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Hi friends! I’ve been working hard over the last few weeks on a big website update. The gallery views have changed, the navigation is cleaner, and…..

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 8.45.49 AM I’ve got an online store, y’all!

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Take a look around and let me know what you think! The store is still a work in progress, and I’ll be updating steadily with new products. Thanks for all the support lately, you guys!

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While living in Houston I had the good fortune to meet and become friends with dozens of super talented metalsmiths. While basking in the glow of their cumulative knowledge one afternoon I shared my problems and hesitations with my work. My friend suggested mesh and I pretty much dropped everything else I was working on… and never picked it back up.

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You know what doesn’t work? Soldering. IMG_0142

What does? Fusing!

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And so began my journey into a brave new world with almost no steel in it. I do not miss the super toxic flux, the odd pickle acid situations, or the endless grinding and filing. IMG_0179

 

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Before and after.

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It’s been a bit of a ride. I started these first pieces in July. Six months seems like kind of a short time to have completely changed my materials, style, and production. I’m still working out the kinks, but damn am I enjoying it. Fusing is the FUNNEST.

If you’re interested, the best way to see what I’m up to is instagram. I post process and inspiration shots almost every day!

Hi friends!

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:

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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.

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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.

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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?!”

Hi friends,

I seem to have shouted the news everywhere but here… on the one place that is SPECIFICALLY FOR SHARING NEWS.

I am moving to Houston to be an artist-in-residence at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft.

Here is an overview of the program from the HCCC’s website:

“The Artist Residency Program is designed to offer time and space for craft artists to focus on their creative work and interact with the public. The program supports emerging, mid-career, and established artists working in all craft media, including but not limited to clay, fiber, glass, metal, wood and mixed media. Museum visitors have the unique opportunity to visit the artists’ studios and watch the artists at work. Interacting with the resident artists is a great way to learn about a range of craft processes and techniques. In turn, the artists receive a unique opportunity to gain exposure, make connections with the Houston community, and help educate the public about craft.”

I found out about my acceptance back in the spring, and have put myself through a long, slow, and somewhat torturous process of acclimating myself to the move. Now I feel as though I am more than ready to go… just sitting on my hands. Part of that process was making this Asheville Necklace. It’s an homage to the place I’ve lived for the last four years-longer than anywhere I’ve settled since childhood. Being the gorgeous, clean, tourist town that it is, Asheville seems to have shed itself of its powerlines, and it’s far too mountainous to have a good central train track. What’s a girl obsessed with urban infrastructure to do? Start making lamp posts, of course!

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This necklace depicts the architecture on Wall Street, a cobblestone avenue in the middle of town, facing East. Those Ashevillans among you may recognize the opposite side of the building best known for hosting the Wig Shop in the middle, the flat iron building on the left, and our beloved Early Girl Eatery on the right. IMG_8733

 

And here is a slideshow of my process, as documented on instagram:

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I now find myself in a raising of funds situation for the big move. I have a project that I’m very proud of in the works for that, to be revealed in the next week or two… but I’m a sucker so here’s a preview:

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It’s not secret that I have a day job as a floral designer and I love the work, though the hours are long. This summer I found myself in the encouraging position of having too much jewelry work, so I took a break from flowers to focus on the studio. Here are a few of the orders I’ve had the pleasure of filling over the last few months:

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Wedding Gift, Sterling Silver. Inspired by the calligraphy insignia on the bride’s stationery.

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Rescue Bird Pendant, Sterling silver.

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St Andrews, Steel & Silver. This sculpture depicts a recognizable landmark in Roanoke, Virginia. Growing up I thought it was Disney World.

Back in July I participated in Costume Drama, an unconventional fashion show here in Asheville, NC. Participants volunteered to make a dress in one of four categories: Paper, Nature, Recycled, or Light. Each dress was modeled on the runway, and the audience voted for their favorites in each category, and from the category winners- Best in Show. The event was a fundraiser for the Asheville Community Theatre and raised over $7,000!

I decided to enter the Light category back in March when the call opened. Out of pure luck the event organizer, Sara Fields, paired me with my model- Amanda Swafford. Is the name familiar? You should google it. Then I started getting attention from the local paper and famous photographers… It was some pressure. I spent all of my free time- over 60 hours- completing this torture chamber of a garment out of soldered copper, steel, tissue paper, glue, wireless LEDs, and 38 batteries. My inspiration was architectural ironwork, Art Deco architecture, and the color palette and textures of Islamic tile work.

