Monday, December 22, 2008
While this year was nothing for the the history books, I have made it through. I am very grateful for all my friends, supporters, colleagues, gallerists and patrons. Without all of these supportive people, I wouldn't really have anything. Happy holidays and thank you all!!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
This Wednesday, I am going to be moderating a discussion at the Rubin Museum in NYC. A documentary film about Bhutanese metalwork will be shown and I will be talking about my experiences as a contemporary metalsmith as well as my experience working with Nepali artisans. There will also be a tour of the Bhutanese exhibit after the discussion.
This particular exhibit is remarkable in that these statues are normally only seen if one actually travels to Bhutan. All of the statues and other art was borrowed from the monasteries and are considered consecrated. As for the film, I went last week to the film about Bhutanese wood work and weaving, and I can attest to the fact that it was mesmerizing to see the mastery with which the craftspeople work.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
My work is on the move again. Both in the physical sense of being sent to various galleries, and in regards to artistic innovation. I have expanded on the series that I am calling "Wrought Inlay", begun this summer. I haven't really found the reason within, but I have been in mood for vast expanses of very black metal lately. Punctuated, of course, by continuing obsession with undulating curls.
Some of this new work has gone off to the show "Small Treasures", at Ironwood Gallery in Ridgefield, CT. Other pieces have gone to 3rd Ward Jewelry in Milwaukee.
I have also sent off some very special packages with other collections of work to:
Perlow Stevens Gallery in Columbia, MO
Max's in St. Louis Park, MN
Monday, December 01, 2008
Although I live in Brooklyn now, my hometown is Racine, Wisconsin. I grew up there and made the decision to be a metalsmith while still in high school. It was very many years later that I realized that my town has had an enormous impact on the crafts movement of the United States. There is a very lovely article in the latest issue of American Craft that mentions the collector Karen Johnson Boyd, of the Johnson Wax family (in print only). This family was responsible for the influential Crafts USA exhibition of 1969, introducing handmade objects to thousands of Americans.
Personally, I was able to benefit from the fact that Racine high schools actually offered metal art classes. I grew up two blocks from some famous Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, and I took in the offerings at the Wustum Art Museum, now expanded into the Racine Art Museum. It is hard to know, but there was clearly a spark of connection there somewhere in my young mind.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
One item of interest was an article in American Style magazine that mentioned the NEA report on artists as professionals. There are twice as many working artists (including dancers, writers, architects and and many others), than there are lawyers. We number 2.2 million. Not an insubstantial number. See the report here: www.arts.gov
I also heard this conversation on my favorite radio station. It is from a series called 30 issues in 30 days. Finally, A serious conversation about the candidates and the arts! Listen to it here. Not, mind you, that I was undecided, but I always like to sink my teeth into conversations about art in society.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Last week I took a trip to New Orleans, as previously mentioned. I discovered that the creative spirit is alive and well in the city, even if many other things are not. I am rarely disappointed to return to NY after being away, but I did feel a certain lack of exuberance on my return. I am not just talking about drinking on the street either. The proportion of eccentrics and free spirits is so much lower here.... I overheard my husband asking our cat is she wants to be a Louisiana kitty... I'll keep you posted on that!
I felt a connection with the ornate buildings in the french quarter, but I also had the chance to see many other parts of the city too. I highly recommend taking a trip to this spirited city to see the beautiful parts, but also the dilapidated and decimated parts. The first ever New Orleans art biennial will open in early November, and for lovers of music, of course, you can always find that in spades.
I had the chance to visit the galleries of both Thomas Mann and Katy Beh, and I found them to be moving forward full steam ahead. From my observation, the urge to adorn is very strong in New Orleans, with all of the festivities throughout the year. I was fascinated by a couture gown atelier in the french quarter (photo above), which had ballgowns with a very particular eccentric flair.
So, get down to New Orleans, don't be shy!
