Artist Profile – Linda Kaye-Moses Interviewed by Julia Rai

1Khaleema Neckpiece 300 dpiLinda Kaye-Moses has been a leading light in the metal clay community since its earliest days. I first encountered her on the Yahoo Metal Clay Group, the original community forum for metal clay artists, which was the go-to place for information and answers before Facebook came along. A regular contributor to the group, Linda’s posts in response to questions were notable by their thorough and considered answers, always based in her personal experience and depth of knowledge. (Image: “Khaleema Neckpiece”)

7THE WAY INI first met her at one of the PMC conferences in the US and when I was setting up the Metal Clay Academy website in 2008, she was one of the first artists I approached for permission to include her work on the site. We met up during her vacation in Cornwall in April 2016 and she showed me some images of her latest body of work which is amazing. She agreed to be the subject of an artist profile for Creative Fire and has given us permission to show you this new work which is really exciting. (Image: “The Way In”)

A studio jeweler, Linda lives in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, USA with her husband Evan who I had the pleasure of meeting when they were in the UK in April. “My husband, art photographer Evan J. Soldinger, and I have been married 39 years,” she told me. “When we met several years before we married, we were both performing folksingers, and we met on a piano bench at a music party, while I was playing a ragtime tune on the piano. He joined in on autoharp and we became instant friends. His thoughts at the time were, ‘she’s a really interesting woman, but she’s wearing too much jewelry!’” She continued, “Evan became a loving stepfather to my daughter and son, Jude Roth and Adam Michael Rothberg. Jude is an actress and screenwriter, who has produced a number of award-winning shorts. Adam is a singer/songwriter who can play anything with strings and keyboard too, with five CDs out and working on a sixth. He also produces and performs on albums for other musicians.” (Images: “A Yodh for Exodus”)1A Yodh for ExodusPendant 1A Yodh for Exodus Brought up in Manhattan and Queens, New York, Linda has been an artist all her life. “I was constantly drawing as a child and when I was seven I drew a collection of women’s hats. I also attended summer camps, beginning when I was four until I was 15, and eagerly participated in their arts and crafts programs, weaving, potting, and just making anything and everything.”

You may be surprised to learn that Linda hasn’t always earned a living from artistic pursuits though. “I was once, during a period of time before jewelry making, a correctional officer counselor in an offender educational training program.” She discovered metal clay very early in its development. “I read Tim McCreight’s first article in 1995 in one of the trade periodicals here in The States, and was intrigued by the potentials inherent in the material,” she explained. “In 1996 Kevin Whitmore (from Rio Grande) demonstrated PMC Standard at the Society of North American Goldsmith’s conference that year, and I was compelled to buy my first package of it.” Her first impressions of it? “I was nothing short of blown away. I knew that it would allow me to add elements to my repertoire and was anxious to bring it home with me and fire it instantly.” (Image: Winter’s Blue Promise Neckpiece”)1Winter's Blue Promise Neckpiece 300 dpiaI asked her what she made first. “I decided I wanted to fire stones in PMC (seemed like a great idea), and having nothing but an old enameling kiln, I made a simple earring, jammed a small sapphire into it, and fired away, kiln-sitting while the kiln heated up and down, opening the door to allow the temp to stabilize, turning the control up and down, praying to the kiln gods, for two and half hours (just to be sure).”

“After that experience, I decided I needed more information (oh yeah!). At the time, I was Head of the Jewelry/Metals Department at a local Art Center, in charge of programming classes, so I call Tim and asked for an instructor of metal clay. Fortunately, Tim was able to arrange for Fred Woell to come teach. Fred’s class was the very first class in PMC to run in The States. I set up the class, filled it to overflowing, with a long waiting list, and scheduled a second class. When I called Tim about finding an instructor for the second class, he invited me to participate in a Master Class, so that I could teach metal clay. And… I was off and running.”

