Artist Interview 2012

1. What made you want to become a metalsmith?

Curiosity. That's what gets me every time. Every hobby or trade I have learned as been due to curiosity. Washer breaks down, your curious to find out if you can fix it. Read a book. Fix the washer. You want to build a dog house out of one sheet of plywood. Curiosity has you looking it up online and finding the pattern. Curiosity then has you wondering...I built a dog house, can I build a custom counter/table in my kitchen. Curiosity says yes. Curiosity pushes me, in ever aspect of my life.

So the metalsmithing came from my Hubby gifting me a coin ring he had made. I wanted to know how he did it. Tried it myself and then friends started buying them. That lead me down a whole path of what else can I do with this coin. Once I learned how to work with that metal I started using copper and then silver. The fascination is still there...what else can I do with this metal. 

2. Who or what have you found to be your greatest inspiration and why?

Life. Life is inspiration. From the oddly shaped leaf that fell at your feet on a city sidewalk, to the drops of water that drip off your glass of ice tea onto the tabletop. To the color of lichen on a boulder in Arkansas, to the green sprouts growing in your fall garden. Ideas from friends and family or even movies. I created a bracelet inspired by the movie Atlas Shrugged. There was a bracelet that was given as a gift in the movie. The shape and color of it inspired my own version. The lady that purchased it guessed the movie inspiration as soon as she saw it. Life is full of inspiration if we are living in the moment 100%.

3. How often do you take special request pieces and which piece has been your favorite to create?

I do take special requests but only a few a year. My favorite special request was for a lady who had recently lost a child. I do babyfoot pendants and she was requesting one for a child she had lost. I added wings to the foot prints. That is special. To be included in that loss and memory. That is a hard moment in someone's life, and to be allowed to share in that. It means they trust me with that memory. That is the highest form or approval you can get from another human. High honor.

4. You've also started working with sculpture. Tell me a lil about it.

I started working with sculpture after my daughter saw a feather cuff I had made and asked why I didn't make a big wing with them. Working with big scale is fascinating. To see something large come up and out of your design idea. It's like painting mountains from photos and then getting to see a real mountain in front of your very eyes. Big difference. I love making a big statement. I had no idea how much it would pull on my spirit to create something large scale. You put everything you have into it. Not just physical. You create an emotional attachment to the piece. Your heart is in it.

I ended up with a huge set of angel wings. The wings were all hand hammered out of a reclaimed copper gutter. All hand cut, hammered, shaped and polished. The bust was made from paper mache and pennies. Life size. It's my all time favorite piece I've created on a large scale. 

angel wings created from copper and pennies

5.Which sculpture materials do you prefer more-the copper work or paper?

 I love working with the metal more because it's harder. I mean paper is easy, you soak it in water, it's soft, you do what you do with it and let it dry. Working with metal, your putting time into that piece. Your putting labor. Physical and mental. It's not going to volunteer to give up it's shape. You can't convince it to curl and bend and flow with just water. You have to bring in Fire! You have to bring some force. So by the time you stop, not because your done, your never completely done with a piece, but by the time you stop and decide enough is enough. You have put blood, sweat, tears, and passion into the piece. Metal. There is an amount of pride that goes into being able to make it do as you wish.

6. Which sculptural piece do you feel is your best work so far?

Liwet will always be my favorite work. It was over 100 hours of labor in that winged creation. 46 total feathers each hand cut, shaped, hammered, annealed, forged, and polished. 23 on each wing. Each human cell normally contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46. I did not know that until I finished this sculpture. Creating life in metal. 

7. Which sculptural piece means the most to you?

The Shield Maiden. She represents how I feel. I am woman, I am mother, I am protector, I am friend and lover. I am creative and bold, cautious and loving. Too trusting, I've been the victim and the survivor. I will defend my family, my people, my land today; tomorrow I will embrace them and love and care for them. She is every woman. She is inside each of us.

8. What's it like being a stay-at-home mother and an artist?

It's work. I'm constantly trying to balance my "work" time with being a mom and wife. It is always a bit of a struggle. When I'm out in the studio working I am constantly wondering if I need to do something inside like fix dinner for the family. Did I put those clothes on to wash? Have the clean dishes been put up yet? but then there is also...some times when you have that free time to be an artist- your not in that creative zone. Nothing comes to you, no inspiration, no desire, no passion. So every day is a new day to figure out what to do when. The only reason I get to spend so much time doing my metalwork is because my daughter is old enough to do what she needs regarding her schoolwork and fixing her own meals. My husband helps by being artistic himself. He understands what it is like to get lost for hours in a zone where everything you create is golden. I think non artistic people wouldn't understand that.

9. What's been one of your favorite moments being this combination?

Being able to show my children my metalwork in a magazine. That was the most awesome thing ever! How many parents get to show their children first hand that hard work and passion can get you what you want in life. I wanted in that magazine and I made it happen. I've had several things published now. It is an amazing feeling.

10.What's the most rewarding part of your self-made artistic career?

