by Eric Ginsburg
There is a bright orange set of vintage drawers in Annie Grimes Williams’ home studio, and no matter how chaotic the rest of the room feels, her 30 to 40 hammers will be in a drawer, perfectly in line.
Williams, who grew up in Welcome and now lives in Winston-Salem, treasures these tools of her trade, the instruments with which she bends metal to her will.
“If you’re going to invest in good tools, you’ve got to take care of them,” she said, smiling as she talked about the differences between her hammers.
The output of the forming and enameling work Williams does in that room of her home, hammer in hand, is on display at a number of galleries in Greensboro and Winston-Salem. Her jewelry — which she puts out under the name CopperTide due to her use of copper and an affinity for and inspiration from the ocean — is also currently part of an exhibition at a Wisconsin gallery.
But in addition to the more formal settings where people come in contact with her work, including craft shows such as the one recently held by Piedmont Craftsmen, it also dangles from her ears.
Her sea-pod line of earrings, which look like the tiny ocean vessels split open in the center to reveal a gush of vibrant color, are the most time intensive and rewarding of her creations, Williams said. It’s no surprise, then, that she recently sported a pair with a jolt of bright red that looks almost like small lips with freshly applied lipstick.
That “vibrant pop of color” is a common feature of her jewelry. Lately she has been obsessed with torch-fired enameling, a technique she recently learned at a workshop that draws out a crazier color in the material.
She takes great pride in being a part of a larger network of craftsmen who avoid trends of plastic jewelry or even pieces made through 3-D printing.
“It’s really important to keep the craft traditions in our culture alive,” she said. “Jewelry is such a personal thing.”
In much of her work, which extends to necklaces, bracelets and beyond jewelry occasionally as well, Williams focuses on the interior of the form. That proclivity is visible in one of her more striking pieces — blue hues emanating from inside tube-like metal pendants on a necklace — that Williams features on the homepage of her website.
Williams has gravitated towards art since a young age, a proclivity encouraged by her parents, including her mom who runs the summer arts programming at the nearby Reynolda House Museum of American Art. As a kid, Williams went to art camp there.
She studied art at East Carolina University, knowing that she wanted to pursue a degree in the field, but she fell into enameling and forming in the metals department almost by accident to fulfill a credit. She returned to Winston-Salem after graduating, working as a gallery assistant at Piedmont Craftsmen and part time with glass artist John Kuhn for several years before a brief stint in Richmond, Va. Williams, now married and back in the Camel City, spends most of her working hours on her metal and glass work, supplementing it with teaching workshops at the Sawtooth School for Visual Art in downtown Winston-Salem.
Though her résumé would read like a natural progression of experience, including a year apprenticeship with Betty Helen Longhi in Lexington, NC, Williams was forced to strike out on her own when the economy tanked. In retrospect, starting her own business and being pushed to do so in 2008 was the best thing that could have happened to her, Williams said.
Check out CopperTide Fine Metalwork & Enameling at coppertide.net or on Facebook. Contact Annie Grimes Williams at [email protected]