Featured Member

Each month a new Featured Member is chosen from the completed member profiles on our website. Their interview and work is highlighted on our blog and social media. Visit our archive of past Featured Members.

April 2021

  • Sudha Irwin
  • Sudha Irwin
  • Sudha Irwin
  • Sudha Irwin
  • Sudha Irwin



Sudha Irwin

Websites: sudhairwin.com
Instagram: sudhairwin

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in India and came to the US almost fifty years ago.  After college in India, I joined a four-year art program but dropped out after the first introductory year to pursue a graduate degree in English Literature.  The art school was considered a vocational school, my sister and I were the only female students.  Our father persuaded us to go back to academics, as he didn’t think a vocation in arts was appropriate for women in our family. 

Almost twenty-seven years later, here in California, I had the opportunity to enroll in metal arts classes.  This opportunity came in a chance encounter with a local librarian whose metal brooch I admired and inquired how I could learn to make such things.  She sent me a catalog of classes at the Richmond Art Center.  I have been learning ever since.   

A couple of years after I started classes at the College of Marin (while continuing classes with Hugh Power at the RAC), our jewelry teacher selected a few students to form a small partnership of jewelers to rent a space at ArtWorks Downtown in San Rafael.  We called our group the Marin Jewelers Guild.  I have been part of the Guild since its inception in 2000.

What is your favorite tool and why?

It is hard to name a favorite tool. I love my hammers and anvil for forging, folding metal, texturing, shaping, riveting. Rolling mill and flex shaft are other tools I use for just about every project.  And my vise and my new Paragon kiln.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

Most of my work is done in Sterling and Argentium silver, often with accents of gold. I combine these with gems or enamels.  Recently, I have created some pieces in gold but with the price of gold so high, I have used it sparingly. Copper is another metal I use mostly as a base for enamels and for some experimental fold forming.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I am endlessly fascinated by the shapes, forms, textures, color and symmetry in Nature.  My walks in the woods or on the beach, be it the texture of a tree bark or a piece of seaweed, always inspire me to come home and create.  Besides fabricating forms found in Nature, I also like to cast textures and shapes from plant materials.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

I started out making beaded jewelry but soon realized, I wanted to create my own metal components.  My first jewelry class was at the Richmond Art Center in the fall of 1998.  That led to a passion of making things in metal.  Classes at College of Marin, workshops at CCA, Mendocino Art Center and from various other teachers have helped me to acquire skills. After a few years working with metals, I found myself wanting to explore creating small vessels. However, two freak accidents in which I injured my right hand, forced me to concentrate on smaller pieces.  Hence my focus on creating jewelry using multiple techniques.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Persevere and follow your dreams. It takes a lot of patience to acquire good skills, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and to start over. Learn from Different teachers.  Experienced metal smiths develop many bench tricks that prove immensely helpful in the studio. Learn and practice safe studio procedures.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

Marketing, social media.  I am not good at it and don’t enjoy spending much time on the computer. I understand that learning some more computer skills will help.  Maybe this year…

Favorite resource/vendor or website

Otto Frei for tools.
Rio Grande for sheet metal, wires.
Hoover and Strong for gold alloys.
Gem shows