A 4-by-4-inch chain mail purse hanging on the wall at the Depot Art Center looks like it took the artist a lifetime to make. That impression isn't far from the truth.
Jude Carmona is meticulous. She spends hours each day bent over beads and wire at her dining room table. The purse, titled "Take me to the dance," is made of 15-gauge sterling silver wire. Carmona made and joined every link by hand.
Jewelry by Jude Carmona is on display as part of SummerArt 2005. It also is on sale at Zing, 345 Lincoln Ave., and at Artisan's Market, 626 Lincoln Ave. Photos from top: "African Daydream," bead and coil necklace that won second place in the Bead Dreams magazine competition in 2004, by Jude Carmona. "Take me to the dance," 4 x 4 inch chain mail purse, by Jude Carmona Unnamed pendant that opens into a three leaf book, by Jude Carmona.
"That was an obsession," she said. "I couldn't stop." In all, she used 1 pound of silver to make the purse. "It was the first purse I made, and the last. I had to get surgery on my hand by the time I was done."
She lifts her hand to show the scar that proves her story.
The rest of her work -- necklaces, earrings, bracelets and broaches -- are made with the same focus. At times, it seems that Carmona thinks through a microscope.
All her pieces are one of a kind. She makes her own links and chains.
It's the work of a woman who began her artistic career as a weaver. She studied under a Japanese master weaver at the University of Miami.
"I also had a real estate license," she said. "My friend asked me why I was struggling in art school when I could be out making money. It took me about a minute to decide."
She walked away from art and pursued a real estate career for 25 years.
She didn't reconnect with that artistic part of herself until three years ago, when she walked into a bead store.
"I found out there is life after real estate," she said. Carmona moved to Steamboat Springs a year ago, making a home out of a condo her family had owned since 1982.
She was introduced to wire work through the book "All Wired Up" by Mark Lareau.
"I would sit in bed, practicing wrapping with craft wire," she said. A few classes taught her the techniques she now uses. Since taking up jewelry making three years ago, Carmona has created hundreds of one-of-a-kind pieces.