What’s my story? How did I get here? I didn’t go to art school, nope, not even close. (Communications major) I was one of those kids who was always making stuff — I had a big table in my room and two shelves of craft supplies.
I learned to sew at 8 years old, on a little pink and cream Singer sewing machine that I bought myself with money I saved up from my allowance. My first dress, I accidentally sewed the arm hole shut. I got better from there.
There was a cross stitch phase, a jewelry making phase in junior high where I worked almost exclusively with brass fishing swivels (check ‘em out, they are SO cool), and then in college, I got the last spot in a metalsmithing class and fell in I love. I fell hard. My first project that semester was unusable brass silverware and my last project was a gold ring with a sublime design – gold is like butter to work with!
Every birthday, every Christmas, all I wanted was tools. Metalsmithing was *hard* and I had something to prove.
For years my motto was:
I kept at it, even after having children. Here’s me, trying to work, but the baby needed me and wouldn’t let me work, so I put her in the sling carrier and tried to keep working. Then the cat jumped in my lap. I asked my husband to take my picture, saying, “no one will believe this.”
Jewelry held my interest for many years and then, well, here’s how I wrote about it in my artist statement:
Motherhood, art, death. It’s all tied up for me.
My brother Joe died during the “time of death,” that’s what we call it. In fifteen months, eight beloved people – family, friends, an infant – died.
For a while, my husband and I would say, “It can’t get any worse.” Then it would get worse, so we stopped saying that.
In 2005, my baby daughter died.
Before I had kids, I had lots of time, but nothing to say. Now, with three kids, I have no time, but I have something to say, and I’m not afraid. There’s tremendous power in tremendous loss.
I see little bits and pieces left behind at the playground – a barrette, a pencil, a scrap of ribbon. Who left it? Did they notice it was gone?
I see the mystery of a little piece of broken toy, how it becomes unrecognizable. What is it? What was its purpose?
Ordinary things like a bread tab inspire a new design in my jewelry.
These are the things that make up my daily life as a mom – bread tabs and lost barrettes and parts of broken toys.
I find meaning and solace, and remembrance in the ordinary things that are left behind.
With all those deaths, I started making grief art — quilts out of people’s clothing, and mourning pins and Day of the Dead Altars.
But I still thought of myself as a jeweler, I just made quilts whenever someone was born or died. And I made altars every year that were displayed in Day of the Dead art shows. I made “medals” about grief and loss, like the one above.
I loved making the altar for my brother, Joe. It was like spending time with him. I loved working on his quilt, that my mom and I made for his children.
For years, I made this grief related art, my art making was my art therapy.
You can watch my life get better through my art. At some point, I stopped making art about grief and started complaining about the dishes.
I made medals about more minor complaints, like this one, “I Just Want to Be Able to Buy Flowers at the Grocery Store without Thinking About How Much They Cost,”
and “I Just Want to Be Able to Buy Flowers at the Grocery Store without Thinking About How Much They Cost 2,”
See? Art therapy.
At some point, I looked back and realized that I’d become an artist.
I’d thought of myself as a jeweler who made these medals that could be worn (you wouldn’t, but you could), and who occasionally made altars and quilts.
It was difficult to let go of my training as a metalsmith and admit that I wasn’t a metalsmith anymore, that I’d transformed into this new thing, artist.
And along the way, my teaching transformed too. When I teach, I create a safe space for my students to create art, make things, that have personal meaning.
While I still teach proper techniques, at the same time, I want to empower people, help them connect with their creativity, and make stuff that matters to them.
Want to learn with me? I’d love to have you go on this journey with me.