Artisans of the West – Shawna Whiteside

Shawna Whiteside, silversmith and owner of the Sweet Iron Silver Co.

Our March 2013 issue featured the Ultimate Artisans of the West. Over the next few months, we’ll profile some of the talented artisans we met, and whose work we fell in love with. To see the full feature, order the back issue 

Whiteside’s Bronc Pendent, represents the symbolism of the West.

For silversmith Shawna Whiteside, working from her studio near Didsbury, Alberta, creating the feel of the West involves color, creativity and her passion for life. In her work, she combines intricate designs and a splash of color to create a unique western flavor. Whiteside feels she has a passion to create innovative and expressive jewelry, which offers whimsical detail with a modern twist. Her work specializes in the bright cut style western engraving and she also is fond of making custom work, incorporating logos, brands or initials.

“I have a passion for anything that will make a piece a one-of-a-kind or an heirloom. I love adding color, which is why I’m always putting pendants on colorful turquoise, amethyst, or other stones. I also try to mix copper, gold, silver and other metals together to make things pop.”

Whiteside relates she has always had a passion for jewelry, but it wasn’t until she turned 30 that she decided to pursue her passion.

A beautifully crafted silver ring, inspired by western design.

“My mother started doing bronzes around that time. She is an amazing artist and she has always taught me to follow my dreams.”

Inspiration for her jewelry comes from different ideas that might have not been done in the western style. Whiteside says she keeps a notebook in her purse and does quick sketches whenever a new idea comes to life. “I’m always looking in magazines and trying to figure out new ways to wear and engrave, keeping the traditional methods, but putting a colorful or modern twist on them.”

Recently she has gone to Washington to meet and train with Mark Drain, founder of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association. “He is a hero of mine and a brilliant silversmith. He continues to inspire me to try different things and make every piece the best one I can possibly make it.”

For seven years, Whiteside has been juried into the Calgary Stampede Western Showcase. “I was one of the first artisans they let into the Western Showcase.”

She said the opportunity to show at the Stampede is like winning an Academy Award. “I try every year to incorporate something new or different in my work. It really makes me try to evolve and improve.”

Custom brand bracelet with 10 karat gold scroll.

Visit the Sweet Iron Silver Co. to see more of Shawna’s work.

~ story by Deanna Buschert

Artisans of the West – Shelagh Blatz

Shelagh Blatz, silversmith and owner of Designs By Shelagh.

Our March 2013 issue featured the Ultimate Artisans of the West. Over the next few months, we'll profile some of the talented artisans we met and whose work we fell in love. To see the full feature, order the back issue

Stamped Sterling Silver surrounds this 1930's Buffalo nickel, the iconic symbol of the West, surrounded by turquoise stones. Complimented by matching beads.

Shelagh Blatz “fell” into silversmithing. After convincing some friends to take an Introduction to Silversmithing class with her in Okotoks, Alberta, Blatz fell in love with the craft. She continued to take classes from her mentor, Shirley Paradis, and also at the Alberta College of Art & Design.

In 2002, Blatz started making pieces that she couldn’t find anywhere in Canada and began taking orders from people who were interested in her unique pieces. Working out of her home studio on her family’s ranch southwest of Calgary, Blatz draws motivation for her jewelry from her western lifestyle – she strives to create unique pieces that reflect her life.

A beautiful grouping in striking Spiny Oyster, a shell that has been used for adornment since ancient times and worn by Aztecs, Anasazi, Mogolion and Hohokam.

“I draw a lot of inspiration directly from the stone; the color and shape usually indicate where I start with the design,” says Blatz. “I start with a sketch book and a shape and fit a stone into the design or sometimes I begin with a stone and draw the design around it.”

Blatz finishes all of her designs off with her trademark Buffalo nickel clasp. “It’s great to be able to pick out one of my creations from afar.”

A striking turquoise stone surrounded by small beads of silver and on a silver beaded chain.

Suspended on a silver chain, and adorned with a light turquoise stone, this feather is light and easy to wear.

Silver feathers adorned with precious stone, and complimentary earrings.

Visit Designs By Shelagh to see more of Blatz's work.

~ by Deanna Beckley