Crislyn V’Soske Baughman sits hunched over a wooden desk in her North Asheville studio wrapping floss-thin wire around a long needle. She then picks up a set of clippers and snips the wire into rounds so small I’m sure it must be time to invest in bifocals.
Recognizing my struggle, she selects a new strand of wire.
“I’ll use copper so you can see better,” she says.
I watch as she forms two rounds — one copper, one silver — flattening the first into a perfect oval, then opening the second ring just enough to link it through the copper before clamping it shut.
Baughman, who designs earrings, necklaces, hair clips and mobiles, will repeat this process dozens, sometimes hundreds, of times for every new project she undertakes. She says it takes days (“and days and days”) to finish a single necklace chain because she handcrafts every link, clasp and bail (the metal casing that holds beads, gems and prisms in place).
“I won’t sit down unless I know I have hours to work,” she continues, likening jewelry-making to her yoga practice. “It isn’t worth it to do just five minutes.”
Baughman, who is also a hospice nurse for CarePartners, creates jewelry in between shifts. On workdays, she wakes up at 3 a.m. to fit in a yoga practice before starting her 13-hour nurse shift at 6:15 a.m. “If you do yoga or meditate, you get into the flow, you don’t have self-awareness, you get lost … you’re just totally in the groove.”
She says she experiences that same peaceful flow when she’s making jewelry inside her home studio. Tucked away in a corner room, her wooden desk and bench are positioned in front of a window overlooking a yard lush with trees, a creek and patches of pepper plants that her husband, Bruce, tends.
The space has everything she needs. A row of pliers and clippers are nested in a wood holder to her left. Small hammers fill a glass jar adjacent to what Baughman calls “the cutest anvil” she’s ever seen — barely a few inches high and not much wider than the palm of her hand. To her right, vials of glass beads stand at the ready. In the middle drawer of the desk, a rainbow of seed beads organized by color fill ice-cube trays. A mat in the center forms her workstation, artfully strewn with needles, strands of wire like hair and small rounds.
According to Baughman, working as a hospice nurse and a maker complement each other. “Hospice care is go, go, go. It’s very much a communal experience,” she explains. Jewelry-making is “just the opposite — totally quiet, sitting, not moving.”
Though the art form requires long hours of solitude, she says her cat, Clementine, often curls up in her lap to keep her company while she works.
In discussing her path to jewelry-making, Baughman notes it was somewhat by chance. In 2009, she took a necklace to a local bead store for repair. When the worker handed her the tools and showed her simple techniques to fix the necklace, Baughman says she felt her hands charged with energy and excitement. Jewelry-making felt like something she was destined to do.
Shortly after, while visiting a different bead store downtown, she glanced through a simple paperback book on wire jewelry-making and thought, “I can do this.”
She soon fell in love with wire because of its versatility. “You can do anything with it,” she explains. “It’s like drawing with a pencil but 3D.” The mobiles — flowers, a fish, an insect and cascades of geometric shapes — hanging in each of her office windows prove her point.
The self-taught artisan has spent years perfecting her craft, and her studio is filled with finished products. In addition to the mobiles, Baughman has a tray of hair clips resting on a nearby bureau and at least half a dozen picture frames filled with pillowy, satin fabric pinned with earrings and necklaces.
While touring me through her space, Baughman gingerly lifts a white display holding a single necklace featuring several layers of wider interlocking circles with teardrop beads hanging from the front. It was the first piece she ever made.
“I like to keep it around to remind myself where I began,” she explains, pointing out the relative simplicity of the clasp (a few wire strands) compared to the more intricate ones she makes today.
In the family
Despite her serendipitous introduction to the craft, Baughman adds that making may be in her genes. Her grandfather, Stanislav V’Soske, was influential in the custom-made rug movement. In his obituary, which ran in The New York Times‘ April 7, 1983, edition, he’s noted as “the dean of American rug design.”
Baughman’s father, Paul V’Soske, continued the tradition. Baughman recalls her childhood spent watching her father weaving rugs in their living room. Today, his plush, intricately patterned creations adorn the rooms of her home, including the floor of her studio.
“Must be something in the gene strand,” says Baughman of her life as a maker. “I’m not anywhere near [Paul’s] talent, but I like to make things with my hands. Even dinner,” she adds with a smile.
But Baughman hesitates to call herself an artist. And at her father’s suggestion, she avoids labeling herself a jewelry maker since she hasn’t taken formal classes and doesn’t use certain tools.
As part of her approach, Baughman never looks at others’ works for inspiration. Each necklace, earring, mobile and hair clip is unique with wire formed into different shapes, sizes and styles.
“A lot of it is just intuitive,” she says. “You just start and see what it wants to be.”
She holds up a heart-shaped pair of dangly earrings as an example. She says she created the shape and pattern, which bears the intricacy of a Celtic knot, just by playing around with the materials.
Baughman’s jewelry is currently for sale at Lola Salon and Gallery on Biltmore Avenue and she’s hoping to expand her reach in a few more shops.
But ultimately, Baughman says she creates because she enjoys both the process and the finished product.
“The best feeling is when I’m out and I see someone walk by wearing a piece of jewelry I made,” she says.
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This article is part of our ongoing feature, “Creatives in the Crowd,” which focuses on local artists — both established and new. The feature spotlights unique stories and innovative artistic approaches within our creative community. Unlike much of our Arts & Culture reporting, these stories are not tied to upcoming events, exhibits or releases. The feature strives to represent a diverse range of voices, experiences and artistic mediums. If you’d like to nominate a community member for consideration, please reach out to email@example.com with the subject line “Creatives in the Crowd.”