Westminster jewelry artist specializes in whimsy and color

January 26, 1993|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,Contributing Writer

Dabbling in hundreds of miniature objects, Westminster jewelry artist Sandy Schultz fabricates collages to wear.

Each assemblage is unique in her own style of Lilliput-turned-avante-garde. She fabricates glimpses of timeless places, studded with rhinestones and pearls. She glues and paints, boldly texturing with small-scale people and possessions. No element is too fantastic to depict her vision.

Mrs. Schultz uses accident and intuition, she says, seeming to find the creation as she works.

"Sometimes it's the really bizarre things you wouldn't see together. Sometimes the first thing I pick up sets the tone for what I do," she said.

The results are visually intriguing and brain teasers, too. One of several "farmer" pins depicts a farmer in overalls driving into the sunset. He's cruising a pink Cadillac down a glitter-paved street framed in pearls. A gemstone sunset radiates with gold foil halo.

But the farmer's road quickly narrows to end before him. His chicken and pig are tiny; his dog is large. Could this be a statement about modern farming?

"That's what's neat, you can interpret them so many ways," says Mrs. Schultz.

Plenty of people enjoy doing so. Her work is sold at Zyzyx in The Festival at Woodholme on Reisterstown Road in Pikesville, where owner Hilly Greenstein says, "It's total whimsy -- themes treated in a whimsical way. We sell quite a lot here. People look for whimsy and color."

"At Zyzyx, the first dozen sold right away," recalls Mrs. Schultz. "They have a lot of neat stuff in there, jewelry, ceramics, so I was flattered they wanted to sell my pieces. It's a high-profile store for people really into artsy kinds of things."

Mrs. Schultz says, "I've always had a creative bent. But the media I was working in didn't allow me to be as creative as I could be."

While acquiring a bachelor's degree in fine arts education from Towson State University, she discovered that teaching art wasn't for her.

"They [students] were bigger than me," she says, and the classroom limited the type of art exploration she wanted students to do.

So she took a master's in therapeutic recreation at the University of Maryland at College Park, because "so many things I enjoy personally -- horticulture, music, drama, even cooking -- I could parlay into education."

She worked for several area psychiatric hospitals "with no particular emphasis on one thing because you can't pigeonhole people," she says.

It took a personal crisis to discover collage jewelry. She was approaching 40, and the gamut of modern medical science could not bring children to the Schultz household. (Her husband, Larry, is division head for commercial finance at First National Bank, Baltimore.) Trying to achieve pregnancy was, she says, "two years of sheer hell." After months of waiting, two separate adoptions fell through. She took a leave of absence in July 1991.

"I was terribly depressed. I just started fooling around with stuff, cutting up baby dolls" and making pins on pieces of floor tile, she says. "I did some pretty weird stuff. This sounds terrible, but I have an obsession with eyeballs, hands and feet. What came of it were some very bizarre pieces. I was wacko!

"Then I got an idea to make pins that show women's occupations or hobbies, like the homemaker, dentist, cook, sewing, musician, shopping, playing checkers, gardening, reading, skiing."

Between rhinestones, pearls, gilded hearts and gold paint are icons of the housewife: knitting needles, soup cans, pink telephones.

"Working with tiny small objects made me focus. I couldn't think about other stuff," she said.

Still desperate for children, she appeared on a Baltimore news program to ask the public for a baby. Her luck turned. A friend of a friend of a friend had a pregnant daughter.

Adam arrived four days after his birthday in 1992. Seven months later, the Schultzes received baby Josh.

"It was a miracle from God," Mrs. Schultz says. "I never believed in miracles before, but these babies were meant for us."

With a baby -- and then two -- in the house, her style became playful. She used hearts, bells and pearls. Holding a small mirror pin collage of legs dancing in bubbles made of marbles, she continued, "I started on mirrors, getting less concrete and more creative. These looked pleasing, design-wise, and are not telling a story."

She titled her business "Word of Mouth" as a play upon finding her children.

"I have a big plan," she laughs, "six years from now I'll do this full time."

In addition to Zyzyx, her work sells at Beth El Synagogue, the Spring Fair at the Johns Hopkins University and by "word of mouth."

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