Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Inspired







Home again, in my safe haven. I’ve never really been a traveler, preferring the reality of my simple surroundings and the four walls of my own imagination. Yet this year I’ve been traveling more than usual as I make my rounds on the show circuit. During these excursions I find myself visiting cities and meeting people (some old friends, some new) who have shared with me their own pearls of wisdom coupled with their very personal talents.

One of the things I’m asked over and over again is: “where do I get my inspiration“. I never quite know how to truthfully answer this question without launching into a very lengthy monologue, which I know, would bore my listener to death. My standard answer has always been “everywhere”. Silently, I’m thinking where DON’T I get my inspiration. That is the easy part, in my opinion, with the real world presenting all the problems on a day-to-day basis. I can walk down the street and see a piece of rusted hardware lying on the street or flip open a fashion magazine and see what the savants are making. I can look out my window and see a leaf gracefully descending with a twist that I can interpret into metal. These visions never cease.

I try not to look around too closely at what other jewelry artists are creating. There is always that fear lurking at the back of my thoughts as to the derivation of THAT idea of mine: where did it come from or was it subconsciously inspired by something I’ve seen someone do? Many times I’ve believed that I created the wheel only to discover that another believer created this particular wheel simultaneously. I’ve always believed that nothing is original, but I can’t stop myself trying, or even looking, for that matter.

The last two shows I did left me truly inspired by others.

Nanci Hersh: An artist, a mother, fellow breast cancer survivor and all around talented creator. She wears many hats and works in many different mediums, which I admire. I loved her utensils, crafted in wire and paper. They appeal to my utilitarian requirements as an artist. I met her when she stayed with me during her recent study at Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY and later visited her in her studio. See her work at Nanci Hersh.

Tom Carlin: Chef extraordinaire. Tom and his wife Geli have been clients of mine since the good old days and only recently did I have the pleasure of visiting Tom’s restaurant to see what he’d done with the historic tavern he acquired 3 years ago. The atmosphere was soothing and elegant, the service kind and efficient yet not intrusive. And the meal, superb. My dinner companions had the broiled sea bass, which was sprinkled with autumn herbs and vegetables. I had the pork roast on the bone and each meal was cooked delicately with flavors subtle yet memorable. The wine list was incredible and we finished our meal with the pear tart. Yum. If you are ever in Gladstone, NJ, I recommend a meal at the Gladstone Tavern.



Charlie Spademan:
I met Charlie in art school at the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA). He was one of those gifted individuals who could fix anything (or jerry rig anything) and whose creative talent runs silent and extremely deep. Recently we met in his studio and he showed me some recent commissions, each one extremely expressive. He is a metalworker, or ironworker, as he calls himself these days. Charlie gifted Lori and I with mock scissors crafted in iron, which he forged for his BangZ Salon Project. His studio is impressive with a hydraulic forge to which he added a vacuum to hold his forging hammers & tips. It is a sight to behold with the hammer blasting bang upon bang and the hot iron moving between the hammers like butter. For some very extreme metalwork, check out Charlie’s website :

My motto: stay inspired, be inspired and live to inspire! It works.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Late Summer TOO late and no later

My dad passed away on July 20th at 9:20 pm, central time. I was scheduled to visit him two days later and even though I changed my departure time, I missed the last opportunity (by 12 hours) to hold his hand and look into his eyes. He was 94 years old and very tired. He could no longer walk and was bed-ridden.

I suppose we all feel we have missed certain opportunities in life as well as had our timing off. Today it is difficult to see the glass half-full because I missed that last chance with my dad.

Last week I lost two other good friends, Fred Goss and Jimmy Moore. It all seems too much and it makes me feel too empty in this survival without them. A year ago Annie Katz. And prior to that my dog Buddy, cats Jessie, Joey & Riley. Sometimes I think they are the lucky ones. I hope I get to see them all again, sitting around in the sky, with a table and chairs made of clouds. Or perhaps a magic carpet. Or we can all meet at sunset on pebble beach.

My dad was a good man. A talented individual with the kindest heart. He was an egg-head who was sometimes out of touch with the world around him, but I loved him dearly.

He had several patents for designs of machinery which tested the durability of rubber for Goodyear. And on his time off, he crafted wood and instilled in me a love for tools and working with my hands. My brother died last year, as well as my sister and both were competent in engineering, I guess it ran through my father in our genes.

