"I have a dilemma," says the Venezuelan-born Fort Lauderdale resident. "I don't call myself a jeweler. I don't call myself an artist."
Since 1974, Holeman has worked nonstop, handcrafting nontraditional jewelry in metals and enamel that have won her numerous awards and given her access to countless art fairs. The self-taught 65-year-old will have her pieces on display and for sale at the Boca Raton Fine Art Show this weekend.
Her pieces resemble a rustic folk aesthetic in which she may fire her sterling-silver items up to 18 times to achieve the desired dark effect. She also cuts fine stones and works with 18-karat gold, making rings, necklaces, and so forth into large, bold shapes that she says tell a story.
Birds, a direct inspiration from her late father, are a recurring subject throughout her body of work. He studied birds in Venezuela and Colombia and was credited with reclassifying a bird as a different species, now called the Schwartz's antthrush in his honor. Her mother was an interior designer.
Flowers, fish, and raccoons are also popular subjects for the artisan. The fish hold a particular allure for Holeman since she is a Pisces and has always lived near the ocean.
"I love to swim, dive, and snorkel," she says. "Many artists do fish; you can make them colorful, and they have such a wonderful shape to play with. You can give them big fins, little fins. And they sell well."
Holeman sells her work primarily through her Instagram account, where she frequently posts process shots so followers can experience what she does from start to finish. Each piece can take her countless hours, a craft she says is arduous but rewarding. Would-be buyers can contact her directly to ask for pricing, but her items range from $58 for a silver leaf ring, upward to $3,400 for a metal wearable sculpture with multiple parts.
"Right now, the most expensive piece I have is an angel figure with big ponytail braids," she says; it goes for $2,400.
How did she discover her relentless passion for jewelry-making? Through traveling, of course.
"I was 23 years old, hitchhiking and traveling the world, and ended up in Hawaii. There, I collected puka shells on the beach and began stringing necklaces. In the '70s, puka-shell necklaces exploded in popularity. And eventually, I began teaching myself how to make brass rings, casting, and fusing."
She then went on to learn hand-fabricating in silver, working directly with metal. Now, four decades later, when she's not selling at art fairs, she's working in her studio nearly daily, she says. Her career has been enriching, and just recently she was a finalist at the Santa Fe Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her work has been exhibited in museums, including the prestigious Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.
At the Boca Raton Fine Art Show on Saturday, January 23, and Sunday, January 24, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Sanborn Square, 72 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Visit hotworks.org, or call Patty Narozny at 941-755-3088.