working on Bruised, Once Broken in my Penland studio
photo by Dana Moore
An important and unexpected part of the last ten years is my fascination with artist process. When I began my Penland residency in 2009 I planned to figure out the details of how and why I make my work. I remember writing in my sketchbook a list of all the ways I might try to figure some stuff out. It included daily drawing, reading about jewelry, writing about my work, and various hands-on, exploratory exercises. I'm not sure where this all came from but I feel like I composed the list by thinking about what I dreamed of doing in the studio and never had time for. Then I started to tackle my plan in a very deliberate way.
One winter in particular, I structured my day with a variety of tasks and followed a routine. I made one-hour pieces and did other time-based exercises. I read books on the history of jewelry and studied the work of contemporary jewelers. I thought about my work and I wrote it all down. I did the same round of activities nearly every day and by the end of the winter and I had tons of information at my finger tips. Then I realized I could use this information to my advantage. I was beginning to discover where my ideas were coming from and why, I understood the basic steps I took each time I made a new piece, and I knew what to do when I felt stuck.
Then process became my "thing." I wrote a memoir-style essay for a magazine about how I began to discover my process and lead Penland's Core Fellows through eight weeks of process during their core seminar. I went on to teach workshops at a number of places from Seattle, WA to Certaldo, Italy. In turn, I realized how much I love seeing how other artists work and truly enjoy helping people discover their own methods. Process has come to have its own identity in my work, too. It is often part of my concept as a ritual or some integral component that I choose to leave exposed.
Every artist has their own unique process, but I believe there are some universal basics. I share my personal experience as a way to guide others and I encourage my students to be open and to try everything. I also tell them some parts will be easy and some will be a struggle. I usually discover more about my own process every time I lead my 3D-sketching exercise or have my students make a list of 50 things that inspire them. I love digging deep and questioning and doing so only serves to make me better at what I do. Thinking back now, I am so excited about all of this and I know that what I found in the last ten years is just the beginning.
paper model for the piece
the completed piece
There are tons of pictures of process on my Flickr page and here are links to process images from I Live Here Now and In Between, my most recent work.
Thanks for reading.