Tag Archives: Jewelry design

Touching Base from Touchstone

helen-driggs-touchstone

Touchstone Center for Crafts is located in Farmington, Pa.

Recently I was invited to be a presenter at the Touchstone Center for Crafts for an awesome annual event called The Jim Campbell Hammer-In and Alchemists Picnic. Other presenters included the amazing Eric Burris, Rebecca Strzelec and Laurie Brown on the jewelry track and Caitlin Morris, Bob Rupert and Jerry Veneziano on the blacksmithing track. It was a full, rich, rewarding day and the demos were fun, informative and well-worth attending. I had never been to Touchstone, so when organizer Wayne Werner invited me to present, I jumped at the opportunity.

Touchstone Center for Crafts runs a full schedule of workshops, classes and year-round activities, the metals studio is fully equipped, and the setting could not be more serene and peaceful. Forget your cell and computer, abandon the endless beeps, chirps and never-ending electronic intrusions of daily life and just focus on making work — my idea of heaven on earth. Centrally located for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, DC, Maryland and upstate New York or Ohio residents, it’s worth the drive out the PA Turnpike to attend a class there. And do not miss the food either, because they really, really feed you well and make every effort to meet any dietary restriction or preference!

helen-driggs-blacsmith-samples

The Blacksmith shop is one of the best I have ever been to — here are some of many twisted iron samples.

Because I have been screaming busy for several months preparing some grant applications, doing digital housekeeping, creating new work and curriculum work and doing lots of freelance writing and teaching, it was great to just get away from my computer for a weekend, eat food prepared by a talented cook, see other members of the metals tribe, listen to nature and chill out. I did not realize how much I sorely needed a break until after Saturday’s lunch, when my full stomach and tired hit me like a ton of bricks…

Next year, I am planning on attending the Picnic for the fun of it. Or, maybe teaching a workshop there leading into it, or following after. Either way, I intend to be there or be square in 2018.

My favorite part of the weekend was the mokume gane demo by talented Eric Burris (he has workshop openings, I am totally going) who has invented an affordable, ingenious small-scale mokume gane kit that works with an acetylene/air torch in your average home studio. Can somebody say awesome? What a brilliant idea, and what an amazing artist.

eric-burris-genius-mokume

Eric’s amazing setup allows you to create mokume gane in the average home studio.

The metals studio is fully equipped with benches, torches and flex shafts, and situated on the hill down from the blacksmith shop. There is also a secret mosaic studio, spring houses, a kitchen and flower garden, a hot glass studio, the main hall and gallery, dorms and camping facilities, so you can go rough or not. There are bonfires and sand casting at night, plus myriad other ways for metalheads to entertain themselves.

Basically, I can’t recommend Touchstone and the Alchemist Picnic enough. If you live in the region, you owe it to yourself to attend a workshop there, visit the center, or at least join.

So, check out my photos and links, and if you are in the Mid-Atlantic region, make it a point to go to the 2018 Alchemist Picnic next year — I’ll be seeing you there!

 


Embrace the Unexpected

When I was rather unexpectedly laid off from the day job at the magazine at the end of August, I decided to look on the upside of things — all of a sudden I have lots of time on my hands to spend in my studio without being mentally distracted by the daily demands of a job. Sure, there is anxiety associated with being unemployed, but if you treat the job hunt part of your day like a temp job and just blitz through the finding leads, sending out and following up on stuff to efficiently get it over with, all of a sudden you have hours and hours of unencumbered time at your disposal. It’s actually really awesome. I’ve been sleeping like a rock, eating so healthy it’s scary, suddenly have lots of energy, and strangely, no more acid reflux. I haven’t left the house for weeks except to take a daily walk around my local lake, or to visit the mailbox or work in my garden.

All this positive force means I’ve been making work like a fiend, sending out class proposals, applying for residencies, shaking up some freelance work and teaching workshops, organizing my paperwork, cleaning up my digital assets, mastering some code, getting the book idea that’s been dancing in my head for about 8 months committed to a worddoc, and generally investing 100% of my creative energy into ProjectHelen instead of ProjectElsewhere. Hate to sound selfish, but ProjectHelen is so rewarding because there are actually tangible rewards when you invest in yourself. I could really get used to this…

Anyway, quick word of reassurance — I promise will still be writing about Tools and Bench Tips here on a regular basis. My last formal column will run in the November 2016 issue. For the past few weeks, I gave myself permission for an essential and very healing mental break after what went down at the magazine. I just had to allow the trauma to sink in and process itself down and out of me. I am happy to say I am cool with it now, doo-doo happens and, it was a great gig while I had it. Oh, and good luck…

So. Over, next. If you follow me on FB or Instagram, you’ll see I’ve been toying with some video, taking loads of step shots, and creating some new classes for Tucson and BeadFest, plus some other places I hope to reveal soon. Keep an eye on my class descriptions for updates. And now, I can be here more often, too.

