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!