Artist Profile: Jennifer Kahn Rich by Julia Rai

This interview appeared in the 2nd anniversary issue of Metal Clay Artist Magazine in 2011.  We loved Jen’s work then and continue to follow her career as a jewellery designer.  (Note: New pieces from 2016 appear at the end of the article along with contact information to see the entire collection.)

MCAM 2.3_Page_37_Image_0003MCAM 2.3_Page_37_Image_0001Jennifer Kahn was born in Miami, Florida and spent her childhood in Marietta, Georgia. At age 10 she moved to Westchester, New York, where she lived until she left to attend the University of Vermont. As she put it, “I seem to have slowly worked my way up the East coast, despite hating the cold!”

MCAM 2.3_Page_37_Image_0002I asked Jen about her earliest creative memory. “My mom would say that it was the way I dressed, mixing colors, patterns, putting outfits together at a very young age. She gave me the freedom to be creative in everything I did. I loved to draw, paint, pretend, decorate things, build forts and create exotic mud stews. I remember making copper jewelry in camp and really loving it.” Jen told me that she always has loved making things and working with her hands but that she didn’t take those activities seriously until she was in college. “I was an English major and wrote poetry, but I didn’t know how those things could have real world applications. I loved my art classes more than anything and my teachers were very encouraging, so I switched to a double major in English and Art. I took every art class available but nothing quite struck me. I knew I liked working small and I most liked the working properties of clay. After working with PMC for a while, I knew I wanted to be a jewelry artist.”

MCAM 2.3_Page_36_Image_0005 MCAM 2.3_Page_36_Image_0004Jen discovered PMC in 2000 during her senior year at the University of Vermont while she was working at the Frog Hollow Gallery in Burlington, VT. “They carried Celie Fago’s amazing jewelry. When she was the featured artist of the month they had a wall of photos of her working with PMC and a display showing a lump of PMC and her finished work. All I could think was, ‘This made that?’ I couldn’t believe such a material existed and it was coming along at a perfect time in my life. I loved the fact that you could work it like clay but that the finished piece was pure silver. I also loved jewelry, so the idea of making my own was very exciting.”

MCAM 2.3_Page_36_Image_0002 MCAM 2.3_Page_36_Image_0001Jen didn’t take to it instantly, though. “Initially I ordered some [PMC] and started working with it in the air, sculpting a little moon. It was drying and cracking before my eyes and the whole experience was very frustrating. I asked my pottery teacher to fire it for me and he was a bit put off [about] using the huge kiln to fire this tiny little cracked moon. I took Celie’s class a few weeks later and learned to work on top of Teflon and under a sheet protector to delay the drying and cracking. The pieces were fired in a small jewelry kiln. By the end of the class I felt confident about working with this strange stuff.”

That experience changed Jen’s life. “Upon graduation I became Celie’s live-in apprentice and teaching assistant and I accompanied her on her travels around the country and abroad,” Jen explained.

MCAM 2.3_Page_35_Image_0003 MCAM 2.3_Page_35_Image_0002I asked Jen what influences her work. “I’m drawn to and inspired by primitive and ancient artifacts and adornment because of the meaning infused into them. These pieces tell stories. They are connected to rituals, history, the land; they carry powers of protection, prosperity. They are culturally rich and full of identity. These days, it’s hard to feel connected, to feel meaning. Everything is so
anonymous and mass-produced. I like the idea of reaching back into time, reaching out into distant lands and pulling those primitive styles forward, adding my voice and giving them a contemporary edge.”

She continued, “I’m fascinated by the way things are put together –patched, hinged, riveted, stitched – and often incorporate such connections in my pieces. I gather inspiration from a pattern on a textile, the texture of a leaf, beautiful, old rusty things. I’m constantly trying to fuse old and new, industrial and natural, urban and ethnic.” Jen cites her Journey Necklace as a good example of her influences.

MCAM 2.3_Page_36_Image_0003Jen does most of her work at a desk in her room. She’s just now setting up a studio space in a spare room for her flex shaft, kiln and torch. “I end up doing a lot of wire work and finishing at the kitchen table by the fire – Vermont winters are long and cold!” Her favourite tool isn’t much of a surprise: “Celie’s Nesting Tube Set! She makes a set of brass tubes in eight different sizes that all telescope on a beautiful spiral holder,” Jen explains. The tubes are used for cutting holes or small clay circles.