Change, they say, is as good as a rest. Um, yep!

 


What is Immersive Design?

HelenDriggs Line Sape Form

Line, Shape and Form are the three most used Design Elements for jewelers.

Lately, I’ve been bombarded with many questions about Design. You see, next weekend, I hope to embark on a new series of site-specific Immersive Design Workshops I have created to help jewelry makers who may not have a formal education in Art or Design understand what exactly design is. My hope for this series is to show how to consciously use the Elements and Principals of Design to create new jewelry works. As an artist, I want to introduce you to the new ways you too can see the world around us that will open all new avenues to creating your own jewelry. But first, let’s address a scary word to the uninitiated: Design.

 

Understandably, Design is a hard concept to get across to a group of folks who may have been conditioned to just make jewelry during workshops or classes that spring from project-based ways of working.

 

We can’t help it — as jewelers, we use materials and techniques to create objects. We make a thing. The only way to learn how to use a specific technique or material is to act it out with something real. So, there has to be some wearable or hold-able result to wrap our hands and minds around, and every teacher must come up with some object to copy that hopefully achieves the results that she hopes to get across during that class. It’s no wonder Design often is sidelined in the process. You are there to copy a thing. Sad, but too true. But please consider this: if you intend to go beyond copying works that others have designed to solve a particular set of teaching objectives, Design eventually has to come into your skills arsenal. I hope I can help you.

Design is a hard concept to communicate using words, because much of it comes from intuitive, feeling or purely visual places — we see or feel or deduce a thing, and then we set about expressing those qualities during the creation of an object. Simply stated, Design is the sum of Form plus Function. As a trained Graphic Designer, I love art and design. I live for design. And, there’s a huge world of exciting and beautiful 2D design I won’t go into here, because we are talking jewelry, right?

HelenDriggs sketchbook

Art: your sketchbook is the place for unbridled expression. Just draw like nobody is watching you!

The interesting thing about jewelry design is that it not only encompasses Art, it also involves Craft. For many, Art and Craft are the same thing, but consider this: there are ways to craft an object that is well designed, extremely useful and which also may or may not simultaneously be a beautiful work of art. Art, Craft and Design can all exist together in one object — or not. So, what the heck?

 

 

Let’s start at the beginning: Art. Art is a human need to express something in a creative way. It’s communication of a feeling, idea, or emotion. It can be beautiful or not. Whether 2D or 3D, Art makes you see or feel something using a creative way.

Helen Driggs Technical Samples

Craft: Models and technical samples are a way to work out fabrication issues while you develop materials and tool mastery .

Then, there is Craft. As jewelers, Craft is our guiding light. Craftsmanship is probably the most important skill we can master, and it takes practice and expertise with many tools and many materials to become a jeweler who makes objects with fine craftsmanship. You don’t need to be an artist to be a fine craftsman, though.
Believe it or not, the mechanical skills required to craft any object can be passed on to other people who can copy or even duplicate the object if they have spent enough time practicing or developing those skills. I am not saying this is easy, because there is tool mastery, and mastery of materials — but you don’t need to be an artist to have them.

 

So what is Design? Like art, design is a human expression of creativity. But design is a process that solves a problem. A designer is an artist who “solves” things through planning, and organized thought and then follows a process to create an object that serves some purpose or some function. As jewelers, the “solution” is usually some object to be worn on the body. Sure, you can craft an object without designing something new or different — like a simple metal band ring. But what if you want to make a band ring nobody has ever thought of before? Welcome to the world of Design.

techjournal

Design: Technical Journals are imperative for jewelers to keep track of patterns, fabrication steps, layouts and plans.

The language of Design is easily understood. There are Elements and Principles and Disciplines and Categories of Design. My Immersive Design Workshop will help you unlock your potential by mastering the Design Language in a fun and approachable way. For two and a half days, we will work together as a team in a location that allows us to go out, look, see, feel, explore and understand with our senses and our hands and minds. You will walk, draw, learn, investigate new ways of welcoming the muse, master the language of design, and learn dozens of new tricks to get in touch with your very own artistic genius already living inside of you. I will show you how to use what you see, hear and are intrigued by to jump start what’s already there. And we will have fun while we do it. There is work too, so don’t think this will be a cake walk — although there will be food, too… It is New York, after all.
Need more info?
Details can be found here: Helen’s Immersive Design Workshop, September 23-25, 2016.


