The theme of the show is "Texas Heat." If you aren't from Texas, perhaps this Colby Jones cartoon will help you understand a little bit about our climate.
(Side note: It was not quite 100 degrees here yesterday; the day before it was 108. I actually said to someone on my way to a meeting that I was glad it was "so much cooler." Not kidding.)
The first challenge was to create a piece or series of pieces that could relate to Texas Heat. Since I am currently obsessed with enamels, I decided to torch-fire some forged panels of copper in a series meant to evoke the progression of the immediate after-math of a fire through the regrowth that happens months or years later. Here is a really bad photo of those panels.
The "immediate aftermath of devastation" is on the left; the "inevitable rebirth" is on the right.
I was pleased with how these turned out - the torch firing left some charred edges that I didn't stone away because they played into the theme. And I loved the colors - this photo doesn't show it well, but I used a mixture of transparent and opaque enamels so that the reds seem to float in the green, sort of like flowers sometimes seem to float in a sea of grass.
Then I was stuck with trying to figure out how to set them - I had to be careful not to bend them and crack the enamel. After some trial and error, I designed slot and tab bezels for the ends and prong set the panels into the resulting cradle. Here are a few shots of my process:
|Preparing to test the slot and tab idea.|
|Tabs dry-fitted into their custom sawn slots with a bead of paste solder ready for firing.|
|One of the textured backplates with the sawed slot.|
Ta-da! The completed pieces.
So there I was, happy with how the pieces turned out... and I had to write an artist's statement. Wait, that's not quite right. I had to write TWO artist's statements: one for my overall approach to my work and one for the pieces or series I was submitting.
And "I make jewelry because I like pretty things" wasn't going to cut it.
I'm going to be painfully and transparently honest here: I loathe artist statements. Loathe. With all due respect to people who think artist statements are important and meaningful, they often wind up sounding - to me - like badly-written and very pretentious wine descriptions. ("A faint oaky bite marries perfectly with the long-legged whisper of citrus that tantalizes the..." What??!) But I had a glass or two of wine, girded my intellectually-deficient loins, and dove on in.
Four excruciating hours later, here's what I came up with:
While fire can wreak havoc and bring destruction, it is also the age-old natural agent of necessary growth and change. Stands of timber and open stretches of prairie alike benefit from being "burned off", so that old dead growth is cleared away and returned to the earth as ash to nourish future growth. This series of necklaces is a reflection of the effects of the extreme heat of the Texas environment, and – taken together – is meant to evoke a sense of the immediate aftermath of a fire or drought through the inevitable period of recovery, rebirth, and regrowth.
Not a whisper of citrus or an oaky bite to be found, my friends.
Here's the truth: this was a really good exercise for me. It was painful at times, and I have way (WAY) more hours in these pieces and the entry process than I can ever hope to recoup, even if I'm fortunate enough to sell one or more of these pieces. But it forced me to do several important things:
- I was working against a rock-solid submission deadline. Deadlines are a good thing for me.
- I had to think hard about what I was creating and how it fit into a pre-determined theme.
- I had to figure out why I was creating these pieces and why they spoke to me and then figure out a way to describe that in a way other people could relate to.
- I had to problem-solve a new type of construction (to me) without ever having learned it from someone else. I really like problem-solving.
It doesn't hurt that I found out yesterday three of the four were accepted into the show!
So are you pushing yourself to work outside your comfort zone? If you're not, identify some places where you can push the envelope a little - you never know what might come of it!
Until next time -