Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"This is It"

My residency officially ended last week...I wrote "this is it" on a huge piece of paper taped to a wall in my studio when I first moved in and "it," meaning my residency, truly was. It was IT and one of the most remarkable times I have ever experienced. I reread my application recently to remind myself of what I said I would do with my three years. I talked about transitioning from production to one-of-a-kind jewelry, starting a new studio practice, and finding my voice as a studio jeweler. I was happy to realize I did pretty much everything I said I would...and so much more happened, too, more than I ever expected or even imagined.
Variegated Necklace from my Ratio Collection, 2003

I was making production work when I came to the program, and although I loved it, it just wasn't enough. I wanted to make work that was more challenging both technically and conceptually and I wanted to explore how I was going to do that. I am well on my way to defining this for myself now and I use those words because I know this discovery will be life-long, not something I figured out in three years. I believe my residency gave me the tools I need to keep moving forward with my work, to understand it better, to make it stronger.

The unexpected things that happened begin with discovering my fascination with process. I don't remember ever using the word process when talking about my work until I spent some time in this program. Then, rather naturally, I became devoted to the why and how behind my work. It is important to me to understand these things and to be able to speak about it in a simple and clear manner. I often say I wear my heart on my sleeve personally and I believe this is also true in my work. I like sharing all the steps that go into making something and see no reason to keep any of them secret or to talk about my process and my jewelry in a way that is vague or overly intellectual.
lecturing at the Kenan Institute at UNC School of the Arts
photo by Robin Dryer

I am also fortunate for the many teaching and public speaking opportunities that came up over the past three years. I remember the first time I gave my resident PowerPoint presentation during Spring Concentration 2009. I was terribly nervous and afterward I vowed to get better at it. I wanted to be more comfortable and to learn to manage my nerves. I can now give a talk without notes and I am finally beginning to feel like myself up there in front of everyone. (And yes, I still get nervous but nothing like how I used to feel!) My teaching opportunities have been varied and rewarding and I believe I am now a better instructor. I have more experience, skill, and confidence which comes from lots of preparation and practice. I see each experience as a moment to became better and I learn something new every time.
And then there's my work...I can't begin to describe what this residency has done for my jewelry. I am in awe sometimes when I consider what I was making before and what I am making now. I loved what
I did before--I got to make jewelry everyday and I liked my designs. I still get to make jewelry everyday but now it has more depth, it challenges me more, it excites me more...I love it more.
a shadow puppet made during a stressful day preparing for a show
in the first year of my residency

I will be forever grateful to Penland for giving me this precious time.

This really is it.

Thanks for reading.


Lisette said...

congratulations Amy! it's been a revelation watching you through your journey of production artist to educator, and 'jewelry artist'. You've been so inspiring to many of us at ECU and I'm sure the field itself.
Good luck on your future!

Unknown said...

Congratulations! I am very excited to see your next step and love the leap forward in your work.
Truly inspiring - Erin

Amy Tavern said...

Thanks to you both. You are very kind.

Lisette said...

Amy, I hope the quotes around 'jewelry artist' aren't offensive...I use the quotes because I think it's a bit of a cliche/dated term but one very much deserved by you - you are truly in artist in your form...I hope it wasn't a disrespect.

Unknown said...

It's very moving to read this entry. Congratulations!!