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Heart Stones

These heart shaped stones are waiting for their settings.

Even though I haven’t done many posts recently about the pieces I am working on, I definitely have been sitting at my bench pin sawing metal in preparation for fabrication, drawing sketches in my sketch books, hand finishing the metal in preparation for assembly, among other things.

I’ve been internalizing a lot of thoughts about my work.  That has helped me to begin to understand the direction I want to go and what steps I need to take to get there.  I firmly believe it is not so much about the destination, but the journey that takes us there.

There was a time in July when I had taken on too many things.  I guess I had kept saying “Yes, I’ll do that” and then my lists of tasks and responsibilities were growing.  The realization that I was trying to do too much hit.  Thanks to my wonderful husband, Dan, he encouraged me to put boundaries on my time.  Fortunately I was able to take several steps back and begin to work at my pace again.  One of the things that started to happen, because I was trying to do too much, was I was losing the joy of doing the things I loved.  Not good.

You see, when whatever you do is no longer fun, what is the point of doing it?  I had reached the point where the joy was gone from exercising, working, making art… I was just going through the motions….it almost felt mechanical…..well that just had to stop.  It has.  Not only am I managing my time better, but I’m managing my tasks better.  I have a long way to go, but I am very happy to report that the joy has returned.  If something doesn’t get done, it just waits until I can get to it.   One exception here….the bassets don’t wait to be fed….they get fed on time.  They’re funny about that…..

So yes, this beautiful collection of hearts, along with a few others that didn’t make the photo, are waiting.  It really is a quite simple principle.  Everything will get done in due time. I have their designs complete.  The setting for each one is cut out and ready for the next step.  All of these will be part of my Veracity Series and I will have a few at the Castle Rock Artfest September 10 – 11.  Check out their website for more details and I will mention a bit more about it too as the dates draw near.

When the hearts are completed, Dan will take photos of them, and I will be posting the stories behind a certain few.  With this series, I’ve also started to assign serial numbers to them that are stamped on the back.  Lexi suggested doing this because it is something Harold does.  Each piece is unique, why not begin documenting them?

Have any of you face similar situations, taking on more than one should?  If so, what solutions have you found?  I’d enjoy hearing your approach.

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

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Continuing with my trend of random thoughts since the Colorado Metalsmithing Conference.

Again, I must revisit Saturday night.  As I mentioned in my first post about this year’s conference, that evening was when the real magic happened for me.  In Harold O’Connor’s studio, with other metalsmiths and my dear sister Lexi, listening to one of the true masters of their craft.  It was profound.  Harold was sitting in his bench chair and he said the word, “Art”.  Simple, clear, distinct.  It resonated in my mind and my soul…. to the very center of my being.  “Art”.  And then he went on…he doesn’t ‘like’ jewelry, he doesn’t wear it and he doesn’t make it, he creates works of “Art”….wearable works of “Art”.

Harold

At one point, he got up and went over to another area of his work shop.  He started to pull out his sketch books.  Filled with designs.  He leafed through them with me looking over his shoulder.  Occasionally he would stop on a page and make sure I saw a certain drawing.  I was so touched that he took the time to share.  He discussed how he starts with designs.  He also mentioned how he too suffers occasionally from the dreaded artist block. All of his works are one of a kind, yet he will occasionally return to a certain design and change it up.  I had a golden opportunity to view three of his sketch books.  I hope this helps to convey why the evening was magical for me.  Being able to view his “Art” works.  Clean, pure, simple designs.  It was all about the metal, with an occasional stone.  I was humbled and honored that he would take the time to go through some of his journals, sharing them with us.

Art

What else needs to be said?

For my work to grow and be more meaningful, I realized that I too must strive to create “Art”, yes, wearable works of “Art”.

Thank you Harold, it was a privilege and a moment in time (to quote Lexi), that I will always remember.

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

Continuing with my random thoughts about what I experienced at the Colorado Metalsmtihing Conference, this one came to the forefront more than once.  Do you think like an artist?

