Sunday, December 23, 2018

It's Not Our Turn Much Longer

"It's okay if you guys can't make it for Thanksgiving, but we sure would like it if you could make it for Christmas". This was my Mother's wish, which in my mind was a command... but a command that I embraced and I would break legs to make happen. For me and then for my husband... and then for me and my husband and two girls. This was Christmas! It was the melding of tradition, and changes within that tradition, and adjusting to that tradition, but we made it for Christmas, even if it meant breaking legs. We cheered the love and just being together.

When my husband's parents were still here, they had their turn too! Typically we would travel to Chicago and spend a number of days before Christmas day to eat the varieties of homemade cookies, take the kids to the park, visit the Art Institute when Grandma and Grandpa would watch the girls. We would eat up and drink in as much at this Christmas as humanly possible and then travel back to Minnesota to head to the farm, celebrating with family on Christmas night. We'd break legs to make this happen, schlepping young girls, plowing through bitter cold and snowstorms to make it happen. We made commitments to those whose turn it was. Because it wouldn't be their turns much longer! We knew this, and we embraced this fact.

Now it's our turn! It has taken a number of years to get my footing with this. I felt responsible for taking up the mantle and making Christmas happen. There were a couple of years when we did not have a tree! Decorating is still tenuous at best, and missing my parents and our longstanding tradition comes flooding back like a tsunami. Every year. It will always be this way, and will never be the same.

But! I order and prepare my Mother's standing rib roast of beef, filling the house with food smells. I work at, with my husband, providing a warm and lovely space to share our new-found tradition of staying in one place! We share gifts and love, eat heartily, and play games. We've found a new place for Christmas and it is different (STILL), but it works.

I have come to realize that it is not the responsibility of the two of us to make this work. It is and always has been a group effort. The whole is the sum of all of the parts, and everyone has a lot to give and share. Christmas is what you want it to be. The traditions that we have made over the years continue... some are melded and adjusted and changed. But they still exist.

I have made a personal journey to make it past my parents being gone and my husband's parents being gone. It's never easy. Things don't just fall into place. It's my husband's and my turn. Christmas is what we all want it to be, and it takes effort and love and adjusted traditions. It's our turn, but it's not our turn much longer. Cheers!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Beyond Meditation?

Well, I've been going around and around about meditating. I know it's a cleansing, centering activity, but I can't get my mind and heart around it. For some reason, thoughts need to happen, problems solved, schedules to decide, and my next meal needs some consideration. If I'm not engaging my mind, I am wasting my time.

This morning I went outside in my pajamas and bare feet with the dog and sat in my gravity chair at the end of the dock. So many million dollar breezes came at me with absolutely glistening-in-the-sun water tips out there. How could I NOT think about meditating? Then my mind got full enough where that was not going to happen. "Just concentrate on your breaths... in and out and in and out and in..." Wasn't going to happen. Not today. Not out here where there is God and nature, and... my Mom and Dad.

Yes. I started talking to Dad. I often think about Dad out on the dock watching the water and imagining what fish are beneath it's surface. While he would have loved trolling around Slim, I'm sure he would be putting the boat into a nearby larger lake to land some bigger fish. I know him. But we started talking about the gifts he has given me. The gift of noticing really beautiful details, of appreciating really good craftsmanship - like the craftsmanship he employed while he worked in wood. Of the touching and working with hands, in a caring and loving way. Not working against but with the medium. He gave me the gift of believing that I could do and be anyone! If he gave me nothing else, that would have been enough!

Mom now came into discussion. Mom. I realized this morning that I miss saying "Mom" and "Dad". I don't get to say them anymore. At least I thought I couldn't. But this morning taught me that I could. Easily with conversation following. But Mom. My closest friend and confidant. I mean, I grew up with her as a kid, but was treated as an adult by her years later. That is a gift! To be treated as your age. We were in deep. She taught me the softer side, as strong as she was. How to bend and fit when needed. Not as weakness, but as bolstering strength. She was a force to be reckoned with, my Mom.

