Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Marianne Hunter: Exquisite Enamels

Marianne Hunter

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!

I started selling my work at 17, and the pieces were actually 50 cents. I did my first show that summer at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. Shows were quite different then as the craft movement wasn't even in its infancy at that point. Booth fees were $5-$35. I set up on a card table and my "inventory" was carried in a cigar box. It was really exhilarating to be having so much fun with the enamel work and earning my own money.

It appears that you've been working at your craft in such a focused way for more than 30 what point did you come to know that you were creating extraordinary work?

Thanks for the compliment. it's actually more than 40 years now. I always liked the pieces I made. I think the first pendant I made in my interpretation of grisaille enamel was the turning point. towards more serious art work, although it took several years for me to have the confidence to leave the safety of inexpensive, repetitive pieces behind...that and then learning to set the pieces in precious metals has made an enormous difference.

What are your thoughts about having your work displayed in prominent museums?

It's just wonderful! I'm very glad that both my parents were able to enjoy that recognition with me. It is gratifying to know that some of the pieces I've sent out into the world have ended up with that formal recognition.

Many of Marianne's pieces are Kabuki Kachin and Kachina figures. I asked about this focus...

They are metaphor and alter-ego for me. In my imagination they are powerful protectors of and sources of Nature, Elements, Beauty, Harmony, Joy and such things. They come from my imagined perspectives of other cultures, other times. They represent what I wish the world could be like for every one, every where all the time. Beautiful, interesting, harmonious and safe.

From your website explanation of your work, each piece is meticulously planned this a factor of the type of enamel work you do or part of your nature?

This makes me laugh! If you would see the chaos I work in you would know that very very little in my life is meticulous! But I have learned over time that to enter into one of these pieces, with the smoothest journey forward, takes a map. It's something like creating a puzzle; the shapes of the enamel panels have to fit with the stones and metal work. the colors have to integrate. the foils cut and laid on at the right point. A detailed drawing and the time spent deciding on stones, orientation etc, spares me hours and hours of locked up delay during process. I still spend a lot of time unable to move forward until I've made another decision as the piece comes together, but the planning ahead helps make the pieces possible.

Do you ever just set out to create something without knowing how it will turn out?

Almost never anymore. I'm sometimes surprised by new ideas along the way. But I'm interested in work that is really challenging and really well integrated, so the drawing is a very important creative part of the process.

I love your comparison of your work to instruments working in concert....and in fact, your pieces have a lyrical does music play a role in what you create?

I don't know. I just felt really comfortable with that analogy as I way to express the emotion, the flow, the complexity, the twists and turns and, hopefully, the unity of the finished work.

What do you enjoy about the solitary nature of your work?

I've always been this way. I was never creative in a classroom or group environment. I like to work alone with my own thoughts free to wander. Even gardening I prefer to be unobserved. I think it frees the little freezes when the grownups come in!

After so many years of doing this, what are the best moments?

Feeling really excited by a drawing I've just completed; finally setting all the enamels and stones into the finished metalwork; holding the piece with all the polishing, engraving and bead work done, done, done. Having a person love that piece so much, they are willing to exchange their own energy value to choose it as their own. Then it's really complete. I also really enjoy when they ( the owners and their pieces) come back to year after year. Another best moment...when the show is over, when I've regrouped and recouped my energy; I've cleaned up the benches, going into the studio to start new drawings. That's a great day.

What an honor to get to know more about Marianne and her amazing work!

Thanks for stopping by!

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