New Immersive Design Workshop

Ever since the late 1940s, Greenwich Village and other neighborhoods in New York City have been thriving centers for Art and Design. Many well-known modernist jewelers took up residence there post World War II, like Sam Kramer, Art Smith, Irena Brynner, Ed Weiner and Frank Rebajes and NYC became one of the most thriving centers for Wearable Art in the states.
“The city” has always been a magnet for the best, brightest, hippest, most innovative and talented in the arts, and the constant inspiration of museums, galleries, design schools, studios, shops and businesses, citizens of the world and other artistic delights awaits.
Every time I go to New York, I come home full of ideas and energy, and I can’t wait to sit at my bench and make. It’s fun to discover, look at, breathe in and feel the pulse of the Big Apple. What’s even more fun is when you are there unhurried, free, and with kindred spirits who are also open to what the Muse will bring. This kind of contagious fun is the most creative kind. As an experienced teacher and a mom, I recognize it for what it truly is, and see it as something every child (um, I mean artist) needs to grow and thrive: Parallel Play.

Ask yourself this: When is the last time you hung out with your pals and gave yourself permission to just experiment together and make something completely different from what you normally do for the sheer delight of doing it? Sound fun? It is…

In that vein, I am pleased to announce that I will be forming a loose “collective” of like-minded souls who will meet regularly (or irregularly) in the city to come together as an informal team of makers. As your “leader,” I will form an itinerary and curriculum with specific object-making goals for each immersive class. We will walk, visit museums, galleries, shops, or places around town to gather inspiration. We’ll work together at the Studio (and independently afterward) and also stay in touch beyond that to help each other and the group as a whole to reach specific goals by specific deadlines. You will be responsible for meeting the goals because the group will be relying on you. We’ll trade ideas and techniques and create a collection of individual jewelry works based on themes, concepts and exchange. Our Makers will constantly evolve, grow and change, but the framework of what we do will remain constant. You will make your own work, and you will inspire other makers too. We will work in a safe and nurturing environment and build community using the city as our muse. And we will create an interesting body of wearable art to share with and inspire other makers. You will learn about design and how to be more confident about what you do with it.
If you want to (or need to) jump start yourself, would like to get away to a fun place with good food, do something inspirational, cut loose, make new friends, be open to something positive that will help you grow, or all of the above, I hope to see you in the city!

HarryBertoia

Brooch by Harry Bertoia  from the Museum of Art and Design’s current exhibition of his jewelry and sculpture.

IrvingPotter

Pendant from Irving Potter; another piece in the MAD’s permanent collection

Interested? Here’s what I have so far. I know this seems a teeny bit vague, but I’m still formulating and planning the best experience for you. I will update as we go, but this much is certain:

Helen’s Immersive Manhattan Design Experience: One
September 23-25, 2016; Class limited to 8 students.
Sign up: Call Tevel at Allcraft Tools (800) 645-7124 for class fee and to reserve your spot. Based on demand, a second session of Design Experience: One may be scheduled, so watch this space for updates.
Location: Downtown New York City, meetup location and times TBA.
Please note: Museum fees, transport and meals are not included. For distance travelers, reduced rate hotel information is being investigated, updates to come shortly. We will use transit and have use of a fully-equipped jewelry studio, with tools and equipment available all day Sunday and at other times as required during the weekend.
There will be a materials list or purchasable kit available, as well as a final syllabus and suggested tool list. You will need a dedicated sketchbook or journal, and the prime requirements for success are to be courageous, have an open mind, share well, and wear some good walking shoes.

Preliminary Syllabus …
Friday, Day One: Gather. If you arrive early Friday, we’ll meet up at the Studio between 3 and 4 pm for light refreshments to mix as members of the collective, distribute materials, discuss goals and directions. The official start will be an evening Museum visit beginning at 5pm with exposure to a plethora of food choices that evening for dinner.

Saturday, Day Two: Collect, Explore and Interact. We will hunt, sketch, photograph, look, learn and see. There will be games. This is a day of discovering what it’s like to be a studio jewelry artist in New York. Final organization of a walking tour is underway. As we go, we will determine the best ways to meet our collective and individual goals for the weekend and by the end of day we will have our individual assignments.

Sunday, Day Three: Make. We’ll have all day in the studio to explore our ideas and experiment with design concepts. Each member of the team will design a concept board and begin to fabricate one work that solves their “problem.” I will demo a group of design and fabrication techniques relevant to the class to get you started, but we will all work together as a design team to help each other. You’ll go home with homework, too.

