Facebook "Memories" hit me with something the other day. In 2012, I took my first Art Clay Silver class at The Crucible in Oakland. My instructor was Arlene Mornick, an incredible artist and a kind and generous teacher. I left the class in a daze because I felt like I was part of a magic trick. This incredible substance I had never heard of was now going to become a big part of my life.
Metalsmithing is an enviable art, but I was always shy about it. It seemed to require such industrial tools and I didn't feel confident in my abilities to work with saws and files and torches. Metal clay, on the other hand, starts out soft and inviting and familiar. It's just like Play-Doh or FiMo or whatever clay you have played with in the past. Our small class murmured in excitement the first time a small piece of clay was fired with a torch and within a few minutes it was solid silver. Already, my brain was creating pieces far beyond my abilities. I could see that in the future I'd be able to use this medium in a way that other crafts had eluded me.
As with any venture, there is often a sizable investment early on. The clay is expensive, and Certification costs several hundred dollars. Then I needed a kiln to fire more pieces with efficiency, and a dehydrator and tons of specific tools. After all this investment, I had to get started on fine tuning my skills and finding my designer's voice. It was incredibly intimidating to sit with a lump of clay and a million ideas and the knowledge that I was going to make a lot of mistakes before I hit on pieces I could be proud of.
After my practice pieces, the first thing I made was this pair of earrings:
When I first got them out of the kiln, all I could see were the flaws. They struck the right note with me in terms of what I was trying to do, but the base plate is a bit too thin so there is a hairline crack. Also, the centers of the rings are a bit rough because I didn't sand enough. I decided at the time that I had overstepped my skills and I moved on to "simpler" designs that ended up carrying me through phase one of my business.
The silver or copper metal bar with a name or a word imprinted in it will always be a popular choice. It's clean, it's easy, but it still has a uniqueness about it due to personalization. I started collecting vintage letterpress designs so I could imprint flowers and arrows and simple abstract designs. I cut hearts, squares, and rectangles and hung them on simple chain. I still wear some of these early creations because some days I don't want to wear something challenging.
But some days I do.
As I was digging through my jewelry in a New Years Day cleaning frenzy, I found my early "industrial" earrings and it hit me. THIS is my aesthetic and it always has been. I like Brutalist architecture, Scandinavian Modernist jewelry, and really anything that sticks out and looks a little rough. I am not flowers and perfect edges and carved details, although I admire and appreciate such designs.
The last few weeks have been a flurry of sketching and planning with the occasional breakdown when a design idea doesn't quite work out right. That's part of the process right now and while it's a struggle, I acknowledge that it's necessary to attain the result.
I'm really excited about my Spring/Summer collection! It's coming together slowly but surely.