Artist Julie Billups

Living in Michigan and working as an oral surgeon for the majority of my life, I draw my inspiration for jewelry from seemingly strange and unrelated places. On one hand, I am drawn to the vibrant colors that surround me: the crisp, aqua blues of Michigan lakes, the sharp, everchanging greens of the trees, and the raw, natural tones of the historic buildings. On the other hand, my background in science pulls me towards industrial metals, imperfect, organic shapes, and bright juxtaposition of gemstones with metal. Above all else, I am drawn to industrial decay: rust, peeling paint, decay, and materials falling apart and moving away from “perfection.”
I have spent the last 8 years figuring out how to seamlessly combine these inspirations and interests into jewelry that stands out, speaks for itself, and brings together all of the things that I find beautiful in the world into something that can be worn each day.

My process is a bit unordinary and focuses mainly on steel as a base. I begin with fine steel metal powder combined with an organic binder. This is mixed with water to create a material that can be formed into shapes. After forming and texturizing, it goes into a kiln at high temperature for 6 hours. This burns off the binder material and fuses metal particles into solid steel pieces. Powdered glass vitreous enamel is mixed, applied in multiple layers, and kiln fired to fuse glass to the surface. The enamel can then be further etched and abraded to give patina. Finally, steel pieces are combined with silver, gold and gemstones for finished works! Watching the way that inspiration combines with raw materials to create beautiful, unique pieces that spark joy in my customers is my favorite part of creating jewelry.

Background

I am a West Michigan artist and metal smith named Julie Billups. I attended art school at the University of Michigan in the 1980s where I first tried jewelry making. For the last 25 years, I have worked in the medical field but the need to make things always resurfaced and finally, about 8 years ago, I began working in metals and creating art again. I have since retired from the medical field and am now focusing solely on creating art and jewelry, spending time with my family and two german shepherds, and exhibiting my jewelry in fine art fairs and in galleries.