Her creative process is interesting and she sketches out designs whenever inspiration strikes. “I keep a few sketchbooks. I’ll start one and too much time will pass so I’ll start another, and before I know it I have three half-used books sitting around. More often I’m sketching on the back of receipts or envelopes. My sketchbooks aren’t organized at all. I guess I think of them chronologically and can find things that way.” “Some ideas spring from designs I’ve made already. I like to take [existing] pieces that I make in new directions. When I need inspiration I search the web and through books on ancient and ethnic jewelry. I also flip through fashion magazines. Sometimes an idea will just come to me while I’m driving or as I’m falling asleep. I’ll do a quick sketch and try it out the next time I work.”

MCAM 2.3_Page_35_Image_0001She uses several different techniques in her work. “I use wire work – lots of bead wraps. I love stitching with wire and making metal clay bases for things I can add wire to. I also love riveting.” I asked her what other skills she felt were important for metal clay artists to develop. “Basic metalworking skills: fusing, soldering, cold connections. The more skills you pick up, the more complex your jewelry will become.”

I asked Jen what advice she would give someone who is new to metal clay. “Well, this really is a tip for any artist. Celie told me early on that it’s important that every part of a piece has been thought about. She would say that the back is another opportunity for creativity. For this reason, many of my pieces are reversible. It is a joy to watch people turn my pieces over and be surprised by the other side.” Her necklace with nine large, bezel-set Chinese turquoise cabochons is a perfect example; the backs of the settings are as beautiful as the fronts. I asked her how she constructed this impressive piece. “All the stones were set after firing. The backs of the settings were textured and the bezel walls were made with PMC Sheet. I made the settings 118% bigger than the finished size so that the stones would fit right in after firing. Then I set them as a metalsmith would with a bezel pusher and a burnisher.”

MCAM 2.3_Page_35_Image_0004Jen’s work has appeared in several prestigious publications. “I wrote several articles on setting stones in PMC after firing, followed by a chapter on that subject for Tim McCreight’s book PMC Technic. I was so honored to be a part of that! I also have work in Tim’s book PMC Decade and in Robert Dancik’s Amulets and Talismans. Last year I wrote a chapter on fabric earrings for a Lark book [by Marthe Le Van] called Stitched Jewels and my work was on the cover!” Jen also has won a couple of awards. “In 2003 I won second place in a national juried exhibit by Fred Woell called ‘Positively Precious Metal Clay’.

jk2

She sells her work through several venues. “I have an Etsy shop and I sell my work at an outdoor Artist Market in Burlington on Saturdays from May through October. I also have my work in a lovely accessory boutique in Burlington called Trinket and I do a few local holiday craft shows and trunk shows.” I asked her what tips she had for artists who want to sell their work in the same way. “If you’re selling online, take fab photos. If you’re selling at a craft show, find or make great displays that jive with your work. And for selling in shops, approach shops/galleries very professionally and creatively. Remember, every part of everything is an opportunity to be creative! Use letterhead with an image of your jewelry on it. If you’re delivering work in a box, make the box beautiful. These are all chances to show how passionate and how good you are and to impress that on people.”

jkFor more information about Jen and to see more of her work, visit her web site at www.jenniferkahnjewelry.com or her Etsy shop at www.jenkahn.etsy.com.

 

 

 

Julia Rai iMCAM 5.1_Page_34_Image_0001s 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.

 

Artist Profile-Kathy Van Kleeck by Julia Rai

Kathy Van Kleeck“I was born and raised in Florida, a very suburban, milquetoast, upbringing,” Kathy says. “Considering that upbringing, I find my aesthetic a miraculous transformation and am deeply grateful that I somehow managed to transcend suburbia,” she smiles. “I call my style of jewellery Urban Primitive. It took years to get that dialed in, but I think it perfectly describes my work.”

6, moon goddess kathy van kleeckImage: “Moon Goddess” by Kathy Van Kleeck. Fine silver PMC3 and BronzClay, hand-hewn lapis lazuli nuggets, artisan lampwork glass by Barbara Metzger on leather cord. Metal clays were oxidized straight out of the kiln and not polished or tumbled.

She’s been creative from an early age. “There’s the really early mud pie phase, but my first efforts at actually making something would be when I was about six or seven and my grandmother taught me to sew on her Singer treadle sewing machine. Not sure how I reached the treadle, but I’ve been sewing ever since. I was hell bent on becoming a fashion designer. Now I’m relieved that never happened and I still enjoy making my own clothes.”

She continued, “I was pushing 40 when I began making and selling my jewellery. Before that, my resume reads like a novella. I worked in clothing retail, was a department store buyer at 19 and assistant manager of a mall store boutique at 21, then moved on to more clerical work, working in offices, then banks and real estate lending. My favourite job title was File Librarian for the Medicaid Billing System for the State of Florida … talk about a paper pusher! I’m a firm believer it’s never too late to discover and follow your bliss.”