I design to make the world a more beautiful place. A place free of heartache and suffering. Not only my own, but of those around me. I want to touch and keep touching by creating things of beauty that reach the heart.









Thursday, July 16, 2009

Suze Orman Disses Jewelry



SHINY PRETTY THINGS

I love it when Suze Orman says “you are denied”. We all need, we all want. That piece of jewelry you’ve been lusting after just got buried in denial.

Suze Orman is smart, funny and quite the actress. Her show is like a bad accident I can’t stop watching. I’m always curious about how to spend money, sock it away or get out of debt. It’s really only a game of monopoly to me, and this whole money thing is a game I never played. But if I did, I’d probably take it more seriously. I originally started making jewelry because I’m such a “jewelry whore”. I used to stare at the renaissance paintings in the Cleveland Museum of Art and stare at the jewelry the subjects were wearing. Where can I get that, I wondered. Later, I figured out I could just make it. I had no idea, however, that it would take over 20 years to become a decent smithy/craftsman.

I’ve been traveling more, doing craft fairs, seeing what the customer has to say about my work since I no longer have a retail store. The response has been terrific and I’m always curious to speak with the other vendors. The last show I did, in Rhinebeck, New York was beautifully organized, executed and featured an incredible array of skilled craftsmen struggling to “survive in this economy”. We all had one thing in common, we want Suze Orman to stop knocking the spending on the jewelry.

I remember when I had my first store in the East Village of NYC during the years 1984 to 1991. I lived and worked in a tiny 250 square foot space which was organized like a small ship. There was a tiny showroom, a tiny studio and a bedroom loft, all on street level. I worked during the day as an office temp and would make the jewelry at night and open the store to the public on the weekends. I survived and created in the sesspool of artistic community. I did whatever it took to survive and create and so did everyone else. Often neighbors and clients would come into my store and hang out, look at the jewelry and leave. In the early days, the only confirmation that I had that my work was any good was the fact that it was stolen. I figured at least someone really WANTED it! (I put an end to theft when I installed a double-cylindar lock on the door and removed the key when someone entered and was held captive. In lieu of costly theft insurance, I simply had a metal pole by my side, but more stories on that another time…) Later, when the work actually began to sell, it wasn’t uncommon for me to hear comments like, “you know, I think I’m going to buy that ring instead of paying my rent this month.” or: “I was on my way out to dinner, but I think I’d like to get that necklace instead. I’ll skip dinner”. I wanted the sale, but my guilt was heavy. Usually I’d try unsuccessfully to talk them out of that.

So I think Suze Orman should shut up and STOP doing her part to kill the economy.. There is such a thing as reward. Simple pleasures. And we all NEED shiny, pretty things. It's a personal health issue.



AND P.S., Suze: How about upgrading your taste in earrings and stop shopping at Kmart?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Treasure o'Mine


Recently I’ve found myself creating some new work that I can’t imagine ever selling. Not because of deep, personal attachment, but because I’m not sure who would ever want to buy it. My marketing technique has mostly been a lack thereof. I firmly believe that there is a market for everything, but when it comes down to what I want to create it is not often associated with what will sell. The creative process possesses a certain amount of magic. There is magic in everything that starts out as an idea and turns into a physical reality, even things that are created in multiples and meant to be mass marketed. However, sometimes I’ll just look at a stone or an object and it will speak to me and touch my soul. It may sit on my bench or shelf for days, months or years and then it will just happen. It has to be completed and finished and put into some form of reality, even if it is MY reality alone.

When I was a child I was fascinated with a small treasure chest that sat at the bottom of a neighbor’s fish tank. It apparently had an oxygen tube attached under the chest that would pulse and emit puffs of air into the treasure chest. Each pulse forced the lid of the little chest to open and close, revealing tiny sparkly booty that was inside: a golden goblet, a string of pearls and a miniscule ruby ring. I would stare at that little treasure chest for hours and wondered why the fish weren’t as fascinated with it as much as I was. I wondered what else could be in that chest.

