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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wildacres Retreat

I have recently returned from teaching a workshop organized by the Florida Society of Goldsmiths at Wildacres Retreat in North Carolina.  It was a week for metalsmiths and besides me, the instructors were John Cogswell, Betty Helen Longhi, Zachary Noble, Juan Carlos Caballero Perez and Jean Stark.

I don't know about anyone else, but I like to wait a while before I write about an experience.  When the heat or passion of an experience subsides a bit, the memories can become more clear.  Some of the details that helped to create the moment can be understated or left out altogether when recall is attempted in the full tilt boogie giddy-up-go heat of the moment still swirling around.

That all being said, I am going to tell you about the five-day class that I taught at the 2010 Wildacres summer workshop for the West Coast Florida Society of Goldsmiths.  Preparation for the workshop for me was tough, as usual.  I never know where to draw the line.  Invariably I leave something behind that I wish I had remembered to bring.  This time I forgot a sheet of copper that I wanted.  Along with the numerous materials, extra metal supplies and general hand tools, I decided to take my own saw frame, torch, solder and flux.

Check-in at Wildacres was a snap, followed by a wonderful dinner and comfortable accommodations.  The views were extraordinary out over the valley and the temperature cool compared to home.  Next came the orientation and my meeting with students.  I was informed at dinner that two of my students were unable to attend at the last minute, thereby leaving only four students in my class.  In the end it turned out to be really great to have a small class, but at that initial moment my thoughts were screaming "Oh, krieke!"

Unlike most workshops where the objective for the week is to learn something about the manipulation of materials, my class was more about helping the artist identify his own sense of expression.  The workshop was titled 'Finding your own style'.  Once the awareness and goals were identified for each of the students, then we set about identifying the things that could transform expression, that inner voice, into a tangible and solid object so that others might 'see' the artist's voice.

Is this a difficult thing to do?  Oh, don't get me started!  If this were not such a gratifying experience in the end, it would not be worth the initial effort that is required.  I am both thoroughly exhausted and rejuvenated at the end of classes like this one.

Crucial to the success of this sort of venture is trust among those of us in the room.  There is usually an outpouring of all kinds of personal data that we use to home in on our own voices that creates an atmosphere of intimacy in my classes that typically is not found nor required in other workshops.  It is within this special atmosphere that we become aware that not only is there a language for each of us, but we each can have access to it.  All it takes is trust.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

This summer I will be teaching three workshops.  If you have been thinking that you would like to take a vacation and devote a week of your time to full-time work in the studio, this is your chance for a rich experience!  A workshop at a wonderfully staffed art school is a time to re-charge your batteries, meet new friends, learn new techniques, share experiences and practice skills that you already own.  I will be prepared to share with you the insights that I have learned over the last 30-something years in working with metals and other materials.

The first workshop will take place at WildAcres Retreat in Little Switzerland, North Carolina the week of June 27-July 3rd.  This workshop has been organized by the Florida Society of Goldsmiths and I am really looking forward to meeting this group of students.

The second workshop will be held at the Touchstone Center for Crafts in Farmington, PA.  I have not been to this part of Pennsylvania before, the Laurel Highlands in the southwestern part of the state.  The description on their website states that:  'At Touchstone, nature and creative energy combine in harmony to produce a unique synergy not often found. Touchstone is a place for quiet contemplation, for introspection, for a wealth of revelations. Students gather to learn in an atmosphere of friendship and camaraderie. Touchstone has, for over thirty-eight years, been providing adults and children with unique skills and lasting memories...'  I am truly looking forward to the first week of August in Pennsylvania.

The third workshop on my agenda will occur at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN.  This will be a going-home experience for me, because I took my first two workshops in metals at Arrowmont in the early '80's.  They were life-changing experiences for me and I have not looked back since.

One of the main things I teach in my workshops is composition and design, as these have been my strong points from the very beginnings of my career, probably since the age of about seven when I knew I wanted to create things with my hands.   I remember that in the first workshop I ever took at Arrowmont, Eleanor Caldwell told me that my designs were wonderful but my technique was terrible.  I had a lot to learn then, and took up the challenge to learn techniques.   When I met Chuck Evans the following summer at Arrowmont, I knew my life was going to be different from the moment I walked into the room and saw his work because I felt a wonderful resonance with his art and with him, the artist.

When we work with composition and design, some of the concepts we will explore are how one can work with transition from one shape to another, find unity in a single dominating element, work with rhythm and repetition, or find harmony in symmetry and balance.

My personal work is completely hand-fabricated and narrative, relating to my history, including memories of youth, interpretations of days that have been lived, expectations met or denied.  If you have been thinking about taking a workshop this summer, come work with me!  I look forward to meeting you and learning your story.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hi ho everybody, what a year 2009 was for me! It seems like just yesterday that Karen and I were heading out on the road to do another show somewhere. It is, instead, January 3rd, 2010. During this brief respite from Art Fairs, we are enjoying days of non-commitment.

One of the high points of last year for me was my trip to the great state of Alaska in June. I was invited by the Anchorage Museum of Art to teach a workshop in conjunction with the opening of a huge gold exhibition. My workshop was titled 'The Story as Jewel'. It centered primarily on the personal journeys of each individual in the class, their memories and stories being translated into a representative form in metal or other materials. Using this format, the individual became the most important tool. From deciding on exactly what memory to use, how to represent it and even whether or not the individual possessed the skill levels to execute the work or not, these matters all had to be worked out in three busy days.