Kathy considers herself to be a designer/maker rather than a jeweller. She lives in Gainesville, Florida with her husband. “Dave and I will have been married for 36 years in July 2016. We currently share our home with one senior citizen kitty, 18 year old Miss Zoe. Last year we bought a classic mid-century, concrete block and terrazzo floors ‘atomic ranch’. It’s an east/west orientation and has the most wonderful morning and afternoon light, perfect for leisurely mornings sipping tea and reading the NY Times.”

Her work is so unique, I asked her what her main influences are. “It kind of depends on what I’m making. My more minimal CORE body of work tends to be inspired by patterns in nature and clothing. Repetition of form is a regular theme in my work. How many ways can I use just one element? And in clothing, I’m kind of obsessed with a whole genre of European and Japanese designers whose work is raw and somewhat avant-garde.”

“I get a regular dose of inspirational juice via the designers I follow on Instagram and Pinterest like Jaga Buyan (http://www.jagabuyan.com/), Kapital (http://kapital.jp/, Yohji Yamamoto (http://www.yohjiyamamoto.co.jp/en/), Marc le Bihan (http://www.marc-lebihan.com/), Avant Toi (http://www.avant-toi.it/), Rundholz (http://www.studiorundholz.com/).”

“My Urban Primitive work is inspired by the ornament of ancient cultures of the South Pacific, Oceania and South America as well as Japanese folk potters. And for general visual juice, the NY Times Style magazine and the Wall Street Journal monthly magazine always have at least one little inspiring bit of something.” I asked Kathy which of her pieces she feels reflect these influences best. “My ‘Stacked Cubes’ necklace is an excellent example of the clothing/repetition inspirations and ‘Aegean Muse’ very much speaks to the Oceania/tribal influences.”

3,stacked cubes kathy van kleeckImage: “Stacked Cubes” by Kathy Van Kleeck. Hadar’s low shrinkage steel and BronzClay on hand-plied linen cord with fossilized bone fragments.
4, aegean muse kathy van kleeck
Image: “Aegean Muse” by Kathy Van Kleeck. Fine silver PMC3 with assorted gems and artifacts.

Like many of her contemporaries, Kathy first heard about metal clay in the article in Ornament Magazine in the 1990’s. “I can honestly say that article changed my life,” she explained. “It was about the first group of makers with Tim McCreight at the helm, set up for a week or so by Mitsubishi at Haystack School in Maine.

Coming from a clay and pottery background and having no real interest in traditional metalsmithing or fabrication, it was literally a dream come true.” “My clay background was immensely helpful – no fear of kilns! Late ’97, I bought a 100 gram lump of original PMC, hauled out my clay tools and dove in with a tiny clay test kiln with manual controls that I rigged up with a digital pyrometer. I had to watch the temperature and dial down the controls until I could get it to hold at 1650 for the 2 hours. Tedious, but that was long before there were any small, affordable digital kilns. I think the first things I made were some dangly bits for earrings and beaded necklaces.”

1, first metal clay earrings kathy van kleeck 2,mixed beaded necklace kathy van kleeckImages: First metal clay earrings and mixed beaded necklace by Kathy Van Kleeck.
She went on, “I was a founding member of the PMC Guild, got my PMC Certification soon after it began and used to teach quite a bit. I was the first person to teach metal clay workshops at the John C Campbell Folk School in NC as well as the long running ArtFest retreat in WA.”

“I loved sharing the excitement of my beloved metal clay. It was like being a wizard and sharing alchemical secrets. My interest in teaching waned once all the different types of certification started happening and metal clay began to catch on. It was becoming too competitive and I turned to the quiet of my studio and being a maker. I’m often asked if I teach and still think about diving back in. I’m just not sure what I could share that would be new or inspiring. I’d love to hear any feedback or ideas your readers might have.”

She continued, “My way of working with metal clay is decidedly different from most of what I see online in the forums and in publications. In the earliest days, I dove into testing the limits of metal clay using the techniques of my handbuilding clay background. I created elaborate constructs, like the ‘Scabbard Pendant’ made from fine silver PMC+ and 24k gold; holes in the lid are the result of diamonds burning up in the kiln. I found out about a week later that diamonds start to burn up around 1250F. What I initially perceived as a disaster worked out nicely as it allows a peep into the locket!”

