The Educators

Click on their name to Jump to their Bio or just scroll down the page.     (potential Educators, please contact our Education Committee)
Instructors:
Heather AlvisJames Binnion
Sacha BlieseAlleson Buchanan
Marie-Claire DoleKaren Espeland
Candice GerardLeah Meleski
Victoria RobertsAdrienne Sheard
Facilitators:
Walt Hekala

Instructors:

 Heather Alvis – Heather Alvis Photography

Heather AlvisHeather’s background in photography started at a young age when she enjoyed creating memory books full of photos of family vacations, friends at school and everyday events. With her father being a commercial photographer, she was always surrounded by walls of photo albums, hours in the darkroom and countless photo shoots.

With over a decade of managing web design and development projects and being an entrepreneur with her product (BittyMugs™) selling on Amazon, Etsy and Shopify, Heather is uniquely qualified to discuss product photography for use online and offline. Additionally, Heather has a B.S. in science education which gives her a solid foundation in teaching.

When asked what her favorite type of photography is, Heather is quick to say that she loves all of it. From products and art reproduction to family candids and glamour photos, Heather is just passionate about behind the camera.

“All photography creates challenges. Some you can solve with light, some with positioning and others with lots of trial and error. Getting through a difficult shoot is always invigorating and there is rarely a dull moment when trying to capture someone or something at their best.”

Aside from photography, Heather enjoys time outside in the garden, riding her mountain bike and exploring the beauty of the Pacific Northwest trails. She’s stays fit with daily kickboxing and cross-training and has been working toward living a zero waste lifestyle since 2015 (she’s almost there). With a daughter (8) and a son (5), she and her husband are thrilled to have found a forever home in Bellingham.


James Binnion – James Binnion Metal Arts

James BinnionJim’s love of craft started in his grandmother’s home. A furniture maker and weaver, she inspired him to use his creative talents, which he’s been doing for more than 30 years as a jeweler. Though he learned jewelry basics in high school, Jim has spent his entire adult life expanding his knowledge of jewelry making.

Jim was always drawn to the beauty and workmanship of Japanese craft. And once he saw mokume for the first time in the early 1980s, he knew he would make mokume; he even pioneered a technique for making electric kiln-fired mokume gane.

In 1991, Jim established James Binnion Metal Arts (JBMA), working exclusively in mokume. He has consulted with other mokume artists and metallurgists to develop his theoretical and practical knowledge of metallurgy.

Today, this metalsmith, engineer and periodic beer-maker continues to refine his process and designs while also passing on the knowledge he’s gained to the next generation of jewelers.


Sacha Bliese – Sacha Goldsmith Designer

A Minnesota native, Sacha received her Bachelor’s in Art with a focus in metals from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse in 2000.  Sacha worked as a bench jeweler for a few years before opening her own business in 2003.  As a goldsmith, she specializes in custom fabrication and one-of-a-kind designs.

Sacha spent 12 years as a military spouse.  With 4 moves in those 12 years, she learned to be flexible and embrace community quickly.  She’s spent numerous hours working in volunteer positions and leadership roles of many kinds.  After graduating from Seattle University’s MFA Arts Leadership Program in 2015, she served as the Business and Operations Manager of Equinox Studios in Georgetown.

New to the Bellingham area, Sacha is a consultant and advocate for the physical studio needs of visual artists.  She is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the annual GSR Fine Art Festival in Mankato, Minnesota, and serves on the Bellingham Metal Arts Guild board as the Treasurer.


Alleson Buchanan – Glass Elevator Arts Consulting

Alleson Buchanan grew up in the Pacific Northwest, soaking herself in the arts: She sang in a cappella small groups, performed musical theatre, and loves to tap dance. She always loved visual art and spent hours staring at her favorite paintings at her favorite museums across the country. Surrounded by all this beautiful art, she felt living artists were under represented. Her journey to understand the visual art world led her back to the source: The artists. She realized artists are the ones who need an advocate and found her calling. Alleson managed a classical realist painter full time for three years to learn the ins and outs of artist needs. In 2016, Alleson founded Glass Elevator Arts Consulting to support and reward individuals for taking the risk of becoming a professional artist.

Alleson holds a B.S. in Communication from Cascade College in Portland Oregon and an M.F.A. in Arts Leadership from Seattle University. Alleson has a decade of experience with commercial and nonprofit organizations, and individual artists. She promotes the arts in Seattle and has had the pleasure of partnering with many Seattle arts organizations including: Pratt Fine Arts Center, Cornish College of the Arts Playhouse Theatre, The Brooke Westlund Studio + Gallery, Puget Sound Group Northwest Artists, Seattle University Art Collection, Edmonds Center for the Arts, and Cultural Access Washington.


Marie-Claire Dole – Marie-Claire Jeweler

Marie-Claire is well known for her unique, delicate, and one-of-a-kind, fine jewelry and for her pastels and oils.

In both her work as a goldsmith and as a painter she expresses joy with color and detailed craftsmanship.

Each of Marie-Claire’s exquisite fine jewelry creations is made by hand and is one of a kind reflecting a deep and personal artistic vision.  “Creating a piece of jewelry often starts from an inspiring colored stone”, she says.  Sometimes her creativity leads her into inventing a hidden side or a movable part or a little world of its own, giving her pieces surprising and delightful touches.

She makes use of all four of the precious metals and a variety of gemstones in her work, and she likes to use several metals on a single piece for color contrast.  Often it is Sterling Silver and Yellow Gold or Rose Gold accents.