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
I know I have certainly been preoccupied lately. Some watch sports teams and the post-game analysis, I love to watch debates and the post-debate analysis. Between that and all of the other shocking news lately, I have been distracted to say the least.
In the meantime, I have been watching the orders for a couple of my rings flowing in. The biggest hit by far has been my Bold Wrought Ring, pictured at top. It is blackened silver with a bit of 18K and an enhanced color sapphire. I went through a large stash of the sapphires already and I just picked up another few dozen. Once this latest group of stones is finished, there is no guarantee that I will be able to get more. So, click here to order while they last. I may change to another stone going forward, but the orange sapphire is really great with the black..
I am off to New Orleans for a wedding. I expect to see a lot of very interesting architecture and wrought iron while there. I just got a smaller camera, so that should be more conducive to a more visually rich blog. I am also proud to note that I made the rings that will be exchanged. That moment in the ceremony always stands out for me.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Thanks for being a fan!
Sunday, September 14, 2008
An exciting part of the new museum is that it will contain it's own jewelry wing. With the general lack of contemporary jewelry being shown in museums and galleries around NYC, this will be a great addition for the field.
In addition, I recently read that the museum received a donation of 800 pieces of jewelry collected from around the world by collectors Daniel and Serga Nadler. That will be great addition, as the jewelry pieces from "countries including China, Egypt, India, Mexico and Myanmar", will help contextualize the entire culture of human adornment.
Congratulations to the museum for this bequest!
Monday, August 25, 2008
This summer, I decided to forgo the shows. Part of the reason was that I had exhausted myself making work for gallery shows in July. I also felt that with the current economy, it was a time to hang back rather than keep pushing. I have been of the opinion lately that it is better to gather my energies for future opportunities.
So, with this decision and the relatively light workload in the studio, I had more free time. Then, I got the best gift of all, which was incredibly non-humid, comfortable August. I couldn't have been in a better mood in this month. I biked around the city, met some friends, went to some performances, stayed up until 2am watching movies. Since I usually work 7 days a week, I guess you could say that I packed many weekends into one month.
I am off to the midwest this week to see my friends and family. I will be going to the show at the Kohler Center on August 28th. My mother has rounded up a number of people to go and be my fan club that day.
I get back on the 3rd and then....let the work begin. I will move into preparation for the Philly Museum show in November.
Enjoy the last few days of this month!
Monday, July 28, 2008
Right now, I am just getting over my adrenaline depletion. I managed to get the work for the Kohler Center show to the Manhattan UPS depot just 10 minutes before closing. This is not an unusual circumstance to find myself in, despite my attempts to have my creativity come in normal daytime working hours. Before big shows, no matter what I do, I always end up staying up all night. I didn't actually work through the night this time, but I did keep pushing quitting time to 9, 10, midnight, then finally 2 AM. I seem to have breakthroughs at that time, and after reading this article in the New Yorker, I was able to see that there have been studies done in the field of brain science regarding this phenomena.
Unfortunately, the whole article is not online, but the essence of it is there is a part of the right hemisphere of the brain that helps tie together disparate ideas from across the brain in an intense moment of impulse. This is the moment of "A-ha", which comes as a creative idea or a solution to the problem comes in a flash of brain activity.
The only problem with accessing this ability is that the brain must be relaxed. If the brain becomes more focused, the left brain executive area takes over and the more subtle right brain impulses get overridden.
When I am on a tear working in the studio, the adrenaline helps me get through the long hours of mental and physical labor. It cannot, however, be turned off easily when it is time to sleep, so that leaves me even more tired than I should be. I can see that this tiredness could increase the possibility of right brain insight when my back is against the proverbial wall. So it looks like there may be reason not to alter my pattern.
I have always tried to change these natural tendencies, but if there is brain science backing me up, why fight it? Onward with delirious creativity!