Part of me feels like my answer to this is, no, not yet.  However, I know that I do think like an artist, just not to the extent that our presenters do.  From my perspective, doing a bit of self-evaluation, I do not feel that I am fully engaged in thinking like an artist every day.  After this conference, I want to….I need to think more like an artist every single day!

Perhaps it is because I am pretty equally balanced with the whole right brain (creative) / left brain (logical) thinking process.  I consistently land smack dab in the middle any time I take one of those tests that evaluate which side of the brain dominates your thought process.  I’m sure that is why I am fairly comfortable switching gears from being a geek by day (left brain thinking) to being an artist by night (right brain thinking).

Yet now I have this awareness, an insight into an area I want to address to become a better artist.  That enlightenment came with the first presenter at the conference, Judith Kaufman.


Judith Kaufman

When Judith was 13, her mother signed her up for some metalsmithing classes and from that point on, she was hooked.  She spent almost every free moment in their basement, working on things, refining her technique and how she created her designs.

Judith doesn’t sketch; she doesn’t draw her designs.  As a matter of fact, she said she doesn’t draw well.  I found that very interesting and bit reassuring, because I don’t feel like I draw well either, yet I do sketch things out.  Ever since I started metalwork, I have felt the need to have a clear path of what I wanted to do before I started to work on a piece.  Perhaps that is the logical part of my mind, satisfying the need to have that clear direction. Yet, this isn’t the way Judith works and as she showed us how she approaches her work, I had one of my many ah ha moments.  I realized that she thinks like an artist all the time!  Well, of course she does.

On her workbench, she lays out a variety of gem stones, previously assembled bits and pieces and just searches through them until one of them speaks to her.  She will pull that one out and start looking for something to pair with it.  So the process continues until she has her next work in front of her.  As she said, she doesn’t sketch but she does sort through the myriad of shapes, colors and textures until she finds the right matches and off she goes to make something breathtakingly stunning.  That spoke volumes to me about thinking like an artist.

She commented that as she looks at a completed piece, she could trace back to where the inspiration came from.  When she would see something, it was some how tucked away in her subconscious and would manifest itself in these creations as she searched through her table top of treasures.  Unconsciously, she was searching for the right components to replicate something she has seen.  She said, find beauty in the mundane.  Interesting concept, right?  Once a piece was completed, it took her back to that thing that had inspired it.  She provided this quote that pretty much sums up that principle:

She showed photos of things that inspired her pieces, one came from rain drops, another from some tree branches.  Now I didn’t think any of these things were mundane, but I guess for some they are.  As she discussed these things, I realized how much I need to exercise the right side of my brain to think more like an artist.  Be open every day to taking things into your mind and appreciate the small details of beauty that exist in the most common things you see.  I think it takes practice, but I want to do that every day until it is ingrained into the way I process information.

Judith Post Presentation

This way of viewing the world reminds me of some of the vacations Dan & I have taken to some of our National Parks like Bryce, Zion, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.  People would rush from their cars, snap a couple of pictures of a breathtaking waterfall or magnificent mountain and then scurry back to their car to quickly head off to another place.  They would spend less than 5 minutes in some of the most spectacular places.  Why bother to make the trip at all?

For Dan & I, our approach is to linger…take it all in.  You just traveled hundreds of miles, spend some time to see the vistas, experience nature.  Cameras in hand, we would hike, drinking in as many aspects of the scenery as we could.  Large and small scale.  Truly “taking time to smell the roses”.  Savor that dew covered leaf, the mist from the tremendous force of a waterfall, stop and watch a moose in a pond…knowing full well that she was aware of us, but allowed us the honor of watching her in her element.  Slow down, take life in and now, more so than ever before, I want to convey those things in my work.  Think like an artist.

As I reflect on this, I am realizing that I do think like an artist more than I thought.  Perhaps these artistic Olympians at our conference have just put the spotlight on my need to be even more artistic.

To be continued…..

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

the 2011 Colorado Metalsmithing Association’s (CoMA) Conference.

This past weekend I attended the annual CoMA Conference, which is held at the Steamplant in downtown Salida, Colorado.  It is one of the few places we have found that will allow open flames from the torches used in metalwork.  The weather was hot as usual and this was my second time to attend the conference since joining the organization 2 1/2 years ago.

