Patrik Kusek placed 2nd in this years Saul Bell Design Award in the Metal Clay Category. I had a chance to ask him a few questions about his piece and his studio work.
Creative Fire: Can you tell us about the inspiration for your Saul Bell Design Award winning piece?
Patrik Kusek: The piece if part of an ongoing series of work that deals with my mother’s dementia. Molds were made from 18th century plaster cameos called Tour Cameos. I used these to create each of the cameos in the necklace. Tour cameos were collected by Europeans while on their “Grand Tour” As long as 3 years were spent aboard learning about different cultures. I used the Tour Cameos as a metaphor for my mothers life. The fractures and spotty gold represent my mothers memory which is fading away.
CF: Could you have imagined today’s level of metal clay work 10 years ago? Do you think there will be the same level of technical advances in the next 10 years in metal clay art?
PK: I could not have imagined the beautiful work that is made from metal clay today. When I first started using metal clay I could count on one hand the really great metal clay artists. Now we are fortunate enough to have wonderful artists world wide and the new generation is pushing creativity to it’s limits. I don’t think there will be much more advancement in metal clay. There might be smaller achievements but not breakthroughs of the past few years. Metal clay is just a material, and the focus for the future is expressing artistry through the medium of metal clay.
CF: Do you have any advice for a new to metal clay jewellery maker?
PK: Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, we all make mistakes and with metal clay you can always reconstituted, recycle or refine it.
CF: You teach classes on your techniques. Do you have advice for your students about the difference between inspiration and the copying your work.
PK: It’s a thin line to walk sometimes because we encourage our students to copy our work in class but primarily to learn the technique. However they should take the technique and use it to express their own vision. Inspiration is a starting point, a jumping off point to express the idea. A good artist will put there own unique voice into the piece.
CF: What 5 tools do you always have on your bench?
PK: JUST 5????? JoolTool, Dockyard Carving tools, Textures rollers, Water, iPad for music or movies or CNN.
CF: What is your favourite quote?
PK: I don’t really have a favorite. It’s more like my favorite for now…”Commit to Mastery” I like this because it applies to just about any medium. As adults I think we can get too bogged down with being perfect right out of the gate. We need to remind our-self to take our time to really learn the process. If we commit to mastery it becomes a life long process not just a weekend workshop.
CF: If you could spend a day with any artist (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
PK: Picasso, Paris, 1920’s — need I say more?
CF: What’s next for you? (Art shows, lectures, new work….)
PK:I have a couple of videos coming out soon with Interweave. Base metal mosaics and micro mosaics. I love these techniques used in the video they are dramatic yet straightforward.
Thank you Patrik for taking the time to share your responses to our questions. And once again, congratulations on your award. Your design is stunning.
-(especially in children’s use) a person who copies another’s behavior, dress, or ideas -denoting an action, typically a crime, carried out in imitation of another.
“No one likes a copycat”….in fact I’d rather the word was stronger when it comes to artists stealing ideas from artists. Last week we posted a video on FaceBook that started a lot of conversations. Which is EXCELLENT! What a wonderful use of technology to have artists all over the world talking! But will things really change? Will you stop seeing derivatives of artists’ work? “If you copy someone’s else, that is a derivative work. It doesn’t belong in a gallery or showcase and it should not be published anywhere—this includes your website and all social media.” -Sean McCabe (quote from video)
California artist Harriete Estel Berman has written extensively on the topic of copyrights and copycats on her blog: Ask Harriete. “The issues are serious. By our silence, we in the arts and crafts community are cultivating a climate of copycats. Bringing this issue into the open is not going to be popular, but the undercurrents are eroding our economic, ethical and legal boundaries.”
Here are some links to select articles by Harriete. Be an informed artist!
Until awareness gains traction in every “craft corner”, workshop, retail fair, wholesale show, online forum, manufacturer, retailer, designer, internet site, and becomes a public discussion, the copycat thieves will continue as pirates of our work, our ideas, and our content.In the “Age of the Internet” and digital technologies we can no longer go back to the studio and come up with the next idea fast enough. Ideas and images are stolen at the speed of light.
Are you prepared to protect your work?
Do you understand the concepts of Fair Use under Copyright Law?
A guild member takes a workshop, then comes home to show everyone else the workshop’s techniques, tips and tricks.
Guild members distributing copies of handouts that they did not create or own.
A member demos a skill learned in a magazine tutorial.
A guild hires a copycat workshop instructor instead of hiring the original innovator of a skill or technique.