8a, scabbard pendant kathy van kleeck 8b, scabbard pendant detail kathy van kleeckImage “Scabbard Pendant” by Kathy Van Kleeck
“A few years later I made my ‘Fairy Box’ made using PMC3 with a white beach glass knob and glass frit accents. The silver fumes the white glass, turning it amber in the firing.”

9, fairy box kathy van kleeckImage: “Fairy Box” by Kathy Van Kleeck

“These are what I think of as my fancy, ‘look at what I can do’ show pieces. Each new version of metal clay allowed an expansion of techniques and experiments which led to my jewellery getting more and more elaborate as in my ‘Vertebrae’ collar.” This is PMC3 and white beach glass fumed by the silver, recycled glass beads wrapped with PMC3 strips, and the pendant is beach glass and glass frit. It’s all lashed together with linen.”

10, glass vertebrae kathy van kleeckImage: “Glass Vertebrae” by Kathy Van Kleeck
“Then I reached what felt like maximum capacity in my work. I had begun to see things that I wanted to translate into my jewellery, especially difficult since a great source of inspiration was world music videos. I mean really, how would I go about translating the feeling I got from those videos into jewellery? But those videos had a look and feel that I wanted in my work. Two in particular, Juno Reactor’s ‘God is God’ (https://youtu.be/v8LY2VgiikE) and Gjallarhorn’s ‘Suvetar’ (https://youtu.be/-e_7C99bOgU) were pivotal in helping me identify the style I was aiming for.”

“In August of ’05, with family visiting, I was out of the studio for several weeks. When I went back to work, something clicked and everything changed. Layers of complexity were peeled back and I started making components that were as minimal as possible, which led to my signature piece, ‘Coin Necklace’ using PMC3 and silk cord.”

11, coin necklace  kathy van kleeckImage: “Coin Necklace” by Kathy Van Kleeck
12, rustic portal kathy van kleeck“I wanted to celebrate the clay, not hide it. I wanted someone to look at a piece and see my fingerprints, the edges that had been nudged and smushed, the smeared openings where the clay had been pierced. I wanted them to look at the piece and know it was different, created in the magical, alchemical way of metal clay. This ‘rustic portal’ component sums up everything I love about metal clay. “

I asked Kathy about her creative space. “My studio is in my home,” she began. “I work at all hours and whenever inspiration strikes which would make having an outside studio less than ideal. I tend to be a neat freak when I’m not working. But in the midst of creating a new piece or series my worktable can look like an explosion went off. I’m in my studio most week days. I start off with my mondo mug of PG Tips, getting caught up on emails and a bit of social media and then try to be working by 10. I’ll work until it’s time to start dinner, usually around 5. I try to take weekends off with my husband, but if I’ve got a big order or a show in the queue, I’ve been known to work 12 or 14 hours a day for the duration until I’m done.”

5, worktable kathy van kleeckImage: My 8’ long worktable, scavenged from an old elementary school where I rented studio space in 1994

13, thoughts made real kathy van kleeck

The nature of Kathy’s work is pretty organic so I was interested in how much planning goes into each piece. “I sketch a bit, but not much. I’m more likely to write descriptions of ideas with very rough sketches. In addition to bigger focal elements, I like to make a whole bunch of components, lots and lots of the same element. My CORE group of work is all about repetition of form and it’s always a joy to sit at my worktable working out all the ways an element can be used.”

“For the Urban Primitive pieces, I sit down to my worktable, see where my gaze lands and start pulling out gems and artifacts and bits and bobs. It feels very much like composing through improvisation. I assemble my palette and let intuition guide me. The completed piece is always a delightful surprise.”

As such a lover of metal clay, I asked Kathy if she used any other techniques in her work. “I do utilize some silver smithing skills, mostly very simple soldering with a butane torch and easy solder paste,” she explained. “I make all my own findings, ear wires and clasps. My variation on the “S” hook is forged and soldered. And cord, golly do I love making cord. I’ve taught myself how to ply cord into various thicknesses in lengths up to 6’ or 8’ and, via YouTube, how to braid 3 and 5 loop cords. The loop braided cords are time consuming and the length is limited by my arm span, not much as I’m 5’2”, but they are complex and lovely and a nice complement to my more minimal pieces. The cords in combination with hand cut leather and stitching provide a beautiful, earthy element to the work.”

