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.

August 2018


Jo-Ann Maggiora Donivan


Instagram: @joannmaggioradonivan

Tell us a little about yourself.

I have been a working metalsmith, jeweler & educator for over 40 years.   During this time I have been a member of several metals organizations, including SNAG and The Metal Arts Guild.   In my early membership of MAG, I have served in many capacities at the board level, including president, secretary, Guildletter editor & hospitality. However, during the last 28 years I have been at the bench fulltime and just a general member who appreciates all the hard work that the board does.

I am classically trained in silver, gold and platinum. My work is primarily cast with fabrication. My early mentor & MAG member, Cynthia Tomas Balloni Dach taught me casting & the rest is history.   My inspirations come from many sources including life experiences and nature. My primary work day consists of doing a lot of repairs for the trade as well as private clients. For the past 39 years on Wednesday evenings you will find me at The Adobe Art Center in Castro Valley teaching a casting class.

Ten years ago when I started teaching a specialty class at The California College of the Arts, I began to focus on doing small art jewelry & sculptural pieces in order to use them not just for demonstrating but also for a creative release from the normal day to day demands.

Years ago when I started out, one of my biggest challenges was that I was a woman in a predominately man’s world. It’s not a complaint but a simple fact. In the trade shops where I honed my skills I worked with craftsmen that were at the bench for 25-45 years and were not about to share their secrets & tricks at the bench. So, I had to observe and learn quickly. All these years I have been very fortunate to have good associations with many talented people who are willing to share their knowledge and skills. In the Metal Arts Guild I have been fortunate to associate with women like merry renk, Helene S. French, Helen Kirshner, Florence Resnikoff, Florence Dixon as well as some of the gentlemen in our organization, starting with Alan Revere, Carl Jennings, Peter Macchiarini, Dick Gompf, Jack da Silva, John Donivan and more. I have been very lucky to have pursued my passion, met my husband through work and established many friendships.

What is your favorite tool and why?

A tacking hammer that belonged to my grandfather, Nonno Jimmy. He was a sheet metal worker and this hammer is a tool that I use on a daily basis. My dad & I restored it when I was in college just starting out. It has perfect balance and weight. The tool dates back to about 1907 and it’s the first tool that I usually pick up when I need to hammer.

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

In daily work—platinum, gold and sterling silver. These are the primary metals that I use for matching to the repairs. In my art jewelry- it’s gold, silver and ancient bronze. They lend themselves to the more affordable and creative side.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

During my daily work, the inspiration comes from the demand of the repair. My job is to fix it but not to be obvious. The best compliment is “But where is the repair? I can’t find it.” For my art jewelry and small sculptures it comes from nature.

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

I have been doing this since 1971 when I started in college. I had Professor Arnie Randall who taught crafts class & was always open to having students explore various mediums. He wasn’t a jeweler but a fine teacher who kept a file cabinet full of information. I have always loved jewelry and remember borrowing my mom’s pieces to play with when I was a young person.

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

First, get ready to grow, learn and create. Once you are bitten by the metals bug—you’re in it forever!! Secondly, buy the best tools that you can afford and don’t overlook used ones. One of the best tools that you already own is on top of your shoulders and that comes free.

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?

The biggest challenge was that I was a woman and that I couldn’t make it as a commercial jeweler. Well, I am still a woman and still a working jeweler. I followed my passion, learned a lot but am still seeking out more! That’s how I overcame the negative comments-just keep on doing it!

Favorite resource/vendor or website

Love Metalsmith Coffee House, MAG online, ACC and Orchid/Ganoksin.

I frequently use Google and sometimes Youtube.

Vendors-Stuller, Otto Frei, Rio Grande and Kim’s Jewelry Supply. For gems I use Good Neighbor Gems, Interworld Pearls and Stuller.

The pictures of the work are done by Corey Egan Leggett. The head shot is by Renais Winter.