VISUAL STORIES AND STATEMENTS OF FAITH

ABOUT MY SYMBOL JEWELRY
Visual Stories and Statements of Faith…

the calling…

H21 One In The Spirit sterling silver Nancy Denmark symbol jewelry design

One In The Spirit Sterling Silver Pendant

In the late 80’s, after hearing a stewardship sermon, I felt called to communicate the love of God through my jewelry work. I understood it to be my responsibility, as a good steward of my artistic gifts, to create a body of work for the Glory of God. It was the best way for me to give God a good return on his investment in me. As a Lenten discipline, I created the first pieces of my line of jewelry incorporating Christian symbology. I named it “From the Heart Line” as many of my first pieces were hearts incorporating different Christian symbols. Through the years, I have continued to add to that original body of work, which is now over 55 designs strong. With that first calling, I committed to give each piece a story or scripture explanation to help the wearer communicate their faith to others with words, as well as the visual design. One of my favorite quotes, attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, is “Tell everyone around you of the great love of God. When all else fails, use words.” It is my goal as an artist that each jewelry piece stands on its own as good design without the attached symbolism. It is also my goal that the symbols will communicate without words. This often results in perfect strangers, being drawn to comment on the design, opening a door for the wearer to share their story of faith. My ministry is sharing the love and glory of God through my design work, offering the wearer a “love story” to visibly wear and verbally share.

every picture tells a story…
Being an artist, I am such a visual person, so I seem to learn best through visual means. I remember focusing on the symbols in church settings as a child. I still use the big beautiful window in my church today as a place to focus my eyes while listening during the service. God “speaks” to me through all my senses, but the visual often seems to provide the most direct line of communication for me. For me, symbols serve as portals to enter a world of thought, contemplation, meditation, or just pure pondering. I am constantly researching symbols for historic as well as contemporary meanings yet I’m not afraid to create my own, since “every picture tells a story”. How primal and basic. Mankind has been communicating with pictures from the beginning of time. My research always leads me to inspiration, better understanding of concepts, and spiritual growth, which in turn is reflected in my design work. One time I took a step back and looked at the body of work I had created over time and realized through my choice of symbols and stories it was a pictorial time line of my own life experience. I can often recall the life event speaking to me at the time that influenced my design or the naming of the design. This body of work is my own story of faith.

more about the storytelling…

Feed My Sheep Cross sterling silver quatrefoil Nancy Denmark jewelry design

Feed My Sheep Quatrefoil Cross Pendant

I feel I can best communicate my faith through the use of symbols and I especially like to combine symbols to tell a story. That began with my first pieces when I incorporated different symbols into hearts. One of my older, yet still favorite designs is “One In the Spirit” which tells a story through the combination of 2 hearts, a fish, and a cross all entwined inside the outer shape of a descending dove. The accompanying story fleshes out the design with, ” Two hearts joined together by and in Christ form a union, which is encompassed by the Holy Spirit.” Another design incorporates sheep, a shepherd’s crook and wheat in a quatrefoil shaped cross, titled “Feed My Sheep”. Those 4 symbols combine to tell a big story about our relationship with our Lord as the “sheep of his pasture” and our own call to “feed his sheep” by taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. Most of my designs are much more than a static symbol, or a smattering of unrelated symbols. Even if the piece is a lone symbol, its shape will communicate more, like the “Spirit In Motion” or “Filled with the Spirit”. Each is a simple descending dove but a dove that is in motion with flame like wings. My fish are fluid, emoting a sense of the fish moving through water.

my Source and motivation…

sterling silver descending dove pendant Nancy Denmark symbol design

Filled With The Spirit

I hope my work reflects that it is inspired by a Source greater than me. People often ask how do you come up with your ideas? There also seems to be a pervading thought that one would run out of ideas. I cannot fathom ever running out of ideas. There are so many known and unknown designs begging me to give them life but I know I will not live long enough to ever make that happen. I also trust in the Source from whence they flow. It is an ever-flowing fountain for anyone who chooses to drink. I often have people sharing their “good ideas” with me being delivered in a phrase such as “you should make a ___ it would really sell well.” My motivation is humbler than a monetary motivation. I hope to be a faithful and obedient servant to the work, as a co-creator with God, my Inspirer. I feel blessed to be able to combine my ministry with my work life. It has made me a happy and whole being, which I believe leads me to create better work. My aim is to just feed the lake, even though my contribution may just be a trickle. What matters is the lake, and we are all called to feed the lake using our own unique gifts with no required quantitative measure.

discerning what to make next…
There are many influences of what ideas actually get brought to fruition. Is that idea “speaking to me” at the time in some way or another? Do I have a unique voice for that concept? There is plenty of well-designed Christian jewelry out there already, so for me to add another fish to the table, I want to know that it will be fleshed out with a new voice before I give it my energy. Will there be something different spoken in the way I present it? People often have requests for me to make specific symbols. If that symbol holds no special meaning for me, I don’t have a voice for it. I heard a long time ago of a teacher advising his art students to “paint what you know”. If you live in Texas, don’t try to paint snow scenes. I am a Christian and my designs are a reflection of my own faith experience. That is what I know. I avoid the term “religious jewelry” as a description of what I do since that term should encompass symbols of many faiths. I call mine what it is, “Christian Symbol Jewelry”. Many times in my research of symbols, I will get to know an unfamiliar symbol and fall in love with it as I learn more about it and embrace it’s meaning. Sometimes that research may have an opposite effect. It may shed new light that will turn me off, as I learn of some negative connotations attached. But in the end, I will only give it life when I know it well enough to give it a voice, with something new to say.

confliction to conviction…
You may notice that many of my recent designs began as a commission from a church. I have seen some jewelry companies making statements of conviction and assurance that you will not see “your design” being sold elsewhere. While that seems honorable, here is my statement on the subject. If I created a piece especially for you or your group, it is “my design for your use”. Better yet, it is really not wholly “my design”; it belongs to the ultimate Creator for His glory. I was faced with this confliction one day in my studio when a visiting customer noticed all the crosses I was working on and wanted to purchase one. I choked as I thought to myself, “How can I tell this woman she cannot have this cross that speaks to her also?” I really didn’t answer that day as there were numerous church members’ orders in front of her and I knew it may be months before I had one to spare for her to buy. That gave me time to come to terms with my confliction, which eventually lead to my own statement of conviction. I will not create exclusive designs. That is not the statement of faith I want to make. Our faith is meant to be shared and we do not belong to an exclusive club. Once again, it is not about money, it is about feeding the lake. That struggle with confliction led me to better discern the projects I will currently accept.

share the love…
It is my belief we best share our faith by actions of love and in conversations of love, using Jesus Christ as our perfect model of living life in love. I hope my symbol jewelry may serve the wearer as a daily personal reminder of where we are to center our lives and as a tool to open doors, offering opportunities to share their own love story of faith with others.

In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15

(click each image to link to my website for design details and purchase information)

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