Photo above: JoAnn Graham’s cramped studio gives her all the space needs. Photos by Bob Sofaly.
By Aileen Goldstein
Her gracefulness is obvious. Her slender build is a reminder of her past career. Her moves are free-flowing and smooth. She is understated, yet hard to ignore.
Jo Ann Graham has the movements of a dancer.
Naturally brilliant in chemistry, her parents sent her to college to major in that field. After two years, Graham left college, married and became a potter, creating and shaping clay and developing her own glazes and finishes.
She eventually realized, though, that she was not meant to be a potter.
A self-proclaimed closet dancer, Graham came to the understanding she was a dancer.
“It was something that was meant to be and I had a natural propensity towards it. I loved choreographing. I loved creating,” the Dataw Island resident said.
Graham went on to teach dance. She became the first dance consultant in the South Carolina Department of Education and helped to build the dance programs in all the schools in South Carolina and developed a dance curriculum.
“I think there is a connection. It is all about centering and being centered for me. You have to center your clay and in dancing, you are centering yourself. You have to turn around and spin,” she said as she waved her arm gracefully through the air.
When she was physically unable to demonstrate moves for her students, Graham was forced to realize she needed to end her dancing career.
After a series of health-related setbacks, Graham needed a new focus.
While taking a class at a local scrapbook store, she created a necklace from the wire provided while other people in the class documented memories with paper and stamps.
She realized she liked working with metal, especially the shaping and texturing of the material.
Ironically, she was unaccustomed to wearing jewelry, as dancers refrain from wearing it.
“I spent my whole life living in the world of dance and everything was ephemeral and I didn’t have anything to hold on to. Now I have this to hold on to.”
Interestingly enough, she now has people come up to her booth at art shows and comment on her work, remarking how fluid a piece may be.
Graham takes these moments as an opportunity to connect to the customer and share her past.
“I am thoroughly convinced that my dance career is influencing whatever I make, whatever comes out of me,” she said.
She also continues to seek new information and add to her vast array of skills. Upon learning that welding school is free to those over the age of 65, she signed up for classes and developed a technique to solder sterling silver to steel. Most recently, she learned how to put gold onto steel to create eye-catching cuffs.
“I am so fascinated by what I can do with metal,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.
All of her work starts out as flat sheets of sterling silver or steel and all is hand-forged to create one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry.
Her favorite part of working with metals and creating is the surprises that come up during the process. She never knows where the gold will fuse with the steel and what the unique outcome will be on each piece.
Graham has come full circle and realizes the value of her chemistry background in regard to her current career.
“If you look deep enough, everything is connected,” she said.
Graham flourishes in the solitude of her home studio and is equally energized at art shows when meeting customers. She has received many awards and accolades from the art shows she has participated in.
Graham came up with the name of her business, Silver Lining Dezigns, after awaking from a dream. She has recently decided to shorten the name to the initials, SLD.
She admits, though, she never in her wildest dreams ever though she would be creating jewelry for a living.
“Things are often put in my hands and I have to learn to follow and pay attention,” she said. “I love my new career, I now choreograph in sterling silver and these (the work) are my dances.”
Contact Graham at 843-838-7170 or 843-812-3190 or search Silver Lining Dezigns on Facebook.