Ironically, all this sharing is usually rationalized as “helping” each other. But with some reflection, this “feel good” cloak of generosity is concealing ethical, legal and moral issues that, in the long run, have an impact on our community.
Has anyone ever purchased your art or craft work and then started copying the original? I’ve seen this issue discussed online. Or people write to me when they find out about unauthorized copies of their work, especially when other people are profiting from their designs. The situation is frustrating and nearly impossible to stop – once it is out of control.
We wanted to catch up Anna since our last interview in MCAM in the Fall of 2013. I can’t believe it was 3 years ago already! Time flies and so many things happened since then. Thanks to Metal Clay Artist Magazine I started teaching in other countries – I travel a lot ever year and meet fantastic people all over the world. I also learned a lot of new, different techniques and refined those I already have been using. Recently I also started creating a permanent collection of my designs (in addition to my one of a kind pieces) using lost wax casting technique for making pieces from hand sculpted metal clay prototypes. This medium still excites me so much! It brings endless possibilities both for hobbyists creating things once in a while and full time businesses.
Tell us how the style of your work has evolved? Where do you get your design inspirations?
I get my inspirations mostly from Nature, but understood in many different ways. Sometimes just straight from it – raw impressions, forms that I simply see during my walks or hiking trips. Trees, flowers, stones… Sometimes I find my inspiration in Nature as seen through “glasses” of ancient cultures – expressed in myths, old tales, folk songs, philosophy. I am also inspired by modern Earth-based religions and sometimes fantasy books. Everything that explores our relation with Nature is my inspiration. Recently I am also taking a little journey inward, seeing myself as a form of a microcosm reflecting Nature. I focus on my emotions, reactions to loss and this intense longing to know the answers I will probably never know. This is still before me – I mostly have a lot of sketches, but I guess that my recent piece “Natura abhorret a vacuo” shows this direction the best.
Generally I feel my style and designs are much more effortless now than there were a few years ago. I focus mostly on what I want to do, what I want to say, rather than how to do that from technical point of view. I see this tendency in whole metal clay community – more and more people are becoming really skilled in metal clay. We know more, we are able to do more. But the thing is that this is the point where real journey and challenges begin. When you can do whatever you have in your mind, then you have to face the question – what do I really WANT to do? How does is it really say “me”? What I want to say through what I do? WHY I am doing this in the first place?
The style and design of your work is very recognizable. How long has it taken you get to the place that your artistic voice is so strong? Honestly I feel that finding your own style is a process which starts far before you even think about actually creating something. It’s like a potential, a seed within you which is nurtured by your upbringing, by things that happen to you, your actions and all things around you. When you start making things – bringing them from your mind into physical plane – it sprouts. For me it felt like the most natural thing in the world – like speaking my mother tongue. I knew since I made my very first piece of jewellery that this is my style. But don’t get me wrong – the fact that you discover your style is only the beginning. This is were years of hard work (and fun!) start. You have to learn to use it in a beautiful, skillful way. Just like we can speak a language just so so, struggling to barely communicate or to create most beautiful, refined poems, saying words straight from your heart. For me it took years, and I feel I still have so much to learn! Exercising your artistic voice is a never-ending, exciting journey. I think that my point is that your style, your designs feel genuine, truthful, only when they come from within you, from who you are, who you are becoming during your whole life, what you actually feel. Otherwise it’s just like trying on masks in a shop. The effect might be pretty, might be interesting, but will never be true.
You teach classes on your techniques. Do you have advice for your students about the difference between inspiration and the copying your work. Funnily, people who try to copy my style or particular pieces are not those who take my classes or even meet me in real life. During my workshops I teach skills, certain techniques which lead every student to creating a piece that is completely different, depending on who they are, what they like, where they are on their journey of creating their strong artistic voice. It’s just amazing to see how varied are pieces made during each of my classes, even though, they are constructed using exactly the same techniques. It’s also super inspiring and humbling for me. A few days ago I came back from United Kingdom, where for the first time I taught a new, two days class, I created this year. I brought some class samples as I usually do, I thought I knew what kind of pieces I might expect from students. But then – it turned out that at the end of the class I saw a whole bunch of pieces I would never even think about in a million years! This is the most rewarding experience both for the teacher and students. That’s why I always give my students time to look at the samples, to think about what they want to make, to plan a design, I encourage them to bring their sketchbooks if they have one. I always say, that spending time on designing, even during the class, is really worth it. You don’t want to spend 23 days working on something that you hate ;) or doesn’t feel right, because it’s completely not you.
