Monday, February 21, 2011

Be Prepared!

Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor



The Boy Scouts were certainly on to something when they coined that phrase. And the world must agree or it wouldn't have migrated into the popular lexicon. It's such a universal truth that professional chefs say something similar to emphasize the importance of preparing a dish. Or so I learned on Worst Cooks in America. The term struck such a chord that I'm still thinking about it weeks later. Mise en place means "everything in place".

Camping, cooking and creating are not all that different. No matter your choice of art, making sure you have all the right ingredients close to hand is tantamount to a successful outcome. Having all your "toys" (tools) in front of you before you start any endeavor just makes good sense. Whether you need stakes, hammers and rope for a trip to Yosemite; sharp knives, mirepoix vegetables and spices for a holiday dinner; or clay, rollers and texture sheets for a metal clay design - knowing what you need to fulfill your vision and preparing your workspace in advance will help make it a stress free day in the studio.

Wipe down all surfaces with a damp cloth to eliminate the cat hair that may linger after an impromptu snuggle fest; gather every tool that you need to complete the project; and make sure that plastic wrap, sandpaper and other expendables are in good shape. The last thing you want to do is go searching for an important item while your clay becomes dry and unworkable.

Ashley Jewelry
But even before you begin to gather the tools of your trade and start to unwrap that precious lump of clay you need to know what you're going to make. The day you decide to step up your designs from simple textured, cookie cutter slabs is the day you want to start carrying around a sketch book to jot down the fabulous ideas are invading your consciousness.

Then when you decide to realize one of those sketched designs you may want to make a proper rendering - showing the piece from different angles. This is a great description of one of my Flickr goldsmith friend's rendering method. If your design is complicated or labor intensive you may even want to create a model or maquette out of polymer clay, stiff paper or a less expensive metal. High end jewelers try out their gold or platinum designs by first casting them in silver. When silver is the desired material, they may fabricate it using copper.

Quench Metalworks
It might help your design process to lay out stones, found objects or chain on top of the drawing to better visualize the final piece. Or to photograph the elements and draw the metal clay elements around them. You might even photograph and cut out a collection of different items and use them to make a musical chairs style collage. Switching them around to see what fits better with which.

Whatever method you develop, knowing where you're going and making sure your supplies are close to hand will enable you to go into the studio with confidence, happily anticipating a productive day at the bench.

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