Lexi and I were conference buddies again.  There’s nothing better than sharing these experiences with your sister/best friend.


Left to right: Avi Good, Hoss Haley, Tom Muir & Michael Zobel (Judith had another commitment)

The speakers we had this year were Michael Zobel, Judith Kaufman, Tom Muir, Hoss Haley, and Avi Good (Michael Good’s daughter).  Each one brought something unique to the table.  I know, duh, why else would they have been invited to speak?  I guess what I wasn’t prepared for was the profound impact these artists would have on me as they spoke.  While Avi isn’t an artist, she knows the business side of things and she is one of the most delightful people I have ever met.

That is just one of the great things about the CoMA conference….everyone is so approachable.  These super stars of the metalsmithing world are just regular people and don’t have body guards to keep the crowds at bay.  I was able to speak to each one on an individual basis, thank them for coming and their insights.  How awesome is that?

For me, this year’s conference was even more intense than what I experienced last year.  Today my mind is swimming with thoughts, overflowing if you will.  It feels like my brain has reached full capacity with all the sights and sounds I took  in… so much so that I don’t think one more drop of creative stimulus could be handled until I have time to digest, percolate, sort, and process the vast amounts of sensory overload I experienced.  Am I feeling a bit overwhelmed? Yes, but that’s a good thing!  😀

I’m trying to put all the parts and pieces of this experience together so it’s not so chaotic in my mind. Today I thought it was very important to write about my experiences here, because my blog is my metalsmithing journal.  The process of assessing my thoughts in writing should help put things in perspective.  I may do several posts as my thoughts gel and I’m able to elaborate on the key points.

Hopefully that helps to explain why I titled this post Random Thoughts About…. because right now I have so many random thoughts about what I experienced at this conference that I just don’t know where to begin.

I will tell you that Saturday night was magical.  I’m serious as a heart attack about that point.  A small group of us was invited to Harold O’Connor’s studio to listen to his thoughts about art, see where he creates and even ask questions.  It was a very special evening and such an honor to be included in the group of invitees.  Harold has such great talent, skill and knowledge; classically trained in Europe.  What an invaluable opportunity to listen to someone who has accomplished so much throughout his lifetime.  It is something I will always treasure.  As he spoke about his work and the concept of art, I knew I had to look at what I do as an artist from a completely new perspective.  It shook me to the core…the realization of where I am as an artist and where I want to be.  He invited our questions and answered each one.  To listen to him talking about a range of topics in his studio, well, that was a purely magical evening for me.

For now, I’ll leave this as a to be continued… as I work on getting some perspective on the impact the conference and its surrounding events had on me.

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


A New Day
Veracity Series
Photo Credit – Daniel Krucoff

This is the first of many in my new Veracity Series.  Currently, they involve working with heart shapes, but I can see this moving to other stone shapes and no stones at all….just metal.  There is something to be said about just working with metal!

As I worked on exploring several new series, I entered into a dark period that I think many artists….seeking growth….encounter.  It’s dismal.  There were two people supporting me and giving me wings to experience this growth.  Dan and Lexi.  I wouldn’t be at this point if it wasn’t for both of them with their special gifts.  Thank you.

I thought of a number of names for this series…”Fiercely Wild“, “Fierce and Wild“, “Untamed Hearts“, “Courageous“.  As I sat down to write this post, Veracity came to me.  This series represents strength, hope, courage, a willingness to grow and explore.  The shape reminds me of a wild horse’s mane or someone with that wild mane of hair.  While the name of this series is not set in stone yet, I would welcome your thoughts, impressions and suggestions.  The name of the series feels right to me, but I am curious about your thoughts.

So how did I get here?  Well, Lexi’s mentor is Harold O’Connor and Lexi is my mentor.  They have discussions about art vs craft (among other things) and that generates similar discussions between Lexi and me.  I don’t just want to do craft, that is follow the shape of the stone for a design.  Yes, this one sort of mimics the stone, but that was not my intent; it’s not a true heart shape that follows the shape of the stone.  It’s funny, I never really considered myself a heart person, but these hearts that I have from Gary B Wilson really draw me in.  I have a number of these and I didn’t want to come up with some cutesy design to mimic the heart shape.

