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I have been spending time reflecting. I took a break from working at my bench for some much needed rest, relaxation and recharging of my artistic batteries. The break lasted longer than I expected, yet I believe that is exactly what I needed to become a better artist. My husband and I vacationed out on the Oregon coast. We enjoyed some fall hikes, walking along the shores of the Pacific Ocean and soaking in the beauty of nature. New inspirations were just a few of the benefits.

After that kind of hiatus from the bench, it felt both good and a little strange. Working with my hands is extremely satisfying and initially I did feel a bit rusty. I think it’s safe to say I am back and fully operational now.

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Sometimes I find inspiration from movies. Here is an example. Any thoughts on which movie inspired this piece?

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Quoting the infamous episodes from Friends with my own spin, “I was on a break…. a much needed break”. Given this experience, I broke some of my own rules of spending at least 5 minutes a day in the studio. That does give me some pause and contradiction, yet I know me and this break was something I truly needed to recharge my creative batteries.

All that being said, I would encourage my fellow artists to do the same. Don’t fight the need for breaks from the work cycle or even worse, feel guilty about it. There are times when the best thing we can do for our creative process is rest and relax.

Until next time, I continue to aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

 

BeingCreative

Last week, I saw this quote with the associated image and it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I absolutely have to be creative.  I have done something art-like all my life, from childhood with coloring books and dressing up paper dolls, to a young adult learning about sewing and knitting.  As the years have gone by, I have tried my hand at tole painting, stained and fused glass work.  Now, I find great pleasure exploring the many avenues of metalwork that go into the creation of my art jewelry.

I absolutely know I am at my happiest when I’m creating.  I work full time in the corporate world, managing to make time for my art during any spare cycles I find.  Last week, it became clear to me that I have been unconsciously finding ways to be creative and inject art into my work as a software developer too.

Being creative is an integral, vital part of who I am.

Why am I writing about this?  Because I continue to meet people who tell me they are not creative, including some dear friends, and it hurts to think they are denying their artistic side.  It is my firm belief that every one of us possesses some creative talent.  As children it is easy to engage with the artistic spirit within.  We seem to be so free to let our imaginations run wild.  As we grow, it seems like exterior forces start to subdue those moments of freedom.

I was fortunate, my mother encouraged my exploration and pursuit of being creative.  I do think that when someone calls art work a hobby, they don’t really mean to diminish its value….they more than likely are denying their own inner artist.

Break free of self-imposed restrictions.  Maybe you are not the next Rembrandt, Michelangelo or  Picasso.  But I know this, you have a talent or a knack for something.  It may be how you raise your children, care for your home, prepare meals, train for an event, interact with people….those are talents, gifts that are unique to you.  Embrace them.  Nourish them.  Watch them grow.

Challenge yourself to do one thing that puts you outside of your comfort zone.  When you do that, you may not succeed at first, but something wonderful will start to happen.  Enroll in that class to learn something you’ve always wanted to do.  Try something new.  Just do it.  The rewards can be unexpected and quite pleasant.

I’ve been trying some new things in the studio.  Some are successful, some are failures.  No matter what the end result, I’ve learned something.  It’s wonderful.

Dig deep if you have to in order to find your own creative spirit, embrace it wholeheartedly and nourish it.  Stand back and which it flourish.

Until next time, aspire to be more as a person and an artist.


Grumbacher Plastic Paint Mixing Tray

A long time ago, in a gallaxy far far away…..wait a minute, wrong tale!

Take two.  A long time ago, I tried my hand at painting. One of the items I hung onto from that artistic adventure was this paint mixing tray by Grumbacher.  As I was decluttering my studio a while ago, I found this and considered donating it so that someone else might be able to put this to use.  However, I did not and it sat in a little box….sort of looking at me.  Then I moved it to the top of my soldering bench, next to my pickle pot.  I still wasn’t sure why I felt the need to keep this aside from some emotional attachment, but I did.

So why am I posting about a Grumbacher paint mixing tray in my Talkin’ Tools segment?  Well, it turns out that it has become a very handy way for me to organize the components for my Ginkgo leaf earrings.  Sure, I could have gone out and bought something else, but this works and puts this tray back into use in my studio.  Saved a little money too!


Ginkgo parts

You see, when I make my Ginkgo leaf earrings, there are a variety of bits and pieces that go into their assembly. I need to keep them organized by earring style so as I start to put the sections together, I have the right part for the right design.  I work on one earring set at a time as I build them.  The dividers keep the sets together and I don’t run the risk of getting them mixed up.

Prior to utilizing this tray, I would have the earring sets scattered around in little piles on a table.  Speaking from the voice of experience, there were times when my sleeve would brush them and they would fall on the floor or get mixed together.  That was FUN, not!  These incidents left me with this time consuming and needless task of putting an interesting jig saw puzzle back together.  Talk about frustrating!

One day, as I was in this frustrated state, here’s this little tray, sort of smiling and winking at me now and I think, ok, I get it.  Put you to use.  I did.

Viola!  Once I started using the tray, the process was simplified. I can keep track of how many are ready by a glance. I’m assured that the right parts for the earring set are together. Once I fire up my torch, I can work on 8 pairs or more if use the small circles in the tray.  Even though I build them one pair at a time, I don’t like to start work on the assembly process until I have a batch.  I find it to be more efficient.

There are several key things I’d like to convey with this post:

  • Organization in the studio (and other areas of life) is very important. It helps simplify what you are doing, alleviates stress and frustration, along with speeding up what you are doing.
  • Be innovative. Look for items you may already have and see if they can be used for another purpose.  It may be a good fit and save you a bit of money.
  • Consider options.  Being open to alternatives that can help you with an immediate solution…it’s good to have options.

