Sum & Substance: Anna Johnson

Sum & Substance: Anna Johnson

Anna Johnson Otolith Necklace

Otolith necklace, 2015, quartz with calcite, ear bone of freshwater drum fish, sapphires, fine silver, sterling silver, cast ancient bronze, daylily pods, 18 x 1.75 x 1.5 in.; Photo: Steve Mann

Anna Johnson hopes her work serves “as a reminder of the kinship we share with all life forms.” Her materials demonstrate her commitment to that idea. “Anna uses animal bones and teeth in such a beautiful way to illustrate the interconnectedness between humans and nature,” Gwynne Rukenbrod Smith says.

How she got started: Jewelry making was my first hobby at 4 years old – sparked by a gallon Ziploc bag of my mother’s, containing every color imaginable of embroidery floss. It was the only hobby that stuck. When I was in high school, somebody asked me what I wanted to do for a career, and the only thing I could honestly answer was that I wanted to make jewelry.

What makes her work unique: Each specimen that I collect and incorporate into my work is unique by the laws of nature, and I try to translate them in a way that is true to their forms.

Why she makes jewelry: Jewelry making is a quiet, challenging, and wonderful place for me – a Zen, if you will. It reminds me to slow down and be patient, to problemsolve, to observe closely. The intimacy of jewelry is beautiful to me; there is a unique connection associated with it. Jewelry is meant to be held, shared with others, and carried with the wearer, and it is a means of self expression. I love it, and I love making it.

Her biggest challenge: Some of the materials I like to work with are delicate or spiky, so making safe homes for them can be quite the challenge, but a fun one. The business side is also a biggie. I get stubborn; it’s like getting a kid to do their homework – I never did my homework.

Her biggest reward: It’s a three-way tie: the tremendous satisfaction I get when I successfully complete a piece that really challenged me, those moments when I am fortunate enough to witness someone really make a connection with my work, and the joy of getting to do my absolute favorite thing for my career.