Monday, December 22, 2008
I found Steve Shelby on Ganoksin Gallery and asked him to participate even though he's not a jewelry designer but rather a metalsmith working on a larger scale to create lovely, gentle and flowing objects from brass. Here's what Steve had to say:
Your work has a graceful quality; tell us about what you try to achieve with your pieces?
I like curvy things, especially growing plants, like vines that you can practically see growing. I have grown gardens and observed and studied these things since I was a small child. My sense of aesthetics is based on these forms found in nature; they are ingrained in my subconscious mind. What I am trying to achieve is to translate my sense of beauty into forms in metal.
How would you describe your style?
I think my style most closely resembles Art Nouveau, which, from the time I was first aware of it, I have considered to be the most aesthetically pleasing style. I'm not trying to imitate Art Nouveau, but since my inspiration is the same as that of the artists of that style, the results are similar. My style in some ways could also be called impressionist, since rather than putting a highly refined, perfectly smooth surface on my pieces, I leave them showing the hammer marks that created them. I also strive for simplicity and elegance. I admire the way that Constantin Brancusi was able to take a subject and simplify it to an extreme. I don't go nearly that far, but I try to avoid getting involved with a lot of detail, the only adornment being the texture created by the hammer.
Why do you focus on brass? What do you find special about this metal?
The reasons are many. It started with my teacher in college who said that brass was more appealing than copper. Then when I worked for Fox Products Corp., making parts for contrabassoons, I worked with brass constantly, getting to know the material intimately. That brass was finished off perfectly smooth and silver plated. I like the looks of brass that is aged and takes on a mellow brownish-ochre tone. Then there's the durability factor. I never thought I was making a statement with my art, but I just realized I am in a way: I really hate the way everything we buy today is meant to be used briefly and then thrown away. It bothers me that possibly in future ages, our era's greatest monuments will be our landfills. Anyway, I want to counter that by making things that last, and brass is strong and durable enough to last a long, long time. The fact that I use brass also makes me somewhat unique, and I have never been one to follow the crowd. I started doing what I do now only about six years ago, and prior to that I was largely uninspired. At the risk of sounding crazy, I was hit with a vision one morning upon getting out of bed. It was something made of brass, like a vase. I took it as a message that it was time to get started on a new course. I ordered a sheet of brass and made the vase in the picture. I have had more inspiration than time ever since.
How do you think the work primarily differs from work done by jewelry metalsmiths?
Mostly in scale. I made jewelry when I was a student, and got so I wanted to make bigger things. I did make some rather large pieces of jewelry, and I've seen some really outlandishly large art jewelry, but I really doubt if anyone wears it. I decided that I would rather make larger pieces and forget about jewelry. Since what I make is larger than jewelry, generally the tools are also larger, and I need a slightly larger area in which to work. I have narrowed myself to pretty much just hammer-forming. I don't do any casting or stone-setting, although I'm taking a departure on a piece I'm working on now, which has a large cabochon as its focal point.
How did you come to make a career out of metalsmith work?
It took a long time to get to that point. After many years of doing other things, I came to the realization that it's what I enjoy the most, and what I feel I was meant to do. I'm not a particularly religious man, but I feel that somehow I've been guided into this by an outside force, and I'm just going along with it.
What advice do you have for fellow metalsmiths on surviving this economy?
Hope...pray...I wish I knew. I try not to dwell on it too much, it's too depressing. My hope is that the people who buy art will not be the people who lose their jobs, and so we'll continue to sell our art. It's hard to talk about it without sounding selfish. I feel for anyone facing hardship because of the economy, and I hope and pray I don't have to become one myself.
I love Steve's work and love his quote about having more inspiration than time. What a great way to wake up each morning! You can see more of Steve's work at his own website: shelbyvision.com.
