I meet Margaret Buckman through a mutual friend several years ago. That mutual friend has since moved away in distance and communication and Margaret and I have become fast friends. Her journey, in my opinion, is not only fascinating but inspirational. Her vision in her jewelry pieces, her artwork, and her eclectic home is truly her own. Her versatility is amazing and I will share some of her jewelry pieces with you in this post along with her story. I will feature her collections in a Thursday posting. Just an aside, Margaret was my first interview, several months ago, when I was preparing to start my blog. My questionnaire was just being formed in my mind and I did taped in-depth interviews with my first “subjects” and transcribed them verbatim! I have since changed that format and usually just do the questionnaire and the highlights of the interviews, which, in most cases, are at least an hour in length…lots and lots of really good “stuff”! Here is the unabridged interview.
Margaret wearing one of her own designs Photo by David Cutrano
But enough from me let’s hear Margaret’s story in her own words. You will need a pot of coffee or perhaps a bottle of wine…you are in for quite an interesting journey.
When did you realize your passion?
I knew all my life that I wanted to be surrounded by art. I was fortunate to grow up in a home with many beautiful things. My older siblings took me to the Art Institute of Chicago and to every cultural event imaginable so I was very clear, very coherent from a very early age that whatever I wanted to do in life that the arts would be very much a part of who I was.
I would sit on the floor in my home and look at the Sarouk rugs from Persia, they were massive and filled with salmon centers and with pattern and cobalt borders, they were magical. I was fascinated by how they were made and I’d look at the colors and how the rug was constructed and how the pattern was done and I always knew that in my life this would be there in some shape or form.
I was very fortunate, in my marriage and personal life, to have a husband who encouraged me to take classes, despite the fact that I was running a household, and I painted and learned to work with beads. About 18 years ago I went to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I painted, wove and learned to make silver jewelry, studying at Instituto de San Miguel de Allende where I studied traditional silver making techniques…it was as if someone had breathed life into me. It was the first time I had been alone in years, I, of course, missed my husband and two kids, but realized that I was capable of so much more and it wetted my appetite for a whole new life of being able to communicate with others. It was one of the most amazing experiences…although I speak a little Spanish and a little French, we were communicating through our art and it was so powerful.
Margaret at work on future jewelry masterpieces. Photo on Nena’s iPhone
You had that support and not a competition with your husband and it created true magic! You have a degree in interior design and as you have mentioned your husband encouraged you to go back to school. How did this evolve and what happened after the tragedy of his death?
I had gotten my degree, in my twenties, before I met my husband. I had always drawn and I had the audacity to walk into the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with one drawing from Ray Vogue. A cardboard drawing of a room, and I said to the woman interviewing me that I didn’t have a portfolio but I had a good heart and if she would tell me if I was qualified to get in there I would work so hard that she wouldn’t want me to leave and she said she would give me a chance and that was the start of going back to school and fulfilling a life long dream. I interned at the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation in Chicago and helped them with their first fundraiser. I personally got to know Paul Rusesabagina. I also did two internships at the same time while helping with fundraisers at the Arts & Business Council Chicago and the Arts Alliance Illinois, all while carrying a 15-hour load at SAIC. It was worth every minute of it!
Jewelry and textile, Margaret Buckman; photo, David Cutrano; model Tia Bat; hair Marifel Lagatuz Westa; make[up Jeannie Giannone. Photo from the upcoming exhibition “The Places in Between”
Flash forward to 10 years ago, I got a call that my husband had been critically injured in a car accident and had died. That, obviously, was the beginning of another chapter in my life My daughter was getting married and my son was in college and a lot of other things were happening and I said I can’t stay in the suburbs any longer. I wrote another letter to SAIC and asked if they would believe in me again and promised them that I would help other women (that’s my thing!). They not only agreed but gave me a $5000.00 scholarship and that was my way of getting back into the city and back into life. I went back to school full time and I piggybacked all my internships. During this time I had a stress fracture in my back and could barely walk. I painted with Karl Wirsum, part of the “Hairy Who” and one of my heroes, on Saturdays, and he was so kind. One must realize that your life is evolving and changing. People around you can see it and what you must realize is that the small steps and opportunities are blessings in disguise. You make new friends, have new experiences you must be open to it and to never, ever give up!
Margaret let’s get a bit less serious, what do you like to read?
Anything relating to the Silk Road
Your favorite Chicago Street Art?
The mosaic on the walls of the underpass at Bryn Mawr, especially the mirrors in the mosaic.
Where do you find inspiration?
I love to hunt for artifacts. I’ve been all over the world, and to the Silk Road. I love the feeling of standing in something that is ancient, such as a camel rest stop where the Bedouins are somewhere in time. I love to be in that historical moment where the past, the present, and the future come together. Sitting in a car or a bus and looking out the window going through the countryside of India or Thailand and seeing massive green fields with dots of color, thinking it is flowers and realizing that is the women of Rajasthan, India, and their textiles. Seeing the beauty of nature everywhere. Whether it is a pile of garbage or a pile of fabrics or spices, to me it’s the ultimate to travel everywhere. But we were talking, you and I, about being able to travel in Chicago and seeing a doorway or a planter in front of a building, seeing someone being helped into a car, a homeless person, being given a meal by a passerby…it’s the dichotomy of so many different things, every day is an adventure if you are privileged to live in the City of Chicago, if you are privileged to live in the world!
Jewelry and Textiles, Margaret Buckman; photo by Jean Sweet; model Kirsten Luiz; Hair and Make-up, Jaycie
What about your love of cooking?
I started cooking at a very early age, I came from a family of foodies. I have foodie kids, my daughter had a macaroon business for awhile. My son is a chef. We move on our stomachs in this family. It’s like art…cooking is art! You have to figure it out…you make caramel sauce for the first time and you burn it, next time or the next it is as easy as 1,2,3. I love to make souffles, love to make one pot meals, with really fresh vegetables. We are so fortunate to have so many farmers markets and so many places to get really good food in Chicago. I love to whip up meals and have friends come for lunch or dinner. Again, this is a wonderful town for food, great restaurants and food providers all over the city. Whatever you have a taste for you can find and it’s fabulous! (Watch for Margaret’s recipes in future posts.)
What do you like to do to “entertain” yourself?
I love being at the Chicago History Museum in the Costume Collection and doing my volunteer work. I get to work in the catacombs of the building and work with the most exquisite jewelry, textiles, and artifacts cataloging them once a week It’s the ultimate treat and I hope everyone will come and see our Museum and be there in the moment and see history being played out. And if you want hope, think back to the Chicago Fire and how everything was burned to the ground, up to the Water Tower, and how our City began again and became even better than before. Those are some of the things I like to do…I’m never bored…being bored is boring!!!
You can clearly see Margaret’s pieces are never boring (nor are her embroidered boots!) Photo taken at the Chicago History Museum by Nena with her iPhone
I told you, you were in for a fascinating interview…I know you aren’t disappointed. You will see more of Margaret’s jewelry as well as her home and artwork in future posts and get some of her delicious recipes.