Monday, April 2, 2012

What If...

Posted by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

For the past couple of years I've been enamored of and influenced by the work of jewelry makers who are university trained. I stalk grad students on CraftHaus, go to avante garde exhibitions at galleries like Velvet da Vinci and Taboo (both in California), and pour over images in Metalsmith magazine of work I consider imaginative, unusual, and cutting edge. And I wonder how they come up with the inspiration for all their unusual techniques and designs.

Charity Hall uses her background in biology as inspiration.  Kristin Beeler lazer engraves pearls. Emily Watson uses wood, plastic, faux bone, sterling and metal clay in her wearable sculptures.
I finally figured out that it's the academic atmosphere itself that gives the current crop of art jewelry makers the opportunity to experiment with many different tools and equipment that most self taught makers don't have access to, provides a self contained networking platform with artists specializing in other crafts - allowing an exchange of information and inspiration, and forces the students to ask themselves "what if" and push the boundaries of conventional themes and materials.

Even in the metal clay world I find myself most attracted to the work of artists who bring more than one talent to the table. I think that the more familiarity with other elements of design one has, the more interesting and engaging the artistic outcome is.

Terry Kovalcik utilizes his graphic arts background in every piece he makes. Celie Fago brought years of polymer clay texture and carving talents to her metal clay work. Donna Penoyer accessed a joie di vivre and sense of fun from her stilt walking alter egos when developing her metal clay whistles.
I'm self taught myself. My previous experience as a make-up artist definitely started me out with a good 'hand' for working with clay - I have a very gentle touch and seldom put marks in fresh clay as I manipulate it while I work. But it did nothing for my creativity with other materials, tools or innovative practices. That's where my cyber stalking, class taking, and play date experimentation, comes in handy.

Those of us who work on our own need to push our own boundaries while students have professors and the system to force them to push theirs. How often do you drive past your comfort zone? What experiences have you had, or do you intentionally expose yourself to, that ignite the creative spark of your individual artistic identity? When do you get inspired to ask yourself 'what if'?


Jennifer said...

Although I studied Architecture, I found my education to be very valuable for pushing beyond the ordinary. I often recall the exercises and the processes used at school to critique my work or to get me to shake things up a bit, or at least move and stretch.

Unknown said...

I took silversmithing in a 2 year college. Even though this was not a fancy "art school" I think that the curriculum requirements, pressure from the teacher and the inspiration from the other students pushed me in a good way. I also benefited from the time spent exploring before jumping in. Finally the critique of not just my work but the other students as well was often eye opening.

Holly said...

It's hard being a pioneer... so much time, effort, trial and error... thanks for all the hard work.
~ Holly

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, interesting to think about how my background as an occupational therapist has influenced my metal clay work. I love textures (my latest find is a fossil sea urchin), and now I'm wondering if it goes back to the work I did with textures and Sensory Integration for children with tactile dysfunction????? Who knows, but you've really piqued my thoughts. Thanks, Janet.

Lora Hart said...

Thanks for the sharing of your experiences Ladies,
This is Lora Hart, I wrote this article Kathy. ;D

Using past experiences that were influential in your life is an invaluable way to make sure that your work comes across as personal and unique. Often times, we, as students (myself included) tend do learn technique by copying the instructors' example. If we use a little of our own influences, we're more likely to come up with a completely individual design.