Happy Holidays to all!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
As we look around at the state of the economy, any one who is not at least a bit scared about their own well-being is probably...lying. So it is with admiration that I present this profile on Kim Fox, creator of beautiful and unique jewelry with a story that inspires:
In 1999 I was at a watershed in my life. In one year I had lost my marriage, suffered financial reverses in my business and then lost it, filed corporate and personal bankruptcy, the stress had taken itself out on my body and my health suffered severely. In the following years I took a job to repay part of the bankruptcy debt and started examining what I had done and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. During this time I started writing again and took up making simple jewelry.
In 2003 I had completed the repayment of the bankruptcy and came to the conclusion that the second half of my life was to be lived out of my heart – not my mind. Though I had taken art and had written through most of my schooling – my mind told me that I could not make a living at it – so when I was young I used my analytical skills to make a living in sales and teaching technology.
My mother died in 2003 and I decided to take the money that would have been my retirement and use it to invest in me. I sold my home in Phoenix, and in the beginning of 2004 moved to Carlsbad, Ca to attend GIA (Gemological Institute of America) where I completed two six month courses – one in design and the other in Gemology. From there I went to San Francisco to study with Alan Revere. In the middle of 2005 I took a job in San Luis Obispo in a jewelry store – the job lasted a month. I started my studio, did my first shows on the beaches of central California.
In 2007 I moved back to Arizona and live simply in a double wide mobile home, I travel to shows all over the United States and spend time at home designing new pieces, managing the manufacturing of my collection. I get scared but have learned my gut instinct is my best friend. I have no regrets about spending the first part of my life in other areas. I have used all of it in the second half of my life.
If times get really bad I know that I can use my skills old and new to feed, house and clothe me.
What especially caught my eye with Kim's jewelry is her interesting use of texture.
When I work to get textures I use old fashioned tools like hammers, drills, fire and rolling mills, but sometimes I use technology where I import images or textures in gray scale into sections of my CAD design. My style I would say is intercultural. I use what I have seen in my travels, studied in art and what comes out of my imagination. Depending on the context of the viewer I have been told that my work is similar to the early Taxco Work, Craftsman Style or Art Deco.
The tool that has worked well for me is my computer. I used it to design jewelry using a very sophisticated CAD program. Ideas for my future work come from photos of architecture, nature, and art that I store on my computer. Sketches made by me are duplicated and stored there on my computer. While I use technologically sophisticated tools, I do not want people to look at my work and see that I used a computer to create it. Simple shapes are beautiful, when you add relevant texture to the simple shape it makes is visually interesting, especially if the texture is random or natural looking. In some of my pieces I have added gray scale textures of water, fire, mountains, flowers and shapes I have seen in architecture and used as cultural symbols. The textures are picked for their meaning as well as visual interest. On my Phoenix pendant the background is the base of a flame, the background of my Tree of Life is running water.
My jewelry design has evolved into three distinct areas.
The second area is custom design for other designers and customers. This started with friends who wanted special pieces for themselves and moved to other designers who had ideas and didn’t know how to make them.
The third area is the area of finished work of my own design. Some of these pieces are hand made, some cast, fused, strung, whatever I put my hand to. This is the area where I play. Sometimes it turns out well sometimes it gets put into the recycle pile.
Despite Kim's extensive training, she continues to take classes regularly. I asked her about that.
Most artists pretty much work alone. I know that I do. I have contact with my partners over the phone most of the time. Taking classes allows me time to experiment, see a master’s perspective on creating things and offers me an opportunity to socialize and share with other artists.
It was a pleasure spending time with Kim! She has my deep respect for the journey she has traveled.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I first saw Marianne Hunter's work at the recent Contemporary Crafts Market in Santa Monica, CA. Marianne's specialty is highly intricate enamel work incorporating precious metals and stones to create glorious, magnificent works that are so extraordinary that pieces are displayed in museums including the Mint Museum, the National Museum of American Art, Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Oakland Museum of California and the Gemological Institute of America Museum.
And through my friend, goldsmith and artist, Beth Rosengard, I had the opportunity to enjoy Marianne's company for dinner. It was there that I learned she started making jewelry as a teenager and first sold her jewelry for a song!
