StreetSeens

STREETSEEN  |  Dorothy Northern

Photo by Steve Roberts

Dorothy Northern: Handcrafting Fine Art Jewelry

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

Dorothy Northern has been pursuing her work as an artist/jewelry maker since she was a young girl. She said that she’s always felt a need to be creative.

“I come from a long line of creative women,” said Northern. “I remember my great grandmother’s quilting stand and she always put together jewelry, pop beads and such. My grandmother quilted and was a wonderful cook. And my mother was an artist with excellent technical skills, so I come by it naturally to create things.”

Northern continued, “I was born in Stuttgart, AR, but my parents moved around a lot. Being creative was my way of entertaining myself. We ended up in Little Rock, and I attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and graduated from University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a major in printmaking.”

Northern chose to move to Memphis after college, saying, “It was just far enough away from home to be my own person, but close enough that I could get to my momma if I needed her.”

After working at B A Framer for a couple of years, Northern returned to academia, pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Memphis.

“Although my passion was creating art, I felt a calling to be a teacher," explained Northern. "I opted to be an art teacher for high school students.  I had a one-year internship at Overton, with a six-week placement with Gregg Coats, then I taught at Westwood High School for several years. After that I spent the next 17 years at East High School. Even though the school had a large student population, when I got there not a lot was going on in the Art Department. I met that challenge and within three years built an AP (Advance Placement) art program where high school students could receive college credit.”

Upon retiring from teaching about four years ago, Northern renewed her efforts to pursue her work as an artist/jewelry maker, working from her home studio in Midtown. Going back to her roots of working with the surface of metal as a printmaker, Northern took plates and broke them up, using the pieces to make jewelry.

“Then I made a transition. I worked in several different mediums, but now I would say that I’m a metalsmith working primarily with sterling silver and some 14K gold. One of the beauties of working with metals is that there’s always something new you can do with it. I do a lot of ‘texturizing’— stamping the metal with various tools or drilling holes. I can make my creations  look like barnacles or the surface of the moon. Sometimes I’ll fold metal and hammer on it, then open it back up. And I often take scraps of what I’ve clipped off and use my torch to make a little ball and then solder them back onto the surface.”

Northern spends quite a bit of time working the surface of her pieces. She uses liver sulfur to create patinas, and applies heat to bring out different surface colors. Unlike many artists who work on one piece at a time, Northern tends to work in components. She incorporates stones that catch her eye, like grey labradorite which contains an opalescent fire, white and pink moonstones, and opals. 

“On average, it takes me up to 20 hours to finish one piece, and it is extremely satisfying to know that all the components were things I hand-crafted. It’s all got a little bit of me in it.”  

For more information about Dorothy Northern and her work, visit her website, dorothynorthern.com, or her Facebook page, Dorothy Northern, or Instagram at DorothyNorthernStudio. 

 

STREETSEEN  |  Mark Edgar Stuart

Photo by Steve Roberts

Mark Edgar Stuart: A Real Passion for ‘Memphis Music’

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

It only took one trip to Sun Studio for Mark Edgar Stuart to know that Memphis was where he wanted to be. Born in North Little Rock and raised in Pine Bluff, Memphis was always “the big city” for Stuart. And then there was the musical attraction. Early on, Stuart’s father told him, “You’re not going to play football because there’s not an athletic bone in your body — so to get out of this small town you’d better pick an instrument and get started with it.”

Stuart heeded that advice and selected the upright bass, playing it in his school’s orchestra from 7th through 12th grade. Indeed music was key, as it was a music scholarship to the University of Memphis (then Memphis State) that brought Stuart to town.

“Playing in the symphony was the means to an end for me,” recalled Stuart. “My real passion was ‘Memphis music.’ I loved everything that came out of Sun Studio; all the Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Howlin’ Wolf.”

When Stuart was 16 years old he made his second trip to Sun Studio. This time it was on account of the birthday of his friend Bryan Jackson. Bryan’s uncle, Wayne Jackson of The Memphis Horns, had given Bryan a recording session at Sun Studio, and Bryan asked Stuart to join him. 

“I’ve still got the cassette we recorded,” said Stuart. “We just played a bunch of covers. The real excitement wasn’t our music, it was that we were playing at Sun Studio. Subsequently, Wayne Jackson had a big influence on me.” 

After college Stuart pursued music for a while, playing and touring with a variety of bands and finding work as a session musician. He also found full-time employment as a manager at Buster’s Liquors & Wines. And although he continued to perform, Stuart, a self-professed late bloomer, didn’t start his meteoric rise in the music industry until he started the current chapter of his career as a singer/songwriter.

“I’ve played bass with John Paul Keith and Alvin Youngblood Hart, and I made an appearance with Cory Branan on The Late Show with David Letterman,” said Stuart. “I credit Keith Sykes and Jimmy Davis for really getting me started. Keith invited me to a songwriter festival in Hot Springs and introduced me to John Prine, who along with Levon Helm, is my musical hero. Ten years ago if you had told me I would be singing and writing, I would have told you that you were crazy. I had always been a side person, playing with somebody else. But about eight years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. It was during my treatments that I learned to sing and play the guitar. And, I lost my father that same year. Both experiences inspired me to start writing songs as a sort of self-therapy.”

Stuart said that it was the response he received to his songs that pushed him to continue writing. By 2013 Stuart was coming into his own as a solo artist. He sent some of his songs to friends in the music business and finally recorded his own work. His first album, Blues for Lou, was voted Album of the Year by The Memphis Flyer. Since then Stuart has left the liquor business to pursue music full-time. He is riding a wave of success with his third album, Mad at Love, and says performing is still his passion. He plays locally at spots like Railgarten and Lafayette’s, as well as on the road.

“I am getting into music more than ever and I’m seeking out songwriter festivals, like the Red River Songwriter Festival in New Mexico,” said Stuart. “I want to keep growing my music career, seeking more licensing opportunities and trying to get bigger gigs out of town. And in the coming year, I’m going to branch out and produce for other people, too.” 

To follow Stuart’s musical odyssey, visit his website: MarkEdgarStuart.com.

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