Tag Archives: willa cather

Willa’s Journey – Part Three (Final Installment)

Part Three and the final installment of Willa’s Journey, the pendant that wanted to tell a story. It all comes together here, and we find out how the pendant found it’s name and it’s new owner – in Australia!
But first, another story-within-the story – there was this little beautiful brass clock component I really wanted to use in the piece, but it was crooked. So I wanted to re-design and re-fabricate it out of silver. I probably could have made it work, but I just cannot stand imperfection – unless I am the master of it!!!

Willa's Journey progress photo by Nancy Lee
Willa’s Journey progress photo by Nancy Lee

So, I took that piece and made the new element, used bridal veil netting to run a pattern on it and the brass piece that embellished it (in a milling machine), then needed something – a stone – to set in it. I had picked out a synthetic blue sapphire that would have been fine. But then, while rummaging through my stones, I remembered the raw emerald. This emerald came to me via my sister Janet, in the form of a stone polishing outfit she gave me many years ago. It came in a box with lots of supplies and doodads. Floating at the bottom of the box was a little plastic vial with the raw emerald. I was pretty excited! OK, it’s not Crown Jewels grade, but it’s pretty sweet. I took the emerald and used my diamond tool bits to clean up the edges and refine it. But I questioned my decision to add it to this piece. Wouldn’t the synthetic sapphire do as well? I can always get more of them, but this little green beauty is one of a kind. I may or may not ever see another like it that fits this element so perfectly.
I decided to go for it, and at that moment, recalled the Willa Cather novel (Death Comes for the Archbishop), the decision to sacrifice a good element to the bigger story, and never looked back. In one fell swoop, I had my design and my piece had titled itself “Willa’s Journey.” Sometimes you just know that something is good.
I posted the picture of the completed pendant on Facebook, and it caused a stir. Conversations began with a friend that I was taking an online class with. After many emails, the pendant arrived at her new home – Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. You might imagine the thrill (and relief) I felt when my friend sent me this email:

Nancy…..it arrived!! It’s so beautiful. I love it more in person than I did in the photo. I had to put it on immediately of course. It’s so “me”.
Thankyou thankyou thankyou. Kind Regards, Michelle H.

Willas Journey Pendant
Willas Journey Pendant, photo by Nancy Lee

Willa’s Journey – Part Two

In yesterday’s post, I wrote Part One of Willa’s Journey. Here is part two…

Now for the making of Willa’s Journey, the pendant (of course, it wasn’t named that yet!). Inspiration started with a small group of three precious, beautiful torch-enameled disks. I loved them, and knew they were good. These have been on my workbench every day for months, looking at me. Waiting for inspiration. One disk set in silver would be just fine, seeing as each disk took me several hours to make – torch firing isn’t like regular enameling. Each layer is sifted on and fired in the flame individually. You cannot fire a large grouping at once using this method. The beauty of it is that you get to see the ground glass melt before your eyes, and the artist has a bit of control as to how far to push it. I lost count as to the number of firings in the disk that I used for Willa’s Journey, but I would guess at least ten trips to the torch.

Willa’s Journey, progress photo by Nancy Lee

Then I was lucky enough to receive from another artist a box of brass clock parts – these are precision clock guts made in Germany. One small little thing might be wrong with the clock, but the whole gearbox would be replaced rather than waste time repairing it. Goodie – rescuing beauty and precision from the dumpster! So one day I spent a few hours taking apart a gear box, smashing my thumb in the process, and spread the gears before me on the workbench…and glanced over at the disks. While my thumb throbbed I picked up a disk, and set it on a gear…and I was off! These disparate pieces were just waiting for one another.

Please read more in tomorrow’s post.

Willa’s Journey – Part One

In my newsletter last month, I alluded to a story about a piece called “Willa’s Journey.” Here  it is. I hope you are ready for this story – it’s rather lengthy.
First, the back-story: Several years ago, I read a novel by Willa Cather called “Death Comes for the Archbishop.” a Life-altering reading experience. Her ability to rivet me to the story was compelling, so I read up on her writing style. She was known to sacrifice a robust draft of a story to the greater good, in other words, she would take another story that could have been a novel on its own, and give it over to the novel at hand. (I recall the back-story to the bigger novel and still wonder what she would have made of the back-story – it was that good.)

