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October, Talk About: Tell us about yourself – how did you get to where you are now with your skills?

Tell us about yourself – how did you get to where you are now with your skills?

The skills I currently employ in order to keep the cappuccinos flowing
involve teaching courses and workshops in Metal + Glass.

Working with (and my appreciation for) metal started when I was 14.
My High School years started at Redwood High (I left in the 2nd semester of my Sophomore year for San Andreas High), an ‘open’ campus similar to a University or College campus. It was a crazy High School to say the least.
Anyways, the ‘jewelry’ teacher was a Mr. R Lamante. A mean old cuss who thought all of his students were no good ingrates bound for hell (his kids attended Marin Catholic). None-the-less he came from a time when being a Goldsmith was considered a Trade, so he didn’t have any issues with my Freshman self cutting classes in order to attend his. Two electives I wanted into the most were Marine Biology and Goldsmithing but they were only available for Seniors.
The first thing I learned was how to cab stones! Our assignment was to turn some rough stone into a cabochon, fabricate a ring and bezel set our stone. I wish I knew where that ring was now, it was hideous to be sure but I was SO proud of it! My cabbing job was actually pretty good considering I chose to cut and polish a Mexican Opal!
After cutting stones he taught us Scrimshaw. ๐Ÿ™‚ We made our own Scrimshaw tools out of steel and Elk horn. We had to purchase ivory from the teacher and then essentially tattoo the piece of ivory using India ink and our stick and poke method. It was very cool. I made an owl for my mom. HA.
In my Sophomore year I learned everything concerning Lost Wax casting, plating, making pin backs, and other findings. One of my first castings was a 2 dimensional Unicorn ๐Ÿ™‚ out of Sterling silver with an 18k gold horn. Mr. Lamante loved it, and displayed it in the class jewelry case during the schools Open Studio night.

In 1983 I had a part time job with HZH Designs in downtown Sausalito. We turned HO scale figures into San Francisco’s LGBT community. Burning earring posts into the backs of the plastic figures.
We also filled clear vinyl with coloured liquids, plastic ants, glitter, etc., and turned these into Keyrings. Total 80’s kitch!

The following year I started working for Tabra Tunoa at her studio in Woodacre just north of Fairfax, California. This was an awesome job (Tabra was and is awesome!), and where I really learned a lot of different Silversmith and Goldsmith techniques.
Tabra’s collection was very different then… The upstairs section of the studio was where beading took place. Hundreds of little drawers lined the walls, each full to overflowing with amazing beads from all over the world. Some one had taken the time to actual organize all of the drawers by colour so the room was wrapped in a rainbow. I loved looking through the drawers, and spending time upstairs beading and chatting. Tabra had an interesting hiring technique in place – everyone that worked upstairs {except for Tabra} where Leos. Not only creative cats but the one sign she got along well with, herself being a Capricorn.. I think?
Downstairs was where the soldering, forming, piercing/sawing and anodizing took place. Remember anodized Niobium and Titanium jewelry of the 80’s?
Tabra had incredible machinery purchased and shipped over from Europe; old stamping tools, and dies. She had beautifully machined steel plates with scroll work and floral patterns that we would use to add texture to Sterling silver and brass components.
During this time I registered for a metals course at the College of Marin. It was OK. We learned how to rivet, tube rivets, rivets…
I moved out of Marin County to a flat in North Beach (SF). Purchased a Foredom, jeweller’s saw, buffing wheel, 1 ton press, anodizing equipment, and set up shop! I loved my flat- it was on Winter Alley just off Union and Mason street- next door to Chinatown, Broadway and Columbus- it rocked! I etched and anodized Titanium and Niobium, had matrix dies made to cut out shapes in Sterling silver and started selling my work in stores throughout the Bay Area.
In 1987 I moved to Dallas, Texas {much to my dismay} but continued exploring various metal techniques. During this time I was heavily influenced by New Mexico and the Southwest. Coyotes, cactus, fetish bears, and totems started to dominate my work. I worked primarily with brass, turquoise, leather, old Chinese coins that I would solder and wrap with linen threads and turn into brooches.
OK, why was I in Texas?!? It had to do with business, my first husband’s father was the founder of Midas Mufflers and Supercuts Haircuts. We moved to Texas so we could open up franchises, get them up and running and then move on. Over the holidays, like Thanksgiving we would often drive up to Santa Fe or Taos, New Mexico where my ex’s family has property. My first visit to Taos was profound! It was literally a life altering moment. I had to live in Taos, in the most intense way it felt like home. So, while we were visiting one Thanksgiving I made it a point to go out in search of gallery space. My father-in-law was a super intense business man, signing a lease was serious business (to him). I found a great little store front on Bent street. 113 Bent street, and opened up the Shaman of Star Meadow gallery. This was, needless to say, a completely different lifetime.

