Nannette Gatti Davis, a jewelry designer and the youth coordinator for The Sawtooth School for Visual Art, understands that the different reasons she makes art influence how she creates individual pieces.

“My training is in metals and graphic art, and I grew up with a father who was an engineering woodworking enthusiast and a mother who was a teacher and never let time pass without some type of art or craft project being a part of our day,” Davis, 49, said in an email.

“After working as a lead bench and assistant for a jewelry designer in Chicago, I slowly built up a studio of my own and started my own jewelry line. It taught me a lesson that has shaped me and my art: When your artwork has to provide you an income — and you allow this fact to shape how you do your art — it will change your passion. I started creating to sell, instead of creating to create. I was young. As life changed, so did my art and my perspective. I now know the difference. There is room for both types of art in your life.”

Davis graduated from Kansas University with a bachelor’s degree in graphic arts and communication and a bachelor’s degree in fine art in metalsmithing. After Chicago she worked for 16 years in Gatti-Davis Designs Studio in Colorado. She moved to Winston-Salem in 2005 and taught in the public schools through 2011. She teaches classes at Sawtooth and has been the youth coordinator there since 2012.

“I hope my students learn that they can do anything; there are no mistakes, only opportunities or other ways to look at something,” she said. “I learn from my students every time I teach, children or adult, novice or professional. Art is a process — there is no right or wrong way to create.”

Davis is married to architect Larry Davis, and their son, Sterling, is a first-year engineering student at Virginia Tech.

Her work is available at the Sawtooth Gallery Shop and Design Archives, and she will have work in Sawtooth School’s “Deck the Halls.” For more information, email or

Q: Describe your art.

Answer: My artwork takes on many layers. Depending on the piece I am creating or the materials I have to work with, texture and variation of light and form are at the heart of what I do. Any of the art I create always seems to take on a tactile dimension; it never feels finished to me unless you can see the layers of thought and manipulation of the materials that it took to get it into its final state.

Q: What media do you prefer?

Answer: Metals, wood and acrylic paint. I continue to try other art forms, other media and always return to these.

Q: How do you find your subject matter?

Answer: I am a nature enthusiast and find much of my art reflects this passion for the structure of the organic. The lines, textures, variations and colors of the natural world are where I always seem to find my inspiration and when I do so, it seems to produce my best work.

Q: Who has influenced your art?

Answer: My college metals professor Jon Havner, who is also a professional sculptor. His passion for teaching, encouragement of continual experimentation, and reaching-outside-the-box mentality has made me the artist I am today. The process in which I create comes from my father’s love of problem solving through trial and error. The countless hours shared working alongside him in his wood shop sharing in project mistakes, success and failure has allowed me this same process in my studio. On a daily basis I am continually inspired by the artists and art that surrounds me in Winston-Salem. We have a wealth of novice to professional artists who never cease to amaze me.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

Answer: Finding the time to devote to my work.

Q: What does your art do for you?

Answer: An outlet to express myself in ways nothing else can. It allows me time to be with my thoughts and be free from the boundaries and expectations put on us by our daily lives. It can be an escape or a challenge. It depends on what I am working on, but it is always rewarding.

Q: What do you hope your art does for the observer?

Answer: Makes them look, touch and enjoy something.

Q: Why do you like to teach?

Answer: Because it comes naturally to me. I love to encourage others and see them discover something they did not know they had inside themselves all along. Teaching is a conduit to self-discovery; art is one of the most powerful and natural ways to learn.

Q: Do you have any advice for other artists?

Answer: Learn how to accept critiques, good and bad. Learn from it but do not let it define you or your art.

Kathy Norcross Watts writes about artists —— visual, musical, literary and more — weekly in relish. Send your story ideas to

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