Willa Cather

This concept of sacrificing one story for the greater story was foreign to me. When translated to my benchwork, I have always been conservative with materials and minimal in my designs, telling my story in a straightforward way with as few elements as possible. Every element I put into my visual stories is weighed with a great deal of consideration for the design, not to mention the cost. I will often design in my sketchbook works with many pieces and parts. Then when at the bench, strip everything out that clutters up the visual bones of the piece. Add to that the fact that I have many precious little elements at my disposal – really good little stories, if you will, and I weigh them as too precious to sacrifice to the bigger story, because maybe someday I will have created the perfect piece for this element, and I won’t have the element any more. Or because if I add too many elements, it will then be too expensive. Or if I add too many elements, it will just be clutter.
Next? The Journey. Read more in tomorrow’s post.

Willa’s Journey, progress photo by Nancy Lee
In my newsletter last month, I alluded to a story about a piece called “Willa’s Journey.” Here it is. I hope you are ready for this story – it’s rather lengthy.
First, the back-story: Several years ago, I read a novel by Willa Cather called “Death Comes for the Archbishop.” a Life-altering reading experience. Her ability to rivet me to the story was compelling, so I read up on her writing style. She was known to sacrifice a robust draft of a story to the greater good, in other words, she would take another story that could have been a novel on its own, and give it over to the novel at hand. (I recall the back-story to the bigger novel and still wonder what she would have made of the back-story – it was that good.)
This concept of sacrificing one story for the greater story was foreign to me. When translated to my benchwork, I have always been conservative with materials and minimal in my designs, telling my story in a straightforward way with as few element
In my newsletter last month, I alluded to a story about a piece called “Willa’s Journey.” Here  it is. I hope you are ready for this story – it’s rather lengthy. In fact, this is the first of three installments…
First, the back-story: Several years ago, I read a novel by Willa Cather called “Death Comes for the Archbishop.” a Life-altering reading experience. Her ability to rivet me to the story was compelling, so I read up on her writing style. She was known to sacrifice a robust draft of a story to the greater good, in other words, she would take another story that could have been a novel on its own, and give it over to the novel at hand. (I recall the back-story to the bigger novel and still wonder what she would have made of the back-story – it was that good.)
This concept of sacrificing one story for the greater story was foreign to me. When translated to my benchwork, I have always been conservative with materials and minimal in my designs, telling my story in a straightforward way with as few elements as possible. Every element I put into my visual stories is weighed with a great deal of consideration for the design, not to mention the cost. I will often design in my sketchbook works with many pieces and parts. Then when at the bench, strip everything out that clutters up the visual bones of the piece. Add to that the fact that I have many precious little elements at my disposal – really good little stories, if you will, and I weigh them as too precious to sacrifice to the bigger story, because maybe someday I will have created the perfect piece for this element, and I won’t have the element any more. Or because if I add too many elements, it will then be too expensive. Or if I add too many elements, it will just be clutter. Next? The Journey.In my newsletter last month, I alluded to a story about a piece called “Willa’s Journey.” Here  it is. I hope you are ready for this story – it’s rather lengthy.
First, the back-story: Several years ago, I read a novel by Willa Cather called “Death Comes for the Archbishop.” a Life-altering reading experience. Her ability to rivet me to the story was compelling, so I read up on her writing style. She was known to sacrifice a robust draft of a story to the greater good, in other words, she would take another story that could have been a novel on its own, and give it over to the novel at hand. (I recall the back-story to the bigger novel and still wonder what she would have made of the back-story – it was that good.)
This concept of sacrificing one story for the greater story was foreign to me. When translated to my benchwork, I have always been conservative with materials and minimal in my designs, telling my story in a straightforward way with as few elements as possible. Every element I put into my visual stories is weighed with a great deal of consideration for the design, not to mention the cost. I will often design in my sketchbook works with many pieces and parts. Then when at the bench, strip everything out that clutters up the visual bones of the piece. Add to that the fact that I have many precious little elements at my disposal – really good little stories, if you will, and I weigh them as too precious to sacrifice to the bigger story, because maybe someday I will have created the perfect piece for this element, and I won’t have the element any more. Or because if I add too many elements, it will then be too expensive. Or if I add too many elements, it will just be clutter. Next? The Journey.s as possible. Every element I put into my visual stories is weighed with a great deal of consideration for the design, not to mention the cost. I will often design in my sketchbook works with many pieces and parts. Then when at the bench, strip everything out that clutters up the visual bones of the piece. Add to that the fact that I have many precious little elements at my disposal – really good little stories, if you will, and I weigh them as too precious to sacrifice to the bigger story, because maybe someday I will have created the perfect piece for this element, and I won’t have the element any more. Or because if I add too many elements, it will then be too expensive. Or if I add too many elements, it will just be clutter. Next? The Journey.
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