Painting watercolors and sewing have been lifelong pursuits for Emma Ehart of Hillsboro.
“I’ve always done art most of my life,” she said Sunday.
But it wasn’t until she took a class about making jewelry at Hutchinson Community College that she discovered her favorite outlet for artistic expression. She was interested, but she didn’t expect it to involve working metal so much.
“I thought we were going to make strung bracelets,” she said. “The first day they hand us a bunch of hammers and a bunch of sheets of copper and tell us to make textures.”
The second project required using a torch and soldering. The class grew more challenging from there, and she liked it enough to take two more classes, two semesters of independent study, and one semester student-teaching the subject. With that much practice, Ehart has her creative process well established, beginning with inspiration.
“My first inspiration is always the stone, then I might pick out a couple of other stones that complement it,” she said.
From there, she sketches out designs until she knows just what she wants to make.
“Because silver can be expensive, that’s a good practice,” Ehart said.
Once the design is finished, she measures out her materials and begins the work of making her design a reality. Despite the fine detail required, Ehart mostly works without using a magnifying glass. All of her soldering is done in the kitchen, where she has a lot of windows and a hood over the range.
“When you work with the gases and the torch, you do have to have ventilation,” Ehart said.
“I can solder a whole piece together in just a day or two,” she said. “I have a zone, got to get in the zone to do all that fine detail work.”
Then she polishes the silver before finally setting the stones in the piece of jewelry.
Ehart said she has a few pieces of jewelry that she would have a hard time parting with, so when she begins work on something, she tries to keep in mind to not get too attached if she is making it to sell.
During the summer, she worked on jewelry every day. She still tries to work on it every day, but she has to balance between her own work and projects for classes. Ehart commutes to Wichita State University, where she is working toward a bachelor of fine arts degree.
Ehart will have her jewelry, watercolor paintings, and sewn dolls for sale Saturday at Arts and Crafts Fair in Hillsboro. She said her booth will be on Main Street just north of the intersection with Grand Avenue. She has been to Arts and Crafts Fair once before as a shopper, but this will be her first time selling at the fair.
There will be many other first-time vendors at this year’s fair, director Penni Schroeder said. This year the fair will have 292 vendors, including 80 who are new.