So, I'm mostly writing because I don't want to forget how great this morning was. That those who pass on don't leave us. Ever. They always strengthen resolve and further point out the good stuff, letting the negative stuff just fall away. The tears are real and good and cleansing.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Pushing Borders

About two years ago I thought about engraving ~ a LOT. After acquiring my 'air assist' equipment as an investment in my 60's, I knew I didn't have the years to become a master engraver, but I did have the years to challenge myself, becoming better at what I do... working on MY aesthetic. At that time I didn't know exactly what it meant, and I still don't, as these years of making are on a continuum. I just keep working at "it".

As I think about engraving as a means to decorate a surface, I think about design as a way to fill a space ~ a specific space with borders and confines. What would happen if my engraving went off the surface, away from confines? This is what has driven my new series. 

From tracings of radial botanical designs, actual pendants that I engraved, I began making continuous design tracings using part or all of the radial designs. These designs were then transferred onto metal, ready to engrave... whatever the space, without concern about borders.

I'm still interested in creating depth, both real and implied, through layering metal, shading lines and stippling, and piercing. In June I will be taking a class on deep relief engraving, which I'm hoping will increase my ability to create new levels of depth through sculpting.

By using my own botanically-themed drawings, there are so many possibilities for application! While jewelry is my focus, it's almost a by-product of what's going on with my creative process. But without this end product, I wouldn't be doing this work.

My love of metal and jewelry will always push me creatively and keep me thinking.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Grand Marais Art Colony: Artist Talk, 2015

Seeking Deeper Levels: Exploring Physical, Implied, and Sentimental Aspects of Jewelry

         MNJAG – Minnesota Jewelry Arts Guild
         SNAG – Society of North American Goldsmiths
         ASBA - American Society of Botanical Artists
         MSBA – Minnesota School of Botanical Art
     I received my MEd degree, art education, in 2007 from the University of Minnesota.
I am a retired person, officially retired last year, and am now doing everything I love to do.
     I know some of you, so some of you know my story. It’s intimidating to think about talking to you jewelry makers! So when I put this together, I had to think of it as exploring jewelry with others who share my passion. 
Talking about passions…
    I have loved jewelry from my first memories.  When I was a kid I would smell the metal of things, and could figure out if it was REAL silver or base metal.
When I was 5 I was given my first piece of jewelry by my grandma. I LOVED this pin!
     I had a turquoise ring that I wore all the time, and eventually had to have it cut off. I was terrified, because my brother and dad talked about maybe having to cut my finger off to get it off. It made me sad to know that the ring was done.
     When I would spend time at my grandma’s house, we would go upstairs to her dresser, where there was a literal mosaic of interesting boxes with cotton, boxes with labels covered with foreign writing, lovely smells of perfume and metal. I can still smell that metal… silver and gold.
     She would talk about the pieces, where she found them, markets in far away places, and I loved those times. She would always part with a piece or two before the dresser drawers were closed. These memories are precious to me. 
     Jewelry has a sentimental aspect for me – the pieces I own, the pieces I make, and the pieces I buy. For me there is always a deeper meaning. I make jewelry to endure, then handed down to the next generation.
     I mentioned that I’m retired – a retired elementary art teacher. Looking back, I did not have the guts it takes to go out into the art world and support myself. My Dad’s practical voice was always in my ear…. You have to have a steady job to pay the bills. The stuff you love to do has to fit around that. I admire all of you who have taken or plan to take this leap. It takes GUTS.
     Since the 1980’s, I was making jewelry and dabbling with metal. I took classes at the Technical College downtown, and took two courses from a self-taught hand engraver – hand pushed engraving. I learned how to make my own gravers, sharpen them, and did some custom work along the way.
     My teacher/mentor, Joe Manges, told me that I should figure out gizmos and gadgets – little jewelry pieces – that I could practice on and sell. This is where my slide pendants originated. They are unique in construction and adornment. Each is unique and totally hand made. Hand pushing the graver, as opposed to “air assist” which I have now, limited the depth of my work. Any depth achieved was through drawing techniques with shading and texture.

