Today I would like to introduce you to my friend Monica Rice. You’re probably already familiar with her if you’ve been around the Acres for any amount of time. Monica is my helper, assistant, and friend. Monica is absolutely head over heels in love with buttons and that love of buttons spills over into all kinds of work for her, from jewelry to canvases, polymer clay to housewarming gifts. I can’t wait for you to meet her…
Meet Monica Rice:
Some of you may recognize me from around Kater’s Acres! Katie and I met several years ago at a workshop and became fast friends. We’re fortunate to live very near each other, and our husbands even became friends as well! My husband, Dan, and I live in a rural area of Ohio with our rescued pup, Lola, and two very mischievous kitties! Aside from making art; I love reading, animals, and music.
What’s the History of Your Art & How You Got Where You Are Today?
My family has always been artistic, my Grandfather was a wonderful painter and my Mom also sews and crafts so I have always been fortunate to have ready access to art supplies while growing up. The story of how I came to start making jewelry is actually a bit funny, though, so I’ll share that. When I was 11 my Mom and I rode our bikes to a nearby estate auction. She had given me a couple dollars to spend, and I chose this big box of random items. I chose that box specifically because right on top were all these containers of colored sand (this was when the layered sand jars were all the rage)! It started pouring down rain, and this was before the era of cell phones so we still had to ride our bikes home, luckily my Dad had driven and was able to take my special box home safely! When we got home, soaking wet and cold, I eagerly dug into my box! Underneath the colored sand were dozens and dozens of rock and lapidary magazines, which my Mom offered to dispose of because I was only 11, but I read every single one cover to cover until they practically fell apart! And underneath the magazines were jewelry making supplies and beads of all kinds. My first pieces were truly awful, but I was hooked! That’s probably the best $2 I’ve ever spent as it started my lifelong jewelry making journey. I saved one of those first bottles of beads and keep it displayed in my studio!
What Makes Your Art Unique?
I love making art with found objects and discarded/broken jewelry, but most especially vintage buttons! I have very fond memories from my childhood of sorting through my Grandmother’s button box. It was like a treasure box of lovely buttons of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Those buttons have largely all been repurposed at this point, but I still love finding button boxes at flea markets or yard sales. I’ve also been very fortunate that many have chosen to gift me their family’s button boxes so that I can give new life to the jewels within! Using vintage materials not only repurposes the item that may have otherwise been discarded, but it also means that each piece that I create is one of a kind!
Where is Your Art Created?
I’ve stolen one whole bedroom in our home to make my studio. I did manage to fit a bed in there for guests (oh, let’s be honest, mostly for the dog and cats to use while I’m creating). I love filling my studio with lovely pieces of art from other artists and things that inspire me like gemstones and beach glass. My favorite part of my studio is the pegboards my husband made for me, one displays my strung beads and another displays my finished pieces while they await their new homes.
What’s Your Favorite Thing to Do with Polymer Clay?
I love how versatile polymer is! Though I am predominantly a jewelry artist, I love taking a mixed media approach to creating and polymer gives me another tool in my toolbox. I’m a huge fan of using layers, textures, and different mediums to create depth and visual interest in whatever I am creating. And, naturally, it goes without saying that polymer makes wonderful buttons!
What’s Your Process Like? Tell Us About It.
I would love to tell you some grand story about how my pieces are created, but the fact of the matter is that I really don’t have one. I enjoy finding inspiration from the things around me. Whether that is lovely art in my studio, things I find in nature, or beautiful beads or buttons. My favorite way to create is to fill my table with beautiful and inspiring objects and then let them tell me what they would like to be! If I am ever not sure of what I would like to make, I like to dig through my stash of beads, buttons, findings, etc., and choose an assortment of things that pique my interest. I spread all those items out on my desk, and then experiment with combining them in a variety of ways until I find one that just begs to be made! When you surround yourself with things that inspire you, art kinda just happens!
What’s Your Favorite Item and Why Did You Create it?
I think my favorite item would have to be my vintage button and watch necklace. One of the lovely things about creating with buttons and found objects is that they have all had a life and a story before they ever come to me. This particular piece was created using a vintage watch that belonged to my Great Grandmother, along with some mother of pearl buttons from her collection. I was so thrilled with how this piece came out, that I experimented with making others inspired by it. And since I’m using vintage objects, no two pieces are ever exactly the same! I kept this particular necklace for myself, but you can find other button and watch necklaces in my Etsy shop!
Some of the best things come from combining two things you love. In this instance, buttons and polymer clay! Texture and color are always inspiring to me so these little stamps really come in handy for making unique textures.
Who is Your Polymer Clay Idol?
I don’t have one particular person, and as you can imagine I’m biased because one of my best friends is a polymer artist I admire (Katie, obviously). So, instead, let me tell you the story of how I became interested in polymer clay in the first place! My parents are snowbirds who spend the winter in Arizona, so I have been very fortunate to be able to visit the famous gem shows that are held in Tucson each winter. On one such occasion, I was at one of the bead shows and I met a, shall we say, very enthusiastic blonde lady at one of the booths (spoiler alert, it was Christi Friesen). I had no idea who she was, but her enthusiasm was contagious and her pieces were lovely! She gave me a flier about a make and take workshop she was having the next day at another bead show. My Mom and I went to that class and made polymer hearts. Not surprisingly because it was Christi, the class was a riot and we both really enjoyed it! I have been fortunate to have taken many classes from Christi since then, and have been a guest instructor at many of her raves and events over the years. Fast forward a few years from this first class, and it was Christi who introduced me to Katie so it’s really been a lot of fun learning a new skill and meeting all the wonderful people in the polymer community!
Where to Find Monica Rice:
I really prefer to sell and teach in person, but that obviously hasn’t been an option for this past year. Pre-Covid I was teaching monthly classes at a local store and plotting several workshops with Katie and Christi. Like many of us, I have had to pivot a bit. I have kits available for several of my classes with instructions available in my Etsy shop (and more in the works) if you want to create your own button jewelry! I also have some of my creations available there as well, and, of course, buttons!