Monday, March 28, 2011

Recent Happenings

March is coming to a close and I can honestly say that it has been one of the busiest months of my life! I have been traveling almost every week and "businessing" the rest of the time.

I went to Las Vegas as a surprise trip for my sister's 30th birthday (Happy Birthday Brooke!) I have never been there before and had an absolute blast! Then my husband returned from overseas. He was gone for 5 weeks or so this time. Me and Presley (our 5 year old puggle) are so so happy to have him home. We then left immediately for Florida for a wedding of our amazing friends Evan and Jess. (More on that later!) Somehow in between all of that traveling I still managed to complete a wholesale order for Azura Clothing in Rehoboth Beach DE (, take a small torch class with the Gem Cutters Guild of Baltimore, and attend my very first Baltimore Etsy Street Team meeting ( I am about ready for a nap but there is no time!

The small torch class I took with the Gem Cutters Guild was awesome. I signed up for the class to familiarize myself with the small torch, but I was a bit worried when class began as it seemed to be geared towards those who had never soldered at all before. My fears were eased as everyone began working on their own projects and I just kind of got into the groove and did my own thing. I was pleasantly surprised to figure out that the butane torch suits my needs perfectly and can do pretty much all that the acetylene tank can do. I am bringing fire home and to my work. I can't wait!

The Baltimore Etsy Team Meeting was great. It was so awesome to finally get to meet some of the people who's etsy stores I have been admiring since joining the team. It is also nice to have a community of artists to talk to. The solitary life of studio work is tough sometimes. It is great to have the opportunity to talk to people who are in the same boat as you. Some of the new members brought some of their creations to the meeting and can I just say, I am amongst some fantastic talent! Go B.E.S.T!

That is all for tonight but stay tuned for more on the amazing wedding and the jewelry I created for it!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Playing With Fire Part II

Last time I wrote I spoke a little about the time I was spending in the metals studio on the campus of The University of Evansville. I mentioned very little as to what I was doing in there, other than the fun and enlightening conversations between me and my former professor. My hours spent in that studio over the last couple weeks were all about discovery....and perhaps a bit of re-discovery.

While in school I had all the equipment needed to solder, proper ventilation, tanks, pickle and all the forms and and hammers I could imagine. I sadly, took all of this for granted. Since graduating in 2005, I have been working in cold connections, which means simply, finding ways to connect metal with out soldering. I have been happy to work this way, in fact I felt that it perhaps made me a bit more creative when it came to designing with out immediately reverting to soldering. I felt, and still feel, that working in cold connections was like problem solving.

It has been in the last year or so that I have been seeking growth and change in my work. I have sketch books filled with designs I have had rolling around my head for years now with no way of bringing these to light with out the use of fire. So why, you may ask, did I not just purchase the equipment necessary to work this way. The answer is really not very interesting. I have felt uncomfortable having tanks in my house, I have no ventilation and it had been so long since I have worked this way, would I even remember how to do it.

Turns out, playing with fire is like riding a bike. I am not sure you really forget. As soon as I heard the "pop" of the torch as I lit it, I felt right at home all over again. Back in college, I was working on very "clean" pieces with bezel set stones and quite frankly, that work was not for me. It is still not. I am just not a precise enough person to work that way. This time, I was determined to work in a whole new way. I came to the studio with a large jar of sterling scrap. This jar contained every scrap of sterling I have created since 2003. I went into the studio with one goal in mind.....up-cycle these scraps.

I carved various shapes into charcoal blocks and laid my scrap in the fresh grooves and carefully, heated that metal until it was molten but not liquid and worked it around with my pick until I was pleased with the shape and texture of it. I couldn't stop. I couldn't get enough. I am not yet sure where I am going with this technique but I am in love. I would leave the studio feeling sunburned, my hands red and dry from the heat, but I was instantly hooked.

It reminded me a lot of when I started taking ceramics. I began taking the required course my Junior year of college, after I began taking painting and after I began taking metals/jewelry courses. The biggest problems I had in both classes was my fear of messing up, my fear of the blank canvas, my fear of marring that sheet of metal, my fear of not being good enough. Ceramics changed all that for me for the better. The very process of using scrap clay to make new clay to throw a bowl only to have it flop and send it right back to the scrap clay bin, I found very freeing. In going through these steps day after day in the ceramics studio I learned the very important lesson of letting go. Every time I would throw a bowl and it would flop, instead of getting upset, I would just smile and remind myself 'it is just dirt'. This philosophy stayed with me in my painting studio where I began painting on old canvases. Painting on surfaces that were already messy, alleviated my fear of making a mess. I stopped cleaning my brushes while painting, I allowed my colors to get muddy sometimes, and I became a better painter for it.

Somehow, even though I realized this discovery, it never made its way into the metals studio with me, until these past weeks. Up-cycling these silver scraps was my way of making new clay into a new bowl. It was fascinating and addicting.

It just goes to show that as artists, discovery is the ongoing theme of our lives. Whether its self discovery, the discovery of a new process or a new material, this evolution is ever present. It is a good thing I love change!