Monique Weston is an artist from Hong Kong, Tokyo and Houston. Her current art medium is jewelry, but she’s also worked with paints, wood and paper.
Her jewelry is what is most notable, and it is not in any way mainstream yet easily wearable.
“I find and reveal beauty in objects that are becoming nearly obsolescent: fountain-pen nibs, pocket-watch parts, snail-mail stamps, clock hands and antique hardware,” Weston said. “I also have a musical line of jewelry: parts of flutes, clarinets, trumpets, guitars and, lately, a tuba.”
Weston has a surprising background. In addition to being a mom, she’s worked in intelligence specializing in aviation security, kidnap and ransom.
Weston told me she remembers always picking up random objects and making things with them in different media, “exploring their beautiful possibilities.”
As a teen, she started making delicate beaded necklaces to go with prom dresses. Then she had an epiphany while fixing her bike and realized what a great tool pliers were.
“I started bending wire into shapes and experimenting with different materials,” Weston said. “I found my dad’s soldering iron, went to the library and looked up how to use it. I learned how to make stained glass. Throughout college, I made and sold jewelry in gypsy fashion. Pliers and wire can go anywhere, and so does inspiration.”
Weston honed her craft at markets and street festivals all over the U.S., England and France after graduating college. Having grown up in Asian cities, she felt right at home in street markets.
“I loved being among the vendors; the quiet, purposeful movement, the hot coffee, the companionable voices, the steady progress toward setting up a professional habitat for the day,” Weston said. “As the daylight grew, it was like an unveiling of people’s work and talents.”
I asked Weston about her combined professional background and art.
MW: “It felt very grounding to be working among artisans on weekends, while during the week I was navigating through the varied environments of a market-research company, a retail store and the workshop of a professional jewelry designer. In that workshop, I was fortunate enough to work with museum-quality stones, work at trade shows and see my work in Nordstrom’s and on soap operas. The pay was low, but the experience was invaluable and developed my sense of style.”
As an intelligence analyst, covering sub-Saharan Africa, Weston didn’t have much time for art. Then after her son was born, she tried painting during naps. The game changer was being invited to join a co-op gallery.
AV: What was different then about your jewelry?
MW: “I began making jewelry again using found objects such as chainsaw chains, hinges, machine-parts and doorbells. Having worked with conventionally valuable materials, I found a whole new vocation in framing these everyday objects in classic settings, to bring out their hard-worn beauty.
“The gallery experience gave me the confidence and opportunity to sell jewelry again. I felt so fortunate to be accepted to vend at Houston’s First Saturday Arts Market in the Heights. My friend Kristy Allmon, an outstanding photographer, generously offered to let me share her booth and get into the swing of it. A collegial, friendly and energized community of artists, it’s been a springboard over the past decade. It’s a great example of the welcoming art scene in Houston.
“Through the market, I met Erik Hagen, a gifted artist who gave me the opportunity to share a studio. We’ve been in Silos Studios #308 at Sawyer Yards for three years now. The Sawyer Yards complex, with over 350 artists in residence, houses the largest concentration of working artists in the country.
“With open-studio shows, markets, juried shows in several cities, retail at several boutiques and a growing online following, I’m always making new work. It’s fulfilling to be creative in these diverse settings while still participating in the timeless setting of an outdoor market.”
AV: Any wild stories that you recall from your travels?
MW: “One day while I was in college, I got on a long-distance train, then reached into my pocket and found I didn’t have my wallet. The conductor was coming down the train to collect fares. I took a deep breath, pulled out my pliers and called out, ‘All right, ladies and gentlemen! The holidays are coming up and you all need gifts! Your daughters, girlfriends, wives, the girlfriends your wives don’t know about and all your friends! Earrings are on special today!’ By the time the conductor entered the train car, I was amazed to find that I had the fare. It was immensely comforting to know I could support myself on the move.”
Find Weston at Second Saturday Open Studios each month in Studio #308 at the Silos at Sawyer Yards, 1502 Sawyer St. More events are on her website, MoniqueWeston.com.
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards, find him at ArtValet.com