and often darkened with a patina to highlight the textures I like to use.

Q: Do you listen to music or TV while you work or do you prefer silence?

This decision is entirely driven by my mood. Some days I love having music and other days I want silence. I don’t consciously make the decision…I just walk into my studio and either turn on the music, or start to work in silence.

Q: What is your average work day like? Where is your studio?

I am fortunate to have a studio in my home garage. It is enclosed, heated, cooled, and has a sink. The floor is concrete, a good think when working with hot metals that sometimes get away from me. When I go into the studio, I sometimes have a time frame in mind that fits with other activities. Typically, I start early and work until early or mid afternoon. When preparing for a show or to teach, I am often in the studio from early to late, working on multiple fabrication projects and photographing finished pieces, or working on class handouts as I fabricate a sample that will be used in class to develop specific jewelry making skills.

Q: Who is your most significant influence?

Both of my parents encouraged creative pursuits and quality craftsmanship. I still hear their voices when I think about taking a short cut, or letting something go that I wouldn’t be proud to show. Helen Blythe Hart, an Atlanta based artist and teacher has influenced my technique and helped advance my skill tremendously. Other artists such as Art Smith and  Alexander Calder, both I would classify as mid-century modern, really influenced my tendency to have movement in my jewelry, along with clean lines. 

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