As I started to emerge from the darkness of the block, this was not my first design.  That new series of designs will come in future posts and I will wet your appetite with a comment that they are just metal…simple, clean and in my opinion intriguing.

Several days after the break through, Veracity started to flow.  It was just like Mountainesque as far as the channeling and the pen having a mind of its own as I drew the designs.  A New Day was not the first design in the drawings, but it was the first one I decided to make.

I find I am having a love affair with copper and sterling.  Ever since Arts & Crafts Impressions, I have developed a new appreciation for the warmth and richness of copper and sterling combinations.  A New Day did not let me down in that regard.

The stone is Willow Creek Jasper, purchased from Gary B Wilson in April of this year.  I can feel how drawn I am to these stones now…the delicate pastels.  They are beautiful and I think they will remain in my palette.  Of course, I see wonderful scenery in this stone; clouds, a beautiful valley with a river running along the right side of it.  I thought copper was the perfect color accent for this stone.  The silver back plate is meant to accentuate the copper and the stone.  I have oxidized them and sanded the copper so it is bright and pops.  I think that as the copper ages, the color it will assume will also provide an excellent backdrop for this piece.

There are at least another 15 designs in the ‘book‘ so expect to see more of these as I continue to work on this series.

My heartfelt thanks to Dan for his encouragement, support and love during those dark days of the block.  And also my deepest thanks to my sister, Lexi, for all of her nurturing through my dark period too.  You will hear about my break through in a future post where that other series will be unveiled.

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


The Poster for the Event

What a weekend. The weather was fantastic. I was honored and humbled to be part of this event and share the experience with so many wonderful and talented artists. It was great.

My dear friend and mentor, Lexi Erickson, asked me to design the poster and post card for this show. I happily agreed and the top picture is the poster in its final form.

Not many people can say they have done a show with Harold O’Connor. I had the good fortune to be in a show with two of my idols, Harold O’Connor and Lexi Erickson.

Harold O’Conner, me, and Lexi

I don’t think my feet were touching the ground in that picture!  And both Harold and Lexi signed a copy of the poster for me….now that’s going to be framed and hung in my studio as a reminder of a very special event and the great inspiration both of these talented individuals are to me.  Thank you Harold and Lexi.

The crowd was wonderful. I believe all of us had good sales and hopefully that is an indicator that things are turning around in the art world when it comes to the sales of our works.

Several of you have asked that I post pictures of my work that sold. Well, here goes….  Oh, and all of the photos were taken by Dan, so I’m just going to say at the beginning of all of these great photos to follow:  Photo Credit ~ Daniel Krucoff.

My first sale of the day was a pair of reticulated earrings I called Ocean Waves. Great to have that first sale of the show.  How fitting that the first sale was also the reticulated silver that I made during my workshop with Harold in May of this year!


Ocean Waves
Timeless Series

The next sale was a pendant and a pair of earrings.

It’s a Matter of Attitude (previous blog post)
Soul Searching Series


Unidelta Tree
Tribute to Pandora Series

And then things just started to blur together…..

Binary Sunshine (previous blog post)
Tribute to Pandora Series


Puff Ball Tree
Tribute to Pandora Series

Another pair of earrings, Pendulum, that I never got a picture of before the show, so they aren’t in this group ….

Chalice Plant
Tribute to Pandora Series

And then I was completely blown away….

Dimensions in Time
Timeless Series

Yes, that’s right, one of my bracelets sold. A multitude of beautiful stones, hours of work, and its beauty was not lost on the person who bought this. She has a discerning eye, as did many of the shoppers this weekend. Coupled with that was an appreciation for the art that this bracelet represents. She also purchased Break Through (pictured below) and I know my pieces have gone to someone who understands. Actually, all of my pieces went to people who got it. What a wonderful affirmation for an artist.

