The Carving and Artistry of Naomi Sarna
Internationally renowned for her meticulously crafted colored gemstone carvings and sculptures, Naomi Sarna shares with us her creative process, and what inspires her award-winning works of art.
What sparked your childhood interest in art composition?
I had a physical need to do things with my hands. My earliest memories are making clay animals and enjoying the process of working with my hands. I noticed that some lines were more pleasing to me than others and kept looking for what I call the ‘beautiful line’
Do you think your artistic vision is something you’ve learned, or inherent?
Perhaps both. Certainly, I had the inclination to create beauty. By studying what was considered beautiful, from books I read as a child with wonderful Art Nouveau drawings, especially the Wizard of Oz series by L. Frank Baum, my early styles were developed. The Emerald City and the horse of a different color very much stimulated my imagination.
Your pearl jewellery is beautiful and intricate. What is your design process with that specifically? Do you create a design first and then search for the best pearl? Or do you first come across pearls that inspire you?
I keep an open mind when I’m looking for pearls. Shape, colour, glow, these are the things which attract me to a particular pearl, and I develop the design from there.
What about light, shadows, and line work are you so fascinated by?
There is a story that Freud said we are attracted to sparkle because of the sparkle in our mother’s eyes when she fed us. I think most creatures are attracted to color and sparkle. I have several early treatises on the nature of color and the science of understanding what makes color; this is extremely interesting to me. I take the line of color and then distort it. This is one of the characteristics of my work.
Are there specific artworks in other mediums that have especially inspired you?
Paintings of fabric by Renaissance masters is compelling and inspiring. How did they do that?! Velvets, brocades that look three dimensional; the sheen on satin… very inspiring. The Pre-Raphaelites paintings and textiles, all Art Nouveau.
Your work also has an intricate use of color. How would you describe your aesthetic choices?
Colours react together and I like to have different colors contrast and play off each other. In some of my pieces, i.e. the Maple Leaf Earrings, I choose a life-like palate but vary the size of the stones and the way different gems return color give the earrings an artful, painterly feeling.
You have received many prestigious awards for your work, which of these would you say is the most memorable and cherished by you?
A difficult question. The first Spectrum Awards, two, made me so happy! I had to walk around Tucson with a crutch for my cheeks, I was smiling so much! But the jade carving awards from the Chinese Jade Carving Association were very high honors, unforgettable. Winning Best use of Pearls for three years in a row, or Best Use of Color from the Spectrum Competition, those were pretty special awards. I also felt thrilled to have won two Gem Divas. The recognition by women of the work of a woman’s hands was honoring.
How has winning awards affected your art and process?
It certainly encouraged me to keep going. That external recognition of my work has been energizing.
Describe your relationship to your materials. What are you most drawn to working with?
My preference is to carve materials most people regard as ‘hard’ like topaz or beryl. I love the feeling I get when carving them; they feel ‘clean’. I also enjoy carving gems with interesting inclusions, such as rutilated quartz or rutilated topaz. It’s exciting to distort the lines and make them appear curved when they are, in reality, very straight.
What has inspired your most recent collection, or piece?
I like to carve jade because it can be carved very thin, and I like the dynamic of thick and thin. But I keep telling myself to be bolder and carve more dramatically. I have some large crystals and I’ve been thinking about what to do with them and I’m about to carve some high drama with them.
How do feel about the concept of jewelry as an investment? How would you advise someone looking to buy your jewelry as an investment?
There is no question that some of my museum-quality pieces are reasonable as investments. For the most part, I believe you should buy what you love and leave it at that. That’s why my pieces have more art than big diamonds. I look for rare minerals to carve which have certainly increased in value since I bought them, as mines play out, they become more valuable. I believe strongly that the Chinese appetite for jade will make American Jade much more valuable in the future, so I’m developing a jade line.
You say many of your sculptures are actually works of fine art. How would you want your audience to interpret your work, and how do you wish they be impacted?
I like being known as an important 21st Century artist. It happens that many of my works of art may be worn, and then there are the various pieces which I call meditative pieces, the carvings which are not set on bases. Everything I make is art. Sometimes you can call it jewelry, but it’s still art. I am an artist. The carvings can also be considered as miniatures for larger pieces. Some of them have been made much larger as important sculptures in gardens, or fountains.
To check out more of Sarna’s work, click this link.
View her sculptural works during the Gemstone Masterpieces show at the Wilensky Exquisite Mineral Gallery, now through February 21st, 2020.