15 October 2010

Talk About Blog

I'm part of an amazing group of artists known as the Handmade Division.
Each month, as a collective, we try to answer and/or discuss a particular question.

October's query:
Tell us about yourself:
How did you get to where you are now with your skills?

Oh, where to be begin . . .
I'm a mishmash of education tidbits and largely self taught.
Not exactly Ms. Professional.

Like some others I know,
I began making jewelry as a hobby.
I was a beader.

First a stringer, then learning to wire-wrap,
slowly trying out some hammering techniques,
then moving to a soldering iron and base metal.
Beading was and can still be a complete joy,
but somehow it wasn't quite satisfying.
(BTW, I really need to get that destash shop up and running.)

I went to community college for two years,
getting all the basic subjects out the way and trying to save up some money.
During that time I attended weekly classes
on basic smithing at the community art center.
They have excellent teachers in Raleigh and allow access to the metal studio
space for a nominal fee,
so I was able to practice outside of classes.

Finding I loved it
(though I was admittedly terrible!)
I slowly began collecting my own tools and supplies,
mainly at flea markets and garage sales, and even Craigslist on occasion.
That's right, there are no Fretz hammers around here!
I still have my first hammer and use regularly,
as well as my original vises and anvils.
All pretty banged up,
but efficient, and I think quite charming.

After community college, I attended the College of Design over at NC State.
They didn't offer metals classes,
so I did an inter-institutional program that allowed me to take the smithing classes
at the all girls school down the street.
I studied with Sydney Scherr for one semester.
It was enough to solidify my interest and secure the notion of what I wanted to do with my life.
Sydney, but the way, found my early work "very uninspiring."

I continued taking community center classes for the duration of my university stay.
My actual degree is in "Art and Design."
I did everything from painting to photography to textile design and graphic work.

After graduation I attended classes at Penland
I left early, however.
I'd met and fallen for Keith just a little bit before leaving,
and I was anxious to get home.

I worked in several jewelry stores and beading/supply shops,

until being laid off in early 2008.

What does a girl do in this economy with nothing more than an art degree?
I tried to make mine work on my behalf.
Since the lay-off, I've tried to keep teaching myself and,
through trial and error,
highs and lows,
have gotten where I am . . .

To Rosy.

* * * * *

Read my teammates' answers to October's Talk About on their respective blogs:


  1. AND when you're ready to take students, I'm there, dear artist.

    Pullen is all well and good but I am dying to learn specifics and ask dumb questions without being concerned about the audience (like MUST one use acetylene? Can you just solder with an iron?).

  2. My very first painting professor in my very first oils class told me I was the worst student he had ever had. That I was the only person who had regressed instead of progressed. I thought he was bitter and angry that I stood up for my self and my work on the first day of class (and every day after that), so I walked out mid-semester and kissed his attitude goodbye.

    And then proceeded to paint and paint and paint.

    I've loved reading your path. Keep marching forward sister.

  3. How lucky that you got to go to Penland... maybe we could meet up and do a workshop there together someday.

    xox :)

  4. Things happen for a reason...to where you ended up today...and I'm so glad you did! My technical journey is very similar...with the exception of the classes and working at bead shops. I started with beading and knew for a long time where I wanted to go....silversmithing...was able to get some mentoring in that vein...not enough though....and i move at a snails pace with my technical work...but atleast I'm moving...hope to gain momentum there with more practice! Thanks for sharing! Sue♥

  5. So happy you are where you are now. Your work is incredible. xo

  6. Always love your witt. Thanks for sharing. Amazing photos as well!

  7. Very uninspiring huh? Somehow I just can't imagine you making something uninspiring!
    I love reading all these stories on how we landed where we did :o)

  8. So glad that you took those leaps that got you where you are today!

  9. 'very uninspiring'? seriously? that's just...shocking. i love what you do. keep on truckin.

  10. loved your post, as always, and wonderful to read about your journey to Now~

  11. Jess,
    Your path is the way it was supposed to be. It's an amazing story and you've obviously grown through it all into an amazing woman with a clearly-defined purpose. I've believed in you since day one, you know. Keep up the great work and always believe in yourself.

  12. I still have my first hammer I used to smith with - my dad made it for me!
    I try to keep teaching myself always -the highs and lows are what makes us artists ( i think!)

  13. great post! and fabulous work!!! :D

  14. A great read! Artist Bio is so interesting...

  15. I'm with Sybil. I see the fine work of "teacher" in your near future... =) Seriously.