Studio visit with April Ottey

Posted 4/24/24



With a beautiful view of the ocean, April Ottey is surrounded by details of the natural world, the delicate beauty in petals and blossoms, the intricate texture of tree …

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Studio visit with April Ottey




With a beautiful view of the ocean, April Ottey is surrounded by details of the natural world, the delicate beauty in petals and blossoms, the intricate texture of tree bark, the geometry of a fallen seed pod. Her metalsmithing tools surround her as well as her beautiful works in progress.

April has been making jewelry for over 25 years and has recently decided that in addition to creating her own work, she would like to share her skills with others.


What first inspired you to become a jewelry designer?


I have been making jewelry for 25 years, and before that I was a photographer. I've been a collector since I was a kid: a collector of beach stones, shells, and now lots of seed pods, sticks, blossoms, succulents and pods. I came to Port Townsend about 30 years ago and walked to glass beach. I took home a bag of beach glass and china and was so enamored by it, I decided to try to make some jewelry with some of the pieces. After that brief foray into making jewelry, I decided I needed a bit more skill and enrolled in a jewelry-making class at Central Washington University. I was hooked, that was the beginning of my metalsmithing career. I have been honing my skills by taking classes and working in my studio since then. I also taught jewelry and metalsmithing for 10 years at an alternative high school in Pasco, Washington.  


What materials and techniques do you work with primarily?


My collections of botanicals and beach finds are the start of my designs. I make molds of these in the casting process and create the exact replica in silver and gold with all the details and textures of the original pieces. My jewelry is fabricated using these cast pieces combined with stones and found objects. 


What do you feel sets your designs apart? How would you best describe your work? 


My jewelry is a close-up inspection of various stages of birth, growth, death and decay in gardens, forests, rivers, and beaches. I hope that it provides others with the  opportunity to appreciate nature from a new perspective – and to marvel at the connection between form and function that has evolved over eons.


Can you share a memorable customer story or custom design experience? 


I have created many different pieces to commemorate a trip or special events. One that comes to mind is a brooch I created for a client with stones that she brought back from a trek in Nepal and hair from her horse’s tail. It was definitely a fun design challenge to integrate both into a single piece.   


Do you ever experience a creative block?  


When I am out hiking and running on trails or in the mountains, my mind focuses in on new ideas. For some reason, it is when I am moving through the outdoors, new designs pop into my head. Those same ideas often wake me up early in the morning and I head to the studio with a cup of coffee to work out the designs by combining cast elements with stones and drawings to create collections. I lay out my collections of new cast elements, stones and found objects and start moving things around, adding notes and drawings until the designs feel right. This creative time early in the morning is one of my favorite parts of creating a new collection.  


What made you decide to start teaching others your craft this year? Can you tell us a bit about your plans in that regard? 


I loved teaching high school students metalsmithing and jewelry techniques. It is an area of art that is wonderful to teach because there are so many different types of skills involved. Design, tool use, construction techniques and problem-solving are just a few. I have missed teaching since we moved to Port Townsend and was happy to hear that a jewelry studio was being planned as part of the Northwind Art’s Creative district at Fort Worden. I was happy to be involved in the planning of this program. There is now a basic studio with tools and the first few classes are being offered this spring with plans for more classes and open studio time. We are still in need of more tools and equipment to be able to offer a wider variety of classes. If you have any tools or equipment that you are interested in donating to the program, please contact Northwind Art or myself. 


Can you share any upcoming collections you are excited about? 


I am participating in an online group show with Artburst Studios. There will be 10 or more artists exhibiting their work on line at the end of May. I am creating 12 new one-of-a-kind pieces that will be part of that show. There is a nice variety of work in this show and I am enjoying the challenge of creating a new body of work for it. I am using lots of botanical castings from desert plants combined with turquoise and a nice range of blue and green stones.  You can visit the show at:


Where can people learn more about or purchase your work? 

You can find me on my website at I also have work exhibited in the Best Gallery at Northwind Art.  


Carolyn Lewis is a serial entrepreneur, artist and community builder happily living and working in Port Townsend. Find her on social media.