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In the open studio space that she shares with other artists in the River Arts District, Viola Spells uses a crochet hook to make a circle of loops with a silver-plated copper wire. She builds on each loop, widening the circle, then forms it around a wooden dowel, giving the piece a three-dimensional shape. She pulls one last wire through the final set of loops and draws it tight, forming a ball. After making balls of varying sizes in silver, black, and other colors, she attaches them to a crochet wire necklace.
Growing up in Asheville, Spells always dreamed of making jewelry, but she didn’t know how to go about doing it for a living. Instead, she became a librarian. Years later, while visiting her daughter’s school for Parent Day while the two were living in Philadelphia, she entered the studio where her ninth-grade daughter and her classmates had made their own jewelry. “As soon as I walked into that studio, it’s like bells were going off,” she says. “I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do.” She took continuing education classes in jewelry, but years would pass before she got her real chance.
Retirement brought Spells back to Asheville. She soon enrolled in a Bachelor of Fine Arts program in metalsmithing and jewelry at East Tennessee State University. “It was exhilarating,” she says of the experience. “All these new ideas, the teachers and young people — they have a whole new way of approaching everything.”
After graduating, Spells started to explore crochet wire jewelry. She had learned to crochet from her mother and grandmother, and she wanted to create something that honored women and the way they bring people together. At work in her studio in Pink Dog Creative, a former textile manufacturing building that has been renovated into artist studios and shops, Spells weaves her pieces into symbols — of family, of community, of connection.
For more information about Viola Spells’s jewelry, visit riverartsdistrict.com/artist/zenobiastudio.print it