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…
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Catherine’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.”
I 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…
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.
“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.
Alabama Gulf Coast eco-artist Kathleen Nowak Tucci was featured on the cover of the controversial oil-spill issue of Italian Vogue magazine in August 2010. It was the first time an eco-artist’s work had been featured on the cover of a mainstream fashion magazine.
Kathleen has been creating art for 25 years and recently has begun working with recycled bicycle inner tubes. This work with recycled rubber has brought her to the attention of a number of prestigious magazines, such as Vogue Italia (cover!), Marie Claire, Elle Decor, Ornament, and Interior Design, and high-end boutiques and galleries across America. “My work was also recently included in the Smithsonian Craft Show 2011,” she said. “There were 1300 entries and only 120 juried artists.”
Kathleen has always been creative. “I have no choice but to be creative,” she explained. “Even as a child, I always had some art project going. On both sides of my family there were very creative women.” Continue reading…
The first thing that struck me about mixed media artist Gail Crosman Moore’s work was the wonderful organic quality she achieves with the media she employs. From the warm softness of felt to the cool solidity of glass and metal, she captures flowing natural forms in a wonderfully eclectic body of work. Continue reading…
Colouring is in vogue—at least for adults! I couldn’t believe it was a trend at first, but then one day I was colouring with my kids and realized that I’ve coloured in their colouring books for years! It’s a peaceful pastime. Choosing colours and how to shade in areas is fun and good for the soul. Creative people need a way to express themselves every day. Colouring fills that need for so many artists and crafters. Is this trend reconnecting us with simpler times? Is it part of the movement to purge our houses and live with less stuff? Colouring doesn’t require many supplies. It is also a peaceful and meditative activity. Continue reading…
Every once in a while I find artwork that stops me in my tracks. I love it when that happens–it’s a moment when I really feel inspired, full of questions and yet I just want to look and look and look at the artwork. Lori Field’s work stopped me in my tracks a few months ago. I am thrilled to share our interview. (Please note: if you click on an image you can see it full size!) Continue reading…