“During the first three years of teaching, I taught 21 classes, all in The States. This was in addition to running the department at the Art Center, plus exhibiting my work at shows!!! However did I survive that???” she laughs. “Around 2001 I curated the first juried exhibition of metal clay in The States, Millennial Metal at The Tendler Gallery at Brookfield Craft Center (Brookfield, CT), where I had been teaching metal clay for around five years.” (Images: “Dreamdance”)1Dreamdance NeckpieceDreamdance in blueAs one of the first metal clay teachers in the world, I asked Linda if she still teaches. “I taught workshop classes from 1996-2015, in art and craft centers and schools in The States and, in 2002, in New Zealand. I have also taught privately in my studio. I will no longer be teaching classes, but if I am asked and I choose to, I will teach metal clay, jewelry fabrication, including soldering privately.” She went on, “I have primarily always taught metal clay in its many aspects, from hollow forms to pendants, from enameling to all kinds of color, from stone setting to all types of texturing etc.” I asked her what she particularly likes about teaching. “The challenges,” she said. “And what am I most uncomfortable with teaching?… the challenges!” she laughed. “I love learning from my students. I love sharing what I know about metal clay and other skills, techniques and materials.”

Linda says she spends an average of about six to eight hours a day, five to six days a week in her studio so I asked her to tell me a bit about her studio space. “I have a full, private, working studio” she explained. “I am a tool acquisitor although I’m currently paring down the collection as I’ve retired from teaching. So my studio is equipped with a full range of equipment and tools needed to make the work I want or need to make.” (Images:“Vashti Nesting Case and Necklace”)
6Vashti Neckpiece 300 dpi 5Vashti Nesting Case and Necklace 300 dpi“One wall is devoted to kilns, one for metal clay, and one for enamelling. I prefer a small enameling kiln, uncomputerized, because I think that using a computer controlled kiln for enameling ‘ages’ the circuit board prematurely… this may or may not be true, but this set-up works for me. On this same wall is my soldering bench and an hydraulic press, along with a series of drawers for storage of tools for all these stations. On the opposite wall is my jewelry fabrication bench, forming bench, and in a u-shape set up, a bench for my flex shafts, dust collector, engraving block. Extending the legs of the ‘u’ is a bench that holds my bench shears, rolling mill, vertical vice and under that is a series of drawers that hold circle cutters, bezel blocks, miscellaneous hardware, and accessories for the flex shafts. Extending along the wall of the fabrication bench is a small reference library for benchtop use, several more sets of drawers, a sink, and a bench for a hotplate and a rotary tumbler. Facing the window in the studio is a set of drawers and a bench for metal clay/enameling work.”

“The sets of drawers I’m mentioning are the kinds of tool drawers one finds at hardware stores (and in use at garage service stations). They are infinitely adjustable and indispensable, holding everything from saw frames to glues to enamels to metal clays to kiln pads, well, everything!” “Along two of the walls is shelving, holding miscellaneous storage, CDs, CD player, books, materials, found objects, etc.” Phew, who wouldn’t love to roam through that lot?! Check out Linda’s video for her Indigogo campaign and get a glimpse of her studio. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrU7VCd2KmQ

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”)4VERNALIA BROOCH & CASE 3Vernalia& chain vessel

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”)sketch1ASTONISHING VISTASI 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”) sketch21MIXED 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”)9SUMMER BREEZE 9SYNCOPATOREven 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”) 8THE GIFTThere 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”)7THIS 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”) 2WALKING 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!

See more of Linda’s work on her website – www.lindakayemoses.com. To contribute to her Indiegogo campaign, visit her page here – www.indiegogo.com/projects/from-drawings-to-jewelry

MCAM 5.1_Page_34_Image_0001Julia Rai is a teacher, writer and artist working in a variety of media. She is the director of the Metal Clay Academy and runs the Cornwall School of Art, Craft and Jewellery. She finds inspiration in science fiction and fantasy and loves a good story where disbelief can be suspended in favour of wonder. Her practical and ultra-organised side is always vying for attention alongside her creative and messy side. Each is trying hard to learn from the other and live in harmony.

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