Yahoo! so I left Texas! Now I was a gallery owner/director with a studio in the back of my store where I worked with metal and painted. Long story short from ’89 to early ’91 I lived in Taos- in mid 1990 I was invited to the Taos Pueblo for a birthday celebration for Tellus Good Morning. The head of the Peyote Tribe on Taos Pueblo, it was his 96th birthday Peyote meeting.
It was an incredible experience, and where I met the next phase of my life as an artist, metalsmith. I closed my gallery and moved up into the mountains (9000′) onto the Picuris Pueblo in Vadito. Living in a 200 year old adobe on and off for the next four years I was able to completely focus on honing my metal techniques- rent was only $75 per month! When I wasn’t in Vadito I was living in Santa Fe with my boyfriend/commercial photographer. In Santa Fe I attended the Santa Fe Metalsmithing school. Here I studied with Phil Poirier and learned all about the Bonny Doon Hydraulic Press, and making dyes. I bought my press in ’93. I also took private workshops with Melanie DeLuca up in her studio off Artist Road. From 1992 to ’94 I worked as an assistant for Doug Magnus, Mona T Van Riper, Olin West and James Reid Ltd. I learned a wealth of tips, tricks and techniques through these amazingly talented people.
However it wasn’t until I studied with Harold O’Connor through the Taos Art Institute that my life as a metal artist would begin.
I honestly felt Harold was a metal god. He was schooled at Pforzheim, which to me was the ultimate school to attend. Up to this point my work had a very ethnic, middle eastern feel- now my work started to take on more of an organic feel, coupled with my love of ethnic jewelry this is when I came up with my ‘future relic’ and ‘ritual adornment for an undiscovered tribe’ lines.. if you could call them ‘lines’.
This is what I did, everyday, for years, was work with metal. Form it with hammers, saw, drill, heat, melt, learn new techniques, embellish old techniques. I was called, ‘obsessive’. When I started to work with glass that term was thrown at me again.
From 1995 to 2000 I sold and exhibited my work throughout the US and Europe. My best galleries were in Ohio and Santa Fe, at least this is where my work sold the strongest. I had a phenomenal collector based in San Francisco (Gaye Schulman) that would fly out seasonally just to visit me in Santa Fe to purchase new work for friends and family. Gaye often suggested I phone her friend Michael at Velvet Davinci, which I never did…
Those years were fantastic creatively speaking. I was married to a painter, we moved from Santa Fe to Dixon, then later to Taos. Oh! actually before meeting the ‘painter’ (Gerd Bianga)I lived on Canyon Road! I shouldn’t leave that out as this phase, or ‘act’ was and will always remain a vital turning point in my life. Canyon Road in Santa Fe is, or was like Rodeo Drive in LA for art galleries (maybe even better). Living there was cool, fashionable and super expensive. I managed to live rent free, well almost rent free. Part time I created Matrix dies in trade for rent. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me- as I was super fast. SO, I had a lot of time to work on my pieces as well.
Up in Dixon, New Mexico then later Taos- again ๐Ÿ™‚ my new husband and I lived as full time artists. During this time I was curated into an exhibit at the Stables Art Gallery by David Witt, curator of the Harwood Museum. Mr. Witt viewed my ‘jewelry’ as small scale sculpture. At the time it was a big deal as the majority of ‘painters’ in the exhibit were appalled at the thought of having a ‘jeweler’ show with them. None of them even knew my work and were incredibly surprised at the opening reception. ;p
In 1995 I took the train out to San Francisco to exhibit during the San Francisco Metal Arts Fair held at Fort Mason Center. From ’98 to 00 I would often travel down to the Santa Fe Opera House and sell my work at a flea market/buyers market that took place in an adjacent lot. This market brought people from all over the world. African bead traders, basket makers, painters from all over, sculptors, tons of vintage clothing, antique dealers- it was awesome! Plus, I met Andes Cruz during this time as well!! Imagine that?! She was working with Mr. Phil Poirier at the time. My ex was friends with her ex- lol! And they thought Andes and I should hook up since we were both metal gals… sadly though I only spoke to Andes all of maybe, 3 times in Taos? But I NEVER forgot her work- it was simply breathtaking.