It appears that you've been working at your craft in such a focused way for more than 30 years....at what point did you come to know that you were creating extraordinary work?
Many of Marianne's pieces are Kabuki Kachin and Kachina figures. I asked about this focus...
From your website explanation of your work, each piece is meticulously planned out...is this a factor of the type of enamel work you do or part of your nature?
I love your comparison of your work to instruments working in concert....and in fact, your pieces have a lyrical quality...how does music play a role in what you create?
After so many years of doing this, what are the best moments?
What an honor to get to know more about Marianne and her amazing work!
Thanks for stopping by!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Sundance has a very relaxed energy, kind of a well worn feel to it that helps keep me grounded. I am able to have a great balance of work and play there, in the summer and fall after spending the morning in the studio, I love to trail run up to the waterfall and look out over the valley. In the winter I can go ski for a few hours and show up to teach in my ski pants and my students will have just come off the slopes themselves, then we make jewelry over hot chocolate with rosy grins. I love my life and it helps to keep the creative energy flowing!
You mention that you grew up learning to appreciate beauty...what was your path to silversmithing and jewelry design?
What have you found to be the most challenging part of trying to make a living at jewelry design? Most enjoyable?
At first it was selling things at all because I would get so attached to my pieces! Once I got over that it's been a lot of fun to see people wearing my jewelry. I recently observed someone complimenting someone else on a ring of mine that they were wearing and the person replied that it was their favorite ring, neither of them knew the artist was watching the interaction, those moments are rewarding.
What appeals to you about teaching?
I like seeing the joy people get from having a completed piece that becomes priceless to them because they made it! The moment I see the light bulb go on for someone, when the inspiration kicks in and they get into the flow, I know they are hooked and will be back to see me again! Everyone sees things so differently and having people from all over the world and all walks of life challenges my perceptions of things and inspires me to look at things differently. It makes every class different and I love it!
How has the price of metal and the economy affected what you are doing?
How would you describe your style?
What have you found to be the best way to find clients?
Talking to people, wearing my jewelry and being passionate about what I do. People like sharing their jewelry stories and listening had gotten me some faithful clients. Having a relationship with someone through jewelry is special for me, I think it creates a deeper connection for the me and the wearer.
What advice do you have for fledgling jewelry designers?
It's an old saying but still true, do what you love and the money will follow! Never lose faith, just because things don't happen on your time frame doesn't mean that they will never happen, the universe probably has something better in mind! Before taking my jewelry class I had applied at Sundance (my favorite place to be) to work in the store and didn't get hired! Shortly after that I signed up for a jewelry college course and took it 5 times. Almost 3 years later I was hired as the Resident Silversmith and Instructor, a job I'd much rather be doing but may not have if I had gotten the store job earlier!
More of Brittany's work can be found on her website and at the Sundance Gallery as well as the Thanksgiving Point Art Institute Gallery.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Concrete and Car Glass
In 1980 I moved into, rather built, a loft in a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles. It was the beginning of the downtown movement. There were no such things as secure parking or roof gardens. It was wild country. The first night I stayed downtown, my car was broken into and the stereo stolen. I had been doing work with diamonds and gems in concrete. I was intrigued by the beauty of the broken car window. Putting the broken car window in concrete was a natural progression. I even sold the work at a trunk show at Saks Fith Avenue in Beverly Hills. The community was small at that time so whenever anyone's car was broken into, which was often, they would call me and I would go clean it up and collect the good bits of broken glass. In fact I am still using glass from that time.
How would you describe your style?
There is alot of paradox in my style. I like to push the envelope conceptually but not in an obvious way. I put diamonds in concrete, I make primitive objects with areospace technology and I seek out unusual cut stones. My designs are very classical or basic.
What is the concept behind your concrete line?
Paradox! Putting the most precious in the most common material. My first piece was diamonds in concrete. It was in my Master's show in 1975. Then, being a poor graduate student, they were fake diamonds. Now they are real and I use rare, natural pink diamonds, and top grade, flawless.