Break Through
Soul Searching Series


Independence
Soul Searching Series

Pretty incredible.  The show, the weekend, the crowds, the talented artists, the beautiful venue, the experience….ALL exceeded my expectations.  I truly believe I found my audience.  It has infused me with new enthusiasm and the belief that I am on the right path as an artist.  It is my wish for all of you, my friends, to find that path we are destined to follow.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.  Thank you for sharing this journey with me.


Inner Strength
Timeless Series
Photo Credit ~ Daniel Krucoff

This was one of those stones. I found it at Gary B Wilson’s booth during April when he, Kathy, and Jesse were in Denver for Beadfest. It caught my eye immediately and I just knew I had to come up with a design that wouldn’t detract from the beauty of the stone. I went through so many sketches, that I will share here. I’m a little embarrassed to show some of these sketches, however, I think it is important/relevant for those who read my blog to understand the journey I take with a piece as I bring it to its final state.  Plus one of the goals I have with this blog is to document my journey as a metalsmith.  I hope you will enjoy my creative journey with Inner Strength.

The stone is an Amethyst Sage.  I’ve never seen one quite like this.  The markings within the stone are so beautiful. And that shade of purple, more lavender, is so rich and lush to me.  As many of you know, I have a passion for all things purple.

I truly struggled with finding the right design.  Here’s the first one.

Whew, is that like the flying red horse logo that Mobile gas had eons ago?  Ok, I just carbon dated myself with that one.  For those of you scratching your heads, here’s the logo I’m referring to….

Oh sure, now you can see the resemblance!  When I was a kid I loved horses, this was one of my favorite horse images, so maybe it crept into that initial design?

Well, I scrapped that one and moved on to these…..

Ya, I just couldn’t get that flying horse out of my mind yet, could I?  I did like the one in the bottom of this, but my gut was telling me it was too busy with that gorgeous stone.

Then I went off and tried some stone pairings to see if that was a way to go….

Pretty, yes, but it just wasn’t speaking to me.  Back to the drawing board, literally!

I thought I was getting somewhere now. I have this thing for two pieces that create movement, plus I really like what a tube set (that little circle at the bottom right of the sketch) does with a little faceted stone. But, for me the stone was upside down. I wanted it to have a different orientation that I felt was a better presentation of the markings within the stone.

Definitely more progress. The stone’s orientation is what I wanted. I still had a little tube set accent. I just wasn’t satisfied.

Almost there! There was a piece of broom casting that reminded me of Delicate Arch in Utah. I thought it was a great compliment to the stone. I still felt like something was missing.

Found it!  One of those moments.  I had done enough to get my subconscious working.  I think reticulated silver is gorgeous and all of a sudden I could see how the folds of silver would compliment the markings within the stone.  My ah-ha moment!  I had this beautiful reticulation that I had made during the Harold O’Connor workshop and one piece was made for this stone.  Plus I could include that little piece of broom casting too.  I gave up the tube set, but you know, that was ok.

I love the way the oxidation turned out on the piece too; nice subtle colors to compliment the stone.

On September 16, I wore Inner Strength to the Denver Gem & Mineral Show and got to show it to Gary, Kathy and Jesse.  The highest compliment I could have received was when Gary, who cut this beautiful stone, told me that I did a great job with its setting.  Kathy & Jesse also complimented me on this piece.  Talk about making my day.  Thank you Gary, Kathy & Jesse!

I am finding too that Dan continues to exceed my expectations when he photographs my work.  He is one awesome photographer in my book!

I hope you enjoyed reading about Inner Strength’s journey to fruition.  Why Inner Strength?  I think we all have more inner strength than we know.  Persistence is the key to so many things in life and it definitely enhances ones Inner Strength.  This is part of my Timeless Series.

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

I must confess, my life has been very busy since the beginning of 2010 and I consider that a good thing. I was selected to be one of two artists that will be featured at Boulder Arts & Crafts, in Boulder Colorado during the month of August. This will be a great opportunity to show my latest glass works. It has been a challenging experience and I have created several new series as I worked on completing the pieces for this exhibit.  You can read more about those on my other blog, Refelections of a Glass Artist.

