PMCC: How long have you been working with metal clay?
Kim: I've been enjoying [using] this remarkable material in my studio for about 5 years.
PMCC: What skills, interests, or achievments did you bring to your designs from previous, unrelated work?
Kim: I have a BA in sociology, and my fascination with human behavior and the human condition in general has only intensified over the years and is what a great majority of my metal clay work is all about. Also, my grandfather made historical dollhouses. I grew up surrounded by antiques and worked in an antique store for a while when I was younger, utterly entranced by the odd and beautifully made things of the past century. I also haunted flea markets on the weekends. My mechanical pieces all reference antique objects, and very often those objects hail from the realm of childhood.
PMCC: Are you still working as a goldsmith?
Kim: Some times of the year I work every day for several weeks, other very rare times I have 3-4 days off a week. I've also got work to make for several gallery shows this year, so I'm squeezing a lot in, and am thankful for every minute of it!
PMCC: How did you discover and/or develop your signature style or technique?
Kim: This is a long story, bringing together several seemingly unrelated events.
Event #1 - Odd: While in Plymouth, MA visiting family about 9 years ago I purchased a tiny gumball charm at an antique store as a gift for my husband (he likes old things as much as I do). When the time came to give it to him I realized that I didn't want to part with it. This began an odd, unexplainable obsession... tiny vintage and antique vending machine toys and gumball charms were all I thought about in my free time for several years.
Event #3 - Sad, Sad, Sad: My son's father passed away. He was very much a part of my family (even though I am remarried) with a unique sense of humor and a profound love for his children.
Event #4 - Normal: I read Frankenstein by Mary Shelly.
Event #5 - Brave: I decided to make a piece to enter into Metal Clay Today's "Metal Clay in Motion" competition. I 'sensed' my way through the piece, following intuition for the first time in my making, only because there were no economic constraints due to the generous amount of free materials [I had won in the Fusion challenge]. I used molds of several vintage gumball charms to construct the figures in the piece, spent several days researching automatons, put the epitaph from Frankenstein on the back using an etched copper mold, and sobbed the day I finished it when I realized what I had made and what it meant to me. This sentence from my website says it most succinctly: "I discovered that by recreating these tiny bits of childhood nostalgia in silver, and animating them with simple mechanics to form an automaton pendant I could express my overwhelming personal grief. This small three-dimensional format that lies close to the body's heart allowed me to integrate universal themes in tandem with my own pain". That was an epiphany for me - "universal themes in tandem with my own pain". It was amazing to me that I could make a piece of jewelry straight from the turmoil of my heart that also encompassed a wider view of the human condition. Once I made this connection, I began in-depth research into automatons, and started a notebook where I explored the state of things inside my heart - worries, questions, concerns wonderings, delights - and created work that put these feelings into 3-dimensional form. After 2 and a half years of this I can report that these studio explorations improved my psychological well being immensely, as well as well as my skills in the studio - a side effect I never expected!
PMCC: How has your work or skill set evolved since you began working with metal clay?
Kim: My early work was tiny and plain, simple and pretty. I was so timid and cautious! In one fell swoop it evolved into larger, more complex constructions with several kinds of clay and metal in each piece as well as found objects - telling a story, often archetypal. I'm guessing a lot has been pent up inside me waiting desperately to come out. I quickly realized that learning new techniques would enable me to express more in my pieces, so I explored enameling, electroforming, sand casting and keum-boo.
PMCC: Do you teach?
PMCC: How would you feel about teaching others your signature techniques?
Kim: I don't think I have a signature technique that I use with metal clay, it's more of a signature style. I love to make things move and many very nice people have asked if I would be interested in teaching a project that incorporates movement. There are hurdles to this: (in no particular order)
1. I've never taken a class in metal clay and have some very bad habits that should not be passed on to others in a classroom setting.
2. I need to learn more about mechanical work.
3. I need to translate what I do using solder to only metal clay.
4. I need to figure out a project that doesn't take two weeks to make.
5. Trial and error is often how you make automata, and leads to what some may call failure, but it's really how you learn and make the piece. Making adjustments and/or having to try a different way is normal for this art, but very time consuming. This may not go over very well in a class.
PMCC: How would you like your future with metal clay to evolve?
Kim: One thing I have not had time to work with as much as I want are the beachcombed fragments that I have drawers of. I would also like to incorporate more found object materials and gemstones in my work and explore abstract or dream-like forms in motion.
PMCC: Why did you choose metal clay as your primary jewelry making material?
Kim: Flexibility, ease of construction, and freedom make metal clay a go-to material for making my automata. Whatever I can imagine, metal clay will help me make. It's giving and joyful to work with! I'm very drawn to it's softness - everything else in my metalsmithing studio is hard!
PMCC: What qualities do you particularly appreciate?
Kim: I love that the clays have varying shrinkage rates and can be reconstituted easily.
PMCC: What would you like new users of metal clay to know?
Kim: Approach the material with joy and openess, not stress or nervousness! Use the material to express what is in your heart.
PMCC: Thanks for a great insight into your creative process Kim! Just hearing about your journey is an inspiration. [To see the automaton in motion - go here.]
Posted by Lora Hart