Thursday, February 9, 2017

thoughts on what it means to be a designer

I just returned from a week long metalsmithing retreat in Tucson which corresponds with the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. From dinosaur bones to diamonds it’s a rock lover’s dream on steroids.

In addition to taking classes it gives me a chance to connect with fellow jewelry makers. It seems there are several types of people who attend these classes and I’ll mention three that I observed and had conversations with. The first is the person who treats this time as a creative get-away, wants to make a piece of jewelry or two and go back home and show everyone what they made. They don’t sell their work and make jewelry just for fun. Then there’s the person who takes the class to learn new techniques. Every instructor has a slightly different way of doing things and the littlest trick of the trade can make your life so much easier during the fabrication process. Then there’s the person who takes the class because they intend to duplicate the instructors project, make some minor modifications and claim it as their own design.

There were many strong opinions, disagreements and a few arguments about this. Some say there’s nothing new under the sun and we are all inspired and influenced by what we see around us. There are only so many ways that metal can be forged, folded and attached. After a while all silver chains look alike and a rivet is just a rivet. Plus if an instructor teaches you to make a ring or writes a tutorial about it shouldn't they expect that you'll make that ring? Others say that may be true but isn’t being creative more than taking someone else’s design and making a few tweaks here and there and calling it your own? When you do that you are making derivative art, and by definition derivative art is art derived from other art work. Technically (and some say legally-I'm not a lawyer so I definitely don't know the answer to this) the only person who can create new art from existing art is the person who holds the copyright of the original work. If we take a class with Jane Doe and make her ring design and put poke a dots on it, are we simply wearing Jane Doe’s ring with poke a dots? 

I understand how difficult it is to be creative. I work at it every time I enter my studio. I'd like to think that I use materials and the techniques I've learned from the instructors I've taken class with and combine them into something that is unique to me. However there are some styles we all prefer more than others and sometimes styles have a similar look. For instance, there's a lot of jewelry that's nature inspired. This is not to say that if you like making butterfly pins and there's another jeweler who makes butterfly pins that you can't also. It's how you put the butterfly together that counts. Maybe it’s okay to start with someone else’s finished product as the basis for your work and make a few alterations. While process, concept, style and technique can't be copyrighted once the idea is in concrete form it belongs to someone else. At the end of the day we each have to decide what it means to be a designer. Is it to use our skills to make something that reflects our own aesthetic and creative vision or is it to copy and alter someone’s else’s design? It's complicated, and like I said, we each have to make that choice for ourselves and even that requires some soul searching and maybe giving credit where credit is due. What does being a designer mean to you?

Monday, November 28, 2016

the branding of things

Branding is all of the ways you establish an image of your business in your customer's eyes. It encompasses the look of your website, business card, logo, packaging, advertising, etc. 

To be truthful I never really thought much about it until I did my first show several weeks ago. Up until that time I thought of marketing and branding as selling-out and compromising my authenticity. But I got so much positive feedback on my work and the way I displayed it that I'm more comfortable with the idea because it seems like a natural progression of my growth as an artist. 

What's important to me is that I make careful decisions in crafting my look. I know I don't want it to be too commercial looking. 

When I designed my display I knew I wanted it to be hand-made and as organic as my jewelry. 



I also wanted a business card that represented my process. By not using an image of my art it would never be outdated as my designs evolved.


Those two things set in motion the look of my business.

And now I want to figure out a way to “sign” my work.

I thought about using my name. I know other artists who have done this very successfully. But what I’ve come up with something I think may be more interesting and really speaks to me. I have curly hair. I mean really curly hair. And when I saw this stamp I knew I had to use it as my identifier.



The tag that I’ll attached to my jewelry.


Friday, November 11, 2016

the marketing of things

Marketing and selling my art and jewelry has never been easy for me. It's not that I'm shy. Quite the opposite. It's just that I'd rather be in my studio making things. But I just can't keep creating and piling what I make in the corner. Selling my work allows me to make more. 

I've always sold my work through various galleries. For over 10 years I fabricated large steel wall art and because steel is heavy it was easier to let the galleries handle the logistics of shipping and handling. But jewelry is a different story. It's light and easy to pack. So I finally decided to give doing an art show a try.

The Shemer Art Center and Museum is an art education facility and gallery in Phoenix and last Sunday they held their annual juried art show and I'm very pleased to say I made the cut. 




The Art Center supplied the tent so all I had to do was bring my display which is hand made and very simple; old boards bolted horizontally to two vertical steel supports. The necklaces hung from hooks welded to a flat piece of steel also bolted to the boards. I think that the way you display your work needs to reflect your art. Everyone loved it and I got so many compliments.



It was a beautiful day and I really enjoyed myself. It was so great to talk to people about what I do and hear so much positive feedback. And best of all I made sales. So now with one show under my belt, I see more art shows in my future.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

the transformation of things


I’m a curious person by nature. I just love to know how things work and there’s not much I’m not interested in understanding even if it’s the tiniest bit of information. While it makes me able to talk on almost any topic it’s also dangerous because I end of spreading myself very thin and it’s easy to become a jack of many trades and master of none.

One of the things I’ve been meaning to try my hand at is making a cabochon so last weekend I took a one day lapidary workshop. It’s pretty amazing that you can take a rough cut rock and turn it into a beautiful stone. It gives new meaning to the saying “a diamond in the rough” and I have so much more appreciation for these gems and the people who take the time to grind and polish them. It’s a true art.

I wish I had taken more photos but here's what a (similar) stone looks like before and (the one I created) after.



Pretty cool, huh?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

the (im)perfection of things

I struggled to write this post because I wanted it to be perfect. How ironic is that, a post about imperfection that I want to be perfect? It just goes to show you how we stress about something we can never achieve. Trying to be perfect will kill your creativity and your desire to try new things. What's more ironic is that I love rusted steel, peeling paint, and wonky ceramic mugs. There's something magical about them. Here are some of my favorite quotes and images of things imperfect....

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” –  Salvador Dalí

abandoned building


“To escape criticism – do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” – Elbert Hubbard

cracked concrete


“Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly.” – Robert H. Schuller

rubble wall


“There is a kind of beauty in imperfection.” – Conrad Hall

Peter Volkos - ceramics


“Usefulness is not impaired by imperfection. You can still drink from a chipped cup.” – Greta K. Nagel

chipped cup


“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” – Anna Quindlen

rusted gate


 “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen

dried and cracked clay vase



“I do think imperfection is underrated” ― Helena Bonham Carter

Japanese boro cloth

"Nothing is perfect, nothing lasts, nothing is complete" - Wabi Sabi