LUMBERTON — Sandi Carter is an arts educator supervisor by day and a manipulator of metal by night.
Her background in metal arts allows Carter to create unique jewelry.
“This is not work; it’s love and passion,” Carter said.
Carter’s home jewelry studio is her haven. Most would think of a jewelry studio as a crafting room with charms and hot glue guns, but Carter’s studio is equipped with torches, saws, hammers and small sheets of metal.
“I don’t think most people ever go into a jewelry studio and see all the stuff behind what it takes to make something,” she said.
Carter, originally from Ohio, said she didn’t know it then but she was lucky to have a variety of art teachers. She had a teacher who taught metals and enameling in high school and she learned to work with silver, pewter and the technique of soldering, which is the process of using heat to combine metals.
After graduating from what was then Pembroke State University and studying printmaking, she taught art at Lumberton Senior High School for 10 years. She has been the arts educator supervisor for the Public Schools of Robeson County for the past 18 years.
Carter said she got away from working with metals when she came to the area, but her passion returned.
“Seven years ago I took a class and it kinda sparked my ‘I miss this,’” she said.
She looks to nature for inspiration on shapes and textures and collects things that she finds interesting. In her studio, she has glass jars filled with sticks and pebbles and shells that she found while walking around or traveling. When she travels. she will take along a tote bag and fill it with sticks and acorns.
“I just like picking up things because if you look at them close enough, you might find some interesting shape you might want to duplicate or texture you might want to duplicate,” she said. “I love texture.
“I won’t make anything that’s straight, shiny, smooth. It’s gotta have some texture to it.”
She’s always been amazed by the process of making jewelry. When she sees a piece of jewelry at a store, she tries to figure out what went into making the product.
“People say they love to do it, but they don’t realize the process to make jewelry,” she said.
Carter usually starts with a piece of sheet metal that can be made of sterling silver, copper, brass or a clay called precious metal clay. She then cuts the metal with a jeweler’s saw, which features a wire-thin blade.
“This is like a basic tool,” Carter said. “Really, you can make a piece of jewelry if you have the metal and the jeweler saw.”
Carter makes a template by drawing a small design on paper and cutting it out and then copying the design with the sheet metal. The process is simple but beginners often forget how thin the blade is and it can break easily.
“That’s just part of the learning process of feeling the blade,” she said.
She uses a special hammer to get different textures in the metal. As she pounded away at the metal recently, she discussed the chemistry of how the metal becomes stiffer and stronger the more you texturize it. She said the molecules tense up so much that they can actually break. When that happens, the metal can be relaxed by melting it again so it can be worked.
“With a few tools you can actually make a variety of stuff,” Carter said.
Although Carter specializes in metals, she enjoys and supports all types of art.
“I love working with arts and when I say arts, I mean art, music, theatre, dance,” she said. “I don’t actually get to teach students, but you know I kinda get to see the product of my role with the teachers.”
She started doing jewelry-making workshops for local teachers so they can make it a part of their curriculum. Jewelry-making classes are now offered at St. Pauls, Lumberton, and Purnell Swett high schools.
“She is an amazing artist. She has a forward thinking mind and she’s a great intellect,” said Scotty Thompson, an art teacher and longtime friend of Carter’s.
Carter is always coming up with innovative ways to enhance the art curriculum in the local schools, Thompson said.
“She took this program and moved it forward,” he said.
Carter is not selling jewelry in any stores, but people interested in buying can see her work on her Facebook page.
“Somebody said, ‘How do you have time to do this?’” she said. “I could not live without doing this. I might be dead tired from work but after I finish with the family stuff I’m coming up here.”
Reach Tomeka Sinclair at 910-416-5865