Picture this: It was my last semester in art school as an undergrad. As a "super senior" I had already been taking advanced metals classes and independent studies for years when, bam, I had to take a class with a new professor who wanted to give assignments. WHAT? I didn't want to do assignments! I wanted to follow my own ideas, make a body of work under a unified theme, create my signature style, build my portfolio, get into grad school - not waste my time.
Okay. I'm pretty sure you've got a good idea of my mindset at that moment!
But she had other ideas. She had lived in New York and worked for some big name designer who would keep the team on their toes by starting the day by telling them to design an entire collection around X idea. The example she gave - which I will never forget! - was "Stonehenge whimsical" and as I remember they had to present this new collection by the end of the day.
Sounds crazy, right? Well the version my professor had in mind for us seemed crazier still:
We would each pull a bag from her stash which contained a slip of paper with some words and random scraps of metal. We then had to brainstorm ideas that encompassed these words, use the metal in the bag to physically create and complete a piece, and gather around for "show and tell" at the end of class... all of which had to occur within a three-hour timeframe. Better snap to! The clock is ticking!
The first set of words I got were southern and portrait, so I made these debutante cotillion inspired earrings:
The pieces I made during these sessions looked nothing like the other work I was making and furthermore, I would never dream of wearing half of the stuff I made. (See above earrings!)
Having to put it all together so quickly added an element of stress that just felt unnecessary. I like to think and problem-solve and mull ideas over! That's one of the best parts of the creative process for me!
I also like my pieces to be done well, not just done. (This was obviously before I was properly introduced to the concept of making prototypes!) There was truly nothing about this method that appealed to me.
This dark military-themed pendant was inspired by the words duty and weep:
I did buy some silver ball chain at some point, which would make these look more like the dog tags they are meant to symbolize, but, as stated, I was more concerned with throwing these pieces back into their bags and stashing them away in a box than fully completing them.
Well. I'm sure you've figured out by now, there must be more to this story.
About ten years after I graduated and left the world of assignments behind, I decided I wanted to start dedicating more of my time to making jewelry. I had piles of half-completed pieces and even more sketches of pieces that I had dreamed up, but I wasn't really sure that I wanted to just pick up where I left off, you know?
Things had changed. Living in NYC for a while and being exposed to new influences naturally had an effect on my aesthetic. Finishing up a half-made piece was not exciting and making something based off of a five-year-old sketch seemed like a big step backward. But where to start?
What kinds of materials should I use? What techniques are even the most interesting to me now? What do I even want to make? I literally had too many options and didn't know where to start. If only I had a seed of sorts, a jumping off point.
So I did the unthinkable: I gave my partner a stack of blank cut up notecards and asked him to write down a word on each one.
He folded them in half so I couldn't see them and I put them into a jar. The plan was simple: choose a new word and make a piece inspired by it each time I went to my studio...
And with that, I reached into the jar and the word challenge began!