Silk Creek Metalworks

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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.

tree-carving-persistance-of-nature

     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…

etched-brass-butterfly-cuff-bracelet

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brass-cuff-copper-rivets-industrial-antique-artistic-industrial-organic-brass-cuff-etched-patinasetched_brass_copper_cuff_bracelet_butterfly_rivets_gallery

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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