April 7, 2010

Material Experimentation

            In my art I strive to push the boundaries of what a specific material can do.  Through trial and error and many discarded attempts, I stretch the possibilities of a material, taking it away from what it was originally intended to do and highlighting its texture, color, and tactile qualities.  Utilizing techniques such as stitching, cutting, folding, stretching, soldering, enameling, forming, dyeing, drawing, and piercing I create wearable pieces that question the historical traditions of metalsmithing as well as paying homage to it through scale and relationship to the body. 

Menacing Enticement.  Hair Ornament.  Copper, Silk, Flocking.  2009.

            Rarely beginning with sketches, I proceed directly to the materials and search out forms, textures, patterns, and color relationships that excite me.  I search out materials that I may or may not have ever worked with before, and play with them until they produce the effect I want.  Each material has its own characteristics and offers up an array of textures, colors, and forms, which I can then choose to employ in the creation of my artwork.  I refuse to be confined to one process or technique, and my excitement and inspiration comes from the discovery of new materials.  My artwork is eclectic and spans numerous material and technical processes.  If I work with a specific material or technique for too long, it begins to feel like a process of constructing, rather than a process of creating.  To avoid this I pick up a different material and begin experimenting with it, finding new ways to bring together this new material with the ones with which I have already been working.  For me, this playful process of stepping back from work I have done previously and starting off in a new direction is a cyclical process that in the end leads to more informed final pieces as well as a greater understanding of the possibilities of materials. 
The majority of my creativity is about letting go, letting the materials speak to me, paying attention to the subtle interactions of materials, colors, and textures, and not trying to control every aspect of a material. 
Experience Contained/Set Free (Detail).  Brooch.  Steel, Copper,  Enamel, Wool.  2008. 

My felt jewelry is a perfect example of this.  Felt is a dense, non-woven fabric produced from compressing wool to interlock the fibers.  Wool fibers have little barbs all along the surface, somewhat like Velcro, and when heat, moisture, and pressure are applied, the fibers latch onto each other, creating a fabric that has no warp or weft.  The longer you apply these factors to the wool, the harder and denser it will become.  Needle felting is done when the fibers are dry using a long pointed needle with barbs on its surface.  When repeatedly pushed in and out of the wool, the barbs interlock the fibers and tighten them.  For example, when I needle-felt I don’t follow a predetermined design but rather I closely observe each piece that I have previously wet-felted and trace with the needle the patterns of the fibers left from the wet-felting process.  While I am aware and conscious of design elements and color relationships, much of my creativity is intuitive and process-driven. 

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