RUXTAPOSING – Nicky Ruxton

July 18, 2017 brought an interesting subject matter before the Bead Society of Northern California membership.  Where we normally hear a speaker’spresentation on beading or bead-related subjects, Nicky Ruxton spoke about how she transforms ordinary items into becoming extraordinary objects.  As a non-traditional jewelry designer, she brought samples of her work (earrings, bracelets and necklaces), and lots of unusual beads and findings available for sale.

Nicky’s background as a graphic designer gives her a strong sense of composition and sensitivity to what she calls ‘asymmetrical balance’. Six years of crafting jewelry led her to begin collecting somewhat larger discarded materials, which she repurposes into assemblage sculptures and various mixed-media pieces. This year she has mostly focused her talents on creating paper collage.

Nicky has always had the ability to use her imagination to express her thoughts in whatever medium she explores. She mentioned that her art path was circuitous, although her visual voice has always been easily recognizable.

Nicky was in high school in the 60’s and 70’s, an era richly influenced by the music and art scene. Her young spirit was sparked by rock-n-roll, hippie fashion and the psychedelic art of the times. She took a lot of art classes in high school that led her to forsaking a more traditional academic life in pursuit of studying art.

After graduating art school she began her working career as a Graphic Designer that suited her skills perfectly. She apprenticed with some notable studios back east until she moved to California. Those early years were filled with creative exploration as a freelance designer and she ran her own graphic design business.

She continued to earn her living as a designer until the 90’s when her computer skills did not evolve as Silicon Valley’s desktop publishing arena ignited. Balancing a 9-5:00pm job and making art for personal use became an ongoing challenge as the demands of the Valley escalated. When her corporate position was “downsized” she immediately immersed herself in being creative. This pattern repeated for the next decade. Nicky has the unique ability to live in her right-brain as evidenced by her creative output yet also able to source left-brain discipline for entrepreneurial endeavors. This is a great mix of talents to foster a growing art business.

Wayne Dyer said, “Go for it now, as the future is promised to no one.” and this became a kind of anthem.

Two important things happened in 2009. Nicky had been so focused on her day job that her artwork had taken a back seat. In a life coaching session she was asked to make a list of the things that filled up her senses and nurtured her heart. Making a list seemed simple enough. Instead, she made a miniature collage book showing lush images of those things that sparked her. It was as if a magic wand had passed over her. That small book changed the course of her creative like.

Shortly after that event, the company Nicky worked for was sold to an East Coast firm, her position was considered redundant, and was eliminated. At last, another stretch of time became available to engage with her Muse without too much distraction. Unemployment gave her the time needed to dive deep into her creative process. In October of that year a friend took her on a field trip to a local scrap yard. Inside the dimly lighted hanger were rows and rows with bins upon bins of miscellaneous findings. Dirty, rusted, used metal findings available by the handful. Her heart skipped a beat and a coursing energy re-ignited her latent passion.

A few days later she returned to the scrap yard and scooped up handfuls of treasures. It was a thrilling adventure. She brought a bag of miscellanea home, washed the items and laid them out to dry. For several days she just looked at the bounty: washers, springs, nuts and bolts. She had no idea what to do with any of it but her mind didn’t rest.

By December of 2009 Nicky had designed a line of industrial jewelry incorporating the found objects with felt and on January 1st, 2010 she started her jewelry business, “Ruxton Designs.” Without any formal training or classes she taught herself to craft designs that didn’t require traditional metal-smith techniques. She relied on her strong sense of layout, design and composition, which remains her trademark.

Without preconceived ideas, Nicky was free to experiment. When a customer told her she no longer wore jewelry because of metal allergies, Nicky designed a line of wearable art that used fabric against the skin and incorporated metal findings for a mixed-media effect. When arthritis caused another customer to stop wearing rings, Nicky used her felt scraps instead of metal for making ring bands allowing a more comfortable fit over misshapen fingers.

Having lived in the Bay Area for some 35 years, the Peninsula had continued being the hot mecca for the technology minded and along with that came inflated home prices. When her landlord raised her rent $300/month she took it as a sign. Her search for new accommodations found all the nearby areas equally unaffordable, leading her to think outside of her own box. Having done a few art fairs in Benicia she took a trip up to check out the area. As fate would have it, the perfect live/work space appeared on Craigslist.

This not only was this notion a leap into the unknown but also a chance to have a brand new art-centered life. She only knew one Benicia artist prior to moving up to Vallejo who introduced her to the art community at large. It was transformational to find like-minded people, tribe members who all spoke the same language. This connection, this energy and acceptance landed her exactly where she now continues to thrive.

This year Nicky did a thorough inventory purge selling a good portion her art supply collection. Her Muse offered her a new avenue for artistic growth, moving on from years of jewelry making back to her passion for collage. No longer excited by doing the arts and crafts fair circuit, Nicky has started to become involved with the local gallery scene.

This unfolding, this circuitous path that has landed her back home to herself was the essence of her talk. She says she is a mirror for all of us, to continue to believe in ourselves. She didn’t have a dream of becoming an artist; she came to understand that she was always one … hers is a path of removing obstacles and living more authentically.

She quoted Walt Disney, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Today, she is fully integrated into the Benicia art scene and respected for her unique brand of wares. Loving what she does, sometimes she becomes attached to her newest work and has trouble submitting them to galleries. She seems okay with that. She designs first and foremost for herself. “I put so much of myself in to everything I make, sometimes I just need to hold work back until the courtship phase is over.”

Currently Nicky is deep into making collage art. She became inspired when she saw a young man’s work online from Brazil who she secretly calls a mentor. She shared, “I was not able to deconstruct his collage work because his process is so uniquely him. I saw the genius in his work.” She told us that she contacted him and now they’re friends on Facebook.

Inspired, her collages are addressing the fragmentation she sees in women’s lives under the pressure to look and behave within cultural boundaries. These societal conventions require women to hide behind a social mask that creates an identity trap. One aspect that her collaged portraits of women attempt to address is exposing the beauty myth and the pain associated with living under unrealistic standards. She tells us that this collage work is more demanding than designing jewelry. It requires much more from her: more patience, more stillness, more focus, and much deeper listening. The transition from jewelry towards collage seems to be opening this artist up to her fullest potential.

To contact Nicky, her email is:


by marilyn peters

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