Have you found something that you use in your work that is an alternative use from its original purpose?

I hope you find this tip helpful and are motivated to start looking for things that may help you in your work.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.


Spring
Tree-Scapes
Photography ~ Daniel Krucoff

Several weeks ago, I was approached to create a piece as a gift for someone who had purchased some of my art jewelry. The people who approached me, knew that this person loved what I did and they wanted to give her a special gift for Bosses Day. I was given free reign to create whatever I liked, because they said I knew what she liked. I was delighted and it was so refreshing to just approach a commission with no restrictions.

I knew that my new Tree-Scapes series would be the right direction. The sweet little stone in this pendant is a Chrysoprase that I had purchased from Gary B. Wilson. It seemed to call to me the loudest of any I had for this piece, so I started sketching as you can see from the photo.  I find I keep returning to variations on this shape as I did in Evening Moon….only with Evening Moon, that backdrop was long and slender.

As I am prone to do, I asked Dan his opinion and he was drawn to the more Oriental shape in the upper right of the sketches pictured.  Me too, BUT I was a little concerned with how I would fabricate this piece.  Well, as I proceeded, it just came together.  Again, I see imagery in the stone.  There is a solitary tree with a mountain as a backdrop.  I was going to carry the mountain into the setting too, but as I worked on it that did not seem right.  So a few tree trunks, some leaves and the frame.  All in sterling silver that has been oxidized to emphasize the details in the metalwork and showcase the stone.

I was so happy with this piece that I knew its recipient would be too.  I can report she loves it and has since told me it is one of her favorites.  As an added affirmation, the people who gave this to her have told me that she wears it almost every day.  Wow.

You just never know when creativity will strike!  Trying to force it to happen, really doesn’t work.  Having the freedom to explore definitely helps.  I am so grateful I can solicit a second opinion from Dan when I’m not completely sure where I want to go.  Relax and it will come.

I have more to do with Tree-Scapes and I am looking forward to where the stones will lead me.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

I’m still capturing my thoughts and experiences from the Colorado Metalsmithing Conference last weekend.  Thankfully, as I have journaled about these here, I have found some of the clarity I wanted to achieve.  From some of the feedback on these posts, I think the rest of you are enjoying this journey too?

Hoss Haley

Hoss Haley was another one of our speakers and he is a blacksmith, an extremely talented metalworker artist.  There were so many things that impressed me about Hoss.  As he talked about his background, growing up on a farm in Kansas and how over the span of 20 some years he has grown as an artist, I was struct by his innovation, creativity and resourcefulness.

I know I related to him as well as I did because of my background.  My mom grew up on a farm.  Her father was a blacksmith.  From my mother’s descriptions of life on a farm, you just had to be self-sufficient.  If you needed something, you made it, grew it, did whatever was needed to get it or just did without.  When my mom was a child, there wasn’t a Wal-Mart Superstore 5 minutes down the road to go to and get what you needed.

This philosophy of do what you need to accomplish the task at hand is clearly first and foremost in Hoss’s mind.  He has built several hydraulic presses, his last one exerts 100,000 tons of pressure,  and he uses it to form the larger components of his public art works.  He’s looking to put together the components to build a new hydraulic press that exerts 200,000 tons of pressure!  Wow, imagine what he will do with that one.

Example of the scale of his public art work

He showed a video of one of his smaller presses in action, it was automated and all Hoss had to do was move the metal around as the press moved up and down on the surface.  Besides being awe struck by what the press did, seeing it in action I kept thinking, keep your fingers and hands out of the way!

He initially apprenticed with Tom Joyce and his work was greatly influenced by him.  Yet he recognized that he needed to radically change up what he did as an artist in order to have his own individuality.  He has definitely done this.

He said that he started looking at these huge sculptural works, public art works, and thought, I can do this.  He just needed a way to build things on that scale.  Here was one of the prime examples of his innovation, creativity and resourcefulness that he had learned growing up on a farm.  He broke his design ideas down to their smallest components.  That is why he would build these presses that could forge the metal in sections.  He would take these sections and piece them together as you would a jig saw puzzle.  It all came together, a little bit at a time.

The Pi Plotter

If he can’t find what he needs he builds it.  He created this one machine that calculates pi and uses this in some of his designs.  It is an arm that pivots, with a pen attached that draws these circles based on the latest pi calculations.  Each one is different and as random as the calculations.  Every time he starts it, it starts in a different position base on where the calculation starts.  Awesome stuff folks!  Again, he was looking for a machine that did this and didn’t find one out there that would do what he needed….he built it!  This guy is really super smart, innovative.

Hoss explaining the forming stake he created for the demo

Hoss was one of the presenters who did a demo after his talk.  In preparation for this demo, he worked up a couple of forming stakes to use and brought them to the conference.  He was showing us how he would form a pear, even down to the detail of how he did the leaf.  Imagine, creating a couple of rather large forming stakes just so we could benefit from watching him doing one aspect of his work.  That was terrific!

Hoss demonstrates forging

And you can definitely tell that Hoss still wields a hammer on a regular basis.  The man has ‘guns’ and he got them from hard work, NOT steroids!!!

He even does a bit of jewelry and small sculptural pieces (like that pear) that are available through galleries.  However, I think he is best known for his large sculptural works of public art.

The point he drove home for me was we are an accumulation of all aspects of our learning experiences.  Going back to the days on the farm and his progression of his artistic journey.  Innovation, creativity, and resourcefulness….each of us possess those qualities.  Be mindful of them and just think of the possibilities!  How exciting is that?

On top of all of this, he has a great sense of humor.  I truly believe he is humble about his work and all he has accomplished.  It was really energizing to listen to Hoss.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

Kathleen Krucoff


Artist and Metalsmith

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