When Mary Timmer was in high school in Chapel Hill, she took a clay class; rather than a bowl or a mug, she made clay earrings, a foreshadowing of what lay ahead for her as an artist, though she took a circuitous route to get there.
“I took my first class at Penland when I was 17, and that was also in clay,” she recalls. “I took a bunch of clay and sculpture classes in college at UNC Greensboro; they didn’t offer jewelry classes. Once I figured out glazing and the kiln, I didn’t think it was long term for me.”
Despite her degree in art education, she didn’t feel prepared to teach when she graduated. Instead, she took her first jewelry class with an artist in his home studio, and struck gold. Or, in this case, silver.
“I saw his studio and all his stuff and knew right away it was what I wanted to do. I got a 2” x 2” square of silver to work on and wanted to use as much of it as I could, so I made a huge pendant with an abstract angel I still have.”
Pendants, in fact, would become one of her calling cards as she explored her creative vision. First, she apprenticed for a Chapel Hill jeweler whose work was in handcrafted sterling silver. “It was great; they had me soldering the first day.” After three years, she was accepted into the two-year Haywood Community College Professional Crafts program. “You learned every aspect of jewelry making you could ever want to know, plus business classes that prepared you for being a studio artist.”
Timmer married a horticulture student she met in school and their son was born two weeks before she graduated. Just before that, she designed the Motherhood pendant, which she has copyrighted. “I was messing around with stones I had, and it occurred to me that it looked like me — I was eight months pregnant at the time,” she says with a laugh. “I like pieces that have significance and meaning.”
Among those are her Goddess pendant, derived from a symbol famously carved on the surface of a well in England that her aunt asked her to interpret, and her Gratitude pendant, inspired by a man who commissioned her to create something to express his thankfulness for his wife.
After college, Timmer set up a home studio in Candler and created other people’s designs for three jewelers in the area, one of whom encouraged her to apply to the Southern Highland Craft Guild. When she was accepted in 2003, she created her company, Timmer Designs, and later took the leap to studio space at Curve Gallery in the River Arts District, where she remained until February 2020, when she moved to Miya Gallery in Weaverville.
Her work with silver, she says, has evolved. “When I started, a lot of my work was high-polished shiny everything, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more interested in texture, how light plays on texture. I use a patina on metal that darkens it and creates shadows. I love to create things that move, and that people want to touch.”
Mary Timmer, Candler. Timmer has a studio at Miya Gallery (20 North Main St., Weaverville, miyagallery.com). Her work is also carried at Gallery of the Mountains (111 Grovewood Road, Asheville, grovewood.com/gallery-of-the-mountains), at Mountain Nest Gallery (133 Cherry St., Black Mountain, mtnnest.com), and in the three local shops of The Southern Highland Craft Guild (Folk Art Center, 382 Blue Ridge Pkwy.; 230 Tunnel Road; and 26 Lodge St. in Biltmore Village, southernhighlandguild.org).