This weekend and next, studios on Austin’s west side will open their doors to the public for a behind-the-scenes look into the making of art. The West Austin Studio Tour, happening May 9-10 & May 16-17, will showcase the work of hundreds of artists, give you opportunities to purchase artwork and other items to support Austin’s creative community and see demos of works in progress.
While there are many mamas on the tour (you can read about Avery Orendorf here, who is on the tour again this year with several other artists at Stops 117-123), we thought you might like to know more about Courtney Gray, who is Creative Director at Creative Side Jewelry Academy of Austin and the new Creative Side Metal Works. Read on to learn more about her stop at WEST, how she became a jewelry maker, what classes kids can take and where she goes in Austin to find her inspiration.
Make sure to scroll down to learn more about the Young Metalsmiths Young Apprenticeship, learn about a special LiveMom discount and enter to win a spot for your aspiring artist!
LiveMom: How many kids do you have, and what are their ages?
Courtney: I have 2 beautiful and incredibly intelligent boys: Marcello Dante Mazzetti, 8, and Tristan DeAngelo’ Mazzetti, 4. If you can’t tell, I married an Italian.
LiveMom: How long have you been in Austin? What brought you here?
Courtney: I have been in Austin for 16 years. Growing up in Houston made it an easy migration. I moved here to study welding technology and metal sculpture and to be in what felt like a more creative city. I received certificates in Art Metals and Metal Sculpture and was the only female to participate in a study abroad program in Koblenz, Germany, where I received six certifications in welding technology.
My goal was to create a career doing something hands-on. After working at Whole Foods Market in customer service and running a video store, it was time to “get dirty”, so to speak. My experience and knowledge in using a torch led me into a career in fine jewelry making. Creative Side began a few years into that career.
LiveMom: What do you like about teaching people how to make jewelry? What do you enjoy about creating custom works of art for your clients?
Courtney: I love watching adults and kids have that “aha” moment. Watching them discover skills they never knew they could acquire and overcoming fears and doubts in themselves is extremely gratifying for me and them. My teachers, staff and I thrive on dissolving the mystery behind how fine jewelry is made, and we open doors to anyone at any level to come try out metalworking. Many open new doors they never knew were possible. Many of our students go on to start their own businesses and discover a new career or hobby that can be very exciting to them. This includes a 12 year old boy who has been studying with us for a year now. He has made up to $800 at some shows allowing him to grow his business and expand his home studio as well as take more classes, which he pays for mostly himself!
Our camps for kids include entrepreneur exercises, pricing and displaying your work, as well as metallurgy and the hand skills needed to create one of a kind jewelry. I love creating one of a kind pieces for clients, including engagement rings, wedding bands and heirloom remakes. Many clients bring me an old piece of jewelry that may have been passed down and we work together to design a new piece that suits their style more using materials, diamonds or gemstones. I love this sense of re-purposing an important or sentimental piece for someone. I love that every custom job is a little bit different with a unique story and that I have the honor of making something that is so important and timeless for someone. To think off them passing down a piece I created to kids or grand kids is super rewarding and I feel blessed to have found this niche.
We also offer an experience here called Forged Together that allows couples to come and create each other’s wedding rings in a one day private workshop. This is one of my favorite things to host.
LiveMom: Have you been a part of WEST before? What are you most looking forward to about participating?
Courtney: I have participated in the East Austin Studio Tour for 7 or 8 years since Creative Side is located in east Austin. Now that we have relocated south, we did participate last year here at our current location, Creative Side/Jewelry Academy, and this year, we will be launching a second location we have just started called Creative Side/Metal Works. We are Stop 162 on the Tour. We will teach welding, metal sculpture and more.
Although we will primarily offer courses for adults at the new space, we will have some eye opening demonstrations going during WEST for all to enjoy, including jewelry making, welding and larger metal working. We are also honored and excited to be joining Thornton Road Studios, South Austin’s oldest and largest artist community. With Rattletree Marimba School, Gusto Studios, Fireseed Studios, and other makers and teachers like Rita Marie Ross in this complex, it makes for an amazing environment for our new school. There is an amazing energy in this complex. During WEST, our youth program director for the Jewelry Academy, Lindsay Hendricks, will be showing some of her work along with 10 other artisans from Oxidize Gallery, and students and staff from CSJA.
LiveMom: What do you hope kids will get out of your classes?
Courtney: For years, I have been asked to teach welding and metal sculpture and I am excited to finally get started. I am looking forward to sharing my roots with everyone and opening the doors to this new space. Last year we were able to launch Young Metalsmiths kids ages 10 and up. We have watched so many kids come in and blossom from their experiences at the bench in a real studio. We are teaching the kiddos what we teach the adults and they are getting it, fast, and creating amazing work.
I think it is incredibly important we offer this opportunity to this generation to give them a head start. I always wonder where I would be if I had started as an apprentice at a younger age. The focus and determination the kids are showing is amazing and I can’t wait to see where they land if they stick with this craft. With art programs in schools closing and colleges cancelling their metals program, I feel that now is more important than ever to expand our program. The kids are learning, hands on, how to create from metals, work with a torch, casting techniques, design, as well as doing real-life mathematics, including pricing their work, problem solving and learning to care for their tools and to work with others. Lindsay Hendricks, our Youth Program Director, who has experience teaching after school jewelry-marking programs for AISD has done an amazing job and created an engaging curriculum for this program at CSJA. It has been amazing to watch it grow.