Marie-Claire grew up in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, the most important center of watch making in Switzerland and a famous center of Art Nouveau.  Perhaps this nurturing artistic environment catalyzed her innate creativity because she knew that she wanted to become a jeweler since she was 5 years old. She says “I spent many hours by myself creating anything from drawings to clay figures before I started grade school.  I always knew I would be an artist.”

Marie-Claire passed the entrance exam of L’Ecole d’art appliqués at age 16 and graduated with a CFC as a Goldsmith in 1979 after a 4 year training program that included jewelry design, academic drawing, painting and composition, followed by an extra 6-month training in Diamond setting.  Patek Philippe of Geneva, considered to be one of the world’s most prestigious watch brands, gave her –  her first job –  2 days after she finished Art School.  She was the first woman goldsmith hired by Patek Philippe and fabricated one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces for them for two and a half years.

She has made countless pieces of jewelry over the past 30 years, many on commission. Creating a custom piece of jewelry usually involves at least 3 appointments with a client, she says.  While some clients have a precise idea of what they want, others have no idea. But, she loves the process, and tries to involve the customer as much as possible. She says, “It is my passion to let them inspire me, and it comes out as a unique design for them.”


Karen Espeland

Karen Espeland is a mixed media artisan, working primarily with fused glass, jewelry metal smithing and PMC. She enjoys exploring new techniques in various mediums and gaining a deeper technical background to apply to her work. This includes becoming a Certified PMC Instructor, learning from many local and nationally known artist/instructors over the years and sharing ideas with other people interested in the arts. Her inspiration comes from natures flora, fauna, shapes, sounds and textures. She is an active volunteer at the Bellingham Metal Arts Guild and the Whatcom Humane Society.


Candice Gerard – Candi’s Jewelry & Gifts

Candice Gerard is a Graduate Gemologist. She is a past board member of the Bellingham Metal Arts Guild


Leah Meleski – Leah M. Handcrafted Jewelry

Leah MeleskiLeah was born and raised in Connecticut. She moved to Massachusetts in 2004 to pursue her dream of creating jewelry. After going to a liberal arts college for a year and not finding her passion, she happened upon Massachusetts College of Art and Design. This is where it all started. Leah had not realized it was possible to study jewelry and actually become a working living artist. By 2008 Leah earned her BFA in metals/3D and art education.

Everyday in her studio Leah creates, plays, explores, and experiments allowing her play to lead to something truly amazing. Play within a process is truly the best way to learn and the only way to succeed. Letting go of failed experiments and knowing which ones to keep is invaluable. She allows herself to make as many mistakes as possible. Letting go of perfectionism when possible, but keeping all of the steps along the way to develop the actual pieces.

Leah creates her work in her home studio located in Bellingham, WA. You can find out more information about what she is currently working on through her website.


Victoria Roberts – Etsy: VictoriaRoberts

Victoria is originally from St. Louis, MO, she moved to California in 2006 where she discovered Sea Glass and has never been the same since.  Victoria started making and designing jewelry in 2007.  She is mostly self taught but attended an extensive fabrication class at the Revere Academy in San Francisco and has taken many classes at local galleries and bead shops.  She makes beautiful jewelry using wire wrapping and weaving techniques, metal smith techniques, and PMC.  She is also skilled in Viking Knit and Chainmaille methods. In 2011 she moved to Bellingham.

In addition to her jewelry, she crafts whimsical ornament sun catchers; mermaids, angels, seahorses, and whales, just to name some of her unique designs.  Her Jewelry and Sea Glass Whimsical Ornaments are available on line and at:  Village Sea Glass –  Capitola, CA  ♦  Marina Gift Shop – Semiahmoo, WA


Adrienne Sheard – YouTube: Adrienne Patrice Sheard Metalsmith

Adrienne SheardAdrienne was born and raised in the Pacific NW with a love for adventure. She carries her sense of adventure into each piece of jewelry she creates. Before becoming a Metalsmith, Adrienne was a Shipwright traveling and working from Alaska to California. In 2014 she received a Fine Arts degree and Certificate in Jewelry Design from NSCC and settled in Bellingham. You can find Adrienne on most Saturdays showing and selling her work at the Bellingham Farmers Market.


Facilitators:

Walt Hekala – WE Talking Stones

Walt came to metalsmithing after careers in Federal law enforcement and then in International development projects focused on trade facilitation for less developed countries. After retirement, he took his first formal training in metalsmithing at the Bellingham Metal Arts Guild (BMAG). As a student, he has participated in nearly all course offerings at BMAG to learn multiple techniques for metalsmithing and jewelry making.

Since joining BMAG, he has been an active volunteer in duties ranging from studio maintenance to serving two terms on the board of directors. He will finish his second term as President of BMAG in May 2018. In addition to volunteer administrative duties, as he progressed in metalsmithing, lapidary, and jewelry making, he recognized he had skills to share as well. He leads workshops as a facilitator freely sharing his limited knowledge and assists others in trying out techniques in metalsmithing.

His jewelry making interests are eclectic in methodology, metal selection, and theme. Walt takes inspiration particularly from stones he incorporates in many pieces. He teams with Elizabeth Rhyneer to create unique finished pieces where they each incorporate their individual specific interests and talents.

As an example, Walt may cut and polish a stone he or Elizabeth will incorporate into a pendant, and then Elizabeth will finish the design incorporating the pendant into a necklace. In addition to making jewelry and metal art objects, Walt has written stories originally intended to accompany gifts he made for his granddaughters. He has now made multiples of these store themed pieces to accompany copies of these stories. These story themed pieces and the stories are now publicly offered by Walt and Elizabeth thorough their endeavor: WE Talking Stones.

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