Dale ‘Cougar’ Armstrong rocks with wire

Artist of the Month

By COLBY DENTON Staff Writer
Posted 5/16/18

Dale “Cougar” Armstrong, a lapidary, rockhound and wire jewelry designer is the Museum Center at 5ive Points’ Artist of the Month for May!

“I’ve been part of the Museum Center since …

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Dale ‘Cougar’ Armstrong rocks with wire

Artist of the Month

Posted

Dale “Cougar” Armstrong, a lapidary, rockhound and wire jewelry designer is the Museum Center at 5ive Points’ Artist of the Month for May!

“I’ve been part of the Museum Center since about eight months after it opened,” she said. “I have a new collection coming out this fall, and the name of it brings to mind tropical seas, mysterious islands and a life of freedom and joy!”

Originally born in Long Island, Armstrong moved to New Hampshire at age eight after her father, who was a nuclear physicist, died. She lived in New Hampshire until her early 20s.

“I would describe myself as a lapidary wire artist, instructor and author,” she said. “I became interested in lapidary, which is the art of turning stones into specimens, when I was around 15 or 16.”

Growing up with a mother who worked various jobs to send her to private art lessons, Armstrong attended USF for special education and double majored in opera.

Living on the road for 3-4 years with her husband, who was a boilermaker, Armstrong stated that she wanted this change because she was tired of “being married to a telephone and a paycheck.” The two moved to multiple states, including Maine and Arizona, which is where Armstrong homeschooled their daughter. All along the way, she would also pick up rocks throughout her travels.

She added, “You know you are a rockhound when you rent out a storage unit just to store your rock collection!”

Throughout her journeys, Armstrong sang in a rock and roll band, bartended and worked as a waitress before landing her first role in art as a graphics-advertising artist before the dawn of computers.

Promising her brother, who is her daughter’s godfather, that her daughter could live in one single place for her high school years, Armstrong discovered Cleveland. This is because it was located in between Chattanooga, which is her husband’s job’s base of operations, and Knoxville, which is a cultural, nearby city.

“I didn’t want to live in the city, but everyone assumes that coming from the North means that you want to live in the big city. I looked at the map and said, ‘that city is right in the center!’ so that way if I want to go to a concert or event, I’m near both Chattanooga and Knoxville.”

Making everything from rings and necklaces to earrings and bracelets, Armstrong has run her own design studio for 20 years, and describes it as a continuous work in progress.

Her bracelets, in particular, come in six different sizes; this is because many women have such small arms that even “small” sizes are too large for them. The sizes are pixie, small, medium, regular, large and Amazon.

“The Museum’s gift shop is a wonderful display of Appalachian artists, but unfortunately, most people don’t realize that. It really is the go-to place for buying artistic items at reasonable prices!” she added. “With Mother’s Day being in May and so many events and weddings this month, it’s the perfect time for the Museum Center to feature a jewelry artist.”

Armstrong believes that inspiration can come from anywhere and anything, such as the way a person views a tree, or anything else. Due to wire’s forgiving nature, it is very malleable and the perfect material for making complex designs.

Using 14K gold-filled wire, Armstrong’s describes the wire as similar to a sword and sheath.

“The sheath is solid 14K gold, which the United States has an absolute love affair with; the sword being pure jeweler’s brass that is inserted, then heated and fused together,” she said. “The only difference between 14K and 14K-gold-filled jewelry, is the price; the gold-filled is much more affordable, and looks just as beautiful.”

For aspiring artists, Armstrong suggests that no one should quit their dayjob until their art can match that pay. She also said to build a client base and know your story, as people don’t buy the piece just for the piece; they buy for the story of the person who made it.

Armstrong’s works can be purchased at the Museum Center for 10 percent off throughout the month of May. The Museum gift shop is open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. It is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Armstrong can be contacted at her Facebook called “Cougar’s Creations” or at www.cougarscreations.com. 

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