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Finding my muse


As a jewelry artist, I often get asked where I come up with my ideas.  It makes me wonder:

Where DO I come up with my ideas? 

Do I have a muse?  After thinking on this, I realize…it’s complicated.  There is a lot of repetition in the jewelry arts.  Most jewelry is a variation on the same basic designs that people have been making for centuries.  Hoop earrings, pearl studs, gemstone rings. These things inspire themselves.  I see one and I think:

I need to make one of those.

And then I do.  I am proud to be a craftsperson, pounding out the classics with my own two hands in my own little way, when anyone can see that it’s easier and cheaper to mass produce them in China.

So what about the muse?  Where does “my own special way” come from?  I will confess that I feel a little ambiguous about art.  I’m always sad when my favorite potter stops making coffee mugs in favor of sculpture.  As if the natural progression from craftsperson to artist demands a transition away from useful objects.  It makes me sad because my walls are covered and my mantle is full.  I have no more space for art without purpose.

But I’m always breaking my coffee mugs.

It goes a little deeper than that:  To make a stunning objet d’art is a fine thing.  But to make beauty spring out from within the defined parameters of a functional object is truly magical.  Lucky for me, jewelry must be worn, so it automatically has purpose.  Yes… the very serious purpose of personal adornment. It is the perfect medium in which to merge art and craft.

I have a few categories of ideas.  Some inspiration arrives out of thin air.  I’m sure it came from somewhere, but hell if I know where.

I’m a natural problem solver, and some ideas arrive as a solution to a problem.  It goes something like this:  I have piles of beads, and I like rivets.  How can I combine them? I won’t tell you how many beads I crushed trying to rivet them to metal objects before I came up with this idea:

Sometimes I get my ideas direct from my customers.  A friend asked if I could make a small vial for a loved pet’s ashes.  The request pushed me to try something I never would have thought of doing, and now I’m completely hooked on vials.

Some of my best ideas are born from my limitations.  I’m impatient (who knew?), and

Pearl necklace

I’m on the beginner end of the craftsman spectrum.  So, I do simple things. Instead of getting fancy, I try to maximize the impact of each design element; contrast, proportion, shape, color.

My favorite muse is a phenomenon that I will call Concept Transformation and Appropriation.  I catch a glimpse of someone’s necklace in the elevator.  It is incredibly cool, and I am stabbed with a jealous desire to make it, right now. I can’t believe I never thought of it myself.  I agonize over how I can use the idea without straight copying. The next day I lurk in the vicinity of the elevator to find the person with the fab necklace. I find her and stare…  and see that the necklace was not even remotely what I had imagined. Somewhere between eye and brain, the design morphed into something entirely new and entirely my own, without even pausing to consider my expert guidance.

Inspiration works in funny ways.

Check out where the other Aspiring Metalsmiths find their inspiration:

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. It’s all so true!! :-)

    October 29, 2011
  2. SO TRUE!!!! I can totally relate to ever word, very well said!

    October 29, 2011
  3. Glad to hear you understand!

    October 29, 2011
  4. Yep, I can completely relate to your process too and I love the example of the necklace on the elevator. You underestimate yourself though – you are definitely not at all at the “beginner end of the craftsman spectrum” – that is far from the truth – you are a talented artist and you are doing amazing things! That vial is the perfect example – it’s that you have a knack for using clean lines to make your designs look simple but completely timelessly beautiful. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

    October 29, 2011

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