Silk Creek Metalworks

On Life and Craft


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Discovering the Season

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I’ve never been able to figure out why people try to get rid of Dandelions.  They’re cute, they’re puffy, they’re bright yellow, and they run amok all over the landscape to let us know that Spring is finally here to stay!  I always pick one when they first start to pop up everywhere. This one I brought in from my walk and put right on top of my favorite little guy’s noggin while he was playing his X-box and then proceeded to jump around like a maniac singing, “It’s Spring! It’s Spring! we should go out and PLAY!!!” Unfortunately he thought I was being kind of strange and annoying and wasn’t too happy about me interrupting such an important game.  Too bad.  I at least planted the idea in his head and he eventually grabbed his bike and went zooming around the neighborhood like a little ninja on wheels.  It’s possible that he was still leading a video game life and counting up all the points he gets after each curb jump and driveway skid, but that’s ok.  At least he was outside.

It’s that time of year when all of us here get really busy with the things we love to do.  It’s not even a bit odd to us to have to slide over several plant pots, a few seed packets, a bicycle helmet, some metal scraps, a bottle of sunscreen, and a hammer or two to make some room to put dinner on the kitchen table.  We are far from a 1950’s T.V. family but at least we know how to have some fun.  It’s time to get the garden planted with some home grown veggies, explore some natural areas, play around on bikes and boats, and of course start up our weekend backyard campfire gatherings with snacks, smores, and Nerf wars! (They started to feel sorry for me last year and got me a shield. It was a very sweet gesture… I think.)

As for my metalwork, the door and windows get opened up on my rustic little workshop and my music fills the air!

backyard-workshop-metalsmith-work-spaces     (And by rustic, I mean rustic! I have lots of little critter friends to keep me company and I honestly don’t know where that extra door came from. I’m thinking about adding a sun roof to it, but in sticking to the original architecture I would need a staple gun and a lot of duct tape.  Maybe soon, but anyway, it’s my happy little metalsmithing heaven.)

With Spring in full launch, I’m still having a great time creating natural forms out of copper and gathering inspiration out on my walks and hikes.  I’ve even started working in a more organic way, letting the final design simply grow out of the raw materials in an unplanned way. I’ll start with a basic shape and begin with a few folds and then add in some textures.

This kind of looks like an orange slice but it’s about to become something else…

fold-formed-copper-works-in-progress-natural-forms-leaf-shape      After playing around with the metal for a bit it just starts to turn into something…

fold-formed-copper-works-in-progress-natural-forms

This kind of looks like a flower form that just bloomed so I’ll give it a nice deep patina to bring out those textures and add some elements to bring it to life…

silk-creek-metalworks-fold-formed-calla-lily-necklace-pearls

     I’m finding that this organic and unplanned working style is becoming more of an act of discovery than creation. I’m starting to wonder what kind of beauty might be hiding inside the metal and just waiting come out.  The more time I spend in my garden or out in nature, the easier it becomes to play around enough to find that beauty that’s ready to be born.

silk-creek-metalworks-gallery-copper-necklace-fold-formed-texture-green-purple-beads

silk-creek-metalworks-gallery-copper-earrings-texture-circle-freshwater-pearls

silk-creek-metalworks-fold-formed-copper-flower-free-form-natural-beads

silk-creek-metalworks-gallery-copper-necklace-beaded-green-brown

     So this Spring & Summer are going to be all about discovery.  We’re going to grow our garden here at home and go out to explore new places. We’ll find out what we can climb, how far we can ride, and what exactly can be done with a kayak before it tips.  We’ll probably get wet, dirty, and end up with a few scraped knees, but that’s because discovery is way too much fun to plan for. I’ve decided to leave the perfect kitchens to the perfect wives on day time T.V. and head out to enjoy the season.  I’ll be harvesting my inspiration along the way!

Happy Spring!

