i pulled out my camera this morning to document some of the pieces i'm slowly working on to carry with me to artfest. it's hard for me to remember, in the days before i leave to head out west, to photograph the many designs that i slip into plastic bags and carry with me onto the silver bird; so today i thought i'd get a jump start on cataloging bits and pieces of things that my fingers are twisting and turning into ornamental jewelry. i thought i was farther ahead than i am - so few pieces! so little time! - and that low grade panic kicked into higher gear, something closer to mid range. yet i also realize, wisely so, that good work simply cannot be forced, cannot be rushed or fit into a measured bit of time. i write these words with a flutter in my heart; some call them butterflies, others call them palpitations; whatever the word, i'm beginning to feel a little like the red queen, running in one place.
it's odd to think of one's designs as a group, or a collection; what's odder still is to go back, back, back and take a look at what one's work represented, years and years ago. once upon a time, in another life twenty years ago, i did production work with orders that were placed at the new york wholesale gift show.
doing wholesale meant creating hundreds, sometimes thousands, of the very same piece - over and over and over again. i cringe when i think of that now - the long hours spent out in my old studio hammering words like "settle for more" into silver, hammering all the s's first, then all the e's, the t's, in a long assembly line that left me feeling bleary eyed and exhausted.
it was good, solid work - i had an incredible, hard working sales rep with a beautiful heart - but somewhere along the way, i began to realize that i couldn't do this type of work anymore without feeling cheated by my own lack of creativity. i was finding more pleasure in creating the color catalog sheets of the work than i was in doing the actual jewelry - a sure sign that the balance wasn't right.
sometime around the beginning of this century (doesn't that sound ancient?), i quit the wholesale work altogether and began making the one of a kind creations that you find me working on today. there are times when i look at the components, when i make bits and pieces of one type of thing to be incorporated into unique, one of a kind finished pieces, i'll have a little flutter of trepidation that everything is beginning to look too much the same - the resin pieces i've been making for going on 16 years (sadly commonplace in the jewelry world, these days) take on an ordinary slant to me, the engravings begin to blur into one piece that looks like everything else. but then i sit down at my studio table to begin my day, to work with the varied bits and pieces, and the inspiration flows, the magic occurs - and that, my friends, is why i love my work, my career, as much as i do. the magic, the inspiration, the sense of gratification that comes when making something i feel is right and true. (with this piece, i give a grateful nod to my student and artist friend robin dudley-howes, whose use of the mother of pearl sequins inspired me, after ten years, to thread them another, in an entirely different way altogether - thank you robin!). the resin is still there, but i'm thinking of new ways to incorporate the pieces into what is still very much a look i love to create. (bezel in this piece, one that contains a bit of a twig, was designed by susan lenart kazmer, purchased and used at valley ridge art studio when i was teaching a resin class there again last summer, and is also available at susan's site Objects and Elements). here, also from valley ridge, is a twig i brought home with me from a beloved tree there on their property, which i then had cast into solid sterling silver; i love its gnarls and bumps and its ancient marks of history.
this piece incorporates an incredible cross, dug up from the grounds of eastern europe; when i purchased it from the etsy shop cool vintage, the owner, lisa carter - who is currently stationed in europe - wrote me to say that she had taken a class from me in new jersey back in 2003 or 2004 (my memory fails; could be earlier, could be later). small world, indeed. go check out her shop and see the treasures that lisa is uncovering while living abroad. (the circular piece, below, was cast in silver from another artifact i purchased from her back in autumn).
a reader left a comment yesterday with this very important question: "I felt motivated to make my first comment after reading this post, especially the comment that you made about frustrations regarding knock-offs. I also make jewelry and was asked by a local art center to teach a workshop. I hesitated because of my concern about some students becoming the future competition by creating their own work that might be extremely similar to mine. I have decided to forge ahead and do the class, but I wonder how you and others who regularly teach workshops deal with this dilema of sharing techniques and dealing with the knock-offs. Any additional insights other than the understandable frustrations?" it is a dilemma, to be sure, one that i've discussed over and over and over again with fellow teaching artist friends. we make our living doing what we do, and we work hard "behind the curtain", so to speak - designing, setting up workshops, teaching, selling our wares - and to teach the techniques we employ is to trust that each student will take what he or she has learned, will glean the insights and input i've shared with my class, and employ those techniques while incorporating a look that is truly his or her own. i've had many a student come up to me after time has passed and she has had the time to develop a style that is personal, that is hers; she admits being tempted to imitate my style in the beginning, when confidence is green and her own true style had not yet had the time to blossom into a look that was her own. fortunately, for most students, they are able to move past this point and, with confidence, begin seeking ways to use the skills they've learned with the things that inspire them every day. we all take risks by sharing what we do - things are seen right here at Ornamental, new styles are displayed, new directions shown that i've taken with my work. i teach classes all over the world, and when i teach those classes, i try to convey to my students how vitally important it is to respect the work of the originating artist, to ask permission when taking photos, to remember to give credit when sharing a particular technique one has learned in my class. there are those who've not taken classes, who see a design online and use it as his or her own developed technique; there are even tutorials by assorted sellers on etsy on how to make these designs. all i can say about this is that it isn't good karma, it isn't honest at all; all i can say is that i hope with time, these works will take on a look and feeling of their own, and that someone's own practice of techniques and skills will help him or her develop a look that is completely and truly unique. bottom line: remain true to yourself. the rest, i assure you, will follow. xo
ps. i spent all morning and early afternoon working on this post - a pleasure for me, and certainly my choice to spend the time that way; but i'm needing to spend more time on the jewelry, and will be taking a little break from writing this week. thanks so much for being here, and i'm here with you in spirit......