I asked Kathy if she had a particular piece of work that really means something to her. “I remember the first big piece I sold. It was called ‘Le Monde’. It was a statement piece of graduated, highly textured original PMC beads alternating with artisan lampwork glass Basha beads by Barbara Metzger and Rory Ross’ raku beads. I was at a really teeny local craft show and had the piece with me, basically for show. A couple I knew, well known collectors and art patrons, wanted to buy it. I was stunned. ‘How much was it?’ Uhhhh, $800? SOLD! I packaged the piece up, sent the lovely couple on their way and then promptly burst into tears. I felt like I had truly arrived.”

7, le monde kathy van kleeckImage: “Le Monde” by Kathy Van Kleeck

I asked Kathy to tell me a bit more about where she sells her work. “At first, I sold my jewellery at juried craft fairs and wholesale to small galleries and women’s boutiques,” she explained. “In ’06 I designed a lovely little wholesale collection and connected with a team of sales reps. Through what was then the Gift Show circuit, they got my work into museum stores like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Seattle Art Museum and high-end craft galleries like Real Mother Goose in Portland, OR and the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite.

I’m really proud of the fact that at one point I had close to 50 wholesale accounts, all done by me, all fine silver PMC. I supported our family and put my husband through his first librarian certificate degree with my jewellery. These days, I have a couple of galleries that I still work with, but now I sell my work mostly through my own website.”
landscape rings kathy van kleeck
landscape trio 3 kathy van kleeckImages: “Landscape Rings” and “Landscape trio 3” by Kathy Van Kleeck

I asked Kathy what she is currently working on. “Interesting thing, this question and it’s got me quite gummed up. I’ve been developing a new group of jewellery with the working moniker of Bare Bones, looking to the ornament of very primitive cultures for inspiration and how to loosen up my already minimal work, make things less pristine. I’m exploring how I can further deconstruct what I do, make it less refined, almost crude, but still wearable and durable. I thought I was moving right along on this recent track, but deciding on an image to share stopped me dead. I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of tweaking, more exploration and revisiting some themes of past work.”

“Whatever I do next, it will be the most authentic expression of my aesthetic to date and since it’s all still very much in my head, I don’t have any images to share. As of right this moment, the ideas feel very fresh and exciting, making me want to step immediately away from this keyboard and get to work!”

She went on, “PMC3 remains my favourite metal clay as it allows me to work very dry, folding and layering components till they barely hold together. To a lesser degree, I also use BronzClay and Hadar’s Steel. I’d like to do some larger, focal pieces in combination with other mediums. Right now, concrete is calling to me and maybe fused glass or eco resin or some combination of all of the above mediums and metal clays. A lot of what I do is pretty minimal and rustic. I want to go even further with that, in the vein of “art brut”, create work that is raw, but full of heart and life, work that is stripped to the absolute and essential core, but fully resolved and engaging.”

ruby landscape ring kathy van kleeckImage: “Ruby Landscape Ring” by Kathy Van Kleeck. Sterling PMC, patina is straight out of the kiln and a result of how it was situated in the charcoal. The intention is for the ring to develop a “personal patina” as the ring is worn over time, polishing is not encouraged.
Finally I asked her where she sees her work going in the next five years or so. “I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer set long range goals. Through my 20 + years of making jewellery, lots of goals and aspirations have come and gone, many have been met, others have lost their significance or priority. An example, for years I was a huge fan of Ornament Magazine and had visions of being on the cover. But a few years ago that shifted, I gave away my huge magazine archive, dropped my subscription and now rarely buy the magazine.”

“Ultimately, I will always be a maker, working with my hands and creating, staying open to new things and new avenues of expression. I hope that whatever I make, along with the intentions of love and respect I put into everything I do, will be well received. I’m enormously grateful that my maker’s journey continues, no end in sight.”

To see more of Kathy’s work, visit her website http://www.kathyvankleeck.com/

12347681_10154340055124045_4667653997826735386_nInterview Author: JULIA 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.

Artist Profile: Véronique Roy Interviewd by Julia Rai

Honeycomb necklace 2

I was introduced to the work of Canadian artist Véronique Roy by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc and as soon as I saw her pieces, I knew this would be an interesting article. There is a simplicity and purity about her work that is so attractive, I really looked forward to learning more about her. Veronique was brought up in Montreal and now lives in a small village in the Laurentians which is a mountainous region in Québec, Canada.