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Saturday, July 05, 2008
I do have a reason for that. I usually post in the evening after my work in the studio is done. However, I have been occupied this last month by spending my evenings in the dance studio or bent over a sewing machine. For the last two years, I have been studying middle eastern dance (aka bellydance), and my teacher Kaeshi finally persuaded me to get up on the stage and perform. On July 2nd, I got out there and performed my own choreography in a costume I had made, bedecked, of course, in my jewelry.
Why is this relevant to jewelry? I have realized that studying a performing art has had a profound effect on my studio practice. Most concretely, my various aches and pains from hours working on tiny things have vanished. Moreover, it has stretched my mind with a curiosity to see just what I am capable of. What are the most outrageous possibilities for my work? If I can learn this dance well into adulthood with virtually no dance experience, what can I push myself to achieve in the craft I have been practicing since my teens?
Another aspect of the creative outlet of dance is the theatricality of costuming. Just as the costumes enhance the experience of viewing the dance, jewelry can enhance our presence on the stage of daily life. Why not enhance, or create a new persona with the jewelry. My work has obviously become more bold over the past year and this can be directly attributed to my dance experience.
The other thing that I love about dancing is the exuberance I encounter among the dancers I meet. They are people who have released their creative energy in a major way and have shaped their lives around their passion. I have met very few complainers among them. The sense of community is also very strong. Although I love my community of jewelers and craftspeople, the reality is that we are not so compelled to work in such a community and collaborative environment, which is something I have always longed for.
I would recommend to other artists that taking up another discipline can be a very good way to invigorate the original passion. Creative people have so many ways to approach work that crossing boundaries of disciplines can be a great way to gain new insight.
Monday, June 02, 2008
18k, 22k and tanzanite
I recently completed a special project for a special client- that would be my Mom. I wanted her to have something very special and as she loves Art Nouveau style, I went in that direction. It is also a style that complements the gemstone that she gave me to use and the yellow gold that she requested. My mother has a very good sense of what she likes and is easily able to articulate her preferences, so the design did not take too much discussion to settle upon.
Wheat Pendant rendering
gouache on vellum
I really enjoyed making something one of a kind for her, and I also enjoyed the process of rendering it in gouache. The hand-rendering of proposed designs also harks back to an earlier era in jewelry history. The major jewelry houses still employ master renderers to create paintings of new and custom designs, but the computer has become a more common means of presenting new designs to the customer. That method has its own benefits and drawbacks, but I will always prefer hours with a brush in hand to hours in front of a screen.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
I made it to the the Cai Guo-Qiang exhibition at the Guggenheim on the very last day. I found the process videos to be the most engaging. His fluency (that word again), with gunpowder has clearly developed over the years. We started at the top of the Guggenheim and spiralled down, which is how Frank Lloyd Wright intended it. However, it was reverse chronological order (the curators intended us to go up the ramp). Seeing the works that are the more masterful first allowed a contrast with the earlier works, in which he was trying out the language for the first time.
In short, there is no way around the long hours of repetition and focused concentration. However, when one can joyfully embrace the incremental progress along the way and be absorbed inthe work, these hours can become a sactuary rather than a chore.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
blackened silver and 18K
When I first started my jewelry collection, I had only the faintest idea about craft shows. One of the first shows I visited was the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show. I had heard that this was one of the premier shows in the country, so I talked a couple of my students into taking the Chinatown bus to Philly with meto check it out. Looking at the show, I realized just what standard I had to seek in my work. My students were adamant that I belonged there, but I knew that I had a lot of work to do, and knew that they were just a little bit biased.
That was in 2002, and I have applied every year since. At first I had a huge amount of optimism, and was crushed when I didn't get in. As I got to more more and more people in the craft world, I realized that this is a show that even the best don't count on getting into. Instead of getting down about it, I used this as a motivation to keep pushing my work. I told myself that I would make work that it would be impossible for the jury to ignore.
