Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tips and Tricks from The Studio Hammer Time

Hi. My name is Jean, and I'm addicted to hammering.
For a custom order that I created recently, I estimated that my hammer struck metal more than 11,000 times in a single day.  This type of activity inevitably impacts the body, and I exercise various precautions to minimize it.
In the studio, I consistently do the following:
  1. Wear ear protection...a pair of industrial strength ear muffs in the studio, and a minimum of ear plugs while I'm traveling.
  2. Layer the bench block to absorb the shock of each hammer blow.  My bench block sandwich begins with a folded shop towel on the bottom, a rubber block in the middle, and a steel bench block on top of it all. 
  3. Let the tools work for me.  I first heard this sentiment in a workshop taught by Keith Lo Bue.  Prior to that, I held my hammer in a death grip, and struck it each time as if I was trying to ring the bell at the top of a game on the midway.  Since then, I hold my hammer with the lightest of touches.  (You can literally pull it from my hand mid-motion.)  I also allow the dead weight of the hammer to fall with each stroke instead of the actively swinging it with force toward the bench.
  4. The movement of my arm when hammering is generated from my elbow and not my wrist or hand.
  5. And finally, I take frequent breaks and vary my activities, both within an individual work session and also within the scope of my work week
These are just a few of the steps that I take to avoid bodily harm, and it's my sincere hope that they'll also prolong my ability to happily hammer my way for years into the future.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Walking Down Memory Lane - Ocracoke Bracelet

Recently a friend survived a burglary in her home.  As she described all that she and her husband lost, it was the sentimental nature of what was missing that mattered most.  A piece of jewelry that belonged to her Mother, another that her husband gave her when they were dating, and several costume pieces that took her to a specific time in her life.  All held a special place in her heart; she never thought to photograph them; and now they exist only in her memory.
As we talked about the contents of our jewelry boxes, we realized that neither of us treasured the monetary value of what they contained nearly as much as we do our connection to each piece.

I have several similar boxes at home.  Once or twice a year, I spread their contents on the bed around me and "Remember when..." with each of the pieces.  In the past, these walks down memory lane were solitary excursions.  With my friend's journey in mind, I'm about to change that. 

The photos here are the first of many that I'll share with you.  Each represents a treasure of mine that's tucked away in a special place; most hold only sentimental value; and and I'm looking forward to sharing the stories of each and every one of them with you.

Ocracoke Bracelet @2006 - Sterling Silver, Glass, Lead Free Solder, & Paper. 
Each charm on this bracelet features a photo that I created on
Ocracoke Island.  At the time, I was planning to jump from
my career in financial services to my career as an Artist.
Ocracoke Bracelet - @2006 - (Reverse Side)
During the same time, my creative aspirations as an artist were
also shifting from that of a career in  photography to one of working in
mixed media, metals and jewelry. 

On a related note, I'm happy to report that the jewelry that I created for my friend happens to have survived the burglary intact.  It wasn't that the burglar's left it behind!  It's with her today because she wears it on a regular basis.  :-)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mixing and Mingling with the Wonderful Women of Art Is...You!

An early piece.  Words have always
played an  important part in my work.

 My journey to this place in my artistic career has been one of twists and turns with a healthy dose of experimentation in various media.  I began this path as a photographer, dipped my toe into beaded jewelry; painted, collaged, and constructed my way into a mixed media frenzy, and finally in an attempt to narrow my focus and develop a cohesive collection, I passionately ignited my love affair with found objects and metal through the creation of my own collection of jewelry and assemblage. 

Commercially, I've consigned with galleries, wholesaled to boutiques, partnered in a teaching studio, owned a gallery, traveled the retail show circuit, and sold my work via the Internet.  Through the years as my life's circumstances changed, my career adjusted accordingly.

Teaching in one form or another has always been a part of my path.  I approached it passionately and somewhat naively as I began to lay claim to the title of "Artist", and my pursuit of it has grown as I have.  Two years ago, I blissfully arrived in a place of confidence and security.  As this new reality dawned on me, I realized that I was willing to give fully and freely to my students.  I mean 100% freely...as in no holding back...no secrets...and a willingness to share every single bit of my knowledge and experience.  Thus began my search for the perfect place to begin the next phase of my journey.

Here's a sneak peak at the cover.
Please click the photo to get your very own!
Enter Salianne and Ellen, two lovely ladies who are the creative force behind the inimitable "Art Is...You" family of retreats.  As I researched teaching possibilities, I heard tales of these women, their retreats, the sense of community that they create, and the confidence that is inherently being built among their attendees.  I'm honored to be teaching with them for the first time on Monday, October 13th, in a class titled, "My Favorite Things".  These generous women have gone out on a limb in inviting me, a relatively unknown teacher nationally, to participate at Art Is...Stamford, and for that I'll be forever grateful.

As they say, "The cream always rises.", and I just learned that Salianne and Ellen and their Art Is... Retreats are being honored by being included in "Mingle", the premier publication featuring "a visual feast of imaginative gatherings...along with the uplifting stories behind uniquely creative get togethers."  Kudos, ladies!!!  I'm so proud to know you and to play even a small part in the amazing phenomenon that is Art Is...!

One of my samples from "My Favorite Things".
Please click this image to register online.


Tips and Tricks from The Studio Making Multiples

For this order of 150 pieces, each finished necklace featured
the sentiment"Remember to Remember". 
Pulling only these stamps streamlined the process of creating  for me.

When creating a series of similar pieces for an order, I pull only the stamps that I'll use for the project.  Then I place them, with the textured side toward me, directly in front of my bench block.  This provides easy orderly access, and it also eliminates the extra time that I'd spend looking for the correct stamp again...and again...and again.  :-)