“I consider myself as a creator, a maker and a jeweller. Also a businesswoman!” she told me. Her studio even has a name! “I work from a small workshop on the edge of the forest, in my backyard. To get there, I have to cross a little stream that runs through the land. The workshop was built three years ago, with the help of my friends. As my work was encroaching too much on the living space of the house, it was time for a change and to have an exclusive space for Brelokz (the name of my studio).” How cute is this snowy little house, like something out of a fairy tale?Workshop under the snowa

Véronique has always valued her creative side. “Creativity has always accompanied me in how I see life. When I look at things, my eyes capture details that can escape others at a first glance,” she says. “From the beginning, I felt that metal clay would play a central role in my professional development.” I asked her about her first experience with metal clay. “I discovered metal clay almost six years ago. I attended a training course to learn basic silver clay techniques. I immediately fell in love with this somewhat capricious material which allows working in so many different ways. I remember that my first piece (a pendant) was not at all to my taste, but it was a model that was required for certification in the course.”

I find the organic nature of Véronique’s work really aesthetically pleasing. “My creative process can find its initial spark anywhere! Ideas can germinate without my noticing it. Sometimes when I am taking a walk in the forest, or even when I am reading a newspaper article,” she explained. “Nature is my primary source of inspiration. Besides living in a small village in the countryside surrounded by mountains, I also have a personal interest and a formation in herbalism. These played an important role in paving the way to create jewellery from nature’s textures. One day, I was tending to my garden, and saw a tomato leaf wrapped around my finger, which brought a clear image of a leaf ring! Step by step, I started using leaves for my pieces. The four leaf rings are the first pieces that defined my artistic process. I consider them as the basic image that represents my collections. They capture the essence of nature. Simply.”4 Leaf Bronze Rings

“Initially, I started with medicinal plants thanks to the influence of my herbalist background. Then, I started looking for plant textures suitable for the material. Gradually, I evolved towards other materials, always keeping contact with my initial source of inspiration. Honeycombs found their way to my heart and imagination. Oak bark and coral were to follow. I use the materials as simple and pure as possible, without too much transformation, in order to preserve their primary nature. As a result, the essence of nature is captured in metal, eternally.Bark Bracelet
Honeycomb necklace 1
I asked Véronique about her creative process. “When the idea is there, I have to find the source material, and usually make it into a mold. As I only work from organic textures, I have to preserve them to be able to work with them even in winter, when they are buried deep in snow. After the mold is ready, I experiment, try, and test. As soon as I find the form and the finish that I wish to bring out, I go for it. Thus a new collection starts to see the day; quite simply. The process rarely involves designs or notes, but is mainly created in my mind and by taking action. This is also similar to how I live my life. If I have an idea, I have to put it into action as quickly as possible; otherwise, the idea loses its breath and lustre. Living with the passion of the moment!”

Véronique likes to keep her creative process somewhat separate from the rest of her life. “I am in the workshop to for the creation process, whereas I have an office at home for complementary processes such as packing online orders for mail,” she explained. “The workshop is the place where magic takes place, and each piece is created from A to Z. While I try to keep regular weekday work hours, in the period of exhibitions (about 15 shows a year) I usually work double time! You can call me someone organised in chaos, which is clearly reflected in my workspace. Forget the Pinterest image of a well decorated workshop, mine is quite far away from that. I make a big clean-up three times a year (!!!)”Workshop1

I asked Véronique to describe her style. “I like to follow trends from a safe distance as I don’t like them to influence my work. Trends come and go, changing in the blink of an eye, and sometimes enjoying rebirth after many years; whereas I prefer to create by remaining true to myself; thus my pieces remain timeless. I consider my style to be timeless, organic, and even pagan to a degree! Simplicity and beauty of nature is reflected on each piece.”

Véronique uses several other techniques in the production of her work in addition to metal clay. “I make my own earring hooks and rings. I recently started collaborating with a company where I have some of my pieces cast in .925 Sterling Silver. This new way of working allows me to give more time for the creative process while somewhat cutting down on the time required for production. A few pieces of my Oak Bark collection will also be offered in gold as of 2016 summer, thanks to a jeweller working with traditional techniques who helped to open a door for a new path!”

I asked Véronique what she does to relax. “Travel, discovering new places, new faces,” she began. “Last year, I had the chance to visit Costa-Rica. This summer, I intend to visit Turkey, and I dream about visiting Spain next year. This, for me, is a way to open the gates for inspiration and restoring the energy that is somewhat depleted come spring (winters are long in Québec). Therefore, I prepare my backpack and hit the road. I also like to read and go to music shows.” I asked her if she wore her own jewellery when she is travelling, or even day to day. “I love jewellery, I create them, but I only wear small bronze studs,” she laughed.

