The Norman Transcript

November 7, 2013

Q&A: Judy Osburn talks inspiration, jewelry

by Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Wildlife has long inspired artist Judy Osburn’s work.

The Oklahoma native creates animal-themed sterling silver and stone jewelry from her home studio in Norman where she lives with her artist husband, Warren Osburn. 

Judy is showing her work during the Holiday Gift Gallery at the Firehouse Art Center, 444 S. Flood Ave. Judy is one of many artists exhibiting in the gallery space through Dec. 24. Mediums range from fine art to craft pieces, including painting, pottery, jewelry, blown glass and sculpture. An assortment of Christmas ornaments are also available.

The Firehouse Art Center will be open late for shopping during the Second Friday Circuit of Art Nov. 8 and Dec. 13 from 6–9 p.m. each evening, in addition to regular hours, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. 

For more on Judy visit For more on the Firehouse visit


Q: At what point did art become a part of your life?

A: When I was born. My grandmother was an artist, my mother was an artist. I just have always been involved.


Q: Was it always through jewelry? Or was it manifest in other ways?

A: No, no — animals, horses. Horses, particularly. I was always drawing horses. It’s just always been an interest. You don’t know where it begins when that’s just what you’ve always known. And my mother was not a working artist, she did things for gifts and things like that so I wasn’t around that type of art, but I always knew I was going to do something with it.


Q: At what point did you begin working as a professional artist?

A: I started working professionally in about 1972. I had young children at that time and I was going to school at the University of Oklahoma. I came here to go to school and started in interior design — art related. The art school was totally contemporary at that time and I was drawing horses so we didn’t click. So I tried other things and didn’t finish then because I got married and then had children.

I guess it was when our youngest daughter was in art school at OU that I said, “Well, shoot! I might as well go back and get it finished.” And I did end up with an art degree which was wonderful. I started out in visual communications and ended up in printmaking as a degree.


Q: So then how did the jewelry making come into this?

A: Because I’m tuned into horses — I love jewelry, I always wanted silver and turquoise jewelry. After my parents lived on the Navajo reservations for many years, I got very involved with the turquoise and the silver. I’d have to wait for the horse shows to come to town so I could go look for horse jewelry. And I just never found anything I really wanted so I thought, “Well, I’ll just learn to make my own.”

We had an art league in Norman for many years and I was president for some time, and we always met on the second floor of the Firehouse Art Center. And going up to the room I’d walk by the jewelry room and I’d think, “Boy, that looks like a lot of fun!” I think the art league probably disbanded in 1996 or ‘97, something like that. So that jewelry room was always in the back of my mind. When I decided I was going to learn to make jewelry I contacted the Firehouse. I’ve been there ever since.


Q: Tell me what your process is like creating jewelry.

A: I always start with an idea and I draw. I still love to draw so I do a lot of drawing. Then that drawing is transferred to a sheet of silver. It’s what we called “pierced out” — cut out of the silver — and from there you set stones. You texture your metal, just whatever your idea of what you want it to look like when it’s finished.


Q: So this necklace you’re wearing right now, did you make the chain for that, too?

A: Yes, this is a hand-woven chain that I make a lot of. That and beads. I use a lot of beads also.


Q: Does it take a long time to make a hand-woven chain like that?

A: Yes, yes, it does. Three feet of wire makes one inch of chain. So it takes a while. But that’s something that I do as I sit and watch TV or listening to TV or riding in the car. It’s just something on our New Mexico trips — that’s what I do.


Q: Is their a learning curve for creating jewelry?

A: Yes, there was for me because I had never dealt with a torch fire. And it was pretty scary. I owned my own torch for about a year and a half before I ever turned it on at home. I want my teacher here with me before I blow this up. [laughing]

No, really, it’s scary. It was to me. All of the medium is totally different than oil painting or watercolor or whatever else there is. I’ve melted a few things that I didn’t intend to. There is a definite learning curve.


Q: Was that nerve-wracking for you?

A: Yes, for me. It was stressful just because I’m old and I want to do it perfect the first time and that doesn’t always happen.


Q: Well, I’m not old and I want to do it perfect the first time, too. [laughing]

A: But you’d think as old as I am I ought to know. [laughing]


Q: When you’re creating jewelry do you know if you’ll be keeping them or selling them?

A: Yes. Intent to sell. I’m very mercenary. [laughing] Intent to sell and then I change my mind. And in some cases if I’ve shown it a couple of times and don’t get any response and it’s one I really like then it goes in my jewelry box. So I have a lot of nice jewelry. And then there has been a couple of pieces when I’m trying a new technique or something like that, that I will keep just to have because I need to know how to do it again.


Q: How large is your personal collection of just things you’ve created?

A: Oh my goodness. That I’ve made? I probably have — I’m going to say 15 that I’ve kept. It’s not bad, compared to the amount I’ve made over the years. I kind of have to say, “I don’t need anymore.”


Q: Do you feel like you are curating a gallery space every time you dress yourself with jewelry?

A: Yes. And every time I go to a museum or to a horse show I wear one particular piece of jewelry and I always get compliments. As a matter of fact, I just got a commission from wearing it yesterday.


Q: What do people say? Do they just compliment you and you say, ‘Oh, I made this, thank you.’

A: Well, yes. I hate to say that every time and we’ll be walking down the street and someone will stop and say, “Oh, wow, I love that,” and my husband will say, “She made it!” And then I say, “Oh, thank you.”

I don’t like to toot my own horn. So I keep him along for that. He’s my marketing manager. He’s good about that. [laughing]


Q: What are your goals for the future?

A: None specifically. I just want to continue learning new techniques. I just want to keep enjoying and making. Pounding on metal. Because I do like the three dimensional work and that’s all done with hammers and punches and things like that.


Q: How many stones do you have at any given time?

A: Oh my goodness. I have so many. Rocks are wonderful. And these stones — some of them are just incredible, and there’s no two alike. That’s what’s exciting. I just have drawers and drawers full of stones and I still buy when I get close to one. And turquoise. I love the turquoise. There’s some other stones, agates and things like that, that they’re just incredible. They’re beautiful.


Q: Do you have an idea in your head and try to buy a stone to match it or do you buy a stone and then form an idea around it?

A: I do both ways. If I have a pretty stone a lot of times a design will come up. Some of the agates and things like that really kind of look like landscapes. But usually I take a stone and design around the stone. I’ll have an idea for a horse, or something like that, and then I find the stones that will go. It’s both ways a lot of times.


Q: How much are you directly inspired by Native American work?

A: Tremendously. I don’t want to copy there designs but the influence is definitely there. I like the graphic feel of their design and, of course, the silver and turquoise is definitely Navajo, and the other tribes, too. I try some of the Plains Indians’ designs in my work, too. It’s just the design of it I like.


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