Artist • Allison Norfleet-Bruenger
Age • 52
Family • Husband James Bruenger, and two family cats, Archie and Bella
Home • Maplewood
What she makes • One-of-a-kind mixed-media jewelry. Prices range from $28 to $300 per piece.
Where to find her jewelry • Green Door Art Gallery, Webster Groves; Stone Soup Galleries, Chesterfield Mall; Missouri Artists on Main, St. Charles and at various art fairs. Also at alnbcollections.com.
Artist Allison Norfleet-Bruenger brings all her talents to the fore when she creates one-of-a-kind statement pieces of mixed-media jewelry for her company, ALNB Collections.
She’s a student who has never stopped learning, an artist whose past and present influences converge in each of her named pieces. “I treat each like an artwork and give them a unique name,” she says. “The names connect them to what I was thinking at the time they were created.”
A native of Detroit, her peripatetic art journey took her first to Columbus College of Art in Ohio on a scholarship where she earned a bachelor’s degree in fashion illustration and advertising. When she moved to St. Louis with her husband, James, she worked as a gallery assistant and teacher at Craft Alliance. She later joined the creative crew at Lady Bug Beads. At each place, she learned skills and techniques, and met artists and makers who encouraged her to pursue her art.
“My teacher and mentor, Sherri Jaudes, convinced me to go back to school in 2008, to Maryville, for my next bachelor of fine arts — in metalsmithing and jewelry design,” she says. “In August, I moved into my studio where I make my mixed media pieces. I still work at home sometimes, but having a studio is great.”
Mixing media • What is mixed media? “For me it’s being able to use a variety of materials, both conventional and unconventional. I can incorporate an actual piece of art — a painting, a photo, a collage — all created by me for the specific piece,” she says. She’s created unique processes to protect the art and refrains from using a jeweler’s torch to solder pieces together. “Hot solder and paper don’t work well together,” she says. “I use cold joining techniques, like rivets, to put pieces together.”
Favorite materials • Norfleet-Bruenger favors copper for its warm color. “It works well with my paintings,” she says. Brass and silver figure prominently in her work as well. She sought and found a supplier whose sensitivity to metal allergies allows her to choose the right metals for the look she wants. In nontraditional materials, she likes leathers, photos, found objects and photos.
Mining memories • Growing up in a house with an artist and an aesthete informs Norfleet-Bruenger’s work and style. “My father worked as a photographer of news, sports and fashion. He taught me not only to see, but to take good photographs. I do all the photography of my work for my website today. James took my headshots,” she says. “My father met my mother, who was a hat model, through his work.” Her mother’s strong sense of personal style helped develop her fashion aesthetic early. “I plan to do a collection using my father’s photographs and images of my mother some day.”
Marketing art • Juried art fairs, galleries, internet sales and word of mouth all bring customers to Norfleet-Bruenger’s work. “I like doing art fairs,” she says. “Sometimes, a person will walk up to me and say, ‘Don’t I know you?’ and it turns out she or he has taken a class, or learned how to do a wire wrap from me at Lady Bug Beads. It all comes together sometimes.” She also uses social media including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, and Twitter to promote her work.
Beginnings and endings in a sketchbook • This artist carries her sketchbook with her pretty much everywhere. Inside, she sketches out to-scale drawings of her pieces, which map the way to finished art. She picked up a necklace, an organic pendant on a delicate chain of oversized links. “You can see how this piece got started,” she says. The necklace fits perfectly on top of her sketch. “I name my pieces here, in the sketchbook,” she says. “When a piece sells, I go to my sketchbook and write in the date sold. I won’t make another like it. All my pieces are one of a kind.”