Sarah Cavender was an Air Force brat. She traveled all over the world with parents who “dragged” her into every museum long before she was interested in art. As a girl, she began to develop “a feel for different places and cultures from which I think I still draw…like Thailand, there’s a feeling it has, the scents and the flowers.”
A sculpture major at what was then The Philadelphia College of Art, Sarah specialized in small metal pieces. When jewelry became part of her curriculum, she took to soldering like others take to knitting. The department was “really into detail, making things the old way…filing before polishing; concentrating on technique.” Sarah just wanted to find the best way to make her pieces look good without spending hours on the finishing process. She enjoyed figuring things out. It’s a pleasure she takes and the approach she adheres to even now.
The design and fabrication of jewelry became a full time occupation right out of school. Developing a technique of treating and folding mesh (brass screening) to create sculptures created a signature look.
At 22, the young woman showed her mesh hair bows, brooches, and cuffs to Henri Bendel on West 57th Street in Manhattan and later to Patricia Fields. Both became customers. She got married, moved to Miami, had children, moved back to Alabama to raise her kids and be near her parents and divorced.
Sarah Cavender Metalworks grew out of a shed in her backyard to occupy a building in a “little Bitty town” called Oxford, Alabama. There’s a storefront for selling and an upstairs workshop. “I feel responsible to have work for my people. One has been with me over twenty years.” She’s also a responsible businesswoman choosing to utilize only materials sourced in America.
The atelier designs and fabricates earrings, necklaces, metal mesh scarves, belts and bags as well as hair ornaments, cuffs and brooches. Jewelry and accessories are sold to boutiques, galleries, and museums all over the country. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is a sustaining client. As Sarah sells mostly wholesale, the retail website www.shopsarahcavender.com has very little on it but links to bricks and mortar outlets many of whom have web sites themselves, are provided.
Brass and bronze insect screening and malleable copper mesh is folded and formed, with nothing rough or cutting left outstanding. Sarah revels in discovering new industrial materials she can use. “I went to a Wire show-it was awesome. I was like the only woman there besides the booth girls.”
Much of the colored work is airbrushed (Impressionism is one of Sarah’s favorite periods in art) and then sealed, which enhances the finish and insures its lack of change over time. Metalworks also does a lot of oxidation, leaving a piece in chemicals until achieving a desired color and then sealing it. Most pieces close with soft hooks, catches, and box clasps. Belts are extremely adjustable.
Sarah’s last source of inspiration was the Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans which evoked a collection of beautiful bug pieces with and without flowers. Botanical Gardens are a constant stimulation as well. With a small one of her own “I like to dig in the dirt” the artist intrinsically understands how plants form and are configured. This is reflected in her creations. When asked about preferred jewelry styles, she refers to the ancients, an influence also apparent in the collection.
“I’ve got everything I need – my house, my building, some property, family. Some years are tougher than others. I like what I do, meeting people, knowing my customers; I’m not driven.” All in all a happy artisan.
Photos and Sources (click on the item name for the link)
Brooches, Earrings, Cuffs: