I’ve been an admirer of Cindy Miller’s work for a long time so I was really happy to have the opportunity to find out more about her for this profile.
(Photo: “Branch with Labradorite and Drops” Necklace by Cindy Miller)
Raised in Alabama, Cindy is now a full-time studio artist. “I’m single and live in Athens, Alabama with my Maine Coon Cat Taz – she’s a big girl and ‘helps’ me a lot,” she smiled. “I have also been adopted by several feral cats that live in the neighborhood so I always have an escort to my car. I live on the Tennessee River next door to my sister and her husband. They have created a beautiful retreat at the river and being there is very relaxing.”
A beautiful bracelet by Terry Kovalcik made with Sterling PMC Photo: Corrin Jacobsen Kovalcik
I was recently asked by PMC Connection to test the new sterling metal clay by Mitsubishi. I was excited, but also a little intimidated when I thought about all of the beautiful pieces made by testers of PMC products over the years: Hattie Sanderson’s rings, Celie Fago’s rings and charms, Terry Kovalcik’s bracelets. I worked hard on my experimental test pieces, but I didn’t end up with anything that will grace the posters and ads for the new clay. I did learn some things that I’m sharing in the hopes that my mistakes benefit other metal clay artists.
Let’sfaceit,asartisansmostofusfailatmarketingourselvesandour work.We hope buyers will flock to us out of nowhere and our pieces will magicallysellthemselves.For some of us the very thought of it fills us with fear and trepidation, so we chose to ignore it. If we do, then we are not hungry enough, or if we are, we choose to scratch out an existence instead—huntingfor change between our sofa cushions, eating beans out ofa can—and foresee ourselves spending our nights on a car seat. Well, maybe it won’t get to that but we will spend our time wondering why we have few buyers and agonizing over whether or not our work is good enough. This is not the artisan life we want; it is counter-productive and barely surviving.
Without a well-thought-out strategic marketing plan chances are slim you will be successful at making money at your craft. You have to conquer your fear and change your attitude. If you don’t know how to market your items, then it’s time to learn. If you think of it as an extension of the creative process instead of separate from it, then your attitude will change and you might even develop a passion for it. There is nothing like a few sales as a result of your efforts to spur you on. Let’s get busy and see what you can do to get your name and your work out there in front of the buying public. Continue reading…
SOLDERING BEYOND THE BASICS By Joe Silvera, Kalmbach Books, 2014.
I always tell my metal clay students that adding basic soldering to their repertoire can add versatility to their work. Until I took a class on production soldering with Joe Silvera, however, I didn’t realize just how many possibilities there were for more advanced soldering techniques to enhance my metal clay practice. Not everyone has such a skilled teacher available. Luckily, anyone with basic soldering experience and access to a torch can use Silvera’s new book to ramp up their skills.
Section one is full of information about tools, including types of torches and how to set them up and adjust them. It gives in-depth descriptions of materials such as flux and solder as well as some basic stone-setting directions. The author understands the limitations of home studios and his section on setting up a studio is down-to-earth and practical, with an emphasis on safety. Throughout the book Silvera suggests nontoxic products whenever possible. All the projects can be completed with the reader’s choice of a butane torch or a small tank torch system. Continue reading…
Last week I went camping. While away I didn’t check the news. I had no phone calls. And no mirror. For a week it was just me and my family. On the way home we decided to drop in on a relative for a visit. It was then that I suddenly saw what we were wearing and realized my daughter had not combed her hair in days. Then I realized I hadn’t combed my hair in days either. It’s not that we didn’t have time! It just wasn’t important. Continue reading…
This article is a reprint. To see the original article click here. Over the years Ann and I have heard from so many artists how her article changed their lives. Read on and heal your “artself”.
My studio has always been an active working space, more of a workshop where things are made than a quiet space for inspiration. I’ve never needed a girly-girl space because I was a “Serious Working Metalsmith” and my professors, teachers, smithing friends all had, for want of a better description, tool shops. Everything creates grime!! To me having a clean space to do enameling meant one square foot of clean tabletop.
I used to do casting production runs. If you are not familiar with that, it’s often making one hundred of one thing in a week, after which of course it was a really dirty workshop. But I never questioned it. My work was fulﬁlling and proﬁtable, and I loved it. And so it went for 40-plus years and several different studios.
Viewing a Crafthaus exhibit, Studio Sanctuaries, created by Pat Morrow caused me to contemplate and reevaluate the space where I spend so much of my day. I felt it had become divided between the computer desk, bookkeeping, and fun-interacting with friends and the overstuﬀed, chaotic workshop side. This was something that had been bubbling up in my thought process and banging at the door of my conscious awareness for some time. The struggle between the messy “get to work” side and the computer “play” side ﬁnally crystallized into a thought. I had been disrespecting myself, my work- er self and my inner self, my whole self. Continue reading…
With such an organised studio, I asked Linda if she was as organised as she sounds when she’s in full on creative mode. “I am very organized, that is, there is a place for everything, and I can generally grab what I need, because I know where it is (or should be),” she explained. “However, when I am in the midst of a project, tools and materials may not be put away right away. When things begin to pile up, I make the time to clear the decks…put everything where it belongs, so I can begin again to work with greater efficiency (and mess it up again). I do love walking into the studio at the beginning of the day and seeing that clutter. It is a reminder of how immersed I’ve been, and I kind of treasure that first impression. That aside, too much can be, well, too much, so I will start the day by rapidly placing everything in its own niche. This is a kind of meditation, a reminder to pace myself as I begin to work.”
She continued, “My studio is in a long room, the entrance to which is my main jewelry reference library for the studio. I’m a book person, preferring to learn from books, rather than videos. Actually my true preference for a learning experience is workshops, and I’ve taken a number of them over the years. At this point in my career, there are few classes that I feel I need to take, and would rather work things out on my own, when necessary. My books include: jewelry books including contemporary, ancient and ethnic jewelry, design books, ornament books, illuminated manuscript books, jewelry making books, monographs, naturalist books etc. Also on those shelves are components for future boxed pieces.” (Images“Vernalia Brooch Case”)
I think that browsing her library would be pretty relaxing but I asked Linda what she does when she needs to relax. “Read, garden, walk, take naps, knit/crochet, go to movies, spend time with friends, write, draw,” she said, although with so much time spent in the studio, it’s hard to imagine when she gets time for relaxing!
I was really interested to find out about Linda’s creative process. Her pieces are often complex with a strong story so I asked if she did much planning before starting work. “I do plan each piece. For the major pieces that will include an enclosure or box, there is a great deal of engineering involved in order for the piece, generally a neckpiece, to rest in its enclosure properly,” she explained. “For the jewelry itself the complexity of sketching involved depends on the type of jewel. For a neckpiece and earrings, I do a complete drawing, including simplified rendering in colored pencil. For finger rings, the drawings are limited to the shape and design of the shank, with other elements worked out as the piece progresses.” (Images: Sketch and piece “Astonishing Vistas”)I asked Linda to tell us a bit about her style. “I would describe my work as ‘narrative’. My pieces explore the fusion of many elements, for instance, the components, color, process or form, with the stories the objects relate to; each object speaking as a chronicle of connected imagery, symbols, and concepts that reflect an intimate symbology. They are complex and complicated structures that speak on many levels of human experience, especially humanity’s delight in the body-embellished.”
“As a result, mine are multitasking jewels, accessible on more than one level. Each jewel is essentially and intrinsically wearable art…adornment, for without that, they would not be jewels; they would be solely small sculpture in precious metal and gemstones. The engine that drives my creativity is the wearability of my work, and also the narrative quality implicit in the combined elements of each piece.” (Images: Sketch and “Mixed Messages”) “Therefore, there is more to my work than its wearability, however sufficient that aspect is. Aldous Huxley noted that human beings appreciate the transformative quality of stained glass windows, fireworks and gemstones. It is the possibility of that transformation that I hope to bring to the wearer of my jewels. Quite obviously, jewels are costumes; we put on jewelry as an element in which we cloak ourselves. We become the outwardness of the jewels we wear.”
Looking at Linda’s work, it is clear that she draws from a wide range of sources for inspiration. I asked her to let us in on her main influences. “Color, color, color…I’ve always incorporated multiple gemstones in my pieces, to add the vibrancy of color to my work. Recently I have been working on a series that is all about color, using vitreous enamels, and I’m finding that to be very exciting. Some primary influences are: the architectural fantasies of Brodsky and Utkin; the forms and materials of mediaeval reliquaries; the mysteries inherent in the work of William Harper, Keith LoBue and DX Ross; ancient jewels; the curiosities of Morgan Brigg; and science fiction. (Images: “Summer Breeze” and “Syncopator”) Even more central to my work is an appreciation of historical art forms from the ancient Middle East, specifically the Fertile Crescent. The Fertile Crescent is the region in the Middle East which curves, like a quarter-moon shape, from the Persian Gulf, through modern-day southern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and northern Egypt. Sculpture, jewels, written (some untranslated) languages, embellished and decorated ceramics are all influences. I feel connected to the design concepts, not in a whimsical, transmigrational way, but am drawn to the available materials and textures. I feel the same way about Sichuan ancient bronzes and their textural qualities. These interests certainly translate well using metal clay, as well as milled sheet.”
“Certainly DX’s and Harper’s influences are their freedom inherent in their design concepts, and their use of enamels, both of which I have found to be instrumental in encouraging me to break boundaries and add enamels to my work. Keith, well, he’s just Keith, where everything is fair game and nothing can be discounted and nothing can be considered too precious to mess with.”
With such a wide range of influences and some stunning work in her back catalogue, I asked Linda if she has one piece that holds a special place in her heart. “When my son was about five, he drew a caterpillar. When I began to enamel on metal clay, I made a pendant based on his drawing,” she said. Oh how sweet!
Linda uses a wide range of techniques alongside her work with metal clay. “I use the following techniques, each dependent on what an individual piece requires: Die-forming, patination, forging, soldering, chain making, cold connections (I am very fond of riveting), enameling, sawing, engraving, stamping, fold-forming, block printing, engraving etc. For my neckpieces I generally use a simple s-hook clasp normally combined with more elaborate ends to the chains.” (Image: “The Gift”) There are some techniques which she feels are important for anyone working in metal clay to learn. “Stone setting, soldering, sawing, filing and finishing are all important skills to acquire,” she said.
Linda’s pieces are highly desirable and I asked her where she sells her work. “From a period of time when I once did 21 shows a year (four of which were trade/wholesale shows), I am now only exhibiting my work at four shows, The Paradise City Arts Festivals. I am represented by one gallery: The Diana Felber Gallery, in West Stockbridge, MA.”
I asked Linda to tell us more about the amazing body of work that she has just completed. “My love of color has pushed me farther than just the inclusion of gemstones in my work. I have been pushing myself to learn more and more about the use of enamels, and the pendant neckpieces in my current indiegogo campaign, ‘From Drawings to Jewelry’, are prime examples of that investigation.” As the largest global site for fundraisers, Indiegogo helps individuals, groups and non-profits raise money online to make their ideas a reality through crowdfunding. (Image: “This Gathering”)“Here’s how that happened. Since doing the drawings years ago for my book, ‘Roots, Stems, and Branches; A Recollection’, so many of my jewel collectors (and others) have noted the resemblance of those drawings to jewelry, that I finally took a long, hard look at the drawings and realized they were right! It was a nice surprise to me, as I wasn’t thinking about drawing jewelry when I created those images. The artist is always the last to know, right?”
“So, over a year ago I began to explore making jewels based on the drawings, and the result was a long, exhausting, pleasurable, obsessive time at the bench, making ten pendant neckpieces. The cost in time and money was also exhausting and I thought it might be a good idea to try to offset some of the cost by starting a crowdfunding campaign. ‘From Drawings to Jewelry’ is the result of that.” (Image: “Walking Through Ancient Lives”) “As you can see from the images, the drawings, sketchbook pages, and the pendant neckpieces themselves, color is paramount in these pieces. And color for me is enamels. Not resin, not paint, not pigment… just vitreous enamels in all their glorious colors.”
Finally, I asked Linda what she would like to achieve creatively in the future. “At my age, I want only to be able to continue to make (and sell) my work to collectors who ‘get it’” she began. “It would be nice to achieve the credibility that having the work in museum collection affords, but, since the work is designed to be worn, and since museum collected jewels are never worn, I’m rather torn on this issue. Reality Check: I have not been invited to donate my work to museums…that’s a whole other story. I think I would rather continue to see my pieces worn.” So would we Linda!