In 2001 I moved to Toronto, Canada. My life with the ‘painter’ ended early ’00 and then I met this crazy Canadianne! (‘nother story)
Anyways, my move to Toronto opened up a whole new chapter of what it meant to be an ‘artist’ whose medium was metal(s). I continued to work having shipped part of my studio up to the Great While North, and worked out of my living room in the Annex. This wasn’t happening for me- I had left an 1850 square foot studio space in Taos for a living room?! OK, when I first arrived in Toronto I met up with metalsmith Brian Adam, who was visiting from New Zealand. Brian was holding one of his, “Make your own eye wear” workshops at Harbourfront and I had carried Brian’s work in my Taos gallery, ‘Metal’ so it only made sense that we should finally meet. SInce Brian was in Toronto teaching he was in direct contact with the entire jewelry community there. Beth Alber (then faculty head of OCAD) was holding a special BBQ so Brian invited me along. Within my first week in Toronto I met everyone you would want to meet in the metal arts community. Beth Alber, Anne Barros, Lily Yung, Vivienne Jones, and Melanie Egan, director of Harbourfront Studios. Quickly recruited into MAG’s design department I slowly got to know and work with these people. In 2002 the Gooderham and Worts Distillery District was starting to really take shape and I was about to open a gallery with six other women, Beth Alber, Anne Barros, Lily Yung, Wendy Walgate, Peggy Mersereau, and Melinda Mayhall. *new*, a contemporary craft gallery.
From 2001 to 2004 my work as a jewelry designer kind of took a back seat to installation work, more conceptual pieces. Instead of creating perhaps one really stunning ring I would create a body of rings, or a theme. My work had dealt with narratives, themes, and had been conceptual at times in the past- but now the roots started to take hold for where I would eventually be lead.
My work and installations were shown at the Toronto Design Exchange, Uncommon Objects at Harbourfront Centre, during Digifest, the University of Toronto, and other Toronto galleries.
In 2003 I started to share a studio space with Catherine Allen and Patricia Spenga, The Fishbowl. Which was also located in the Historic Gooderham and Worts Distillery. Towards the end of 2004 Catherine Allen was planning on returning to Nova Scotia, and Patricia was soon heading back to Germany. The Fishbowl would be no longer… but, I planned to keep the space. The space was located in the Artscape building on the G&W site. People had come to know The Fishbowl so I didn’t want to change the name too much, so I renamed it, Tank. At the time I was discussing opening the space with a bead maker/flameworker. Tank could have different meanings, larger than a Fishbowl or oxygen-Tank, propane-Tank, think-Tank, etc. While we were figuring out logistics I traded with a glass blower at Harbourfront- workshop for workshop. This was by far the most eye opening moment for me when it came to working with a new medium. One, I had yet to explore. GLASS!
Holy shit! I was hooked. OK, the immediacy of glass, its organic nature, its flow, its solidity, its colour, or lack of colour, its ability to reflect light, its internal glow, its coolness, its warmth. I was in love baby.
I was, OBSESSED. Yes, indeed.
Now, I had access to flameworking torches and was constantly being egged on by my studio mates to work with glass- so, no problem I did just that.

