By Heather Jones Skaggs | Photos by Blair Ramsey
As Angela Morris works with wire of silver and copper in her Vestavia Hills-based workshop, she remembers how she loved making things as a child—making anything, really. She loved to paint and draw and, after having children of her own, making beaded silverware. Manipulating the metals to shape a piece with meaning and inspiration became her passion after one day forming a cross from the metal in her hand.
“While I was making cross designs, a friend’s name came to mind,” Angela says. “She had been working really hard under stressful conditions, and I wanted her to know I was thinking about her. She told me I had no idea how timely this gift was for her and how much it meant to her. The gift gave her a little sense of peace. It made her smile knowing someone cared and reminded her that God was with her.”
It never occurred to Angela that one of her crosses might make a difference in someone’s day. “Could it really be an instrument to let someone know someone really cares about them or think about God for a minute? That was just something I never thought about until I heard her words.” So, Angela started making more crosses and expanded into jewelry—each having a swirl or a cross on it—to remind the wearer that during life’s ups and downs God is always with us.
Over the years, Angela has refined her skills as a jewelry maker by teaching herself different techniques using videos, silversmith classes and experimenting with other metals and textures for earrings, necklaces, pendants, rings and her beloved crosses. “I start with wire wrapping and then add cold connections, which are different ways to attach metal or mixed media without needing heat. I do stamping, embossing, soldering and create color and depth with patinas.”
Inspiration is always in supply. The artist says she is always looking for different shapes, patterns and colors in nature and in everything she sees, especially when traveling. On a trip to Israel last summer, Angela found beautiful olive wood crosses in a Bethlehem shop. The owners, who are brothers, make the crosses. “The natural wood patterns were all unique and beautiful! I had to have them to use as the cross on some of my prayer beads and jewelry.”
After deciding on a design, Angela chooses what metal she will use—sterling silver, German silver, copper, brass or aluminum. She then decides on a shape, stamps or hand-cuts them out. Next, it’s texture time. “This could be folds, embossed texture, or a hammered texture,” Angela explains. “Sometimes two pieces are soldered together to create the texture or design. Then, I decide if I want to add a patina. With copper, I can use a flame to create different colors in the metal or use different solutions to darken it or create a natural-green color.”
At this point, bead embellishments or stones are added. Most pieces are tumbled for shine, and some are treated to keep the colors vibrant. The final steps are choosing the bindings, ear wires and chain.
“I love working with copper. It is a soft metal, so it’s easy to manipulate. After you work with it for a while, it does get hard; it can be heated up to make it soft again. It’s easy to texture, and you can create many different colors with copper,” Angela says. “You can flame paint it. The heat at different temperatures creates a rainbow of colors. When you darken a textured copper piece, it highlights the texture so beautifully.”
Angela travels with her crosses and jewelry to art shows, craft fairs and markets across Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. With each show or custom order, Angela hopes her creations find their way to someone and help them somehow.
“One of my customers gifted her friend one of my small, beaded crosses. Her friend loved the cross, and when she wore it, she received so many compliments that she decided to give them to her friends. She was 84 years old and asked the woman who bought her the cross to work with me to order her the cross. She requested 13 crosses with beads of the same colors as their birthstones. I made ten different crosses and got them to her for the holidays.”
One of Angela’s cross designs was chosen by a Prayer Shawl Ministry to adorn a beautifully and lovingly-made stole. “I made two of the same crosses for them and made holes on all sides of the crosses, so they could easily sew them into the stole. They loved how it turned out and sent me pictures in progress and the finished sole along with a nice thank you note.”
With each piece, Anglea hopes it prompts the new owner to think about God for a minute and let them know someone is thinking about them. “I include a verse on a card with every purchase that will hopefully inspire,” Angela says.