Years later, in art school I studied Celtic Art and was obsessed with the buried mounds of jewelry that had been discovered. Buried booty. Large amounts of booty. The sinking of the Titanic and the re-claimed pottery and jewelry from its sunken demise. Pirate lore and the folklore of buried, unclaimed treasure. King Tut’s tomb. The Indian Mounds in Ohio that were small hills in rural areas which were the burial grounds of American Indian Tribes. These still captivate and motivate me today to create my own booty. But what will I do with these treasures if they are not to be sold?

I picture myself, 94 years old with a shovel in my feeble hand, digging as deep as I can. I will bury my personal treasure trove, a testament of my obsessive compulsive disorder: one that is to create. (I repeat:) I pray that I am bestowed upon (by the Cosmic Joker ) to have enough predilection prior to my demise that I can draw a map to the time capsule where it is buried and where it rests as hidden treasure that is a monument to the times in which it was created.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Touch the Sky


Shit or get off the pot. Mercury Retrograde. Suspended Belief.

Lofty attitudes lately, and the clock keeps ticking, the big machine keeps clicking.

I keep telling myself (and everyone I know) that these are "challenging times". Let's accentuate the positive, focus on the task at hand. Where does this urge to create come from? It's like a weed that keeps growing, no matter how many times the weed whacker removes it's leaves, never touching the root.

I watched a movie with Cynthia last weekend and was left with two unforgettable quotes:

"Sometimes the things you cannot change, change you forever". Makes me think of cancer.

"Sometimes the worst things that can happen are the most liberating". Makes me think of losing everything, or perhaps, just walking away from it all, into the sunset. A metaphysical death.

And still, the root is not destroyed.

I want to touch the sky.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Left of Center


Time evaporates when I work in my studio. I am suspended in my personal time-warp of activity and fantasy. The repetitive technical tasks ground me and the creativity releases me into a heavenly delight, even for just one moment (until I turn on the news and snap back into reality).

I live in the country now, far from NYC where I was driven, inspired and in a constant state of sensory overload. I worked around the clock, twenty-four seven and had a full social calendar on any given day.

I’ve had many different studios over the years but they were mostly cramped and lacked any direct sunlight which, for a jeweler, is both a necessity and a luxury. I have a studio now that opens out onto a sunny day with cool air and the spring scent of lilacs . Things are very different after 23 years in NYC and my motivations have changed.

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who said to me, “You know, Barbara, your work is really different and unique. But perhaps it’s too different. Did you ever think that if it was more center-of-the-road you might sell more?” I smiled and instantly recalled the 23 years of my professional life spent in New York City: walking into stores carrying a heavy showcase on an extremely humid day and showing my wares…or the time that I got my first order from Barney’s, a rather large order for $15,000 and then having to wait 8 months to get paid and fight for payment while they were “restructuring” their business.

In many ways I’m fortunate that I can design anything in the blink of an eye. I can make the original model and have it manufactured. I can make duplicates and market it for a demographic that might bring sales from a wide range of clientele in a mass market.

This is both a blessing and a curse. I only want to isolate and create what I want to create. My reward is that those who know me and are familiar with my work, understand and appreciate this little-known fact. On a daily basis, the truth is painfully revealed on our planet earth and I am feeling it deeply. Although in the big scheme of things I know I am simply making jewelry yet to me it is more akin to art that finds its way into the hearts, souls and bodies of you, my peeps and peers. My prayer is that you will wear my work with this message in mind. If not, I pray that I am bestowed upon (by the Cosmic Joker ) to have enough predilection prior to my demise that I can draw a map to the time capsule where it is buried and where it rests as hidden treasure that is a monument to the times in which it was created.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Whimsy




WHIMSY:

…an idea that has no immediately obvious reason to exist



Lots of Bad News Lately. People are doing horribly atrocious things like spending other people’s money (and lying about it) and nobody seems to be going out or shopping. Jobs and houses are lost in this war of greed. There is a dull silence as we persevere to understand and regroup our strategies. Even the Oscar fashions seemed so overtly safe, this fear of the unknown permeating every turn.

The weather in upstate NY has been overcast, snowy and icy. I catch my eyes gently hovering above the mounds of dirt that have been recently revealed by the melting snow. I silently will the crocuses to bloom and shout a burst of color into the air and blow fairy dust into my brain.

