Metalsmithing & Friendship: When the Teacher Needs a Teacher
My jewelry career has been so blessed with wonderful metalsmithing teachers who have shared so much with me. As I pass on everything I know to my own metalsmithing students (because why would I NOT do that?), I’ve been reflecting on my teachers who have become good friends. I have several, but a true kindred spirit is Marne Ryan, a very talented jewelry artist and good friend. I was lucky enough to have her as a house guest for several days recently, and those days changed my life. Every time I am with Marne, my life is enriched by her wisdom and inspiration. This time was no different.
The Beginning of a Magical Week
We started off with dinner with a few other good friends who joined us for a delightful evening. We had so much fun with a nice wine, Italian food, and talking about jewelry. Now how can that ever be a bad thing? That night was so inspiring that I knew the next week was going to be amazing. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, for the first time in a long time, I dreamed about jewelry when I went to sleep. How cool is that?
Whenever one is with Marne, the talk always turns to designing and metalsmithing. Marne is known for her textures, which are very geological and look like ancient landscapes, and of course you know that appeals to me, if you know my background. Marne started working on these textures in college in Philadelphia, and over the following years, they became her trademark. So innovative are her designs. I started rethinking my designs, as she encouraged.
Having her here to bounce ideas off of was a tremendous asset to my creativity. I have felt stifled because I have gotten in a metalsmithing rut, design-wise. It’s usually the total opposite when I teach, but I think I’ve gotten lazy. Marne was the inspiration and just plain kick in the backside that I needed.
We spent a snowy day shopping here in Denver, and laughed, and had great lunches, and laughed some more, bought cool stuff, and got wet from very large snowflakes, but nothing could dampen our giggles. That night we got down to some serious talking about jewelry design. Marne was so generous with her wisdom and inspiring thoughts. That’s what I mean by “sometimes a teacher needs a teacher.” She totally rewrote my dated six-year-old artist’s statement in less than three minutes!
Artist Statement Update and Step Forward
My new artist’s statement inspires me with so many ideas for metalsmithing designs. Right then I started writing down ideas in a brand new Marne-inspired red leather sketchbook (yes, while shopping at an art supply store, I bought a special book for this new chapter in my jewelry) and jotting down shapes. These new designs have birthed a new excitement in making my own jewelry that I haven’t felt in years. That night I went to bed, asking God for a sign (which I seem to do often), and the next day I got the sign. I am embarking on a new adventure, making some changes in my designs, yet keeping some of the basic original concepts.
Marne went on to teach a two-day metalsmithing class here in Colorado, and we discussed teaching, and how to inspire others, as she is so talented at inspiring both new and accomplished artists. She does not gush and tell you how fabulous you are; she will tell you “the way the cow ate the cabbage”–an old Texas term for setting you straight with the truth. That’s invaluable.
Marne and I talked about how jewelry is her passion. It shows, as she is very prolific. She also inspired me to get out of the rut I have been in, teaching the same prong and partial bezel metalsmithing projects, and inspired me to grow more as an artist. I stress artistic growth with my metalsmithing students, but my hectic teaching schedule has hindered any experimentation. I have always believed that if you don’t experiment with new techniques and materials, you don’t grow as an artist. I’ve become stagnant.
On Being Brave and Putting Your Work on Center Stage
So this has led me to accept an invitation from a local gallery, which synchronistically came the day after our talk. I haven’t done any gallery pieces in nine years. It’s scary, I won’t lie to you. I make pieces and they go into a bag in a Rubbermaid container, never to see the light of day. It’s hard putting your newly born babies out there. I do it in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, but I never hear the comments, so it’s safe. But going back to galleries . . . well, my stuff might not sell or might get rude comments, and at some time in all of our retail lives, we know how that feels.
So this is a huge jump for me. I’m just putting out my feelings and my thoughts, like I’ll be putting out my new designs. I’m being honest with our readers. It’s scary. I totally owe Marne and another friend, Carolyn Fineran, all the credit for this new inspiration.
You may not have the good fortune in having Marne visit and share her insights with you personally, but I bet each of you knows an inspiring teacher who will share everything he/she knows, and can offer advice on design, metals, technique, marketing, and life. If you have someone like that in your world, who speaks your language and lets you wear their most gorgeous jewelry while they are here, cherish that person, for they are very rare.
Thank you, Marne. I love you.
Fortunately you can learn from Marne in her five-star-rated metalsmithing instruction six-DVD set, Organic Metal. You’ll learn Marne’s signature technique of creating one-of-a-kind texture by fusing layers of silver and gold, mixing sheet, wire, and even scraps! In hours of expert instruction, you’ll learn metalsmithing essentials, as well as how to create over 30 different textures in metal and 15 finished projects.
Master metalsmithing with videos by Marne Ryan and Lexi Erickson!