Expert Jewelry Artists Share: What Drives You to Make Art?

Helen Driggs
is the Managing Editor
Lapidary Journal
Jewelry Artist

I often wonder where art making comes from. I know I can't not do it, especially when there is an insistent need to. That need wells up from deep inside my chest when I am looking far away or far inside and I feel as if I will explode with violent force if I am prevented from acting

Sea of FateBrooch. Nu Gold, sterling and fine silver, hand fabricated, roller printed and patinated brooch. Oregon sunstone, citrine, and Royal Sahara jasper. Photo: Jim Lawson.

upon it.

For me, making art is instinctive–it's a hardly understood interaction of eyes, body, and mind. My hands shape what I make, but the act of making springs from soul questions I must answer with line or plane or form or color. It goes to paper, or it goes to metal, and I don't know how it happens or why. Sometimes, I can't even recall the experience, even when I am holding what I have made or drawn in my hands. I do know that I am a better person and made whole when I do it.

I fabricated the brooch pictured at right by roller printing the Nu Gold, creating a partial bezel, building the bezel box for the sunstone and tube settings, and soldering everything together. The stone reminds me of my father – he was a merchant seaman in the late 1940s, and worked around ships and shipyards for most of his life. Like everything I make, the concept for this piece started in my sketchpad.

I like to find out what drives other artists I know well and work with regularly. When I was in art school, theory and passionate debate about art making went on daily and was fueled by coffee from 9-9 during the week and alcohol from the other 9-9 on the weekend. Out here in the real world, life (and cleaner living) gets in the way of artspeak. It is rare to sit with fellow artists and talk about the need to make art; it isn't the easiest way to live a life, though a brave few are compelled to follow the path. I decided to invite some contributors from the June issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist to summarize what drives them. It was an interesting exploration, and several of them told me it was fun to think and talk about art making again.

Here is a watercolor from my sketchpad. I recently traveled to the Galapagos Islands and I kept an extensive art journal, sketching and writing every day while I was there. I shot more than 1,000 photos on that trip, and my photos, paintings and notes about the archipelago have already begun to influence my metalwork.

If you'd like to engage in some artspeak, try a visit the blogs and forums on Jewelry Making Daily and make friends with your fellow artists – there is nothing better for the soul than a lively discussion with your peers. In the meantime, start here:

Q: Why do you make art?
Lexi Erickson: Because I'm a very expressive and passionate person. I would go nuts to have all these ideas in my head and not have some creative outlet for them. Metal speaks to me, the patinas, and the textures–and let's not even talk about stones! I took my first class in jewelry making at a university, and was only planning to take one class . . . and then I fell in love with being able to move metal, to hammer and solder it, to create a 3D object from a sheet of silver.

Lexi Erickson is a gifted and patient teacher, and I'm extremely grateful to have her as a friend. This Conical Petrified Wood pendant is one of my favorite pieces of hers, because it was inspired by the work of an artist we both love — Albert Paley. It appeared in the February 2010 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.

Q: Where does your drive to make art come from?
Sam Patania: I don't know, I can't explain that part, some pieces I have recently made I feel like I had little to do with except to execute them. Sometimes it is sheer drive to finish something, sometimes it is a technique to explore, sometimes I'm too bone headed to quit.

Sam Patania is an all-around great guy. He comes from a family of makers, and I love his down-to-earth way of making jewelry, and talking about making jewelry. His awesome turquoise cuff project was the cover project of the June 2009 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, and his argentium and gold wedding band is featured in the June 2010 issue.

Q: What inspires you and moves you to make something?
Todd Reed: The thing that most moves me to make something would be the time given to do it. I tend to have limited time to make new items so I really have to think about that when starting a project.

Todd Reed's distinctive organic style and use of raw diamonds has made his work instantly recognizable to collectors and artisans alike.

Q: Do you have a mentor/community of peers that you talk to about art? Why?
Roger Halas: As odd as it sounds, living in LA there aren't really many places to discuss art. Outside of having a passive appreciation for art forms like film or music, many people are becoming increasingly disconnected from actively embarking on any artistic journey.

Sadly these days, so many people are bio-linked to their cell phones and computers — they don't have the time to create anything other than an email. Especially our youths, who may have hidden talents that could be beautifully expressed if only they'd be willing to tap into them. It is so important to get young people involved in creative endeavors — such as lapidary or jewelry making, lest people like myself — as well as my brothers and sisters processing this thought — will, one day, become the last of our kind.

I always tell people that as humans we are defined by our art. From the cave paintings of our ancestors to the technological expressions of the modern world, art is that magical looking glass through which our true identities are revealed.

Roger Halas is a true metalhead — I love getting photos of his projects because I can see the uncropped versions and have a peek in his studio. Metalhead paradise! This is his Bronze Medallion Pendant from the June 2010 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.

So, what are you waiting for?
Are you inspired to get working right now? Pick up a copy of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and try your hand at one of the projects inside, often some by this talented group. And then share your work with us in the Jewelry Making Daily Forums and Gallery. We'd love to see what you've created.

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