Recently I have been approached to do some graphic design work. This weekend, I completed several designs for postcards and even a poster! I am very pleased to have the chance to do this type of work and I hope as people see these, they will consider me for their design needs.

I was also hired to design a new website for a vacation rental home in La Paz, Mexico. And recently updated a website for an existing client.

All of this has been great and as you can imagine, I’ve been super busy. But I have missed sitting at my bench and working with metal. I did manage to do some metalwork during this busy period, but I couldn’t really focus on it as much as I wanted. Well, today I wrapped up a number of things (I still have a few more on my schedule) and I was able to get back to my bench. Yay!

In October, the Colorado Metalsmithing Association will have their first ever show, Jewelry at the Gardens (the Botanic Gardens in Denver). I will be one of the 28 artists represented that weekend at the show and sale. It’s been important to continue to work on designs, which I have, so I thought it would be fun to share a couple of things in their design and early construction phase.

I think this one will be called Harmony. At the end of May I was working on glass in the studio and needed a break. I looked at some of the new stones I had purchased from Gary B Wilson at the end of April and started to place stones together. This was one of the groupings and they seemed to combine in perfect harmony for me. I’ve started work on the components that will make up this piece and hopefully I’ll have one of Dan’s photos of the finished pendant to share in the near future.

This was a design I came up with last night as I was trying to relax. I want to incorporate some of the reticulated silver into my pieces after the Harold O’Connor workshop. I like the way these look together. The stone is Petrified Palm Wood, another Gary B Wilson purchase. My plan is to cut a circle from the section of the reticulated silver and I may dome it a bit and then place it on a sterling back. I’m not completely sure about this one yet, but I like the initial concept.

So I am back at my bench and looking forward to the results. Hope you enjoyed a couple of the previews.

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

Reticulation

Yesterday I had the great honor and privilege of taking a Workshop from one of the living legends and superstars of the Art Jewelry world, Harold O’Connor.  I am still blown away.  I suspect that what I experienced yesterday will have a powerful influence on me and my work for years to come.  It’s not very often that one has the good fortune of being able to take a workshop from someone with the incredible artistic talents like Harold, who is known internationally and classically trained as an art jeweler.  Remember the importance of investing in yourself!  This was an incredibly valuable learning experience for me.  I don’t really think I could put a price tag on it.

The top photograph shows two of the pieces I did yesterday.  I’ll share a few more of my pieces in this post.  In this workshop, Harold showed us his technique for reticulating silver.  It involves a process of bringing the fine silver up to the metal’s surface and in the final stage, you apply heat to create these patterns.  The metal starts to fold on itself.  Sometimes you get peaks, other times valleys and sometimes a real surprise!  What I found captivating was the metal starts to take a shape and then you can coax it with the flame to try and guide it in the pattern and shapes you want to generate outward from the initial formation.  If you’d like a more technical explanation of what reticulation is, follow this link to Ganoksin’s site.  Of course, as with all things, practice …  practice …. practice.

Harold is a master at this.  Of course, he is a master jeweler and craftsman.  He makes guiding metal with heat to take form and shape look easy.  My first attempts were not so good, but the later pieces really turned out nice.  As Lexi would say the true mark of a master teacher is to make the process look effortless.  Harold did that.  Now he’s inspired me and created a hunger to do this technique well. The class was able to witness his talents in motion.  He would take a piece of metal, begin heating it and shapes would begin to form.  One of his started to look like a moon crater to me.  Once the shape started, he just worked it to create the direction he saw the metal was going to move.  It was like watching Michelangelo create the Sistine Chapel only with metal!  I was blown away.

The workshop took place at Coyote Creek Studio Arts in Fairplay, Colorado.  My good friend and mentor, Lexi Erickson, was able to put this together.  Thank you Lexi!!!!  Harold is her dear friend and mentor.  It was a true joy to watch the two of them interact.

A few more of mine.  In this picture, the one on the left really started to form a great peak.

This started out as a flat piece and then I used some tools to create even more of a 3-D effect.  I find this soooooo cool.

