Featured Seller: C E M Adams

Charlotte Adams, who sells as C E M Adams on Felt, is an artist and film technician based in Wellington, New Zealand. As a contractor at Weta Workshop, she paints props, costumes, and prosthetic make up. Her personal practice is angled more towards sculpture and jewellery, with a particular interest in the beauty and elegance of animal skulls.

cemadams big penguin 1

cemadams penguin 2

What do you make?

Hand sculpted skull jewellery, cast in pewter and Sterling silver. I also sculpt, and paint sculptures/figurines on commission, although my Felt shop is strictly jewellery at this stage.

How did you get into your craft?
I had this idea for some jewellery I wanted, but I couldn’t find anything that quite matched what I had in mind, so I figured I’d just have to make it myself. Not having access to the particular skulls I wanted, I sculpted them from scratch using photos. (Cheers, Google image search!)

I was working as a prosthetics painter at Weta Workshop at the time, and was surrounded by some very talented and knowledgable people who kindly taught me the basics of mould-making. From there I was able to work out how to make pewter casts of my work, and pretty soon I was getting orders and commissions.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?

Traditionally I’m a painter, and I majored in painting at Ilam School of Fine Arts. I’ve always had a soft spot for sculpting though, and since graduating I’ve enjoyed pursuing a more 3D direction. Most of the jewellery techniques I’ve picked up from co-workers, Mum, You Tube, and good old trial and error.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?

For the initial sculpt, definitely Plasticine. A good chunk of my childhood was spent playing with plasticine, making hoards of tiny horses (while my brother took care of robot construction!), so working with it is like second nature. I also work with wax, for the sterling silver pieces I do.

For moulding, I love silicone because it is flexible, and allows me to prise pieces out of the mould easily despite the complexity of the skulls.

Sterling silver is my favourite for the finished piece, but since I don’t have the necessary equipment, I send waxes up to Auckland to be cast. Pewter however is a fairly easy to work with at home, since it has a relatively low melting point. It polishes up very nicely, or can be left to develop a soft patina over time.

Pouring the molten metal into the moulds is one of my favourite parts of the whole process, closely followed by opening the moulds and easing out the completed piece (hopefully with no casting flaws in it!) Polishing the pieces is not quite so exciting, but there is a certain satisfaction in seeing the metal transform from dull and lumpy to shining glory.

What inspires you?

Big books with lots of glossy photos of skulls! Walks on the beach gathering bits of shell and bones. Walking in general, preferably somewhere far away from civilisation.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?

I like to show the beauty of skulls. Too often skulls are seen as dark, evil things, whereas I like to concentrate on their elegance and sophistocated design. There is nothing frivilous about a skull, every curve or indent is there for a reason, and put together in a way that is beautiful.

Describe your workspace:
I don’t have a dedicated studio, so it tends to be a cramped and chaotic ever-expanding corner of my bedroom, or the kitchen bench.

What are you currently listening to?

Gil Scott-Heron, I’m New Here.

Recommend an album:
The latest album by kiwi band Jakob, Sines.

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
The Velveteen Rabbit. Melancholic but with a great ending, and beautiful illustrations.

Who is your hero/heroine?

Gromit, of Wallace and Gromit fame.

A favourite quote:

“Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”
Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation.

Do you have any pets?

No. But there’s a lovely Tui that hangs out on the flax bush by my bedroom window a lot.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
A beautiful poster of NZ fish, each hand painted in water colour, by the talented Giselle Clarkson!

cemadams big triceratops

You can see more of Charlotte’s intriguing, beautifully detailed work in her Felt shop here.

Charlotte has generously offered a prize of one of her gorgeous small penguin skull pendants (below) to one lucky Felt blog reader. If you’d like to be in the prize draw, just leave a comment below telling us what inspires you about C E M Adams and Charlotte’s story. The draw will be made on Friday 21 November and is open to New Zealand residents only.

cemadams small penguin skull pendant

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10 Responses to “Featured Seller: C E M Adams”

  1. Hannah says:

    I love your jewellery, it really is very beautiful. I have always loved the beauty of skulls – despite others thinking its a bit gross! Please put me in the draw, I would love to wear on of these pieces. Good luck with your future endeavours. Hannah

  2. cathy gaul says:

    Hi Charlotte, I love your jewellery and what a great story – it is really inspiring to hear of people who decide to make their own fantastic creations instead of just putting up with the hoards of mass produced, un-inspirational and unoriginal offerings that abound out there.
    It is great that you have worked out how to do it yourself too – yay!!!
    I also have always been attracted to the beauty of bones and skulls, feathers etc, as you said they are elegant, and also streamlined -everything is there for a reason – function and beauty all in one.
    I am going to send this link to my son because he has been talking about making his own jewellery for ages and has had a few sporadic attempts – hopefully this will inspire him to get back into it – I think he will be interested in the pewter.
    Please put my name in the draw as I would absolutely love to have a penguin skull and would wear it all the time :()
    Keep up the fantastic work.

  3. Tiana says:

    I love the contrast and fusion between beauty and death with the skull jewelery. I’ve always had a fascination with skulls and this just strengthens it. The structure and delicate nature of bone brought out by the specular highlights in the metal. In love with these pieces. Plus I love that you had an idea and just went for it, didn’t let any “but ifs” stop you :)

  4. Jenny Webb says:

    These are stunning and like you I am in awe of the beauty of bones. As a child growing up on a farm, I was always fascinated with old bones of animals, long gone. I think your pieces are breath-taking.

  5. Mindy says:

    This is amazing! Penguins are my favourite (and Ron Swanson is my hero). Keep up the great work – it’s both wildly impressive and truly inspiring.

  6. Sarah says:

    I love the intricate nature of Charlottes work, the skeleton is fascinating and I love how her work is a real conversation starter – people either love or hate the use of skull/ skeletal designs (I love!!)

  7. Sadie says:

    I am inspired by Charlotte’s move into doing sculpted pieces as something that she loved to do in childhood. Not working in a creative field myself I really think it is so cool to be able to make something beautiful out of an idea and imagination. Well done!

  8. Esta says:

    Really beautiful work Charlotte and I’m always excited by any art/jewellery/products that get people talking about animals (I’m an ecologist and nature lover :)). You have definitely made skulls into stunning pieces of jewellery and I look forward to seeing what else C E M Adams comes out with.

  9. Sal says:

    To show the structural beauty that was once hidden under fine feathers or a rough hide makes people think a little more about the wonders of nature and how amazing simple things can be.

  10. Camille Lowe says:

    I love your jewellery, and was really interesting to read about the process. I too have long had a fascination with skulls, particularly bird skulls as they are so delicate. Keep up the good work, and thanks for sharing your story!

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