I recently met Eric Francke at the Bluegrass Arts Festival at Churchill Downs, which was his first (but
not last) arts festival as a jeweler. His hand wrapped gemstones and jewelry caught my eye, and I quickly
determined it was my favorite booth at the festival.
His work is exquisite, using gemstones in ways I've never seen before. Instead of wrapping them as small
pendants, he creates unique pieces and forms like owls or scarabs. He said that he has spent a lot of time traveling to all kinds of art and music festivals across the country, helping his friend Jumbie get his art company off of the ground. During that time, he was exposed to many forms of art and jewelry. His prior experience with metal and welding education led to experimenting with wrapping beads with metal. He began wrapping with copper wire until he was more comfortable with more expensive materials, but now he uses mostly sterling silver and gold-filled wire.
"In the fall of 2010 I came home from the road and decided to go to a craft store," Eric said. "I got
some pliers and wire cutters and some craft wire and tried to see what I could do with them. I started
wrapping some beads, trying to mimic some of the wrapping and weaving patterns I had seen. The first real
piece I made, I gave to my nephew for his 10th birthday. I’ve just gotten more and more into it since
Eric doesn't travel as much now that he is attending University of Louisville, but has found a couple local places that he likes to look for stones like Afterglow or Friends Lapidary; he still prefers the selection he finds from gem dealers out west and around the world. He weaves them into many patterns he learned during his travels, creating something very unique.
"With sculpting and jewelry design I try to focus on natural shapes and patterns," he said. "I am inspired by my surroundings. I take materials that are indigenous to my world and try to manifest visually appealing creations based on natural lines and structures, incorporating traditional aspects of design like color, texture, and balance to make unconventional finished products."
Eric recently started a shop online at www.franckefabrication.etsy.com. Visitors can peruse and purchase his work there. The work seems to almost have a spiritual theme to it, so I asked if there was a spiritual side to his creativity. He said that he feels like there is a spiritual side to every part of life and definitely in the act of creation. He makes things that symbolize energy and ideas that he feels a connection to. This aids his self taught talent in standing out.
"I feel like I'm discovering this form of art totally anew every time I work out a new design."