     In 2007, when I was doing the coursework for my master’s degree, I took an elective course called Botanical Drawing from Marilyn Garber. I still can’t believe what a gift this turned out to be. It opened up the traditional, technical, highly focused part of my creative self… that part that consumes my mind and engages me.

    After a few years, I was painting, and started teaching at the Minnesota School of Botanical Art in Minneapolis. I taught the painting classes, but also wrote curriculum and taught classes in composition. Some of the artists had not had formal training, so I was able to be a contributor. I also wrote about building design, applied botanical subject matter to tessellations and designs. 

     During this time, I was also making jewelry. I figured out quickly that I had to choose between painting botanicals or designing and making jewelry. I would get together with a friend and paint, but after a while, found myself wishing I was in the other room making jewelry. Both disciplines need a lot of time and focus in order to move forward. I chose jewelry making.
     But in reality, I had two of my worlds collide, because I use botanical subject matter with my jewelry work, composing my drawings on metal.

     When I shifted to jewelry making full time, I shifted from using botanical design as just an adornment to the backs of my pendants and rings, to the total designs of my pieces.
     I realized that I needed to deepen my understanding and skill level in hand engraving, so two years ago I headed out to Emporia Kansas to attend a hand engraving class at GRS. I wasn’t totally open to the idea of “air assist”, but wanted to see if that would move me forward. This was the best decision I’ve made for my work, and has moved my work forward. I decided that purchasing that equipment was an investment in my 60’s. I have a lot of work to do.
     I am able to add depth to my work – physical depth. I am now able to dig deeper and cut away background. Even though hand engraving is drawing, I’m able to add physical depth.
     Along with the physical depth, I apply my shading techniques to flat pieces of metal. Some of the techniques – combinations of techniques – are not necessarily traditional applications in the world of world-class hand engraving, but I have to follow my own path. In some ways I am creating my own unique niche in this world, one that is getting some nods in the industry. The nods are not my goal. I am happy that it is interesting to others, but I’m pushing forward for myself.

     The year following being laid off from teaching, 2010, I decided to compile a book… Such Capable Hands. showcasing 16 jewelry artists from around the world. Some are well known and some are not. I was interested in hearing their “back stories”, what got them interested in designing and making jewelry, and what got them into this trade. It’s certainly not a big seller, but it was a labor of love, and deepened my understanding of what sparks that creative momentum.

     The one common thread from everyone… the topmost factor in the making, was good craftsmanship. Good craftsmanship along the way, with every step of the making. It affirmed my mantra from when I taught my young students, and continues with my teaching of adults now, and is essential with my work. If it is designed and made well, it will endure through time. Again, this feeds into sentimentality… passing pieces on down to children and friends.
     With my current work, I use cabochon stones and faceted gemstones to add color to my work. I’ve found that silver black is great for adding/accentuating depth for the hand engraving, but occasionally use liver of sulfur for depth and color. 
Where am I going?
     At this time, I am most interested in doing one-ofs. I have done production type work in the past – mostly for art fairs, and am not interested in doing that at all any more. I know that I will not move forward with design and challenge if I do that. It took me a while to winnow out WHY I make art, figuring out exactly what I want to do.
     I want to push my work to become more deep – getting more three dimensional depth. Drawing has been creating illusion of depth through shape, size and shading. I would like to explore pushing the plane. I’ve started combining hand engraving with piercing to break that back plane. I’d like to push upward. I know this will challenge my “construction” abilities.
     I will be adding gold for more color opportunities. It’s tricky to add/use precious metals because it drastically affects the price point. I’m already in a weird place between craft jewelry and fine jewelry. I know this will complicate things for me, but I’m doing it or my own reasons… not dependent on the sale. (I’m not a good business person in this aspect.)
     It is my goal to push forward with every new piece I make – whether it be my design, or commission work. I want to challenge myself and move forward… for my own reasons as an artist.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The beauty that happens along the way

I recently had the fantastic opportunity to put together and teach a course in "Composition", as it relates to botanical painting.  I found pieces along the way as I researched this specific topic, but decided I needed to get down to basics.

