Thursday, May 29, 2008


Over the past few days, some conversations (in person and also on the radio), have led me to think about the practice of craft and the process of mastery. The word that seems most appropriate is fluency. When one becomes fluent in a language, the listener can focus on the words and the expression of the speaker rather on their grammar or even accent. Whether it is a craft or dance or language, it is the repeated, accumulated action that turns into a natural grace. This is the thing, I think, that there is no way to fake. This is the element missing from much contemporary art, especially that of the young, hot stars of the art world.

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

Sofa NY 2008

Even though the weather feels more like March in New York, it is nearly June and time for the annual Sofa NY show. I found a rather comprehensive write-up of the Studio Jewelry being featured at the upcoming show, so rather than re-hashing, I'll just re-direct to the Art Jewelry Forum website for more information.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Show Applications

Brocade Garland Collar
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

Shows in NY

Right now, there are a few shows in NY that I really want to make it to. Hopefully I will be able to go the WIENER WERKST√ĄTTE JEWELRY show at Neue Gallery later this week. I would also like to see the Rubin Museum's display of Newari Sculpture and Painting. Also on the list is the Guggenheim exhibit of Cai Guo Qiang , known for using gunpowder in live explosion events. While looking at the Guggenheim website, I came across this jewelry. Hmm.. it always seems that the artistically/architecturally adventurous set has not caught up with the jewelry cutting edge. Compare to this and this.

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

National Geographic, Nepal and me

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!!