St. Pete artist family set to show off artwork at Etsy event

By Virginia Johnson, Entertainment Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, July 07, 2017, 6:24 PM EDT

A St. Petersburg family who merge their artistic talents into one-of-a-kind artworks and photography will join dozens of other Tampa area artisans and craftspeople sharing their art at the 6th Annual Etsy Craft Party on July 8.

  • Barbara Lewis, daughter, son-in-law create jewelry, photography
  • Lewis an artist for 25 years
  • Etsy Craft Party hosted by Tampa Bay Etsy Crew

Barbara Lewis has been artist for 25 years, working first in ceramic, then moving on to enameling, which involves, among other things, working with a blow torch to liquefy precious metals in a crucible.

"The definition of it is glass on metal," explained Lewis.

For Lewis, melting silver mirrors her approach to art, which involves "melting" her talents with those of her family members, including her daughter, Laura Albright.

"It's probably one of the easiest ways that we get along is when we are working together on jewelry," Lewis said.

Her son-in-law, Matthew Albright, also gets involved. While the women work in jewelry, Matthew's focus is photography.

Together, the Albrights have pooled their talents to cultivate a butterfly garden. Matthew has photos of the stages of a butterfly's life from caterpillar to cocoon to majestic Monarch, all crafted by mother and daughter.

The trio sell their work on Etsy, the popular arts and crafts website, and will demonstrate their craft at the Etsy Craft Party.

Crafting a unique keepsake

One demonstration Lewis has planned will show off how a handful of twigs and acorn caps can be transformed into a sterling silver pendant with touches of blue-green enameling.

First, they fill rubber molds of the twigs and acorn caps with wax. She then fastens each wax mold to a wax stand.

Put together, the connected twigs make the stand look like a Christmas tree.

A plaster cast of the stand follows, then it all goes into a kiln to bake for eight hours. There, the wax melts away, leaving the hardened mold ready to hold liquid silver.

Lewis pours the silver into the mold, and after a few minutes she and her daughter dunk it in a water bath. Most of the plaster disintegrates into the milky colored water.

They then retrieve the silver and begin to clip off the new jewelry pieces.

To finish the work, Laura fires up the blow torch again to melt a powdery form of glass on a few of the silver pieces.

Once complete, it's a jewelry piece that can never be duplicated, which creates a unique vibe for the piece's new owner.

“You have a connection with the artist, I think, that that is missing in mass produced jewelry -- or mass produced anything,” said Lewis.

If you want to make a human connection with the local artists behind the Etsy website, the Craft Party may be the weekend event for you. The 6th Annual Etsy Craft Party is Saturday, July 8, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free at the St. Pete Coliseum.