Being able to be an at home mom and wife is a blessing. Being able to help with bills an even bigger blessing. Having the knowledge that if worse comes to worse, I have skills that I can use to make a living to provide for my family.

It is very impowering as a woman to be able to stand on your own two feet financially. I didn't come from a family that encouraged that. We were supposed to be wives and mothers and stay at home. Not encouraged to go to college or excel in any craft or career. Just marry a good man and let him take care of you. While that sounds nice, it's eye opening when you lose that man. I've been there. No marketable skills, no degree, not able to get anything but minimum wage jobs. I've been homeless with two children. No roof over my head. A job that never covered all the bills. Struggling to survive is no way to live. 

11. When did you begin to work with metal?

There is a story behind every individual. Some long, some short, some wild, some tame. I don't happen to think mine is very impressive but then I lived it and am still going strong so I guess that is something. I am a survivor of emotional and mental abuse from men in my life. I firmly believe that words can hurt you worse than a hand ever could! A bruise will fade, Words will be with you for the rest of your life! I had let myself be reduced to what they believed I was. I have come to learn after being surrounded by some amazing people that truly love me that my value is not in what others think of me, but in what I believe of myself.

I have always been creative. Drawing, Painting, Quilting, Sewing, Photography. Was nothing special to it, just something that came easier than most other things. I've always loved working with my hands, carpentry work, mechanic work, gardening, etc.

In 2009 I walked away from all the negative in my life. Divorced, Started College for the first time at age 37! Single mom with 3 beautiful children. I found out real quick that I could accomplish a lot of things on my own, but also learned that sometimes you have to ask for help. That doesn't mean your not strong enough, it just means your smart enough to lean on the shoulder that is being offered. Two can be stronger than one!

I met Wayne Aug of 2011 and my world changed into this amazingly positive and inspiring eye opening world! He created this beautiful nickel coin ring for me as a surprise and it opened up a world of possibilities! I wanted to know how you could turn an ordinary nickel into something beautiful like that! So he showed me, and it started me on this strange and crazy dream that became Centsations. Created in Sept of 2011.

I started with a simple carpenters hammer, a nickel, and a concrete floor. Created my first ring, and then soon a matching set for Wayne and myself to wear. I was familiar with power tools of all kinds, but not a lot of hands on experience. With a lot of trial and error I learned. Now I use a variety of tools, but still resort to those simple hammer and anvil, concrete floors rarely now. To size rings I used his socket set for the longest time, now I have a ring mandrel. Lots of elbow grease goes into so many of the coin projects. It takes a lot of strength to create the coin designs. The engraving wears out your hands and back. The hammering out rings wears your shoulders out. I work a bit on one thing and then switch to the next. So that by the end of a really busy day I hurt from head to toe, but the beautiful things that lay out before me are so worth it. I love what I do very much! I get inspiration from everything! The tv, the hardware store, other shops creations, magazines, nature! You name it!

Creating this jewelry allows me to express my creative side, but more than that, I hope to one day be able to profit from it to the point that it will be a blessing to my family, allowing me to continue my schooling, help my children with their sports and art interests.

Sharing this craft with my children has been such a delight. I hope this inspires them to try to create more!

I am proud of who I am. I am very proud of how far I have come. I have a ton of people to thank for helping me get to where I am today. But I have to say, my biggest source of encouragement comes from Wayne. He is my biggest delight in all of this. Sharing what he inspired me to create delights me to no end!
I hope I encourage others to try new things and to see the beauty in everything, even ordinary things.

12. How does being a mother affect your work as an artist/metalsmith?

I think being a mother reflects in everything I create. A lot of it is family based, love, connections, earth. Being a mother adds a new layer of emotion in my work that I don't think would be there if I had never been a mom.

13. Do you also participate with local or distant venues or artistic events?

I showcase in the local Art Crawls that Monroe and Ruston have every other month. I showcase once a year in these events. Other events, sometimes I will do trunk sales. This year I was a vendor in the North Louisiana Celtic Festival in Monroe and in the P.L.A.Y. Festival (PeaceLoveArtYoga). I've also been in several Makers' Faires.

14. Which event has been your favorite or most successful?

Successful- depends on how you define that. Most favorite for fun and people- the art crawls. I love going to those as much as I love showcasing new work in them. Successful money wise - now that would have to be the Celtic Festival this year. I sold a lot of work there, really surprised me.

15. What artist(s) do you admire right now and why? Popnicute - Her name is KHARISMA. She works with copper wire, copper sheet and stones. There are so many layers and textures to her work, just fascinates me the way her mind works! Her work is stunning and each one unique and amazing. Her bright personality shines through her work loud and clear.

16. What's the greatest lesson you've learned being a metalsmith/artist?

People are amazing and sad. So many people with so many dreams and no one has ever told them to go for it. Everyone is so afraid to try! Your miserable because you didn't follow your dreams, your miserable being afraid but your not willing to TRY. Failure is a part of life. We have to accept that and learn from it. But we can't let it stop us! Yes you might very well fail. So what. Did you try your best. Good. Then get up and try it again.