Well, the results of the jury were e-mailed yesterday. I was astounded to see that the title of the e-mail in fact said "Invite Notification". What!?! Yes, I have gotten into the show!! It is not until November, but I am already thinking excitedly of all of the fantastic pieces I am going to make for the show. Collectors beware, I am marshaling all of my creative energies to entice you....
Sunday, May 11, 2008
No, I don't think it is just Tiffany's fancy photography of the Gehry collection that makes it so blah. When the line first came out, I thought that critics were embarrassing themselves by talking about how revolutionary and groundbreaking the collection is.
Back to the topic at hand! The other show that I should have a look at is the Rococo Show at the Copper-Hewitt. I am not so interested in the early Rococo excess, but I am interested in the part of the show that deals with later interpretation of the the style. I most defintely place myself into part of this lineage.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
I was recently organizing my bookshelf a bit and came upon a National Geographic magazine from April 1977. This particular issue, which came to my hands by way of an estate sale, has had more influence on the course of my life than any other piece of writing. My mother had bought the magazines in order to make paper beads, but luckily this issue was spared, and I was able to come upon it on my winter break during freshman year in college.
I had always known that I would want to study abroad, but I somehow knew that going to Europe was not going to be my choice. I sought a more complete re-ordering of my world view. When I read, in this article about Nepal, that the author had to walk three weeks to get to this remote region on the Tibetan border, I almost couldn't believe that such a place still existed in today's world. I thought of all of the things I was attached to in my life and wondered if I could live without for a year. I took it on as a personal challenge of the greatest magnitude.
I didn't walk on this exact trail, but I walked on a few similar to this!
It turns out that I never made it to the specific region (Dolpo), that is mentioned in the article, but I did end up spending two years living in Nepal. Reading it again, I find that it is laced with the seduction of exoticism, but then again, if it wasn't, would it really have gotten a young midwesterner like me to get her first passport, learn Nepali and commit to a year in distant country? The second year was on a Fulbright a couple of years after the first experience.
Painting by Tsering of Dolpo depicting the sacred mountain of Dolpo, called Shey (crystal mountain).
One of the things that strikes me so many years later is that there was a photo of a thangka painting in the original article, and that, as much as the article itself, was what got me hooked. This was my first exposure to Himalayan art, which has been a constant source of inspiration and a subject of study for me ever since. I still love the clouds (and have traced their history through history from the Uighurs to Mongolia to China, Korea and Tibet), and the way that rocks are represented. I did make it to the lower Dolpo valley, which is not a restricted area like the Upper Dolpo region in the article, and found that the rocks really do look like that!!
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
aquamarine and topaz
I have just added another gallery show to my schedule for summer 2008. This show is focusing on rings and bracelets. From the wild and unconventional, to the beautiful and elegant. It will take place at Didi Suydam Contemporary in Newport, RI.
I have long admired the work of Didi Suydam, so I am very pleased to be invited to show in her gallery. Her work first caught my eye as she is one of the few jewelers to incorporate holloware techniques into a jewelry collection. These techniques involve taking a flat sheet of metal and hammering it over a variety of steel forms to actually compress the sides into a rounded form. It is possible to get a shallow bowl form from pressing the metal into an indentation. However, to get a deep form, such as the piece above, it is necessary to do some very precise hammering. Most people give up after making one piece with this technique.
I am expecting to send some of my new Wrought and Brocade series works to the show, including a couple of new pieces. I promise to get a photo posted as a preview before I send them off to the show.
Friday, April 18, 2008
This last month has been one of deep self-reflection. The trials of travelling left me in a state that allowed me to break through all of the busyness of my usual routine to take a good look at what direction I want to take in many aspects of my life. I think this is something I should do more frequently, but since it had been postponed so long, it was particularly protracted.
It always surprises me how long it takes to get back into the creative mode after the intensity of the shows. I am usually on fire with ideas and energy before the shows, but it takes a good month to really get fired up again afterwards. I have been challenging myself to balance these extremes. Creativity manifests itself in many various ways and I wonder if creative people have to accept and work with their own ebb and flow, or if it can be manipulated.
