This is going to be a long post with lots of technical details, so metalsmiths eat your hearts out.
I sought out the residency in Houston (apply now!) so I could gather some new visual information about a big, unfamiliar city. I like to make work about urban infrastructure and my sense of place and my intention was to continue to expand my current series of three dimensional steel jewelry and focus more on drawing and sculptures. I left the residency with something different than I had expected. If you have checked out my website, Facebook page, or especially instagram over the last few months you’ll know what I’m talking about. The current series I’m working on has gotten very gestural and very wearable these days. I do regret not drawing more over the last year, but otherwise I am so incredibly satisfied with what I’m making. Here’s how I got from here to there:
This blog is already full of love for the highway infrastructure in Houston. I made a few pieces like this over the winter that stick to the old style- what I’ve recently named the Perspective Series. Like everyone who has EVER touched silver knows- it tarnishes. And there is this thing that ruins silversmith’s lives called firescale that was, unsurprisingly, ruining my life as well. The copper added to the sterling alloy rises to the surface during heating and leaves ghostly purple spots that get darker and more oppressive as the piece tarnishes. Metalsmiths have different ways of dealing with this. You know. You’re probably a metalsmith. Mine was starting to hurt, and I’ve had enough trouble with tendonitis. New plan. I started experimenting with a sterling alloy called Argentium silver. Argentium has a higher silver content (less copper) and incorporates the element germanium, which with the proper handling forms a lovely white tarnish resistant layer and is completely immune to fire scale. I signed up- but the learning curve is really steep. Like any new material, I had to learn how to handle it. I had some help. I’m still not great with it but I love it.
In the meantime, while I played the learn how to solder Argentium game, I kept at it with the overpasses. The line of the steel wire just didn’t seem like enough information to convey depth, so I asked my friends for help. This residency was amazing for so many different reasons- being around my fellow residents is at the top of the list. Demi encouraged me to push the drama, Delaney encouraged me to experiment with new materials, and Grace gave me sheets of her handmade paper to play with.
These pieces are currently in the “In Residence” show at the HCCC. They are very important to me because they represent the moment of transition. I like these pieces and they do what I want visually, but I had trouble wrapping my head around their longevity and care. Soldering steel is iffy enough and I take a lot of pains to make brittle joints last for what I hope will be a lifetime of hard use. Paper? What happens in the rain? What happens when the steel rusts? What happens when they’re dropped on concrete?
This is enough words for one post. I shall return with part two of the Highway Series Origin Story: “How the Hell Do You Solder Mesh?!”