Artist Interview – Mark Wengryn

Another installment of my Art of the State artist interview series – jeweler Mark Wengryn. You can find him on his Facebook page, at Mark Wengryn on Etsy, at Mark Wengryn Designs, or see his Sterling Silver & Peridot Necklace live at Art of the State: Pennsylvania 2013 at the State Museum in Harrisburg, PA.
Sterling Silver & Peridot Necklace © Mark Wengryn

1. How did you get started in your craft? (using your media)

I actually started at community college doing 3d Animation and Design. I admired the creativity and the process of everything I saw in that industry. However, I found myself wishing I could do more with my hands, rather than sitting at the computer for 12 hours straight. On a whim, I had taken a beginner’s Jewelry class at the Baum School of Art in Allentown and I had a blast. The teacher at the time, Lexi Erickson, encouraged me to keep at it, and that’s what I did. I transferred to Kutztown University in 2006, and shortly thereafter changed my major to Fine Arts/Crafts. I also continued to take several other classes on the side at Baum as well. I spent about a year as a temp at an assembly job after graduating. When they laid me off, I saw it as an opportunity to sink or swim with my own work. I’ve mostly been self-employed since the beginning of 2011. Since then, I’ve been blessed with enough to get by and pay the bills. It’s an uphill battle, but little by little it keeps growing.

2. What has been inspiring/influencing your work lately?

Goron Bracelet © Mark Wengryn sterling silver

Recently, I’ve been filling a niche creating items inspired by various movies, games and media revolving around Sci-Fi and fantasy. In fact, most of my support has been requests and commissions I’ve sold on Etsy. The genre probably has indirectly influenced much of my own personal design, as I’ve always been somewhat of a nerd. In a much broader sense, I’ve also felt challenged to improve upon my own craftsmanship and design complexity. Sometimes it’s motivating to look back at older work and try to figure out what I could’ve done better or incorporated a wider variety of techniques. Unfortunately, the designs I want to make frequently get put on the back burner in order to make things that will sell and pay the bills.

3. Who are your favorite artists in your field?

A lot of my favorite jewelry artists are those whose designs and styles contrast mine. My former teacher, Lexi Erickson, often does work with a very natural, earthy feel. Todd Reed is another favorite, whose work combines a very raw, coarse aesthetic with a high end fit and finish. Much of Loretta Tryon’s work has a beautiful, fluid and organic feel to it. By contrast, much of my design can be very geometric and abstract. Many of their works inspire me to push myself in regards to design, technique and craftsmanship, and remind me that I still have much to learn.

4. What is your favorite customer quote or story?

Harp Pendant © Mark Wengryn sterling silver, 14k gold

Most of my custom and inspired work is sold on Etsy. A few months back I sold a pendant, and in the comments section for the invoice, the customer asked, “could you draw me a shark on the package?” The request itself cracked me up, and I obliged. Four days later, I received positive feedback with the remark, “Drew me a shark. Would buy from again.” I assume they were just as happy with the pendant, and the comment still makes me laugh to this day.

5. What is your favorite piece of art or fine craft that you own?

Well, this may or may not classify as fine craft, but it is one of my favorite handmade items. I’ve always been a bit of a nerd, and back in 2001 when Lord of the Rings was in theaters, I found myself wanting a replica of the One Ring. At the time, there weren’t any decent replicas of just the plain band without the inscription. Soon after, I found a member of a prop replicas forum who was willing to custom make a replica to the dimensions of the movie ring. Outwardly, it was nothing more than a simple gold band. However, it was the collaborative effort to research, cross check and match all the known information in order to recreate an accurate replica that made it so special. The original movie artist finally made an official replica a few years back, but it’s still special to own something that was hand made by a passionate fan for other passionate fans.

2 thoughts on “Artist Interview – Mark Wengryn

  1. Thank you for your kind comments, Mark. All I did was see a young man with an unbelievable
    amount of talent, and I opened a door for you. You are the one who walked through. I’m tremendously honored to have been your first jewelry teacher.

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