On another note, I have another show coming up this summer. For those that have known me for a while, show usually means retail craft show, but actually, these shows are gallery shows. It is a different way of presenting my work to an audience, one that may be better suited to my new work. The latest confirmed show is at the ARTspace Gallery at the Kohler Art Center. The show does not yet have a title, but it is "an exhibition focusing on works that incorporate objects, paintings and jewelry using highly decorative, rococo-inspired techniques in a contemporary manner".
I also found out that I will be in a touring show next year that I am very excited about, but I cannot share the details quite yet. I will post an update when I can.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Excuse me while I sweep away the tumbleweeds that have blowing through here the last month while I have been away. If there are tumbleweeds here, then you can just imagine the cobwebs forming at the bench as I have been on the road for the last month.
I went to the shows in Philadelphia and Baltimore with a great amount of apprehension, as I was introducing an entirely new line of work. Fortunately, it seems as if I have really been able to present something unique to the world of studio jewelry, yet maintain a continuum of design that carries over from previous work. Both new and previous galleries went with me on this transition. I also was the recipient of attention from many of my colleagues, many of whom had never encountered my work before. As could be expected, my bracelet was the star of the show.
The vitrine with my new bracelet-the star of the show
Upon arriving home, I found out that I am the runner-up for the AJDC New Talent Award, to be presented this summer in New York. That is quite an honor to me. The recipients are selected by members of the organization and they are the star lineup of American jewelry design.
I then travelled to a show in Philadelphia, and with only a brief 36 hours at home, I left again for the SNAG conference in Savannah. While studio jewelers such as myself often feel a bit estranged at this conference, due to it's more academic and conceptual focus, I felt that many of the young college professors were very curious to hear about my experience as a full time maker. While some of the students expressed a distaste for craft shows and those that exhibit in them, they were curious to hear some of my insight into that world.
I was impressed by the high level of work that the students were doing, despite the presence of a few clearly derivative bodies of work. I would like to bring them into the fray and encourage them to join the full time makers. The more of us that exist, the healthier the whole field will be. They have the energy and enthusiasm, and that counts for a lot.
Besides the new clientele that I have gained at the shows, I have potentially been chosen for some exciting opportunities. More on that as they become finalized. In the meantime, I am trying to re-familiarize myself with being a New Yorker (after the charms of Savannah, I forgot that the cabs here WILL run you over!), and with the tools in my studio.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Some rings boxed up and ready to go:
I have also embarked on the gargantuan task of making an entirely new booth. It has to fit into the criteria of lightweight, fairly compact and as inexpensive as possible. My vision often gets in the way of the last one. While I am afraid that my credit card might spotaneously combust as I buy all the supplies, I do think it will be beautiful Here is one of the pedestals make of an acrylic virtine (protective paper not yet removed), a painted picture frame, foamcore and wood molding on the corners.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
Commonalities between Nepal-think Kathmandu, Mount Everest, Hinduism-and Natasha Wozniak's hometown of Racine, Wis., are few. So when a National Geographic article about the country and its art (rich in spiritual tales) surfaced during her college years, Wozniak was fascinated. Nepal's allure was sointense that when her school, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, started offering yearlong exchanges to the South Asian nation, Wozniak secured one.
As a metalsmith student, her goal was to learn traditional Nepalese Buddhist statuary technique and style through 3-D wax carving and casting. To do so, she bunked in a sleeping bag on the floor of a room housing several other members of a Newar-a tiny Nepalese ethnicity known for sophisticated artwork-family. While privacy in the dwelling was rare, skill proficiency wasabundant, and the family assisted Wozniak with self-designed projects (she didn't work far them).She cast a bronze bell, and made myriad traditional oil lamps like ones found in temples. These were cast from an alloy of 95 percent copper and 5 percent bronze-she thinks. "If they had old faucets lying around, they'd toss those in too,"she recalls about the primitive casting.
