Monday, June 16, 2014

Profiles in Artistry - Helga van Leipsig

I first met Helga at one of the PMC conferences at Purdue University, and we continued to renew our friendship at every conference since then. Now that the Guild has disbanded and there is less opportunity to visit in person, we keep in touch through Facebook. Helga has long been one of my favorite artists - with a style that is all her own, and is a constant inspiration and motivational force in my artistic life. 

Helga's studio in Holland
CS - How long have you been working with metal clay?
HvL - In November 2005 I bought my first package of silver clay out of curiosity.  I fired the first batch with my torch and thought it was magic. Then I turned to the internet to find more information about the product and found out there were two brands. PMC [Precious Metal Clay] was the one I was most attracted to because there was a wealth of technical information on the guild's website, which I was looking for at that moment. I had a desire to know everything about it, and that desire still fuels my passion for metal clay.

CS - What skills, interests, or achievements did you bring to your designs from previous, unrelated work?
HvL - My graphic design work gives me my uncluttered style I guess. Then, garden work gives me motivation & metaphors. The beauty I find in the small details of plants are an eternal influence. I connect them to my personal development processes. Metal clay gives me clues in understanding myself. Perhaps a bit weird to say, but that’s the way it works for me. I am constantly trying to find out what the clay wants to say to me. My latest work, the Cambia series, is about how sap streams up and down in a stem. It's a transport system that carries essential minerals to the leaves & roots.

Embrace & Open-up from the Earth series
"After a period of struggling with incorporating
metal clay into my jewelry, I made this ring.
I have to embrace all the qualities of the
clay (the open armed half-round shapes)
before I can open up to all the possibilities
it has (the ruptures on the rim)." 
CS - How did you discover and/or develop your signature style or technique?
HvL -  I consider the Earth series my signature style, the inspiration came from farmers ploughing the fields. It also started as I was thinking about a Masters registry project (E3 - Metal Clay Paper). Then a workshop with Ruudt Peters called, 'Now Breath', where I worked with earth from my garden. This workshop was non-jewelry related and liberating. The Earth series is still a work in progress.

CS - How has your work or skill set evolved since you began working with metal clay?
HvL - I  work more intuitively and freely with metal clay. Sheet and wire can be very strict. With clay I play more. That is good.

In 2013 Helga entered a time of creative reflection and artistic discovery through a self-directed, week-long, artist retreat at home. In addition to making her discoveries the focus of her blog, Helga hosted live video chats with other artists around the world, which I was honored to be a part of. (Look for "Next read" at the bottom of each day's post for a link to the following 10 posts.)

CS - Can you tell us a little about your Summer Art Retreat at Home (S.A.R.A.H.)?
HvL - The retreat came out of the frustration that 1. I couldn’t go to Haystack [to take a workshop], 2. I had a free schedule and committed to the time to do it, and 3. my desire to develop myself. It was a lesson in determination, and a journey to learn to trust in what I can do myself. It taught me tons, as you can read on my blog.

CS - Do you teach?
HvL - During the 3rd through 6th years of working with metal clay, I taught some classes. But here in my area there is not very much demand for metal clay classes. I live in a small village and don’t want to travel too much.

Cambia #1
"This ring is a result of the first S.A.R.A.H. It was
made after many tests I made with porcelain clay
(my favorite testing material). The gold emphasizes
how important it is to keep on Flowing."
My take on teaching is giving a presentation like I did at the PMC conference in 2012 or the Polymer conference in Malta in 2014. Like that, I can reach a bigger crowd. Also, writing for Art Jewelry Magazine gives me satisfaction in the same way teaching might. Then there is the work on my website. Blogging is a way to communicate, so I can reach & teach online while I continue to work on my style in my studio.

CS - Do you consider yourself primarily a teacher or a maker/seller?
HvL - Definitely a maker & seller.

CS - How would you feel about teaching others your signature techniques?
HvL - That is not something I am interested in, I would prefer to teach how to find your own style. Everybody has unique qualities and I am convinced it is a matter of knowing how to look. I would love to teach that. The presentations I've done were about this subject.

CS - How would you like your future with metal clay to evolve?
HvL - I'd like to keep on exploring different ways of working with the clay to find innovative techniques. It challenges me to grow on a personal level, it’s a process.

CS - Why did you choose metal clay as your primary jewelry making material? What qualities do you particularly appreciate?
HvL - Sometimes I have the feeling metal clay chose me. I can’t help but keep working with it. What I particularly like is that it’s still a new material with no set traditions, so I am free to explore.

CS - What would you like new users of metal clay to know?
HvL - That you are free to play.

Thanks for sharing your process with us Helga. I'm in love with the idea of a personal art retreat and am so impressed with the way you designed it and laid it all out. I hope many of our readers use it as a template for their own creative renaissance.
Posted by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

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