Monday, July 9, 2012

Back to the USA for 15 Minutes

Saying my intro and thank yous...thanks for the photo Liz!

I was talking with a friend the other day about my SNAG Spotlight talk and afterwards thought it might be cool to share the text from the talk with all of you. I also read on Caitie Sellers blog that she is planning to do the same. (I hope she does, she gave a great talk!) You can read my talk here in its entirety or head over to Flickr to read it with accompanying photos. I created a special Flickr set just for the talk. I know it looks long, but it takes less than 15 minutes to read.

P.S. There may be a few discrepancies between this and the live version of the talk I gave. Also, my grammar and punctuation is probably not totally correct!

Hello, my name is Amy Tavern. I would like to thank Lynette [Andreasen], Tedd [McDonah], and Becky [McDonah] for inviting me to talk today. It is truly an honor and I am very excited to be here. I would also like to thank Pistachios Gallery for making this program possible. Thank you to Susie [Ganch] for the lovely and thoughtful introduction. Your introduction alone is a huge honor and means so much to me. And thanks all of you for being here.

I am a metalsmith and studio jeweler and recently completed a three-year residency at the Penland School of Crafts. My time at Penland was incredible and a truly a remarkable experience.

I began my life at Penland in 1999. I was 25 and had been metalsmithing for about a year. I took a casting class with Heather White Van Stolk and even though I don’t use this technique in my work now, I learned a great deal and still think about and practice many things Heather taught me then. The necklace pictured on the right is the first piece I made at Penland in Heather’s class.

Over the years I have returned to Penland again and again to take classes, to volunteer, to assist and to teach. In 2007 I assisted Raissa Bump and she encouraged me to work on one-of-a-kind pieces. I began making my Line Drawing Series which was a direct response to the structured nature of my production jewelry which had become the focus of my work as a jeweler. I tried to loosen up and work gesturally to create compositions that looked like drawings, paying special attention to negative space, transitional points, and visual movement.

This work revealed to me a desire to create jewelry that was more complicated than the production work I was making. I realized I needed a big change and began considering the Penland resident artist program...

I applied for the residency in the fall of 2008 and was accepted for the 2009-2012 term. I moved to Penland in January of 2009. This is a panoramic view of my studio which I was so fortunate to work in. It’s about 1200 square feet and I believe its size allowed my work to grow because it had the space to grow.

I divided the studio into different areas for different tasks: an office, a place to read and think, tables for works-in-progress, and, of course, my bench. I spent the majority of my time here, but I also spent a lot of time observing the things I like and thinking about why I like them…developing and defining my process became very important to me, something I did not anticipate when I began the program. I found myself asking: “What is my process? How do I make my work? How do I begin new work? How do I generate ideas?

I also asked: “How would I go about answering these questions?” I made lists of what I thought I could do and deliberately worked for the answers. I read a lot and took notes and I wrote about my work daily.

I studied the history of jewelry and looked to the work of contemporary jewelers...these are images of a brooch made in France in the 1630's and a necklace by Dorothea Pruhl.

I studied contemporary art…here are three of my favorites: Nicolas de Stael, Richard Tuttle, and Wolfgang Laib

I took a lot of pictures...I take my camera with me everywhere I go and I organize the images I collect in numerous files on my computer so I can easily refer to them when needed. I am interested in aerial views…

Industrial landscapes…


peeling paint, signs of age...

remnants of things, reminders of the past…

graffiti and street art, layers of history that mark the presence of an individual and a moment in time…

In my studio I arrange collections of objects and ephemera. I believe the things we collect tell a story of our individual histories. For awhile I kept my collections organized with similar things together. Now I curate groups to tell a specific story. This one is about heartbreak...

I like to work outside my medium--I feel it tells me a lot about how I work and what I am interested in and informs my metalwork in ways I could not discover by working in metal alone. It is also an opportunity to use my hands and my mind in a different way.

I embroider. I stitch images form my sketchbook or just work loosely like I am drawing in my sketchbook, only with needle and thread on fabric instead of a pencil on paper.

I displayed works-in-progress on one of the large walls in my studio so I could see them all the time. I felt that I processed the new work every time I walked by both directly and subconsciously.

In 2009 I began my Borderlines series based on aerial views, maps, and negative space…These pieces were a direct response to my Line Drawings. I wanted to move forward by focusing on dimension, planes and angles, and by making negative space positive.

I wanted to create sculptural pieces with an intimate, monumental feel...

I also began working with spray paint…I layered different colors of paint and scratched and drew on the surface with my scribe and files.

I began with simple geometric shapes and once I was comfortable with the paint, I looked to antique motifs for design. This is when I started using the teardrop. I used white a lot in the earlier pieces and then turned to black and bold color over white.

I spent a lot of time making samples as I worked to learn this new material. Eventually, I was able to manipulate spray paint according to all the things I had previously learned.
I also started working with the bow form around this time and wondered where it came from...

I realized it was inspired by this: My grandmother’s brooch…One of the major things I have discovered about my process is the importance of sticking with what I know especially at the beginning. I find that when I begin new work I like to start with something I am familiar with. This is a place where I feel comfortable and I become easily engaged and then usually I become open to new ideas. This brooch has became very important to me as a departure point for design and concept.