The reason it has taken me so long to put this post up is because of the overwhelming number of pictures I’ve accumulated! I was lucky enough to be approached by Morgan Ford for an article in the Asheville Scene (click the link! read the article!) Morgan stopped through my studio a few times during the making of the dress for process shots and put together a fantastic photo shoot at the Asheville Community theatre. Here are her shots:

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Do I look terrified? I think I look terrified.

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The bodice is finished here and I am half done with the skirt. There is a steel skeleton that cinches (with 12g copper of all things) around the waist. I sewed a gauze layer over the skeleton legs and glued hundreds of folded tissue paper petals onto that.

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Amanda is a goddess.

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Morgan worked with Amanda on some long exposures to get this effect.

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I’d also love to thank Amy Day Dougherty at Pi Salon for creating Amanda’s “tree mermaid” hair, and Zach Russell of Makeup at the Grove Arcade.

The day of the show I was asked to participate in a second shoot with Parker J. Pfister. Parker is a force of nature and has a great working relationship with Amanda. I was in awe watching him set up the shoot having never actually seen the dress before. It was an inspiring experience. Here is what he has shared with me:

Paper dress Asheville Paper dress Asheville Paper dress AshevilleDid I mention this dress is made out of a substantial amount of metal and batteries and is cinched onto her body with wire?? This girl spent full minutes in poses that would have pulled my joints out of their sockets, holding perfectly still so Parker could take a long exposure, all the while maintaining the composure of a saint. I am still in awe. Modeling is an athletic endeavor.

When we got to the show, we worked out the lights with the stage manager and took it easy so Amanda could rest. There is no sitting or using the bathroom in that thing. I barely got it onto her with time to get into the audience, shouting instructions at the stage manager for switching the lights on as I left. The skirt lights are illuminated by remote control (generally used for hanging paper lanterns) and I brought no less than three remotes in case one was lost. I kept one, one went to the stage manager, and Amanda held onto the third!

I don’t have a lot of pictures from the runway, except this one by Ruslan Tumash:

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I cried when Amanda walked onto the stage. I cried when I won Best in Show! I will carry this feeling of accomplishment with me for the rest of my life.

I took many, many pictures of the process and shared them on Instagram. Have a look at this slideshow if you’d like to see the whole process, one solder seam at a time.

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One of the most impressive parts of this process was the experience of working with other artists who used my work as their jumping off point. I am used to working by myself and asking the opinion of only one or two trusted confidants (and yes, Matt Smith is my personal Tim Gunn.) With this, I had two photo shoots, a number of experts in hair, makeup, and styling, and most importantly- Amanda. She said a number of times that she was simply “the canvas for my painting,” but she breathed life into my stiff and unweildy garment, leaving for the night with bruises on her hips but never complaining. She wouldn’t accept the portion of my cash prize that I offered her, but I was happy to give her a trinket for her effort:

PeneBraceletI think she earned it, don’t you?

Thank you so much, Sara Fields, for putting in some long hours on this project. I was so glad to support the Asheville Community Theatre. If you would like to see more pictures of the events, and most importantly the OTHER AMAZING DESIGNS!! Check out these galleries:

Parker J. Pfister: http://www.parkerjphoto.com/clients/2013actcd/

Tempus Fugit Design: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.275308675941839.1073741830.174574799348561&type=1

Jocelyn Mathewes Photography: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.664771476869737.1073741826.416980084982212&type=1

Hannah Combs Photography: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.613442372013337.1073741834.144913252199587&type=1

Mignon Petrini Photography: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.534606396599062.1073741841.109291892463850&type=1

I personally recommend seeking out Nature category winner Carly Robbins, as she and her model Cady Barrett are two of my favorite people!

It seems like a few weeks early, but the forsythia says it’s spring.

While I’m here, let me tell you about Polyester Pomegranate– a project I’ve started with my studio-mate, Matt Smith.

We’re collaborating on a line of jewelry, but until then check out our blog where I get all my tangents out. We’ll be doing regular interviews with our artistic friends here in Asheville and keeping up with the scene in our lovely town. Click here to read!