So where does Véronique see herself going with her jewellery creation? “I would simply like to continue finding inspiration,” she said. “Sometimes, around the month of January, I feel like the well is dried up and I will never have any more ideas! It is winter. The high season of shows has just ended, the excitement has waned, and I feel the need to think about the spring and new collection ideas. I ask myself whether I will be able to find new ideas, and continued inspiration is what I wish with all my heart!” She sells her work in several places. “I sell online, through my Etsy shop. My creations can also be found in several stores that sell works of Canadian creators. And I sell in exhibitions all over Québec and Ontario. I believe that by participating in shows throughout Québec and Ontario, I help demystify this material in the eyes of the public and traditional jewelers. I hope to continue doing this and presenting my creations while introducing the material so that one day people will get to know it better. I see myself continuing to work with this material as long as I have fun doing it, because, above all, it is the pleasure that keeps the passion going!” Absolutely!

Finally, I asked Véronique what she is currently working on. “At present, I am working on my Oak Bark collection as well as a small series of jewellery created from Lilac twigs.”Lilac Twig silver ring

It was such a pleasure to spend a little time getting to know Véronique and I look forward to seeing her new work in the years to come. To find out more about Véronique, visit her here…
www.brelokz.com www.facebook.com/Brelokz.Bijoux

www.instagram.com/brelokz https://www.etsy.com/shop/Brelokz

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JULIA 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.

Artist Profile-Patrik Kusek

 

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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.

2016_SBDA_PatrikKusekIN3 2016_SBDA_PatrikKusekIN2Creative 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.
Reference: To see more about the Saul Bell Design Award and all of the winners and finalists: http://www.saulbellaward.com/Winners/Year/2016

Creative Chat with Artist Anna Mazoń

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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.in_the_eye_of_the_beholder04

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.index

leshy01slavic_tales_autumn_biesGenerally 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?lunula

startled strachy_na_lachyThe 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.

cobalt_faeryYou 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.

index22Again – 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.

golden_roadWe 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.knotted_tree_of_life over_the_waves

Thank you Anna for taking the time to chat with us!  Best wishes on your upcoming classes!

Where to find Anna: http://drakonaria.com/
http://drakonaria.etsy.com/
http://en.dawanda.com/shop/drakonaria

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Kenji von Achen-Interview by Julia Rai

MCAM 5.1_Page_28_Image_0001Jewellery 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.

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My Secret Garden Collection

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…

Artist Profile: Michela Verani by Julia Rai

I’ve known award winning artist Michela Verani for a while now, having first met her at a metal clay conference in the US. She and I share a love of sci-fi and we are also both participating in the metal clay Masters Registry programme so we have lots in common.Verani - Phoenix full necklace

Visitor to the studio1Michela lives in Londonderry, New Hampshire with her furry friends, a dog called Tolliver and a cat called Yang. “Tolliver is a Bouvier des Flandres and Yang is a dumpster kitty,” she explains. “My home is at the end of a dead end dirt road and is surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods and my messy gardens.  Whenever I am at home Tollie and I take a daily walk in the woods.” Continue reading…

Man Up! by Lora Hart

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Steven Tyler at the Dark Shadows Los Angeles Premiere, Chinese Theater, Hollywood, CA 05- 07-12 © Sbukley | Dreamstime.com

Jewelry has been an important element of male style since the first caveman threaded a seashell onto a length of sinew and tied it around his neck. Perceived as a status symbol, a show of wealth, an emblem of strength and power, or simply a decorative adornment, jewelry often defines a man’s character without a word being spoken.

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HENRY VIII IN FULL REGALIA. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File: Henry_VIII_(5)_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger.jpg
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FOULAH TRIBAL JEWELRY & DRESS. Photo: public domain. http://www.allaboutgemstones. com/jewelry_history_primitive_ethnic_tribal.html

From the elaborately bejeweled majesty of Henry VIII to the subdued sophistication of Don Draper’s elegant watches to the menacing headdresses, ankle cuffs and breastplates of an African chieftain to Dave Navarro’s and Steven Tyler’s heavy metal jewelry, men embrace the gold, silver and gemmy goodness of ritualistic adornment just as fervently as their female counterparts.

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Artist Profile – Catherine Witherell by Julia Rai

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California based mixed media maker Catherine Witherell is a self-confessed experimenter who has been creating all her life. “I call myself a ‘Maker’ because I enjoy making things,” she explained with a smile. “I try to stay open about what I make. I don’t stay in one media exclusively. I like to do what I want, when I want. I feel like I’ve done a lot of experimenting and exploring along the way. I get inspiration from many directions. I’m good with my hands.”

imageCatherine’s parents were Hungarian immigrants who escaped the communist takeover of Hungary in 1956. “My first language was Hungarian and although I’m not fluent, I can think in that language and if I hear it being spoken, I always go over to whoever is speaking it, introduce myself and have a conversation. I was raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada until I was 13 years old. In 1970 our family moved to the United States and I attended junior high and high school in California.”

