With dozens of worn tools sprawled out on her workbench before her, jeweler Heidi Abrahamson struggles for a few moments to select which few she considers her essentials, the things she couldn't do her job without.
She chooses a few without hesitation, her hammer and saw, but she switches back and forth between a few more tools before landing on her scribe, basically a marker, and square used for measuring. Finally, after some thought, she puts her phone next to her other tools, saying she often listens to '80s music while she works.
"There's nothing better than a happy synthesizer," says Abrahamson, who has been making jewelry since 2005 and previously co-owned Phoenix Metro Retro.
Echo and the Bunnymen, Pet Shop Boys, and occasionally The Smiths are some of the artists Abrahamson says get her through the making of her contemporary Midcentury Modern-inspired wearable art.
Abrahamson says she's been working with mismatched metals recently, combining bronze, brass, gold, or silver in one piece and sometimes using a metal in place of a gem stone. Her pieces are not for those hoping for minimalistic jewelry. Abrahamson's are statement pieces and literally wearable pieces of art like a ring with a slender silver cylinder that stretches across three fingers at an angle or a smoothed brass-and-sterling-silver cuff with a floating silver dome near the top.
As she's speaking about her work, her phone lights up, showing a notification from Instagram. Her phone has become her main tool for connecting with customers, allowing her to communicate with her 13,000 followers on Pinterest, over a thousand followers on Instagram, and her Facebook fans. But not too much.
Abrahamson says she likes Pinterest and Instagram best because she can just take a photo on her phone and post it. Those social media platforms don't require as much interaction as Facebook does.
"I'm becoming quite a misanthrope," Abrahamson says with a chuckle.
But Abrahamson has plenty to keep her company in her studio, like the vintage stuffed animals looking down on her from a shelf above her workbench or the tools she's collected through the years.
Abrahamson says she's been collecting hammers since she was a child, having been surrounded by her father's woodworking tools. She has a container full of little silversmithing hammers, some more decorative than others. The one she pulled as her essential has the ergonomic build to make it suitable for daily use to "beat the metal into shape."
The saw Abrahamson chose isn't an antique but came from an estate sale. She uses it just as expected, to cut metal. But this rounded saw is more decorative than her other more rectangular ones.
"I wish it had a wood handle," Abrahamson says. "Then I'd really be over the moon."
The last two tools she selected are more straightforward but no less necessary. The small, palm-sized scribe acts as a pencil for Abrahamson, scratching into the surface of the metal so she knows where to cut.
The square, which Abrahamson says is "just a little guy" while holding the tool up in front of her eye, helps just like a carpenter's square, creating right angles and acting as a ruler.
Abrahamson, who previously worked in visual merchandizing for companies like Burberry and The Bon Marché, started making jewelry after injuring her back and deciding she needed to do something else.
So she took a class at the Mining and Mineral Museum, which closed in 2011, for $50. Now she sells her jewelry through Lisa Cliff Collection in Los Angeles, M. Schon Gallery in Natchez, Miss., and Flow Modern Design Gallery in Palm Springs, Calif.
While she's considered it, Abrahamson has no plans to put her pieces into production, preferring to create each individual piece by hand.
"I'm passionate," she says. "I love what I do, and I do what I can."
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.