Tag Archives: metalsmith

Making Hard Things Seem Easy

Did you make a resolution for the New Year? Perhaps you waited until today, January 11, 2011. (OK, by the time this is posted, it will be “yesterday”). Perhaps the numerologically mystical “1-11-11” may provide you and me with some surprises. It’s definitely gotten me thinking about 2011 being a year of creation, especially after my return from Daytona Beach, where I participated in a week-long metals workshop sponsored by the Florida Society of Goldsmiths and paid for in part though an Individual Artist’s Grant through the Indiana Arts Commission.

Hello from a chilly Daytona Beach – January 2011

Are you thinking of creating something special in your life in 2011? Mystical or not, it has me thinking of creating abundance and freedom. In the past, I’ve thought abundance or wealth could only be created by struggle. This year, I already think differently, and we are only 11 days in.

Handmade Forged Copper Bracelet
Handmade Forged Copper Bracelet

My phone has rung all day long with opportunity. My emails are chock full of good stuff. All I need to do is reach out and say yes. What a great day for anyone to have! As I sat a reflected on this, I wondered, what if I haven’t even thought up some really terrifically good stuff that I want in my life? Because all that I am asking for is showing up. What a blessed challenge this could be!
And I am always interested in what’s going on in the hearts and minds of others out there. Metalsmith or not, artist or not, you are still the creator of many things, including your life. What do you want to create this year? Ask, and you just might get it.

How do you deal with mistakes? Are they to be forgotten, or learned from? An embarrassment or a journey towards an ideal? What follows is a simple story, with quotes from smart people to make it seem important.
In my practice of creating beauty, I often make mistakes. Incorrect engineering, melted components, successful joins soldered beautifully backwards. It’s part of my life as a metalsmith. Sometimes these are correctable. Other times, they are additions to the scrap bin. On occasion, certain remnants remain with me on the bench, providing companionship as the perfect piece they were supposed to become a part of is completed.
During that time, we have conversations. We wonder if something else is in store. While I ponder the piece in progress before me, I sneak glances at the castoff keeping me company. I cannot bear to get rid of these bits of memory. They seem to want a life of their own. Not merely as a melted spherical decoration on a ring or a pendant, but as the centerpiece of something truly special, something so lovely that no one would be able to guess at their past. This is what drives me to give them voice and value in this throw-away world.
In my art, there is no big political statement, religious iconography, or scream for sexual equality. Just the respectful use of the materials at hand to create an idea of beauty, its meaning left up to the viewer.  Statements simply made from the soul, crafted to last a lifetime.
That is why I decided to begin naming these special works “Soul Statements.”  There have been previous Soul Statements. But the significance of prior works has been left a mystery to their owners. Who knows – maybe you own one!
There is no way to predict how many pieces will be created within this line of work, no way to know how many will be available at any given time. The only thing that can be promised is an offering of beauty direct from the deepest part of me – a Soul Statement. The meaning is left up to you.
I humbly leave you with a favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoon quote:

How do you deal with mistakes? Are they to be forgotten, or learned from? An embarrassment or a journey towards an ideal? What follows is a simple story, with quotes from smart people to make it seem important.

Mistakes, Soul Statements, and the Wisdom of Calvin and Hobbes

2011 is mere hours away in the Midwest and it’s time for many to reflect on the year past, take from it the best we can, and apply that knowledge to the highest and best New Year possible. How did 2010 pan out for you? Were mistakes made? How have those been dealt with? Are they to be forgotten, or learned from? An embarrassment – or a journey towards an ideal? Or perhaps you are a fortunate soul who thinks and plans clearly and doesn’t allow mistakes to occur? If you’re the latter, I want to meet you. Um, no, I don’t…
What follows is a simple story, with quotes from smart people to make it seem important.

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
— Albert Einstein

In my full-time practice of creating beauty, I often make mistakes. Incorrect engineering, melted components, successful joins soldered beautifully backwards. It’s part of my life as a metalsmith. Sometimes these are correctable. Other times, they are additions to the scrap bin. On occasion, certain remnants stay with me on the bench, providing companionship as the perfect piece they were supposed to become a part of is completed.

