Above : Pecan and Elm and Pine in Snow

Note : This post was started in January and finished in February.


The task of coming home after the holidays is always a strange one. And this year, after three plane rides pinned to my seat by the sleeping weight of a seven-month-old, the transition seems just a bit more jarring and welcome. As eager as I was to get out into the world after a season of working from home and learning how to mother, I am just as ready to return to our insulated life – to my studio (filled with plants hidden from the frost), to the carpeted floors of our living room (newly sprinkled with the small toys of small people), to the perspective-giving openness of our big-for-the-city backyard (temporarily barren and shifting in the ever-changing light of winter).


Finally we return also to our routines. We re-enter the gallery rotation. We are glad to see friendly faces and maybe less glad to make small talk with newer ones. It is the moments of forced conversation between sincere reunions when I recognize the quick and surprising desire to run immediately back home, to curl up in the confident stare of my littlest true companion.


Coming home again from the crowded gallery where inspiration is both displayed and stolen, I realize that all I really need to refill my stores is one good book and the long-awaited quiet of a napping child. I am only a few pages in, but May Sarton seems willing to provide some nourishment for a season in her wincingly honest Journal of a Solitude.


And so, this is where I am in the process of making. Gathering my thoughts and challenging them with beautifully worded experiences not my own. As always, it helps to have a deadline even for thinking. So I am grateful for the latest grant application, which forced a reflection on the evolution of my work and created a space for Sarton’s words to mix with mine :


In Journal of a Solitude, May Sarton notes, “I suppose I have written novels to find out what I thought about something and poems to find out what I felt about something.” Similarly, though my sentences are written in objects, there exists a parallel evolution from thesis to essay in the years since my Fellowship. Always rooted in quiet struggle and delicate growth, past hypotheses with all their immediate and flawed speculations have shifted to pleading reflections and an openness to slow discovery and challenging truths. I used to think I could chase intuition, practice it as a performed skill. But those synthetic attempts never held even my own interest for very long. As makers we sometimes wish to find that all-encompassing, completely engrossing, life-devouring passion for our craft so often discussed in artist interviews, but when it finally came for me I found intuitive making inextricably linked to grief. For one long moment I was blinded to everything except this awful depth of feeling and the absolute imperative need to make sense of this new world through objects.


Greater than a broad shift in media (enamel to electroformed copper) or technique (detailed sketches to direct drawing in metal) is this difference in the necessity of thinking and feeling through making. Since that terrible introduction, I have found methods to continue without such sacrifice of self. And the materials once used to communicate such vulnerability now fold and bend to accept new interpretations and the optimism of new life.

Left : (in progress) - Steven Foutch

As I gather and think and write, Steven finds time in the early hours before meetings and classes to keep working and struggling in the studio. I watch his progress and am reminded of another handful of thoughts, collected by Sarton from Louise Bogan and Humphry Tevelyan, where she ponders the necessary balancing of an artist’s ‘courage to despair’ with the great imperative to ‘keep the Hell out of your work . . . The conflict is there, all right, but it is worked through by means of writing the poem.’ Only in this tempering of innocence and violence, they all three argue together, can an artist ‘remain creative to the end of a long life.’ 


As jewelers and printmakers, though we have chosen processes that lend themselves to the metered transformation of feeling into image and object, we still often bemoan our slowness, wishing to burn brightly and irresponsibly. And sometimes we do find ways to move quickly, until our responsibilities to our family, to our jobs, or to ourselves force from the studio to marinate in our own juices until we can return to take back up the thread of despair with ready hands.


For now, school is in session and time in the studio is precious. Much of our focus is shifted to the work of our students, and I am thankful for the little time I have to put toward my own work. Even a visit to the Dallas Museum of Art with friends from out of town feels like stolen time and visual research as I take quick note of display mechanisms. Below an image less of the artwork and more of the cardboard and masonite table beneath. Followed by a few drawings for new pieces on the dichotomy of fragility and strength, the extreme fluctuation of highs and lows of new motherhood as depicted in the heaviness of stone comparedto the vulnerable lightness of thinly electroformed and constructed copper.

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