Her earliest memories of being creative began with her father. “He was a drafting engineer who brought my sister and I some vellum and we drew on it with markers, cut things out and decorated our bedroom windows with the pictures. From a very young age I remember coloring with my sister and filling many coloring books together. One Christmas we got a Spirograph set which we fought over! And we loved Play Doh!” she laughs. “Hungarians are artistic people – my father’s sister was a fabric pattern designer.”

I asked Catherine to tell me a bit about her family life now. “My partner is my best friend and the answer to an artists’ dreams!” she began. “We’ve been married for 29 years and he’s very supportive. At this very moment, our youngest flew the nest and went off to live at his new college to study Computer Science,” she said.  “I have mixed feelings of course because he’s been very dear to me the last couple of years and is also a night owl like I am. Often, late past midnight he would come into my studio where we would have deep and also silly conversations that warmed my heart. He tells his friends stories about me and sometimes I find that they add me as a friend on Facebook. It is one of my highest honors.”

She went on, “I have a daughter who just graduated with a double major in Japanese Language and International Political Economics and is now working as an illustrator in the Pacific Northwest. She’s very talented at drawing on a digital pen tablet and also in ink. Her work blows my mind. My home environment has been loving, we are constantly playfully sparring and we practice ‘the snappy comeback’. We’re all comedians and are very close. My husband and I try to support our kids’ aspirations and of course we miss them now that they are young adults on their own.”

Coronation amulet box 1.9MB insideCoronation amulet box 1.3MB copyI asked Catherine to tell me a bit about how she came to be such a prolific maker in so many media. “I studied history and wanted to become a historian when I was in college,” she explained. “I discovered that I was an artist at 20 after taking a weekend course on choosing a life direction where the result was doing anything that involved color, although I didn’t do much until I was 30. After getting married and having two children and turning 40, I decided I had to do something that thrilled me or I would over control my kids and not have a satisfying creative life for myself. It was then I began my practice of doing some art, almost anything, for a few minutes to whatever I could get away with, every single day. At first I had a little 5×7 notebook that I filled with notes and pictures that I cut out of catalogs and magazines.  Continue reading…

Treasures Found Online: New Directions: Powder Metallurgy (Metal Clay) in a Sheet Metal World

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Julia Rai Cityscape Bracelet 4.5cm x 20cm Fine silver clay, photos

An online exhibition showcasing some of the most exemplary work currently being done in metal clay. The exhibition, which was conceived by Susan Silvy and co-curated with Christine Norton, is being hosted on Crafthaus (www.crafthaus.ning.com), a subscription based, juried, online artisan community that is home to many professional artists in all mediums.

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Cindy Miller Tadpole Spoon 6” x 1” Fine silver clay, 24k keum-boo

“One of the biggest obstacles I have had to deal with as a metal clay artist is the widespread misconceptions regarding metal clay,” Silvy explains. Part of the problem is that it was introduced only in the mid-1990s, and in the context of the established media that have been used throughout art jewelry, it is a comparative newborn. “It has been fascinating to watch this material capture the creative imaginations of artists, to see the years of experimentation, and to realize that metal clay is now beginning to reach its stride.” She and Norton wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to showcase some of the best and most inspiring metal clay work to a large audience of other high-level, professional artists.

The concept of the exhibition elicited such a positive response that it is being presented in two parts. The first part ran from April 14 through May 14, 2011. The second part will debut on July 17 and run through August 17 2011. The exhibition includes work from 60 respected metal clay artists that were selected by a jury from among hundreds of entries based on their demonstrated mastery of the medium. The jurors for this show were: Ann Robinson Davis, Jeannette Froese LeBlanc and Gwynne Rukenbrod.

A full-color print catalog of the exhibition was designed by Hallmark artist Sam Cangelosi, all profits went to CERF, the Craft Emergency Relief Fund. “Early on, Jackie Truty and Katie Baum from Art Clay World generously volunteered to support the exhibition by producing a print version at the Metal Clay World Conference. Their support is what really got our adrenaline going, and led Susan and me to come up with a plan to bring a more expanded exhibition into catalog form to support CERF ,” Says Norton.

The exhibition is open to the public and you do not need to be a member of Crafthaus to view it. To view the exhibition, visit www.crafthaus.ning.com/group/powdermetallurgypart1.