I may not be smart enough to do everything, but I am dumb enough to try anything.
— Geoff Johns

During that time, we have conversations. We wonder if something else is in store. While the metalsmith in me ponders the piece in progress before me, my heart sneaks glances at the castoff keeping me company. I cannot bear to get rid of these bits of memory. They seem to want a life of their own. Not merely as a melted spherical decoration on a ring or a pendant, but as the centerpiece of something truly special, something so lovely that no one would be able to guess at their past. This is what drives me to give them voice and value in this throw-away world.

Even a soul submerged in sleep is hard at work and helps make something of the world.
(translated by Brooks Haxton)
— Heraclitus

In my art, there is no big political statement, religious iconography, or scream for sexual equality. Just the respectful use of the materials at hand to create an idea of beauty, its meaning left up to the viewer.  Statements simply made from the soul, crafted to last a lifetime.

Handmade Sterling "Confetti" Pin with Goldstone
Handmade Sterling “Confetti” Pin with Goldstone, private collection

That is why I decided to begin naming these special works Soul Statements.  There have been previous Soul Statements. But the significance of prior works has been left a mystery to their owners. Who knows – maybe you own one!
There is no way to predict how many pieces will be created within this line of work, no way to know how many will be available at any given time. The only thing that can be promised is an offering of beauty direct from the deepest part of me – a Soul Statement. The meaning is left up to you.
I leave you with a favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoon quote, along with a sincere wish for a New Year complete with happiness, health and an abundance of love.

Look! A trickle of water running through some dirt! I’d say our afternoon just got booked solid!
— Bill Watterson

Calvin and Hobbes in Mud Puddle, by Bill Watterson
Calvin and Hobbes in Mud Puddle, by Bill Watterson

Gingercation and Gypsy-Setting

(or, what I learned during my spring vacation)
April’s vacation included my version of a creative renewal program, developed after a friend received a Lilly Endowment Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship. His included a trip to Scotland. Mine? A Ginger-cation! A visit to North Carolina to see my dear friend and fellow metalsmith Ginger Meek Allen, get some bench time, and hopefully even help Ginger out with studio-related things. When the idea was sprung upon her, she was all for it, and even invited me to stay with her family – four daughters and husband Jimmy!

Fast-forward to Wake Forest, NC, me Ginger at the bench. Besides the fact that I’m in pure heavenly bliss being at the bench with another metalsmith, Ginger is teaching me a stone setting technique that I have never had the pleasure (or time) to learn. It is called Gypsy setting, and is typically used for setting small round faceted stones into silver or gold. A seat is cut for the stone in the surrounding metal and wraps around it, hugging it into place. Ginger is a master at this setting!

The pendant I had created for this purpose was ready, but Ginger sagely suggested we try a practice piece first. She then showed me Gypsy setting step-by-step. The little tips and tricks were, right then and there, worth the thirteen hour drive. I stood, transfixed, watching the master at work. Fortunately for me, she accidentally selected a non-uniform stone, so I was able to learn some tricks to overcome those circumstances.

Stone #1 was set perfectly in the test piece, and it was time to set Stone #2. My turn. I was off and running – for about two minutes. What just happened? How did she do that? Gentle Ginger patiently reminded me of what to do next, and success was mine a surprisingly short time later as Stone #2 passed the sweat-inducing toothpick test. Which means once the stone is set, one flips over the piece and tries to dislodge the stone using a toothpick, at which point tears or cheers ensue.

I suppose the main point of this note is to share with you how easy things can be when you have someone there to show you the way. Even when that person comes up against a problem, watching them solve it provides you with an even richer learning experience. Here is where I would normally say take a class! But it’s more than that. It is sitting with someone, sharing a common passion. Breathing the same air, in the same room. Talking over endless possibilities. Or not talking. Just being. Bottom line, that’s what my creative renewal was REALLY about. And I’m so much the richer for it. Thank you, Ginger.

How might you creatively renew yourself this season? Tell me. I’d love to hear from you!

 

Check out my post “A How-to:Gypsy Stone Setting,” for step-by-step instructions on setting your own gems in metal.