OR & CA 396

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Playtime! Lessons from Kindergarten

Etched Brass Necklace with Vintage Style Floral Design

     Do you remember back in Kindergarten when we had that wonderful time in the day called “Free play?”  There was a point in the day when our tiny, bouncy selves just couldn’t sit still any longer.  We would wait in anxious anticipation for that blissful moment when we were finally set free to jump all over the place, talk too loud and as much as we wanted, and mess around with all kinds of stuff.  There were art supplies, stuffed animals, games, and toys of every size and color! Maybe they were kind of educational, but we didn’t know. What a great moment! Do you remember being so excited that you wanted to run around and grab one of everything? Oh, it was so hard to decide!

     This winter, I have been a kindergartner at free play. Yup, that’s me, with the stuffed ladybug in one hand and as many crayons as I can carry in the other. I’ve got a plan to play Hungry Hippos with Julie and I’ll be doing seven head stands before I’m done because Johnny said I couldn’t do it. I’m going to sing a song, too. It’s a good one that I made up all by myself so I need to find a tambourine and a pink tutu with sparkles on it for my rock star show.  Basically, I have been into anything and everything I can possibly get my hands on.

     January and February are by far the slowest months for most of us crafters and artisans.  I thought I was just going to take it easy for a spell but that wasn’t going to work. I tried, believe me! I think it was the day that I sent a text to my boyfriend at work asking him if he would mind if I painted the kitchen furniture orange, that I realized that the Life of Riley was not exactly for me.  I waited and he did not respond.

     Realizing that it was time take action on something of a creative nature, I dug around the garage for something to mess with and found a surprise stash of paints. I couldn’t find anything to paint on in there and that’s why our dart board backing now looks like this:

dart-board-backing-art

     Having more time than I’m used to, the days opened up for me try some new things and branch outside of my comfort zone a little.  I started taking pictures on my hikes and then playing with photo editing programs to make them look magical.

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     I also tried some baking! I invented my own cinni-mini-ginger cookies and they were a hit!  Then I learned what happens when you trust an “eyeball-it” bread recipe invented by a guy named Meat Muffin who you met on the road.  You get a giant scary bread monster.  Then you poke two eyeballs in it and name it Herman.  That’s what happens.

     I tried sewing skirts with recycled fabric, making little clay sculptures, and discovered the amazing world of paint textures. I also developed a slightly unhealthy addiction to Pinterest, which really only leads to a backyard full of wooden pallets, glass bottles, and other random items intended for use in all of the great DIY projects that have flooded that horribly habit-forming website.

     Eventually, I got around to applying my sudden onset of Crafty ADHD to exploring new avenues in my own field of jewelry and metalwork.  I jumped into the vast world of online learning and found techniques I’d never even heard of! Textures, patinas, and forming, oh my!!! It’s amazing what can happen in the studio when the pressure to produce is lifted and you’ve got a head so full of ideas that they’re coming out of your ears!

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     I have so many experiments and works in progress that are almost ready for their debut and the ideas just keep rolling in!

work-in-progress-tree-texture

     But, of course, I am still that wild kindergartner who needs to try everything so I set them aside for a moment to see if I could get an article in my local community paper.

It turned out that I could!

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     I also attended an online presentation about using my blog software and learned how to link a photo (like the one above) to a webpage (like the webpage where you can read my article).  Go ahead, try it! Just click on the picture and shazam! There you are! Pretty cool, right?

     My next projects include exploring a bunch of new jewelry techniques (I have a list!) and finishing the amazing pieces in waiting. Plus, I have some exciting events and opportunities to prepare for, some fun shows and festivals to apply for, and some stores and galleries I’d like to visit.  From all of this I am happily distracted this week by a messy garage that is soon to be a comfortable extra room in the house.  Why? Because every growing metal smith needs a roommate who is covered in tattoos, breathes fire at parties, knows how to weld just about anything, and is willing to teach her how to do it.  Yup! I get to learn how to make SCULPTURES!

     The thought of learning how to weld has been making me act like an ACTUAL kindergartner.  I’ve been bouncing around and running in circles telling everyone about my great ideas for sculptures no matter what they’re in the middle of doing at the time.  The facts that festival season is on it’s way and I have a bunch of new techniques to try have been making me pretty bouncy too.  I feel like everything is just beginning for me and that there’s no where to go from here but up and up! All it really took to get that wonderful feeling was to go a little outside of my normal routine, and try some things that I’ve never done before!  I’ve got to tell you it’s amazing, and that I’d recommend a little “free play time” to anyone.

