Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Peek Into the Life of a Studio Jeweler

I'm heading to Birmingham, Alabama, in two weeks for the Magic City Art Festival, and they sent out a little Q and A to post on their web site in the weeks leading up to the event. I thought the questions were interesting, and a little unusual, so I'm sharing them (and my answers) here, to give you a little insight into the world of a studio jeweler. I love this kind of stuff and can't wait to see how the other artists answered.  :) 
  1. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
The physicality of actually making jewelry by hand. It's a very labor-intensive process and there's a lot of "repetitive motion" tasks that can be hard on the body. I still love every aspect of it though, from idea to implementation to "clean up" and final finishing. I love being so involved with something that someone else will love and cherish.
  1. What artist tool do you use the most? How do you use it? 
My creativity. I use it for dreaming, designing, making. But it's also my best problem-solving tool. In the studio daily I'm confronted with technical design problems to solve, balance to achieve, especially with custom-cut gems and asymmetrical designs, metal to forge (harden) and heat (soften) and I have be creative in setting up the process to best achieve the results I want to create for each design. Other tools are very useful, but it's the creativity that drives me and also makes me strive for constant improvement, in both design and creation.
  1. If you had all the time in the world to hone your craft and create work in another art medium, which would it be and why?
I might try my hand at shoe design (shoes are a second love to jewelry) but really, I would still work in the jewelry field. I'd spend time learning how to set precious stones and do even more "specialty" type work. I'd play with platinum and other fine metals, and design with the rarest and most lovely gems I could get my hands on. And I'm a tool junkie, so I'd like to play with some of the fabulous tools (like lasers and 3D printers) that would open up a whole new avenue of design.
  1. If you could make art in any city around the world, where would you go and why?
Do I have to choose just one?? Paris comes to mind...New York, New Orleans, Marrakech, Moscow...I find most places that have a defined aesthetic very inspiring. But ultimately I'd probably end up in Prescott, Arizona. It's a great "little" city with small-town charm, lovely seasons, dry desert air, and a history for me. I grew up in Arizona and have been going to visit Prescott with my family since I was about fourteen. My parents retired there years ago, and I would love to have my own studio nestled in the mountains.
  1. Do you have a favorite piece that you have created over the years? Describe it.
My all-time favorite is from a few years ago. I'd just transitioned into jewelry fabrication, and was struggling to define what I wanted to do, how I would put my design aesthetic into a whole new way of making jewelry. My creative voice felt very small and indistinct. I had a gemstone with an interesting pattern across it, and  (long story short) I ended up replicating that pattern with metal. It was the beginning of my "metal mosaics" and allowed me to set myself apart a little, to work with something that was very "me". I've had offers to buy that necklace, but it's one I'll never part with. It means too much.
  1. When you create, do you like silence or do you listen to music? If the latter, what type of music typically fills your studio?
It's a mix. When I'm hammering and filing and doing the more energetic work, I listen to everything from 80's Hair Bands to classic rock. When using the torch for more delicate soldering operations, I listen to what used to be called "alternative" in the 1990s, or instrumental music. When I'm sketching designs, I really need silence. I usually take a tray of gems and the sketchbook up to my bedroom, plump up the pillows and sit there in total quiet, to get the ideas flowing.
  1. What is your favorite snack food when you work in the studio?
Busy hands have no time for snacks! The best diet I know is to be working all day. But when I do break, I like chocolate. Sometimes just a handful of chocolate chips gets the job done.
  1. Help our collectors discover great talent! Name 3 favorite artists who you have discovered at MCAC or other art shows over the last 3 years. 
I love and collect Eric Strange's ceramics: Eric Strange Facebook
Su Abbott makes fantastic art: Su Abbott Art
And Elaine Rader is one of my jewelry idols: Elaine Rader

And that favorite piece?? Here it is:

Thanks for letting me share with you. Hope to see some of you in B'ham soon! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Good Work Takes Time

The best things in life are to be savored. They are not rushed, they do not hustle, they are slow to birth. They demand focus. Attention to detail. An eye for balance that will not be satisfied...until it (finally) is. Designing jewelry is like that...it's not...quick. :)

It's even slower when your husband is between jobs (first time in twelve years!) - he says he's "on hiatus" - and looking for a play buddy. No worries; he has another job lined up. But his hiatus, while good for our relationship, has not exactly helped my productivity. I can't begrudge the time though, because we'll be married for fourteen years this coming Tuesday. And I think that's the most time we've had together since our honeymoon...I am supremely fortunate that right now my schedule has been as open and flexible as it is. Normally during March, I'd be traveling to at least two festivals. As it turns out (blessing in disguise, hmm), I exhibited at neither. So I could give the time to Brett, quality time to the relationship, time to the paintingprojectfromhell that started out as a simple dining room re-do and morphed into the living room. Which would be all fine and good, except that our living room has twenty-eight foot ceilings. And endless nooks and crannies, which require very tall ladders, and magic acrobatic feats of taping and painting. Not the easiest project to tackle..

Anyhoo, March is over. April is looking and feeling like Spring is finally arriving, and I am *almost* to the point of having a LOT of new designs to the nearly-completed stage...they're just all in the mid-process stage currently.

Like the one above. I've been working on several mosiac designs, and this is by far my favorite. The others are still getting the side-eye. :)  It needs oxidation, stone setting (a gorgeous labradorite will go into that oval on top) and final polishing. I didn't have the energy left in me today, after working on these:

Just a few of the nearly fifty cabochons I've bezeled, textured, backplated, and soldered together since early March. About twelve of them are ready for soldering on embellishments next week, and the rest need design time with me to figure out their embellishments. :)

And when I say, "just a few", I mean that there are a LOT more waiting (you may have noticed both the band-aid and the blister on my hand in the prior photo; there's another blister as well. These hands have been busy:

Beauty out of chaos, kids...that's how it works in my studio, at least...the messy part at the bottom is bits of the wire that I texture, cut, and shape for the embellishments. And who would guess that a Sharpie and painter's tape are *indispensable* jewelry-making tools?  :)

So. I've had a good, fun, busy March, but I'm glad it's behind me. I'm really looking forward to getting back to speed in April - I love making these "pop rocks" designs, and playing with all the stunningly fabulous gems, but I have a TON of other ideas in the works and want to get started on those, too...they're not-so-impatiently waiting...

Brett and I are heading off today, for a big weekend in Tennessee and Kentucky. Tuesday is our 14th wedding anniversary (I can't even believe it) and we're going to visit some new places, shop for art - we have a newly redone dining / living room that have needs - listen to some music, relax and enjoy a bit of a final "hurrah" before he goes back to work on the 14th. I'm ready to leave the pliers, files, hammers, and torch behind for a few days, rest my aching hands and shoulders, and just be for a little while. :)

Happy April, all! Hope it's a happy and productive month for everyone!