Now the work was becoming more dimensional as I started clustering more and more bows together, I also started using fiber for additional texture and color.

My discovery of the bow lead me to question my use of the teardrop. For me it became a symbol of sentiment, happiness, and sorrow.

In 2010 I was Invited to have a solo exhibition at Velvet da Vinci Gallery in November of 2011. I started developing the concept for the show about a year prior.

I began by asking my artist friends where they get their ideas for major bodies of work. Through those conversations I kept coming back to the idea of sticking with what I know...which lead me to my own personal history with jewelry. I thought what do I know better than my own history? Although, I had not thought about it in a deliberate or concrete way before.

I began by thinking about jewelry that I owned and pieces that I had lost or discarded. I compiled a list of the things that were most memorable and therefore significant. I considered these pieces, my memory of them, and the details of their individual stories.

I thought it could be interesting to make work in response to these pieces, to recreate them using my own formal language of shape, line, and color.

The work was divided into two separate but similar groups. The first group was titled “Fabricated Memory: Jewelry Box, 1980.” This group was based on a collection of costume jewelry given to me by my grandmother when I was a child. The jewelry box lived in the toy cabinet in the den at my grandparents’ house and it was my favorite thing to play with. I would take it out of the cupboard, open it up, take out each piece of jewelry, and one by one line them up on the floor. Then I would put them back in the box in a specific way each time. I would repeat this process over and over. The box unfortunately no longer exists, thrown away when my grandparents died.

I was able to save my favorite necklace years ago before the entire box was tossed. I chose this particular piece as the starting point for making the work but chose to not look at it until my new version was complete. I began this piece with a paper model to scale.

Here is the completed piece, titled “Cleopatra.” When I was a child, I liked to wear it draped over my forehead like the Cleopatra I had seen on TV…it was composed of tiers of light blue rhinestones.

This is the actual necklace…and I thought it was the most exquisite thing I had ever seen.

Because the rest of the jewelry no longer existed I had to rely on my memory to recall what they looked like. I tried to remember as many as I could and was able to recall 24 pieces through a series of exercises to jog my memory.

Some pieces came to mind easily with no effort at this Sweater holder, one of my favorites. The original was rather demure--two small bows and a short chain. It had great value to me then so I exaggerated its size to reveal its importance.

A matched set of a green leaf brooch and earrings with fake diamonds…my brooch and earrings are painted and include real diamonds

A set of Aurora Borealis crystal brooches that I remember being quiet heavy and I would always place them together in the jewelry box

I looked at lots of books and page after page of costume jewelry image searches on the internet to try to jog my memory or even find the exact pieces I once had...

A Lavender Pearl necklace made of chipped plastic pearls. I etched real pearls in nitric acid and then spray painted them and scratched the surface to reveal the real pearl underneath. I did this to reference not only how I remember the necklace to be but also to reference the holes in my memory

Some pieces were remembered while driving, just popping into my mind seemingly independent of surroundings or situation...and I had to call a friend to describe them so I would not forget.

I read about memory and listened to podcasts and the thing I found most fascinating was the fact that every time we recall a memory we alter it ever so slightly so over time our memories become a work of fiction. I often wonder how accurate my memory is, if I have made all this up, or embellished, or if my memory is skewed simply because I was so young and have built up the work in a way that is exaggerated.

When I think about these pieces I understand that they may all be completely fabricated no matter how strongly I feel that they did indeed exist once.

The other series “Collected Memories: 1974-Present” is based on my own collection of jewelry…

I began this group by taking pictures of each piece in my own collection of jewelry in my studio with my digital camera and available light. I did not go out of my way for this part of the process, I wanted to use what I already had. As I took the pictures and then once every piece was photographed, I studied my collection and began to see patterns in things I had collected and in the things people had given to me. Important memories of events and people were also revealed as I tried to remember how I acquired each piece.

I used materials I had on hand, things I had been collecting for years, things I had acquired myself and things that were given to me... 

I made work in response to patterns in my collection, like my love of chains. I bought my first chain when I was 14 and still collect them now…

I layered together memories of my jewelry and the materials I chose to work with, pulling together disparate sources into one unified piece...

I made pieces about specific things, like a strand of pearls that belonged to my grandmother...

I looked to my early interest in beadwork...

And my interest in collage...

I thought about people and events and worked intuitively, sometimes making something entirely new and just based in process and material...

I also thought about specific people. This necklace is about my father who has Alzheimer's. I realized as I made this piece that I was trying to immortalize my memories, I was trying to take something abstract and make it into a concrete object I could hold, something that would not allow my to forget in its new physical form.

I had the pleasure of installing the work in late October and to work closely with Mike Holmes and Elizabeth Shypertt. It was a wonderful way to resolve my year long process and to see the work in a new light…and the show itself was the perfect way to draw my residency to a close.

Once again, thank you for being here today. It was my pleasure to share this story with you. Thank you.
Here I am with Jim Cotter after the talk is over. Image by SNAG Photographer, Jewel Clark. You can see more conference pics here.

Thanks for reading.

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