You have written several articles on CAD/CAM. What appeals most to you about designing using computer assistance?
It is a new tool and with new toos come new skills. It is not only the CAD but the CAM is as important...a new way to make a 3D object.
What is your ABS work about?
Again paradox...I use areospace techniques to make primitive forms. I am now working on 'gauge earrings'.
How did you get started creating jewelry and what has been your career path?
I was living in the Bay Area, Berkley/'69, and was dating a man who wanted a silver ring with a yin/yang symbol on it. He could not find one he liked. Someone at work brought in a Merritt Community College catalog and I saw a jewelry course listed. I took the class, made the ring and was hooked. My career path has always been about what I can make rather than what I can sell.
You now devote much of your time to teaching--what about that appeals to you?
Because I am interested more in what I make than what I can sell, teaching give me two things. 1) it gives me a somewhat stable base to make what I want and 2) it gives me a place and time when I have to clean up, be somewhere and see people. I like teaching people and get a great reward in seeing what wonderful things they do with the skills I show them.
How have you found it most successful to sell your work?
This may sound strange but to wear it!!
What advise do you have for fledgling jewelry designers?
Do the designs you feel passionate about not the ones you think will sell the best.
I felt privileged to be able to take classes from Sue. I learned something during every class and appreciated the atmosphere of creative learning. And her work is just incredible! To view more go to her webiste: http://www.suedorman.com/
Thanks for stopping by!
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Beth's use of extraordinary stones, with her distinct style and superb craftsmanship results in some of the most stunning jewelry I've ever seen, making her among my most influential jewelry artists as I move forward in my new career.
As you look at her work, the first thing you can't help but notice is...the color! And, those stones!
I have lots of stones – too many stones! – and when I’m designing I pull out my stone boxes (which are organized loosely by color) and start playing. I usually start with whatever stone catches my eye on that day and then start looking for others to complement it. Or I might start with a set of stones (a group of tourmalines, for instance) and play with them until an interesting, balanced pattern emerges. Once I’ve got a grouping I like, I then start considering how to connect them, using gold in complementary and interesting ways ... unless I’m working with broom-cast gold. In that case I work simultaneously with the gold pieces and the stones, but always searching for balance and a pleasing combination of color, texture and shape. Most of it is intuitive; I have never taken a course in pure design.
You work with diamonds and what you refer to as "the big three" but you also specialize in unusual stones. How did you first develop an interest and knowledge of these stones?
What attracts me are color, texture and pattern. And I must confess that I’m also drawn to the unusual and rare – in part for their own sake. In my very first metalsmithing class, the instructor had us make a ring composed of two layers of silver. The bottom layer was solid and the top had a pierced design. When the two were soldered together, the idea was to see a pattern of relief. Everyone else in the class stuck to the plan, some additionally patinating the underlying layer of silver so the pattern in the top layer stood out more. What did I do? I hammered some turquoise and some lapis into a powder, mixed them with epoxy and inlaid the blue and green mixtures into the pierced areas in the top layer of silver. I just had to have color, even in that first project! I still have that ring.
Your work uses only cabochons rather than faceted stones...what do you prefer about cabochon bezel settings?
To be perfectly honest, bezels are easier! Especially when you’re using irregularly-shaped stones. I did take a few classes in prong setting and flush setting, but I never bothered to become proficient at either because I had pretty much perfected bezel setting and seldom felt the need to stretch – one of my faults. And I do very much prefer cabochons, which look better, I think, in bezels. For most of the opaque lapidary materials I use, cabochons are the only way to go. Where the translucent and transparent gemstones are concerned, I’ve just always preferred the depth of color of cabochons over the glitter of faceted stones.