Again – I think teaching classes, in a way is similar to language lessons. I am just trying to add some new “words” or, lets say, “grammar constructions” to my student’s vocabulary. They can use them in as many different ways as possible. We are all very different and we came from different places and this is the most beautiful thing to me. But even if you attend classes where you recreate a particular project from beginning to the end, situation is exactly the same. You don’t learn a poem by heart to repeat it over and over in random moments. You learn it because it makes you a more beautiful person. It enriches you. It enables you to maybe create something on your own.
We have noticed that there are imitators of your style. Some people say that it should be considered flattery. What are your thoughts? Ha. That’s a difficult question. On purely intellectual level I believe this is, indeed, a form of flattery. But it doesn’t feel like one at all. Situations when your work is being imitated are simply super stressful, hurtful and disheartening. It feels really unfair, when you know how long was your journey, how much of yourself you put in your work, and then someone just takes superficial, visual layer of it, and recreates it. Just because they are manually skilled, and for some reason they thought it would make them successful in one way or another. In such situations you just wonder if people see the difference at all. I also wonder what a copyist have to feel. I usually choose to believe that maybe they don’t really understand what they are doing. But that’s just me :). I can’t imagine someone consciously choosing copying if they have something to say on their own. It would be just excruciating to hide behind a mask all the time. I also wonder if such situations affect me financially – I won’t pretend – my passion is also my work and source of income. Being copied not only means having your feelings hurt, but also a possible financial loss. I think that copying is not totally bad though – personally I believe it’s ok to learn by copying, if it’s your way of learning, perfecting your skills. But then just don’t publish what you make, and definitely don’t call it your own. It’s as simple as that.
Thank you Anna for taking the time to chat with us! Best wishes on your upcoming classes!
Jeannette Froese LeBlanc is a jewellery artist and the editor of www.cre8tivefire.com. She is definitely “A glass 1/2 full kind of person”! She has learned to enjoy the journey and not solely focus on the destination, which is something her kids taught her. Look down, look around, enjoy where you are.
So often, we are asked if we know of a metal clay teacher in a certain area. All too often, the answer is “no, we don’t.” When this happens, it’s not necessarily because there isn’t a skilled teacher in the area. Instead, there hasn’t been any easy way to keep track of metal clay teachers in many years. Thanks to a joint project between Creative Fire and PMC Connection, metal clay students and teachers now have a much easier way to find each other.
The teacher map on the PMCC site is based on a past project by PMCC president Jennifer Roberts and designer Scott Benton of Cmpreshn, Inc. During the Summer of 2014, Roberts was a member of the Dallas Animal Shelter Commission. Looking for a way to help convince the Dallas City Council to give more money to the shelter, she sought Benton’s help to find a way to prove to the council members that people all over the city used the shelter services more than the council believed. The map at fund- das.org was born and the pair were able to collect and present valuable data to the Dallas City Council about the location of DAS customers and the shelter services they relied on.
“We talked at the time about finding a way to adapt the technology to help put metal clay teachers and students together,” Roberts explained, “but we knew that the teacher map would need some added functionality to really be useful to students looking for teachers.” The new map combines the intuitive map interface of the fund-das site and also allows teachers to list contact information, website addresses, skills taught, certifications and other information. It can also be navigated in a number of ways. Benton, the architect of the map, described one of its key benefits. “Gone are the days of slogging through a list of teachers by state and looking for your city. With our map, you can search by zip code or navigate by using the hand tool and zooming in and out.”
There is an added bonus for teachers, who can list up to five locations. “We know that many teachers work from a home base, but also travel to teach.” By creating one main teacher profile and allowing teachers to list up to five locations within that profile, we can send potential students directly to the resources for those classes away from home. With the ability to edit and delete locations, teachers let students know exactly when and where they will be teaching.
Creating a profile is easy. Head to PMC Connection and get on the map today!
HOWTO MAKE SILVER CHARMS FROM METAL CLAY
By Sue Heaser, Apple Press, 2013.
I always look forward to a new metal clay book from Sue Heaser, but I must admit I had my doubts as to whether the subject of making charms could support an entire tome. It can. In How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay, Heaser gives a superb mini course in metal clay techniques through the medium of charms.
Fifty projects, each with several variations, encompass a wide variety of designs, from tiny books to animals. Techniques used include everything from rolling and cutting clay to molding, sculpting, using resin and coloring the finished product in several ways. I particularly liked Heaser’s techniques for sculpting polymer clay originals then molding them for use with silver clay. For hesitant sculptors, this method avoids the worry of silver clay drying out while working, and it allows for multiples to be molded easily. Each project gives both an exploded diagram and an actual size image of the tiny finished piece. The book also includes a number of ideas on ways to use the finished charms and some simple ways to make bracelets from chain and cord.