Right now I have no idea what I will make with these.  I do know they will be going into my new works.  Some I may just frame in some fashion and let them speak for themselves.  Others I may use sections of and incorporate as an accent in a piece.  It’s exciting.  I’m looking forward to adding more reticulation into my work.

For all you metalsmiths, if you ever have a chance to take a Harold O’Connor workshop, seize that opportunity!  Trust me, you will never regret it.  He is a giving teacher.  Very willing to share what he knows.  As an added bonus, he shared a bit about granulation….oh yes, I plan on adding that technique to my skill set too.  Harold uses granulation quite a bit in his work, I would encourage you to visit his website to see excellent examples of this in his gallery.

I’m still riding on that learning high.  Anxious to get to work, practice what I learned.  Phenomenal stuff!  Again, thank you Harold and thank you Lexi.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person…. you know I am.


I’m posting this on my glass and metalworking blogs because I feel strongly about sharing this with all of you creative spirits.

The Creative Block. It happens to all of us, right? The dreaded, proverbial block to our creativity process and energy. I call it “Hitting the WALL”. When it happens, we go through whatever we hope will unblock us and release that creative energy that we all have.

Sometimes it doesn’t last very long, other times it lasts longer than we would care to admit. What causes it? How do we work through it? Many folks smarter than I have written about it, discussed it, theorized about it, and proposed solutions.

I don’t know that I have a solution per se, but I do know that I hit “the WALL” a little over a week ago. The trip to Estes was beneficial, but even when I got home I was stymied. I couldn’t believe it. Here I had all those beautiful stones that I had just purchased at the Denver Gem & Mineral Show and every design I tried looked blah. They all started to look the same. Here’s the stone, here’s the stone shape…maybe a texture, an overlay, or nothing. BORING! At least it was boring to me. I wanted to showcase these stones and do justice to them, not detract from them.

Most of you know that Lexi Erickson is my friend, teacher, and mentor. Lexi has a wonderful ability to tune into others and get a sense of what may be happening with them. I am convinced she has an extra sense. After I got back from Estes, she asked me to come to her home for another lesson. I quickly agreed and told her I was having trouble with designs all of a sudden. She assured me we would work through it.

On Monday evening, off to Denver I went to spend some quality time with Lexi. My design journal and recently purchased stones in tow. As is our custom, we sit and catch up for a bit. She asked to see my designs and could tell my frustration. She commented that she knew I had been frustrated for a while even though I hadn’t vocalized it until that evening. As we looked at my designs, she shared my thoughts about how some of them were just plain boring. She kindly pointed out that there was nothing wrong with them, but I was growing as an artist and what was a perfectly good design was just too plain and boring for where I wanted to go next. She picked one design that centered on my favorite stone; a heart shaped Chinese Writing Stone. Effortlessly, she drew several beautiful designs for this stone to show me examples of how to create Emphasis in a design. Those were signature Lexi designs, just as individual as her handwriting. The key is they were the beginning of what would help me to break out of the constraints of “the WALL”.

I’m a very visual learner and just to see some examples of where designs could go was exhilarating. I didn’t understand why I hadn’t come up with that on my own, but I know that’s just part of the learning process too.

The mentor and her padawan learner; we went over the basics of design.

Principles:

  • Line
  • Color
  • Shape
  • Value
  • Texture

Elements:

  • Pattern
  • Repetition
  • Emphasis

Lexi was kind enough to write these in my journal and I am referring to them! She said it’s not uncommon to experience being blocked after getting the sensory overload from the Gem and Mineral Show. I’m certain that had a lot to do with it. All these beautiful stones and I am so committed to doing justice to each and every one of them.

And then she turned to me and said, “How about going out for a gelato?”. It kind of took me aback, because to me, it was “what does that have to do with jewelry design?“… oh little did I know what was happening to break through my artist’s block. Well, I had never had a gelato and wasn’t really certain what they were, but no matter, we got in her truck and headed out after a little more discussion and review of the stones I had purchased and the stones she had purchased at the Gem and Mineral Show.