People who knew me when I began metalsmithing (about 15 years ago) would be amused by that statement. I started out, like most beginners, with sterling silver and I loved it. When I first began using gold, I hated it because it kept melting on me when I didn’t want it to! The fact is that silver is a very good conductor of heat and gold a very bad one. That means that you have to heat the entire piece of silver you’re working on in order to get one little area hot enough for solder to flow. With gold, on the other hand, you can “spot solder”: heat just the small area (spot) you care about and the heat will stay put, instead of radiating out to the edges of the piece. Once you get used to it, it’s wonderful. Until then, it’s a bitch!
Briefly, broom-casting involves pouring molten hot metal over the soaking wet, upturned bristles of a straw broom. This results in unique pieces of organic-looking metal that are reminiscent of stalactites. It’s the latter comparison that attracts me. I don’t particularly like “blobby-looking” pieces of metal, but broom-cast metal – while random and organic – is also linear and geometric.
In reading Beth's bio on her website, it's clear that she's had multiple and various successful careers...and now she's heading in a new direction creating mixed media wall art.
I’ve gotten to a point where I’m a bit burned out on being a smith. I could be happy designing forever, but I no longer enjoy getting my hands dirty, so to speak. The transition to mixed media wall art was sort of accidental. I wanted something for an empty wall in my house and I didn’t want to spend a fortune purchasing it. I saw a gallery brochure with some painted work I thought was great and said to myself, “I could do something like that with paper.” And I did! It was so much fun that I kept going and now there’s no stopping me. I’m amassing a decorative paper collection to rival my absurdly large stone collection.
Her advice to those of us starting out on a new path....?
Love what you’re doing!
Thanks for stopping by!
Monday, November 3, 2008
Also exhibiting was enamel artist, Marianne Hunter showing her museum quality, exquisite Kabuki Kachina figures among other pieces.
Thanks for stopping by and BE SURE TO VOTE TOMORROW!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I enjoy most "the freedom to be on the edge", a theme derived from my very basic beliefs both as an artist and as a human being. Freedom and endless imagination are the basic ingredients of my work. Some of my pieces reflect my belief in the right to choose and in stretching the limits of will and abilities of each of us. Other pieces are much more "classic".
How do you think living in Israel influences your work?
You seem to direct much of your marketing to the U.S. market--such as 4th of July jewelry..why this focus?
I've decided to use the internet as a main marketing channel. Therefore, I have a dual language site: Hebrew for the Israeli local audience, and English for English speaking countries. Naturally, the USA has the largest and most experienced audience for online shopping, hence my focus in the American market.
The most challenging part of my work is the marketing. Needless to say, this is a completely different profession. My husband is an internet expert and he does all the work of maintaining, promoting and marketing our site.
What advice do you have for fledgling jewelry designers?
Unless you have exceptional marketing skills, do not get attempted to do it yourself. This is a full time job so it is best if you leave it to professionals and focus on design.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I would describe my style as poetic conceptual minimalism!
I often don’t know what will inspire me – but I am drawn to places/events/things that assist in conjuring connections toward a reality where ideas and concepts materialize that gnaw away at my conscience until I make a sketch or just start working directly with the medium that seems appropriate.
Obviously smaller companies are feeling the impact of high metal prices but I think the value of my work lies more in the design than the material. Labor is always a higher factor in my work – whatever material I use. I think the question all designer/makers who produce their work in North America should be asking is: how do I differentiate my work from the glut of commodities available to consumers? Design and innovation is where I believe we excel – the challenge is how each artist finds their market/audience.
What advice do you have for fledgling jewelry designers?
Take in as much as you can – listen, learn, explore, and consider an apprenticeship. There are many facets to this business, ask yourself what you want to wake up and be doing every morning. Start a blog. Mine is www.thinkermaker.com
How have you found it best to showcase and sell your work?
I am, really, still finding my way. I have formed many good relationships with retailers, and I am still actively pursuing that form of marketing. However, I believe my future lies in a combination of developing contacts via the internet through e commerce and blogging as well as selective trade shows, commercial and non-commercial exhibitions, and print/web based media exposure.