In the late summer of 2005 I moved myself into my own studio and dubbed it, nanopod: Hybrid Studio. Small but mighty! NO one to tell me what medium I could or couldn’t work with, no one dictating hours to be open or closed, no one but myself, my music, my tools, my time. Ahhhh, all mine.
That’s the best feeling. Now I could create in peace.
And, I have and I do. Sometimes not so much peace but I thrive on Chaos as well.
But there is more to glass, there are techniques similar to working with metal. Like, Lost Wax casting! So, I got hooked up with Urban Glass in Brooklyn. There I went, took a week long intensive with Anna Boothe. While I was there I met Nina Dinoff, and Clare Stoker-Ring, two Etsy Metal colleagues.
The workshop at Urban Glass was incredibly informative plus it was held (unknown to me until it happened) during Glass month in Brooklyn. April 4th- there was a big party at Urban Glass and Cirque du Verre was there! I was just so inspired by all of the work on display in the gallery, my fellow classmates, and Anna’s work, I wanted more! Shoot, I wanted to run away and join Cirque du Verre!
That year was great for pumping up the ego. I was invited to create a body of work to be featured at Sofa, NY ’09 and my studio was featured in Metalsmith magazine.
At Sofa I saw some serious work. Major pieces, not conservative in the least. Big, huge even. My thoughts were, “..I need to up my game.”
Since working with glass I’ve heard of Pilchuck. The glass monastery. And knew that I totally needed to get there at some point if I was serious about working with glass. Meanwhile, I stumbled upon Janis Miltenberger through the Penland Master book series. Her work spoke to me no, it yelled at me! After reading her chapter (several times) in the Penland Glass book I knew I had to study with this woman. Somehow. I emailed her asking if she needed some flunky to empty her trash… or peel her grapes. Sadly, she didn’t but she did tell me that workshops happen. So, I bided my time. I couldn’t afford to travel to Japan in order to study with her. But I could afford to travel to Corning, New York. Workshops are held at the Corning Museum of Glass and it was here that I met glass wizardry. Suellen Fowler, and Jesse Kohl were teaching together. Suellen considers herself a colourist, and has formulated her own (gorgeously beautiful) glass colours using various oxides. She is the woman behind many colours still being made at Northstar Glass. Jesse is a Chemist and has worked with Suellen for over ten years. Suellen taught me how to blow borosilicate tubing, and work with silver striking colours.
2010- I receive the Penland School of Crafts catalog and to my excitement see that Janis Miltenberger will be teaching a two week workshop starting in May. Around the same time I receive information on Pilchuck Glass School’s upcoming sessions and see a course that looks similar to Janis’. I thought I would apply for both sessions just in case I didn’t get one I might get into the other. It was suggested to me that at some point I should study with Loren Stump. Loren teaches regularly at the Studio at Corning and would be teaching in June as well. I applied for all three scholarships.
I really didn’t think I would receive any of them so I was completely shocked when the letters started rolling in telling me, “Congratulations, you have been awarded a full scholarship… you have been awarded the work-study scholarship… you have been awarded a partial scholarship…” Holy crap! I was now going to attend 3 friggin awesome workshops summer 2010 at amazing schools.
Well, now that summer is over I can honestly say it has been a most wonderful adventure.
Janis, is the best. She is a fantastic teacher. Approachable, friendly, funny, shares a wealth of information, and is herself a wealth of inspiration. I had really hoped to study more with her this year but unfortunately that didn’t happen. I applied for an 8 week concentration at Penland but only came in 2nd (the alternative candidate). However I know this is not the last Janis will see of me, or I of her. ๐Ÿ™‚ Watch out J!

Janis invited me to visit her when I travelled to Washington to attend Pilchuck (she even gave me a ride to school!) and it has to be one of the most beautiful islands off of Washington. I love Washington.
Washington was fun, Seattle. At Penland I met Jennifer Umphress (a MAJOR inspiration!) and we have become friends- yippee! Jen’s work is simply stunning. She manipulates borosilicate like nobodies business. Jennifer invited me to stay with her and her family over my birthday before my course began. It was great hanging out, talking glass, checking out Seattle and visiting other glass artist’s studios. Thanks Jen! xo

The Pilchuck glass school is rough (when I say rough I mean freaking amazing-cool-awesomeness, Thanks Cherrise!). Beautiful campus up on a 15,000 acre tree farm. Everything glass happens here. You can visit and work in other studios while you are at Pilchuck- the staff were super friendly. If I could get away with it I would put up a Yurt at Inspiration Point.

Where am I at now? I am working on new pieces, experimentations, putting glass and metal together. Still fresh from Penland, and Pilchuck… though I’m creating some soft circuit sculptures for an installation taking place in December!

Thanks for stopping by, now check out my colleagues and their mad skills!

Andes Cruz –
Tess Norberg –
Jaime Pickering –
Purified –
Nancy Dale –
Jewelry by Natsuko –
Sand Fibers –
Alice Istanbul –
Thomasin Durgin –
Susan Moloney –
Beth Cyr –
emily watson-
Tosca Teran-
Lisa Hopkins –
Tamra Gentry –
JJ Papke-
Alisa Miller-
Mary Spencer-

5 thoughts on “October, Talk About: Tell us about yourself – how did you get to where you are now with your skills?

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