Digging into the topic of visual literacy was a fantastic learning and re-learning session for me. My purpose in teaching seasoned artists about visual literacy specifically, was to think about moving
past intuitive ideas about composing, toward making informed and purposeful decisions.

The most important thing I learned relating to my interest in design, pattern, and tessellations, was a surprise. Humans are constantly trying to balance, neutralize and harmonize everything that we see. I think it's a way to cope with all of the visual stimuli that bombards us all the time. However, if our desire toward the end, of neutralizing, balancing, evening out - graying - has finally reached it's conclusion, there would be an eradication of senses and total neutrality; complete harmony and no contrast.

An example for me, that I experience in my two dimensional work and jewelry work, is that it is not perfect symmetry, perfect pattern, exactness that I really want to end up with. I created a tessellation a few years ago that was inked as perfectly as I could possible do. I was really excited doing it because I thought it would be fantastic to look at. It turned out to be a boring boring piece... nothing going on. Our eyes delight in finding that slight unevenness... that element that somehow moves slightly askew within a pattern. Now I know why. It plays so very nicely into working with organic botanical forms, because nature is not perfect.

While I am precise in my work and strive toward excellent craftsmanship, I try to include parts in a piece that aren't exactly symmetrical, not lined up perfectly. I am very happy about this. I don't want to make mechanical work, because it is my hand that is making it. Those imperfections, sometimes planned and sometimes not, are what my work is about ~ my handmade two dimensional and jewelry work.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


So many things happened today that made me think and connect thoughts, affirming some ideas that I've had lately. And lately when I learn new things and connect with old things, I feel like my circles of interests collide and overlap, giving strength and meaning. Once in a while a thought or creative process bends around and connects to make a full circle.

I just viewed a documentary film about Tim Jenison's quest to recreate a Johannes Vermeer painting. Tim is an inventor and thinker, and figured out that most likely Vermeer used a camera lucida with an additional convex lens, to paint his amazing canvases. Sparked by Mr. Hockney’s book “Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters,” Jenison set out to create like conditions of Vermeer's (including sawing his lathe in half and extending it to achieve the correct length of spindled leg of the chair) in order to paint. His use of mirrors and lenses makes a strong case for Vermeer's methods, which were never documented. It was just "Wow".

Afterward, the ArcLight Theater in Hollywood hosted a Q & A with the esteemed panel of Jenison, Penn and Teller. There were a few things that just made me so happy:
  • It is not 'wrong' to use technology or what is available today to make art. This reminded me of my engraving class last September. When tested by 'hand pushers' - hand engravers who hand push as opposed to using pneumatic power to push gravers - my instructor responded with the fact that painters/artisans around the time of the invention of electric lighting would not have continued painting by daylight and candlelight when electric lights became available. That would have been dumb. Why would an artist curb the ability to improve their art and move forward? Ever?
  • When asked what's next? Another experiment like the one that came out of this project (by the way, it wasn't their intention to make a documentary about Jenison, it turned out that way!)? Penn stated that he does things that interest him... he's not interested in creating a brand or doing a series. He's in it for the love of exploration and figuring stuff out. Yes. Yes. This is what really good stuff comes out of, I think. He is following his interests. Just like his magic, it is that, but it is the deeper meaning and amazing stuff that lies beneath.
  • Back in the early 1800's, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, a portrait drawer and painter by trade, drew technically amazing figures. When in New York back in the 90's, I was able to see an exhibit of Ingres' work, and the big buzz about his work was that used mechanical means to achieve his amazing drawings. There were things that pointed to that ~ like some strange distortions of limbs that happened that would have happened by a means achieved with other than just the eye. In "Tim's Vermeer", there were curves and edges that happened, upon closer inspection of the original, that happened because of the curve of a lens, perhaps. Love this.
 Earlier in the day I had visited the Griffith Park Observatory and viewed their show revealing just how many galaxies we know about so far, WAY more than I learned about when I was a kid. It's still changing and there are new things to explore and bring to light. So many great minds at work using everything they've got.