     It looks like the Spring show and festival season is going to be mighty busy, but in a good way that keeps me creating and building my little jewelry business the way I like it.  I think that sometime between my current projects and when the Spring season goes into full launch, I’ll take some time to remember the second most wonderful thing about being in Kindergarten…  Some cookies, some milk, and a good comfy nap.

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The Zen Master Fuzz Bucket- Expert at Naps


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The Cuff Project; Nature, Industry, & the Human Element

     I’ve always had a strange fascination for the little weeds and tiny flowers that peek out through the cracks in broken concrete.  They seem to be the simplest representatives of nature’s persistence in an increasingly industrialized world. They’re quiet and subtle, and generally go unnoticed as the loud and flashy things of progress move all around them at high speed.

     Today, the beast of industry seems nearly unstoppable and maybe it is.  Cities are filling to the brim with commerce and construction while our lives are filling to the brim with information, ads, and new technology that helps us save the time we lost somewhere in the mix. It seems to be everywhere, unavoidable, and more persistent than a four year old in a candy store.  If there is anything in this world to contend with industry, it’s nature itself, with it’s patient and quiet persistence.

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     Somewhere along the line I became obsessed with this duality of nature and industrial constructs.  I also liked the idea of the two concepts being superimposed in a way that highlights the human element in the ebb and flow of the two.  When I started to work on a series of cuff bracelets, these ideas were fresh in my mind.  I decided to incorporate natural designs elements into boxy constructions, with the hope that the two concepts would mix in the eyes of the viewer, and become something entirely different…

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Beautiful Disasters; An Experiment in Fold Forming

fold-formed-copper-necklace-header     A few of you may already know that I sometimes like to play mad scientist in the studio and experiment with different metal working techniques. What you may not know is that I have always had somewhat odd looking furniture and a strange collection of screws and wing nuts because I am just that terrible at following instructions.

     Not too long ago I decided that I absolutely loved the look of fold formed copper and was going to learn how to do it. Now, there are all kinds of wonderful online tutorials out there that are meant specifically to teach fold forming to aspiring little metalsmiths like me. They include pictures, step by step instructions, and even videos where you can watch how the technique is done by somebody who actually knows what they are doing. For good measure, I went ahead and found one of these great online videos and clicked “play.”  But then my cat started being really cute and needed some belly rubs. Also my coffee was getting a little cold so I went to get another cup and noticed some funny squirrels doing acrobatics out the window, and well… Let’s just say that I didn’t retain much of the fold forming video I set out to watch.

     But that wasn’t going to stop me from trying it…

torch-annealing-copper-fold-forming-series     I started by annealing the copper to make it all bendy so I could fold it. The best way that I can think of to describe how this works is that all of the little molecules in hard metal are sitting side by side in rigid classroom rows and the heat sends them all out to recess. They jump and dance and play around and of course need a lot of extra room to do this. When you quench the metal in cold water they all stop like in a game of freeze tag, and still have all of that extra space around them. It’s all of that extra space that makes the metal flexible.

     Once my copper was nicely annealed I set out to make some folds while happily imagining all of the wonderful things I was going to create…

…and I mangled it all up and made it look like garbage.

messing-up-copper-fold-formingThen I got frustrated and beat it up with a hammer…

hammering-copper-fold-forming-series…and ended up with more garbage.

Ugly, ugly garbage.

ugly-copper-fold-forming-seriesIt was definitely time for a coffee break.

coffee

     Because coffee is magic.