On the way, she said that she didn’t think I needed a lesson so much as an evening to relax, talk about goals, art, and life, enjoy a gelato and watch the sunset on the mountains.

I thank those of you who have hung in there to this point, because I finally got to the part about gelato and mountain sunsets!

We enjoyed our respective variations on chocolate gelatos and conversed. A true heart to heart. Sharing our thoughts about our own unique life experiences. Let me tell you, those moments in life are precious and meant to be cherished. I do.

When we finished our gelatos, we headed to one of her favorite mountain viewing areas to watch the sun set. She pointed out that as the sun sets, the light on the mountains shows the variations that you don’t see during normal daylight. It reminded her of metalwork with all the depths and contours. She was right. I never looked at the mountains that way before. We took in all those wonderful colors in the sky as the sun sets too. Inspirational!

She asked why I was ‘blocked’ and the answer that came to me was fear. I was afraid of making a mistake. Gee, that’s how we learn! And believe me, I recognize fear is the worst emotion that can attempt to govern our lives and our decision making process. I KNOW THIS and yet it was holding me back. Calmly, Lexi said, “It’s only metal”. Yes, that’s true and I don’t work in anything expensive like gold or platinum yet. I’m still concerned about the cost of Sterling Silver, but on an individual item basis, it’s only metal and can be recycled into something else when you do make those inevitable mistakes as you are learning or working. It’s ok….you are going to make mistakes. Geez, duh, I know this…time to confront my fear and eliminate it.

Lexi reminded me that her series “Conversations with Harold” came out of a very similar situation; she was enjoying an evening of discussing life, art, and more with her friend and mentor Harold O’Connor. Wow. My response was maybe I’ll have a “Conversations with Lexi” series!!!

So much came out of that evening. We watched the sunset create new lines and outlines of those beautiful Rocky Mountains. I realized, as odd as it was, I needed her permission to venture forth and go beyond what I knew how to do metal work wise. She gave me her permission even though I shouldn’t need it. We’re both over achievers. We both got straight A’s. Neither of us can just do something simple and easy the first time, we have to try to do something more complicated and advanced. We laughed. We discussed our goals. What did success mean? Philosophical topics, dreams, hopes, aspirations, how fortunate both of us are with the wonderful husbands we have. Quite refreshing.

In order to grow in one area, sometimes you need to let go of other areas. I’ve been conflicted with my love of glass and this newfound love of working with metal. I’ve started to come to terms with this. I can’t stop creating things with glass; I enjoy the process too much. Yet, I’m just beginning to understand that art jewelry work is where I am even stronger as an artist….or maybe I should say, where I have my greatest potential. I truly have become consumed with the process. You will still see me posting my glass art as I cannot completely give that up.

She expressed concern that maybe this discussion wasn’t helping me, but I explained that I generally need time to process things like this. She understood because she does the same thing, that is, she needs time to process information about important subjects. I told her that knowing me, my subconscious was taking all of this in and I would probably have my break through in the middle of the night. Typical to wake up at 2 AM with an idea, solution for a problem I’ve been working on, well you get the picture.

We enjoyed the sunset and I headed home. I was drained.

At 4 AM, the flood gate opened and design ideas emerged. I had my break through AND it was faster than I even expected! I think three designs came to me while I was trying to go back to sleep until the alarm went off at 5 AM. The good news is I was able to capture all of those designs on paper. And I’ve been on a roll ever since. Oh what a feeling!

As I reflect on that evening, I think it was more about Soul Searching. You guessed it, my new art jewelry line will be called “Soul Searching”. I have at least 6 designs in that series and I’m running with it.

The next time you hit “the WALL”, remember chocolate gelatos and mountain sunsets. Gelatos are delicious and well, mountains are breathtaking. Find that friend and mentor who will listen and encourage you, while you take in the beauty that surrounds in nature. The point is take in something that is beautiful to you, enjoy something delicious, and just relax. Your internal creative energy will come to life! Trust me, it really will.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I am sharing this in the hopes it will help you to unblock your creativity. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences too.

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

Thank you Lexi.

Kathleen Krucoff


Artist and Metalsmith

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