Although the subtitle says the book includes instructions for all skill levels, most of the projects are for beginners or early intermediate metal clayers. Teachers will find it a solid resource for introducing metal clay techniques using small amounts of silver clay, while Heaser’s excellent description of techniques will let do-it-yourselfers progress easily. Some of the easier projects make good projects for parties. All in all, this is a truly “charming” book!
METAL CLAY 101 FOR BEADERS
by Kristal Wick, Lark Jewelry and Beading, 2013.
Kristal Wick is a beader who loves metal clay, and this book is her ode to combining the two. Some of the 23 proj- ects emphasize the beading, some the metal clay, but the majority are an integrated balance of the two media. Metal leaves are sewn into a peyote cuff; a silver and resin flower is both toggle and focal element for a tubular herringbone weave lariat.
The techniques section of Metal Clay 101 for Beaders includes metal clay basics, bead stringing tips and bead stitches. While the instructions are clear and well-illustrated, there is a clear expectation that readers are coming from a beading background. In keeping with the emphasis on beading, most of the metal clay projects are basic “roll, texture and cut” designs, sometimes with stacked pieces adhered with paste—or even epoxy—for dimension. I didn’t understand the use of epoxy in several of the pieces when the sections could have been adhered with traditional metal clay techniques. More experienced metal clay artists who are using this book for inspiration may prefer to use more traditional metal clay methods to achieve the looks.
If you’re a beader who wants to incorporate your own findings, focals and accents to your work, you’ll find a wealth of ideas in Wick’s work. Artists who are already familiar with metal clay can find inspiration to accent their work with beading techniques. Everyone will draw inspiration from the lovely gallery of work from well-known metal clay artists such as Jackie Truty and Lorena Angulo.
SILVER CLAY WITH STYLE
By Natalia Colman, Search Press, 2013.
If you enjoy incorporating a variety of jewelry making techniques in your jewelry, then you’ll want to browse through Silver Clay with Style. This book, originally published in the UK in 2011, has 22 silver clay jewelry projects, many of which incorporate techniques such as beading, textiles, wire wrapping and polymer clay. I especially loved her fabric cuff bracelet.
Colman’s designs are clean and modern. She includes four designs for men’s jewelry (although women may find them appealing, too.) The book starts with a solid techniques section which includes a particularly good description of how to achieve a mirror finish. Instructions are clear and extensively illustrated. My favorite section, however, is Colman’s one page chapter on design. Her explanation of deconstructing a frog in order to create a design is a wonderful teaching moment.
This book for advanced beginner to intermediate metal clay artists can inspire the reader to use Colman’s concepts to move into creating original designs.
Since the finest creations are made with the freshest of clay, keeping your clay fresh is critical for a good result. Moisture keeps binder in the clay at its peak performance, allowing you to best texture and join clay in your beautiful creations.
Everyone develops his or her particular way to store clay for the short- or long-term. Here are some tools and processes to know about while you develop yours. Many of these tools can be purchased or homemade.
While Working — Parked Clay Never, never leave your clay out exposed to air while you are working on a creation. Continue reading…
Jewellery artist, metal clay instructor and business owner Kenji von Achen lives in what many of us would regard as the most romantic city in the world, Paris. We’ve been Facebook friends for a long while and I love keeping up with what he’s up to, but interviewing him for this profile was a revelation. He’s had several careers, has an interesting family history and a positive and uplifting attitude to life – and yes, there’s a little bit of romance, so read on and find out more about this charming man.
The youngest of three children, Kenji has two older sisters, one of whom passed away in 2000. His father is German, born in rural Illinois, and his mother is Japanese American, giving him his interesting name. “My pieces are signed just using KENJI,” he explained. “It’s not a ‘Sting’ or ‘Cher’ type of thing, it’s only because nobody ever spells my last name correctly anyway and also because I’m definitely assured that they’ll massacre the pronunciation,” he laughed.
His parents met just after his father left the military during the Korean War. His mother and her family spent three years during the Second World War in captivity. Kenji explained, “They were forced to live in different ‘internment camps’ that were built for Americans of Japanese ancestry. In fact, they were horse stables that were converted into barracks. I don’t know a whole lot about that period of her life as a lot of Japanese Americans don’t really like talking about that period. Over the years I’ve learned a little more about life in the camps but most of that information has only come from reading books and doing research.” Continue reading…