Huntington WoodsJune 6, 2012
Wooden jewelry artist finds inspiration in imperfection
By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer
Craig Salyers is a jewelry designer and artist who openly admits that he doesn’t have the best taste in jewelry.
“I don’t wear any jewelry myself, and if you ask my wife, she’ll probably tell you that I’m not very good at picking it out for other people either,” said the 42-year-old Huntington Woods resident with a laugh. “So I rely a lot on input from my friends, family and customers to let me know what looks good.”
Salyers, who works by day as a project manager for a software company, first became interested in woodworking about a decade ago. He originally started out by building functional items, such as storage shelves, night stands, bookcases, wine racks and clocks, for his home.
But just last summer, he began taking small scraps of leftover wood and transforming them into pieces of jewelry in his garage and basement. His nascent hobby quickly turned into a part-time profession, and he began selling his homemade wooden earrings, bracelets, necklaces and pendants under the name Xylem Creations.
“This type of jewelry only requires a tiny bit of wood, so it didn’t cost a lot for me to start experimenting with it at home,” Salyers explained. “The possibilities really became infinite once I sat down and thought about it. Any type of wood, any shape, any color — the only limit was my imagination, so I just went crazy with it.”
All of Salyers’ work is crafted entirely by hand using such wood as bird’s eye maple, African mahogany, walnut and cherry. The artist first carves each piece into the desired shape, typically something spherical or rectangular, then adds splashes of vibrant color using acrylic paint or dye before covering it with a thick layer of epoxy for a shiny finish. He prefers to accentuate the flaws in the wood grain of his pieces in order to give them a one-of-a-kind character.
“I want to make sure that all of my jewelry still looks like it’s made of wood,” Salyers said. “While I’m always trying to make it look as classy and elegant as possible, I also don’t want to detract from that imperfect quality. So even in such a small size, you can still really see the natural beauty of the wood.”
Salyers sells his jewelry online on Etsy and in person at Whimsy, a new art consignment store and gift shop that opened in Royal Oak this February. The store — which is located at 1800 W. 14 Mile Road, Suite G, inside the K & S Mall — offers everything from jewelry and pottery to paintings and mixed media pieces from nearly 100 local artists. Almost all items sold at Whimsy are $100 or less, according to co-owner Laura Ortiz.
“We tell all of our artists to try to keep their work as affordable as possible,” she said, “because we want them to succeed, and we know how much people o
ut there are struggling financially right now. What we’re seeing is a whole range of creative people, mostly women, who are discovering their artistic talents while also helping to supplement their family’s income. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback so far from our customers, and hopefully, we can inspire some of them to make their own artwork.”
The owners of Whimsy recently selected Salyers to be their Artist of the Month for May. Ortiz noted that Salyers was one of the first local artists that they met when the store was being launched.
“Craig is a really nice guy, and we wanted to bring him in because we just thought he was so talented,” she said. “I think it’s great that he started doing women’s jewelry. His work is really colorful and unique, and it’s very different from what you see in most women’s jewelry these days.”
The appreciation between Salyers and the owners of Whimsy is mutual, as the artist had no shortage of kind words for them. “I was really flattered to be selected as their Artist of the Month because they have a lot of amazing art over there,” he said. “To single me out among all those great artists was a really terrific honor and privilege. It was very encouraging for me because they were some of the first people who saw my work outside of my own family and friends.”
While Salyers is happy to be selling his jewelry online, he also loves the fact that Whimsy gives customers the opportunity to see it in person and hold it in their hands. He believes that his work looks considerably better up close than it does in photographs.
Salyers has found tremendous creative fulfillment with Xylem Creations, and he is constantly discovering new ideas that inspire him to take his art to the next level. He pointed out that because the cost of making it is so low and the process is so quick — he can typically create 30 pairs of earrings in just six or seven hours’ time — he especially enjoys the “immediate satisfaction” that he gets from his work.
As for Salyers’ taste in jewelry, well, that remains a work in progress. “I’m still not really sure what kind of jewelry women like, but I think I’m moving in the right direction,” he said. “Every day, little by little, I feel like I’m getting better.”
For more information about Craig Salyers’ jewelry, go to www.etsy.com/shop/xylemcreations. For more information on Whimsy, call (248) 850-8691 or visit www.whimsyroyaloak.com.
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