I too have been battering down the hatchet. I close the doors against the frost and start a fire. I watch the snow gently falling outside and try to force feed my creativity. This bottomless well was dry until a recent visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view the Alexander Calder Jewelry Show. The only thing missing at this exhibition was the vibrant sound of hammers clinking and chiming in unison with the forging of copper and silver against hardened steel.

There was a picture of Calder seated at his anvil: teeth clenched, hammer raised, aimed and ready to attack. Piles of metal rod in the background, with the sun shining upon his anvil. He was living in a realm of bliss, his personal heaven. Suddenly I longed for that state of mind, that peaceful oblivion, that release from the monotony of “feeding the machine”. This was my epiphany: where was my joy in my play? Where, along the way, had I pressurized my spontaneity?

Whimsy is where it’s at. Laughter. Playfulness. A snow day from school. A guilty afternoon in a movie theatre. A jumping up and down joy that brings back the hope from reality. Relief from the immediate and the obvious. I feel the need for F-U-N and a little bit of whimsy, something that has no obvious reason to exist.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Working in Relative Obscurity"

Yesterday was a Beautiful Day, a day when almost anything seems possible . We are broken but we will “pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off” (to quote the new chief) . The heavens, can you hear us? I was not the only one with tears streaming down my face, tears of joy and hope, perhaps a reason to carry on.

And speaking of picking myself up and dusting myself off, something which I’ve been doing for years yet with no understanding of the process or the meaning. The Today Show defined it this morning when they were interviewing Isabel Toledo, an artist and designer who “has worked in relative obscurity for over 25 years”. She is the clothing designer who designed the beautiful “lemongrass yellow” ensemble Michelle Obama wore to her husband’s inauguration yesterday.

“Relative Obscurity” is a term I’d never considered. It brought to mind a gentleman I met in 1996, Huesti. He was very old in 1996, perhaps close to 85. He was a retired railroad mechanic in New Hampshire who I’d been privileged to meet through a fellow metal smith, Alan Perry. Alan was having something made by Huesti that would fit into the clock Alan had been commissioned to make for a private club. We visited Huesti in the fall while the leaves were falling in the little house where he lived with his wife. Upon entering I noticed how small and unassuming he was. As I glanced around I noticed that the first and second floors were filled with clocks: back to back and on top of each other, piles of clocks. Ticking clocks, grandfather clocks and mantel clocks. Seems he liked to repair clocks. Huesti ushered us downstairs to his workshop. We could hardly walk but for a small passageway that wove itself between lathes, vertical drilling machines and other large equipment. I looked up and there was a miniature train track suspended from the ceiling which was at eye level and which I had to duck around. There on two work tables in front of me were model trains, designed and created to scale in stainless steel, silver, nickel and brass. They were magnificent. Each beautifully crafted with brass ornamentation. They worked and hummed around the suspended tracks and rails.

That day I could hardly speak as Alan and I walked down the stone walkway towards the car. Huesti was brilliant and I will never forget this talent who worked in “relative obscurity”. I have always felt simpatico with Huesti, reminding myself that there are millions of talents in this world and across America who work tirelessly, without fame or recognition merely for the passion they experience in what they create. I relate and realize that I also work in relative obscurity, fueled by the passion for which I create. I do not wait for the fame or the fortune, merely I wait for the sun to rise for the next day in which I can create, imagine and transform. Truly this is the defininition of opportunity.

And for this I thank you, my cult following.

Broken

from: 1-14-09

I look around me and what do I see? Immediately I am struck by the silence and fear. I am conscious of “holding on”, a pattern of the attempt to stabilize with the world. That is why I’ve been listening lately to loud Rock and Roll. I go to the gym and work it out while the rockers spit it out. Suits me just fine. Sure, I’m pissed off and I know everyone else is too. Too many lies, broken promises and “bad things happening to good people”. Some days it just gets so hard to see the beauty, but I know it is there. Intellectually, I understand the cycle of life, but emotionally I’m spread pretty thin and one thing is for sure: I’m tired.

In this New Year we have New Promises. I hope they are not broken. I yearn for honest repair and a starting over, even if it is from scratch. I breathe to hear honesty. When the wind howls and the snow falls I see the animals hunting for food and beyond, a beautiful sunset. This is the only sign I have that a regeneration does exist. There is my security.