A year after graduation, she returned to Nepal and her family of advisors as a Fulbright scholar to "increase mutual understanding ... through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills," according to the mission statement of the government-run program. Her portfolio this time comprised a nine-piece collection of sculpture, all stylized Nepalese objects-rock formations from a valley leading into Tibet, trees because of their importance in Hindu spirituality, and lotus flowers and water in reference to the deity Manjushri and the geography of the Kathmandu Valley. The pieces met program requirements, and moved Wozniak closer to fulfilling a personal goal: creating a signature style using favorite aspects of conventional Asian design.
Now as a seven-year jewelry design veteran, Nepalese influences are obvious in the Wozniak "look"-a curve, a stylized curl cast in sterling or 18k yellow gold with a silky-looking patina. Sinuous and leafy necklaces from the Flourish collection resemble foliage from temple facades, with jasmine and jeweled leaves punctuating junctions much like blossoms do on the vine. Amulet boxes-spiritual vessels made to protect contents-inspire Foliage lockets, in design and ability to house precious possessions. Pear-cut stones mimic the shape of petals. Even the simplest designs feature subtly twisted shanks that reinforce Wozniak's aesthetic: organic, and influenced by Nepal. "I focus on small details of Asian ornamentation," she says."
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
It is sure that the runup in gold has reached the ears of most people by now. For those of us in the business of making our work in gold and silver, the recent runup in the precious metals market has given us a deep sinking feeling. Unlike the so-called "goldbugs", who are using a buy, hold, sell approach to gold as an investment, jewelers are much better off when the price is more stable.
Basically, we have to raise prices to keep pace with the market, and that means that just in the past month, that is a 10% increase. Believe me, we don't use this as an excuse to extract more from customers. It is necessary just to keep ourselves from becoming insolvent. If we sell something at an outdated price, we wouldn't be able to replace it with another piece because the amount taken in is less than the cost of making a new one.
Not only is it gold, but silver and platinum as well. I expect that in this year, a great number of jewelry designers and makers will be making very petite designs. The challenge will be to get a more substantial look without a substantial use of metals. I am sure that people involved in jewelry making in the early 80's have some insight into this.
As for myself, I am working on a very new collection of work. I will most likely be recycling some heavy gold pieces into work that has gold accents with silver. Trying to use this challenge to stretch my design skills seems to be the best approach.
For anyone with old gold or platinum jewelry that is not worn or is broken, etc, it would be a really good time to think about selling it off for the precious metal value. Keeping in mind, of course, that gains from small amounts are offset by the refining fee.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
I also got a call from the organizers of the Germantown Show, also in Philadelphia, that I have gotten into he show, off of the wait list. That will be the weekend after Baltimore. Then, the following weekend....the SNAG conference! What a month I will have.
I might have bit off more than I can chew, but I am going to be showing almost all new work at the show, as well as a completely redesigned booth. In the meantime, I am working on a new website, which will reflect the new work that I have been doing. My last website is from 2002, and while the photos have been updated, I don't feel that the overall site has kept pace with what I am doing.
So, the blog will be maintained to the best of my ability. I will try to post some sneak peaks at the new work.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Michael at work
Michael is currently focused mostly on conducting classes and workshops, as well as giving private lessons and consultations. He was in the middle of preparing some samples, using forging as a main technique to form rings and bracelets. He also had forged components that he has students create, encouraging them to think about how they can combine and transform some simple forms and make them into an entire line of jewelry.
forged bracelet samples
forged ring samples, the traditional way to make ring mounts for a solitaire ring
Michael has a strong affinity to Thailand, as his wife is from that country, but also preceeding their relationship Some of the techniques he uses have been influenced by his work with Thai goldsmiths. In THailand, Ganesha is considered to be the patron god of the arts, which is different than the Indian idea of Ganesha as the remover of obstacles. In his studio, Michael has a nice collection of Ganesha statues.