Life’s good when you get to run it

Bob Ebendorf, Fred Gall, CoMA Conference 2014 Salida, Colorado

Sculptor Ted Gall (left) and Bob Ebendorf share a quiet moment at the podium.

I truly love metalsmithing and I’m reminded of that pure and simple fact every time I get away from the daily grind and into a group of like-minded friends. Despite what it may appear to be, very often a job can be a job, and once you discover its the things you make time and space to do on your own clock that feed your mind and your heart, life becomes so much more rewarding.

Such is the case for me now, and I have gotten to a place where I truly understand how the “important stuff” happens when you get to run it. This year, I made a pact with artist Helen to go to the annual CoMA Conference on my own time and my own dime. If you love metalsmithing and you’ve never been, I heartily recommend it — so, mark your calendar now for the third weekend of July and join.

The last time I attended CoMA was a few years ago, and I was distracted by exterior unpleasantries, the job and the duties — and as a result I was unable to experience it on my own terms as artist Helen. This time, I had to run it, because I needed this one like a desert needs rain. When you are running on empty, you’ve just got to add fuel to the tank. And even with my excellent planning, I wound up being in recovery during the conference from a somewhat unexpected major surgery, and just a bit worried about being far from home. However, courage is essential when you decide to run it, so I trusted Doc, packed my meds and braved the pain and the flight. It was so, so worth it.

pinswap, helen driggs jewelry, CoMA conference 2014, fibula

Here are my 20 pin swap pins ready to trade. Wire fibulas were about all I could produce while laying on the couch drugged and in pain as I recovered from surgery.

Headliners this year were Andy Cooperman, Barbara Heinrich, Ford + Forlano, Ted Gall, and one of my “jewelry heroes” the incredible educator/artist Bob Ebendorf. Every presenter demonstrated a signature technique, and there were additional demos, including using Delft Clay by Alex Boyd, images and videos galore, the pin swap, lunches with friends, dinners with more friends, the silent auction (I scored a sweet strand of chunky, awesome stone beads for a song), the Arkansas River kayakers, “S” Mountain, Big blue sky, Culture Clash Gallery, cold adult beverages, a fantastic and like-minded roommate, glorious sunsets, tales of rocks and cutting rough, the vendor room, and a sweet, singing canary in the breakfast room of my hotel. I also took a two-day workshop with Bob Ebendorf after the conference which totally blew off my doors.

I came home energized and excited about making work again, which is a feeling I haven’t experienced in a while because my gauge was on empty. I have been very busy and life’s been full, but I have been making and doing lots of stuff for the job, plus curriculum pieces and demos for teaching. Important, yes. But, I remembered that its also  important to make space and time for the pure and simple work you make just for the love of making it. It is essential to do that to remain whole, and CoMA helped me remember. I was also very lucky to have an excellent drive featuring a very good mentor/student exchange with Bob Ebendorf all the way to the airport. Having an exchange with someone like Bob is a blessing. Wisdom is everything. And I know now it is critical to keep my sanity by establishing crystal clear boundaries between my own personal time and artwork and the time I have sold to others.

Bob Ebendorf necklace, CoMA 2014 Post Conference Workshop

Bob Ebendorf has used every imaginable material in his work. I have never seen such an inventive use of tabs and cold connections. He is an amazing educator and I have tremendous respect for him.

The more I spend time doing what I love on my own time and dime, the more I remember how important it is to me and how much I love metalsmithing. It makes me strong to have those boundaries in play because they protect artist Helen from the big time and energy drains that can suck the life from you.

The takeaway is this: here are five things I am going to try this summer as a result of what I observed at CoMA. These were my “Ah Ha” moments and I’ll do a show and tell later on as I progress. And, I am still working on the movie in a blog thing, guys/gals, so don’t give up on me yet. I am just busy, but I will deliver, I promise. So anyway, check this:

1. Weld sterling to sterling with sterling wire, instead of using solder — courtesy of Andy Cooperman

2.  Roll print my dried oak leaf hydrangea blossoms between 2 sheets of annealed gold — Courtesy of Barbara Heinrich

3. Make a hand fabricated chain out of iron tie wire or recycled coat hangers — Courtesy of Bob Ebendorf

4. Cast something using Delft Clay — Courtesy of Alex Boyd

5. Revisit polymer clay as a jewelry medium, but wearing a ‘barrier film’ on my hands to prevent a recurrence of serious allergic dermatitis — Courtesy of Steven Ford of Ford + Forlano.

So, that’s all folks. I have a busy remainder of the summer to go, and I’ll see you at BeadFest Philadelphia if you are there.  There are some spots open in some of my classes, so check out my Teaching Dates above if you are free.

Ciao! And, enjoy the rest of the photos…


Bob Ebendorf is free and open with his demo and sample pieces. He encouraged us to shoot as many photos as we needed to take notes. He is truly an educator at heart.

bob ebendorf teaching at CoMA 2014

This is the best part of the workshop experience. I always learn best by watching a master at work. Bob Ebendorf is a wealth of information and a truly fun teacher.


About Helen Driggs

Metalsmith, Teaching Artist, Writer, Maker of things. Former Senior Editor of Lapidary Jewelry Artist Magazine View all posts by Helen Driggs

2 responses to “Life’s good when you get to run it

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