One of the things that helped me a great deal was a concept that I borrowed from Bob Ebendorf when I attended a workshop with him at Anderson Ranch, Colorado. On the first night, while we were awaiting the arrival of additional workshop members, Bob referred to them as 'family'. He said that 'while we are waiting for a few more members of our family we can do ...' I don't remember what came next. I focused on that moment when I sensed a shift in the dynamics of the group. By labeling us 'family' he had immediately removed all barriers to cohesiveness and unity. We changed from being competitors among a group of strangers to being co-helpers. That was no small feat in a room full of artists who hadn't known one another previously.

So, during my class in Anchorage, while pointing out our many similarities in a nurturing family atmosphere, it was possible to extract from each person those truly unique qualities that make us distinct individuals. The workshop in Alaska went amazingly well! Largely, it was due to the curiosity and receptivity of the students. This was a departure for all of us from the usual jewelry workshop. This was a leap into the great experimental unknown. I thoroughly loved every minute of it! If the resulting works and stories developed by members of the class are any indication, they enjoyed our experiences, as well.

After the workshop ended, I spent another week in Anchorage just being Charles the Tourist. I met people in coffee shops, while walking downtown and while walking on the Alaskan Trail or riding the train. The Alaskan Trail is a walking, hiking, jogging and biking trail that is many miles long and continually in use on the long summer days of more than 18 hours of sunlight.

On the first of July, my friend and Olympic medalist Becky Voris and I hiked to the top of Flattop Mountain. This is the most climbed peak in Anchorage and I am thrilled to have done it! To me, it was a REAL mountain, in every sense of the word. I kept wondering when we were going to break out the rope and spikes. In addition, it rained on the way up, making for slippery footing. 'What am I doing here?' I kept thinking. I am a Southerner from the lower states, for crying out loud! Made it, though.

July 1, 2009: Reached the top of Flattop Mountain about 9:00 pm, and it was still light, of course.

One day I took the train to Seward, which I think is to the southeast of Anchorage. It was a great site-seeing destination. The starting point for the Iditarod sled race is located in Seward. It is also the home of a footrace that is a nearly vertical course up a mountain and back down again. I met one of the contenders as she was practicing doing runs up and down Flattop. Yes, she was literally running on those narrow, steep and rocky trails!

If you are in Anchorage around the first of July, you must attend the Girdwood Forest Fair. It is a crafts fair like none other, set on winding trails through the forest and filled with art, food, entertainment and mosquitoes. Actually, the air was so heavy with Deep Woods Off from the insect candles that I saw not one bug. There were all kinds of foods offered for sale along the trail. I highly recommend the reindeer hotdogs!

The landscape was nothing short of breathtaking wherever I looked and I was especially impressed by the glaciers. Hint...if you are offered glacier ice to eat, first make sure that it does not contain ice worms, because they are very real. I had friends that pointed out the good ice from the bad for me. Also, it helped that they sampled the ice first.

While taking in all this wonderful panorama and enjoying the experiences with new friends, I knew that my time in Alaska was somehow going to manifest itself in my work and in the ways that I approach what I do from that time forward.

In September, I was part of a three-person show in Dawsonville, GA at the Bowen Center for the Arts. The media represented were fiber, ceramics and jewelry/metal. It was a surprisingly cohesive show, given the differences in our individual works and sense of design. What emerged was a commonality that was at once clear to the eye but difficult to articulate. So, I did not try to put my feelings into words. I simply enjoyed the sights of our work.

While doing a show in Gulf Breeze, FL last March, Karen and I visited the Air Force Museum in Pensacola. All my life I have loved flying machines. I think that they are beautiful sitting still on the ground. When they do what flying machines do, they become something awe-inspiring and have always touched my soul. Touring this place, looking at images of the aviators of yesterday touching and being touched by those machines, seeing images of young men and women pilots wearing their achievements with pride, something became clear to me. If I had to define one lone regret in my lifetime, it would be that I did not continue flying after I soloed and had my shirt tail cut off and presented to me. A voice inside me acknowledged that this was a path that I should have taken. Win, loose or draw, I should have gone down that road. But, I turned away.

One of the things that most of my artist peers complain about are the expenses involved in working the art shows that we do every year. In order to cut down on the lodging and food expenses, I decided to purchase a camper to use during the many shows where camping would be possible. I am now the proud owner of a 1985 Volkswagon Vanagon Westfalia. It will sleep four people, has a fridge, stove, sink, running water, electricity and storage. I have dubbed her Moby after the whale. She is large, white and I was able to make a whale of a deal. Presently, she is sitting on the driveway awaiting the arrival of new fuel lines and coolant hose assemblies. I have been pouring over drawings and instructions to familiarize myself with both systems so that I can get started as soon as the parts arrive. The mechanical work will depend, however, on weather conditions where it is not raining or the trmperature is not below freezing. Anybody that wants to help, just grab your thermals and come on!

In the year 2009, my focus on titanium used as forged material grew larger than I had anticipated. Use of the metal quickly opened up new ways of thinking about my present designs and I came up with many new ideas, as well. I found that forging titanium allowed me much greater latitude of expression than I had thought possible. As proof, by sketchbooks are filled with designs that are waiting for the time when they will evolve on my bench. All the while, these new pieces are maintaining their connection with us through the stories that they represent to me.

I will be creating larger works in 2010, as well. These works will be suitable for wall hanging and outdoor placement. Right now, I think that these larger pieces will only be available from my website.

My book of images and stories is still an ongoing endeavor. The book will contain images of works that I have fabricated over the years, accompanied by the stories that brought them forth. In conjunction with the book, I am thinking about developing a recording of me telling the stories, as well. The stories are my form of oral history, after all!

It is simply not possible for me to express the gratitude that I feel toward everyone that has supported me over these many years of creating art. I am so very humbled. The notes, e-mails and phone calls that we have received touch me and leave me speechless. All that I can say to each of you is thank you, thank you, thank you!