Friday, January 18, 2008

Conflicted. What is Enough?

Whitney J. Marsden
Copper, sterling silver, nickel, bumble bee

So we all have a responsibility to do our part for the environment, right? That much we know, but how far do we go? Are you on top of the basics like recycling, being more energy efficient, or perhaps you have a fuel efficient car? Or do you go above and beyond with a more proactive approach? Perhaps you research sources of materials, buy from companies that have similar ideals, write your congresspeople about environmental issues, get involved in the community to have a greater impact, or perhaps you pass the message along by educating others. The question: "what is enough?" plagues me both as a citizen of the human race and as a craftsperson. It is now when I'm at the pinnacle of pursuing my goals that I find myself evaluating my methods.

As artists and designers, we never want to compromise our vision over something so like materials. The idea is to do it the way it is meant to be. However, as manufacturers, is it not our responsibility to always produce in an ethical manner? Materials, tools, and equipment used in creating our work are all involved in the end result of what we create. Regarding this, there are many questions that come up for me... Is it enough to dispose of jewelry making acids, chemicals, and gasses in an environmentally friendly manner or is the pure fact that I'm using them creating more unnecessary waste? Do we as jewelers have a responsibility to consider the sources and methods of acquiring our metals, stones, and other jewelry-making materials (a big one for me)? For that matter, is creating jewelry and other potentially disposable crafts wasteful? What is a realistic contribution to make amidst busy lives and other commitments? Should we strip our lives down to the barest necessities to make the lightest impact in order to get by? I don't think so. There has to be a compromise where creating good design in an ethical, environmentally aware manner contributes, rather than takes away (more about this another time). Then there's the endless amount of people out there who are not doing anything positive for the environment either for lack of education, resources, or caring... what is our responsibility in regards to them?

As a craftsperson, my personal aesthetic is affected by my background and upbringing, my personal interests and hobbies, and a subconscious absorption of the trends around me. My commitment to myself is to honor who I am as a artist and to not create things simply because...

I suppose depending on the person, to create can be very personal, it can be a means of communication, or a bit of both. If communication though, what importance is the message? I create because I love to, but I share it because I hope 1) it will make someone smile because they enjoy it, and 2) it will provoke thought about things in a simpler, more natural way, and perhaps connect people to nature, even just for a moment. I'm not so naive or arrogant to think that what I make will change a life or the world, but making is what I enjoy so I ought to be conscious of my message, whatever that may be. After all, if I'm going to say it, why not SAY IT?! Perhaps opening oneself up for criticism is too much. Perhaps.

Change is often difficult and dare I say inconvenient, especially after we've been doing things the same way for so long. I hope for radical change in the way we as a country handle these issues because I feel it's necessary right now, but to what extent am I willing to go, I'm not sure yet. At this point, what I do in my personal life and what I create as an artist is one in the same. Therefore my goal in all aspects of my life, is to be educated and not turn my head in light of "knowing better" for simplicity or ease. I know I'll make mistakes and I know I'll also need to make compromises, but I'm learning and I'm committed. I hope to find that middle ground between absolute sacrifice and living a productive, enjoyable life.

Please express your thoughts on what you think our responsibility is either as a comment here or an entry on your own blog. Thanks for reading my thoughts, I looking forward to reading what you have to say.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Good Gracious.

Sorry for the music plug, but I just cannot help myself... Radiohead's Scotch Mist has been playing non-stop in the background for the past several days. If you haven't listened, it is ohh sooo gooood. Check it out on YouTube or get the album In Rainbow available now.

The Best Boyfriend Ever!

So I have the sweetest, cutest, most talented boyfriend ever! For Christmas, I received these two gorgeous cutting boards made from maple and cherry. I love the shape and design and two of them, one scaled slightly smaller than the other? What a guy! Although he insists they are plenty hard, I think they're too nice to cut on. Hmm... Perhaps I'll keep using my old cutting board and designate these strictly cheese and cracker servers... rather than another board falling victim to my crazy-sharp knives. (note the vintage Sunkist juicer, a gift from my mom... thanks mom!)

Then the other night, he was experimenting in the barn and came in with this... a three-hundred year old clipboard! It was originally a wide oak plank left over from the barn floor. A few dozen passes through the planer really shows off not only the grain, but the rigidity of this old hard wood. Genius! What more can I say?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The First Step: Check!

The beginning of the new year brought a tiring head cold and a week working long hours at the job-jobs. Although working was very worthwhile and I had a lot of fun, my mind kept drifting back to unpacking and setting up my brand new jewelers bench. Acquiring my new bench was a landmark that has one significant meaning: freedom. I'm actually not exaggerating here. In order to have good body mechanics, jewelers have to work at a certain height. As hard to accept as it may be, the big 3-0 will be hitting me soon enough and my back has a funny way of reminding me. This means no more leaning over my projects until I'm stiff or putting things off until I have a more comfortable place to work. A jewelers bench also has a tray to catch metal scraps and shavings, an expensive loss if disposed of or left to the mice, and some other features I can't wait to use; it's the small things really... I now have drawers! A Christmas present to myself, we picked up all 96 pounds in New Jersey on our last installment of the holiday travels, and I'm proud to announce, I'm all set up!

First on the agenda is to finish some gifts that needed tweaking after the holidays. Once those projects are complete, I can get back to some designs and castings from a while back that have been swimming around in my head for over a year now. My basic studio still needs a few small things (expensive equipment will come with sales and progress), but all in all, I'm ready to get started! Note: small victory parade marching in background.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Fresh Start in 2008

Happy New Year! I hope 2008 brings lots of new adventures and memories to you! This year begins my process of becoming a [part-time] professional jeweler/metalsmith/designer/artist. Excuse the long title, but I don't really identify with any one particular heading because although I work primarily in precious metals, I have a foundation in and continue to work in many different mediums. I suppose "craftsperson" is the most appropriate title, but not of the SpinArt and macaroni necklace variety! While starting this new chapter, I wish to continue creating as I have for many years, but with some major differences: a degree in my craft, honed skills, some tangible goals in sight, and an idea of what it is I want to communicate with my work. I hope to find an audience that is looking for what it is I create... a few people that feel a personal connection with my imagery, materials, and message. I hope to share some of the ups and downs of my experience on this little 'ol blog here. Both the artistic aspect as well as the business of being an artist... a documentation of my experience, if you will, with some added narrative from me. Thanks for checking in! I look forward to chatting with you in the new year...