LiveMom: What is your idea of the perfect Austin day, spent with your family?
Courtney: A perfect day in Austin with me and my lovely boys is when we get to break away and go somewhere outdoors together and swim or explore. I love Krause Springs, Shaffer Bend or even a hike on the Greenbelt, followed by a low-key dinner somewhere with a playground.
LiveMom: What hobbies do you enjoy, outside of your creative endeavors?
Courtney: I do many things; in fact, many people don’t quite understand how I am able to fit it all in. I think it is about time management. I try to remind myself that there is always time; it is about prioritizing it. Kids have to come first and I remind myself daily of that and try to keep that in check. Luckily, I have staff who allow me to have more freedom to explore than I used to.
I am a singer in a band called Suburban Beat, in which my husband plays guitar, and we do original songs together. I love getting together with musicians and creating songs and practicing as a wordsmith through improvisation. Some shows, we will get up and make up a song with the audience — pretty fun! I am also a non-professional boxer. I train with Julia at Austin Boxing Babes, which is a really great workout that is different every time. It helps me release and focus on other things for an hour or so. I find this super important for mind body and spirit. I also truly consider my work here at the school a hobby. It is a very fun to seek out and find masters in the trade to come to Austin and teach. Facilitating these courses for our students and creating jobs for our local metalsmiths is super fun! I believe “work” should be fun (most of the time) and I tell my students and staff if you are not having fun, maybe this isn’t the right thing for you. We try to laugh a lot here to keep things light and creative.
LiveMom: What unsolicited piece of advice would you give to a new mom?
Courtney: Trust yourself. Women are built to be mothers. Learn to be flexible and patient with yourself and others. Be ready to take a deep look at yourself as you never have before and work out any baggage you may have that hasn’t been dealt with so you don’t pass it on. Get creative and playful, and don’t forget to nurture yourself and your spouse regularly, because if mama isn’t happy, no one is.
LiveMom: Where are your favorite places to go in Austin to get inspiration for your artwork?
Courtney: Nature is always best to get me feeling clear and inspired to create. I love getting in water and being around it. This is extremely healing for me and inspiring. Luckily, we are surrounded with nature in this city, for which I am quite grateful. I have become aware that I can’t be creative 100 percent of the time. I am learning there is a cycle here and I have been watching it for years. This helps me not get discouraged or pick on myself when I am not feeling creative. I simply fill my time with marketing, getting new systems in place or other things that have to be done. It is definitely a balancing act.
LiveMom: What do you like most about Austin? What would you change if you could?
Courtney: I love how welcoming this city was for me when I first moved here 16 years ago. And as I began my career, I feel like I had so much support and love around me. Everyone was asking how they could help, and buying things from me to help me survive. I feel like this still remains today, even at the rate of growth we are experiencing. I feel like Austin is a bit of a creative magnet pulling amazing people from all over to visit here and move here. It is a very special and amazing place. I also love that it seems like wherever I go I run into someone or multiple people I know. It seems like this should be impossible, but it never fails. It’s a metropolitan city with a small town vibe and amazing connective energy. One thing that has been a little annoying is all the honking I hear. I think with so many new folks here, people are losing their patience a bit more. I encourage everyone to relax and slow down. We will all get where we are going in time.
Special Discount for LiveMom Readers!
Creative Side Jewelry is offering $50 off tuition for one week of the Young Metalsmiths Summer Apprenticeship. Just enter the coupon code SUMMER at checkout. With the code SUMM3, receive $240 off tuition for all three weeks of the program.
The Young Metalsmiths Summer Apprenticeship takes place at Creative Side Jewelry Academy, located at 321 W. Ben White, #204.
The Young Metalsmiths Summer Apprenticeship provides a safe and creative environment where kids and teens, age 10-16, get hands-on in a professional jewelry studio while learning the basics of metalsmithing! The camp is led by a professional artist and educator and under her guidance, students will learn sawing, riveting, casting, stone setting, hammering, and much more! Students will create multiple pieces throughout the week including a pendant, silver rings, cuff bracelets, and more. To conclude the camp, Creative Side will host an end of the week art show to be named by the kids where parents and family will be invited to join us at the end of the day on Friday to meet the instructors, new friends, and view their artwork on display.
Summer 2015 sessions take place:
Monday, June 8th – Friday, June 12th from 9am-1pm
Monday, June 29th – Friday, July 3rd from 9am-1pm
Monday, July 20th – Friday, July 24th from 9am-1pm
Tuition: $345 for one week value, all three weeks value $1035
Tuition with coupon code SUMMER ($50 off): $295
Tuition for all three weeks with coupon code SUMM3 ($240 off) : $795
Note: Scholarships are available. Please click here for more information.
GIVEAWAY: Win a slot for your child to attend the Young Metalsmiths Apprenticeship of your choice, valued at $345! Leave a comment or complete the form below to be entered into the contest. All entries must be received by Wednesday, May 13, 2015 by 9:00 a.m. CST. A winner will be contacted via email and given 24 hours to respond. If no response is received, a new winner will be chosen.
Thanks to everyone who entered our giveaway. Entries are now closed, and we have emailed the winner.