     So I took some time to sit back with my magical cup of happiness and let my mind wander (I’m very good at that.)  After some time passed I realized that I actually adore a lot of things that most people might consider ugly. I can always find something wonderful about old rusty cars, broken farm fences tangled up in vines, and even this poor little guy…

ugly dog

     Given my profound love for things that, in one way or another, aren’t quite perfect, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could find myself a little bit of beauty in all of those gnarled up scraps of metal I left abandoned in my studio.  So with my new found positive outlook and an excellent caffeine high, I went out to cut, file, sand, and do all that I could to find some treasures in the mess…

And eventually I found things like these…

fabric-effect-fold-forming-series

     They kind of reminded me of the textures you might find in fabric, and so I began to think about all of the other textures that I tend to find interesting. A simple piece of tree bark seen in the right kind of light can stop me in my tracks on a stroll in the woods. Looking at the world up close and from different angles can reveal some unique compositions in everyday objects, and there is beauty in those details that I think could possibly be felt in a glance, if not inherently seen.  Well, the next thing I knew, my compulsion to create had taken hold and wouldn’t let go until I had turned all of those thoughts about wonderful textures into some kind of a reality…

Fold Formed Copper Necklace

fold-formed-copper-bracelet-rusticfold-formed-copper-bracelet-tree-bark     Since then, I haven’t stopped playing with this technique and I’m not going to either. I even went back and watched that online fold forming video and discovered all kinds of tools and tricks I can use for creating different shapes and textures in copper. Maybe I should have watched the video before I started but I’m pretty content with what I’ve managed to come up with after breaking that little creative barrier. It’s not the first, and probably won’t be the last time I decide to try something entirely new despite being completely unprepared for it. Honestly, I find it a pretty fun way to learn and it seems to make life a little more interesting!

     (Just please don’t ask me about what happens when I try new things like this in the kitchen!  All of us here agreed to no longer speak of the mysterious dough balls from Mars and their amazing launch capabilities!)

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An Artist: Diagnosis & Treatment

     This happens to be my first blog post ever so I figured I’d give you a little bit of background.  I was born with and have lived most of my life with a condition called “Being an Artist.”

Artist [ahr-tist] -noun.  1. A person who possesses a unique way of seeing of the world around them and displays an uncontrollable compulsion to manipulate materials and objects into creations that express what they see. 

     As with many conditions, there were early signs.  As a child I didn’t talk much because I was too busy being fascinated with things that most people would consider ordinary or mundane.

Like tree fungus.

tree fungus

And decomposing leaves.

decomposing-leaf.jpg

     Luckily, I had loving parents who took notice of me gazing at odd things and picking up random pieces of bark and garbage to paint and assemble into objects that didn’t make much sense. They suspected the possibility that I could be a bit of an artist, so as soon as I was old enough they gave me these:

paint supplies

And I eventually learned to create things like these:

tree branch painting

painting in b&w

     Having the tools and knowledge I needed to paint certainly helped my condition, but due to the severity of my case, it was not enough.  My symptoms continued to persist into early adulthood.  As the age of technology was bringing everyone else cell phones and flat screen TV’s, I was happy with my dual deck cassette player in my colorfully painted one room apartment with a futon mattress on the floor and doodled on scraps of paper tacked to the walls.  I liked to walk and ride my bike everywhere I went so that the scenery would go by slower, and working in a cubicle was the most frightening thought imaginable.

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     Given that my random collection of painted, folded, glued, carved, assembled, and otherwise altered objects was beginning to pile up, something simply had to be done.  So with the help of my woodworking dad and the local hardware store, I started collecting things like these:

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That way I could turn piles of stuff like this:

Elements of Metalwork

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Into things like these:

Woodsy Copper Cuff

Aspen Leaf

Collage 2

    Well, so far it looks like metalwork was the perfect prescription for my compulsion to create.  I have an amazing variety of tools and materials that I can use to make whatever I might imagine, and there is always something new to figure out. I still paint and make strange objects out of household items but I rarely run screaming at the thought of being a semi-well adjusted part of society. I’m even starting my very own jewelry business! Imagine that!

Leaf Necklace     So if you or someone you love begins showing signs or symptoms of being an Artist, there is not much need to worry.  Just be patient, and look for the necessary tools needed to allow creativity to flourish.  Also, be sure to provide plenty of space and time to wander around for inspiration.  With the right care, most artists are able to lead successful and relatively normal lives.  …Relatively.

Note: It is not advisable to let symptoms of being an artist go untreated. In very severe cases you could end up like this:

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Salvador Dali and the Amazing Mustache