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Cameron Norman Rocks!

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Cameron Norman is the artist behind ‘Butter Moon Arts’ and an employee of Sivertson Gallery for the past 2 years. If you have ever stopped by the gallery on a Sunday or Monday while she is working, you will understand what I mean when I say she radiates positivity and compassion! If you have been to the gallery and have not seen Cameron herself, you could not have missed her amazing jewelry on display. She is known most notoriously for her basalt earrings and beads, but she also has an amazing array of gemstone earrings, sea glass pendants and more.

This past weekend I interviewed Cameron at her home studio in Grand Marais, MN.  Her weekend was spent preparing for her trunk show at Siiviis in Duluth (which is this Saturday, December 15th),  and because of that I was able to see her in “Butter Moon” mode, drilling beads, crafting earrings and experimenting with design.

Cameron’s Spread of Basalt

When I walked into Cameron’s home on Saturday, my eyes were immediately drawn to a large table in her three season porch. The table was completely covered in small, Lake Superior stones. “How did you find all of these stones?” I asked her. “On the shore! I just put my nose to the ground, and my butt in the air” she replied and we laughed. We made our way to her ground floor studio and decided it would be fun to drill rock buttons as we talked. In between taking video and photos I managed to ask a few questions over the buzz of her machine drilling holes into small pebbles of basalt.

Do you ever use other rocks, or do you like to concentrate solely on the basalt?  “I started out with gemstones, so why did I begin working with basalt? I think just seeing them on the beach and realizing that they were a gemstone themselves even though they would hardly be considered that. The basalt has such a nice patina to it, some are quite shiny from being worn down by the waves, I try to stick with those for the earrings and pendants. For the European sized beads, I may also look for some granite and other rocks. Mostly what’s out there is jasper, granite or basalt. There is such a variety of color and texture. I was drawn to those kind of soft, smooth rocks.”

The drill buzzes on and Cameron stops to cover the bead with water and adjust her protective glasses

“Sometimes the basalt drills easily, sometime it takes forever, because every stone is different. Every stone has a different makeup, hardness. Some take a few moments to drill, some might take several minutes.”

Always Smiling

Tell me a little about yourself, how long have you been in Grand Marais? “We moved here 19 years ago this coming spring from a remote 160 acres in rural Ontario.  It was a really good move. Grand Marais is a really amazing little community.  If you are bored, it’s your own fault. There are so many opportunities for volunteering, participating in programs, be active outdoors and to have fun.”

Was jewelry making your first step into the art world? “I went to the University of Kansas as a weaving major. In school I had access to the weaving studio Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 to 5:00 only. I thought, “Hmm, no. I want to WEAVE!” So my final year, my fourth year in school was spent as an apprentice with a weaver who ran a weaving school. It was a traditional apprenticeship where she didn’t pay me and I didn’t pay her. I had room and board and access to any loom I wanted 24 hours a day. I did all the things that taught me what running a weaving school would be like. I learned what it meant to be in business as a weaver. We had sheep, I worked with sheep. We had rabbits, I took care of the rabbits.  It was a working situation, and in return I learned how to weave. I met also Chris (her husband) at this school, he was the shepherd. “

At this point, I had to stop my recorder. We laughed together at the random serendipitous sound of it all. She was a weaver and he was the SHEPHERD? How fairy tale-esque is that?

“I wove for about 3 years. When I had children I stopped weaving because I did not have a studio I could close off. I knew that if I started a warp and small hands got into it that it would make me murderous” Laughter “So I thought, “hmm yeah, I don’t think so” more laughter.

A Sumi-e painting of a Raven by Cameron

Cameron went on to tell me that her mother, Lib McCarthy, was a professional watercolor artist. She both taught and exhibited. She did beautiful work. After her mother died 10 years ago, Cameron took home all of her watercolor materials and tried it out. “I took them out and realized just how hard watercolors are to do” she said. Then she started to take some “Fantastic classes” at the art colony in Grand Marais. She discovered a love for Sumi-e and oil painting. When talking about painting Cameron said “It’s all very challenging. I still do those, when I have time to sit down or go outside and paint I do.” It wasn’t until one day, 6 years ago, when her friend Valerie McFarlane taught her how to make a pair of earrings that she first thought of being a jeweler.

“A friend of mine who makes some wonderful jewelry showed me how to make a pair of earrings. Putting color and design together. One thing I say about gemstones is that they have all the pieces of fine art. They have color, form, design and often the look like little pictures. Jaspers look like little pictures. Moss Agates look like little landscapes. So that was intriguing to me. I’ve been doing jewelry the longest of all the other art forms. And I plan to keep going for a while.” Laughter

Getting ready to drill!

What is your favorite jewelry to make?” I don’t think I have a favorite. I think it’s because there is enough variety. If I was just doing one thing at a time, I think that would be my favorite. But for my own mental state and happiness, I want to mix it up enough to keep it interesting. Although” pointing to her necklace she is wearing “I keep adding to this. This might be my favorite.” Laughter. “My goal is to make nice pieces of well-designed jewelry that are affordable. When someone comes along and enjoys my work they can easily think ‘I’ll get one for me and one for my friend as well.’ I like to know that someone’s happy and not overwhelmed by the price.”

Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry to give as a gift? “I think making a set of earrings and necklace from a place I’ve been and then giving them to that person I was visiting. I was visiting my son Colgan and his wife Maggie  last year, and on the beaches of North Carolina there is a stone that has a lot of silica in it, so it has a really pretty, almost beach glass look, but it’s a rock. So I picked a bunch of those and made her a set so she could have something from where she lives. I think that’s my favorite type of jewelry to make, as a gift. Except, if I was visiting someone in the desert…. boulders would be hard to work with, so would dirt”. Laughter.

Be sure to catch Cameron at her trunk show with Sally Cavallaro at Siiviis in Duluth, this coming Saturday December 15th! She will be there from 10 am to 4 pm showcasing her beautiful jewelry and one lucky customer will win a basalt pendant necklace worth $50. You need not be present to win, so make sure you stop down, if only for a moment, to Siiviis in Duluth to enter your name to win and meet this truly fantastic and kind artist.

 

 Interview and Photographs by Abby Tofte


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