If there are questions, comment here. I can’t wait to see you there!

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On the Radio!

Quick hit here… Just finished a Metalsmith Benchtalk chat with Jay Whaley on Blog Talk Radio. If you missed it, click this link and listen to the recording. I had loads of fun! Nite!


What I’m playing with now

Sometimes, you must give yourself permission to play. Art becomes not so fun when you have to keep doing the same thing again and again — working hard to meet some external need — like a deadline, due date, quota, etc., and you never have enough available time for free experimentation.

Here are some multi-media experiments with recycled materials I have been engaged with.

Here are some multimedia experiments with recycled materials I have been engaged with.

Every book, workshop, guideline or system for creative types will tell you that you really do need to schedule non-negotiable “play dates” for yourself, and on those dates, just make something with no agenda on it. Doing this on a regular, scheduled basis seems counter intuitive to the “creative muse sweeps in and gives me a genius idea” concept, but it isn’t. You’ll discover that practicing this routine will allow you to access your creativity with ease. Because you’ll be familiar with the sensation of slipping in and out of the creative zone as easily as a dolphin flies and swims in front of a speeding ship. Doing this will put some “creativity bucks” in your bank account and you’ll have them when you need them.
Who doesn’t want that?

In my experience, it is absolutely true that “all work and no play” makes me one unhappy camper. If I make the critical error of cutting out play due to being overburdened with “real work” I get really cranky. When I get cranky, I can’t make work, even when I have to. Even if there is time. Because I end up forcing myself to make work, but what I produce is flat, boring, soulless stuff. I hate that crap — and it makes me want to not work. But I have to. So I sit at my bench and move things around and I can’t seem to finish anything. Sound familiar? Its a vicious circle. Why? No fun. No fun = no energy. Artists are kids. We have to play to get energy. And that means cutting loose.

This is some hand-painted, hand made paper I am encasing in resin.

This is some hand-painted, handmade paper I am encasing in resin and sawing out after it has cured.

I have learned that if you take care of yourself by scheduling play, there is a payoff. Because eventually, you’ll discover that when you do need to crank out work to meet those deadlines, you won’t be so exhausted or demoralized by the endless demands of external — and you will have the energy to get that work done. Which will make you feel a sense of accomplishment, which in turn will make you feel satisfied enough to give yourself permission to play again. End of vicious circle.

On that note, I have been playing in my studio a lot lately. I know I will need energy to teach soon, so I am banking up some creativity bucks — courtesy of regular, scheduled play dates for myself. None of this stuff I am creating has anything to do with anything, except that it’s what I feel like playing with. I am flipping the proverbial bird to those external demands and doing what-I-freaking-feel-like-thank-you-very-much. There’s metal, plastic, wood, paint, fabric, fiber, stone, glass, ceramic and other crazy stuff all over the studio. I have paint under my nails, loud music on the speakers, tools everywhere, books open, piles of inspirational materials next to my rocker and bed, and a big smile on my face. What a nice feeling. And, boy, do I feel smug.

So, go play. It will do you a world of good. Meet you at the jungle gym…


Thanks for asking!

I live for questions. Not only do I love to ask them, but as a teacher, I live to answer them. A favorite time of my son’s childhood was when he started to ask me those really complex and profound questions of life, and in my career as a newspaper artist, each day I practically begged for any opportunity to produce a “How” graphic — because I am the kind of person that needs to explain concepts with diagrams and sketches. Many of you it seems are also members of this tribe — we need to show and see to understand something fully. So, this week I have decided to answer an interesting question I received about my book. Here is the email that started it:

Hi Helen!
Have been enjoying The Jewelry Maker’s Field Guide!  On page 129 you mention a tip for cuff bracelets being wider than 1”… I cannot picture what you are meaning by the narrow “V” that conforms to a taper…you wouldn’t happen to have a photo…(guess I’m a visual learner!)
Thanks in advance!  ~Tamra S. Kriedeman 

What a great question!

Helen Driggs

Narrow cuffs don’t need to be tapered.

And yes I would love to show you the answer. The important thing to remember about bracelets and rings and any jewelry object that encircles the body is this: The wider they are, the more consideration must be paid to comfort — because for the most part, human limbs and digits are not really shaped like sausages (I can hear those eyeballs rolling and some snide remarks from the mid-life female members of my readership). The wider a ring band is, the more it must be sized up to allow for knuckle clearance and tapering of the finger joint. For cuffs, it is the same. To prove it, use a tape measure on your wrist at the place just above the wrist bone and then again a few inches up from there on your arm. See? For a wide cuff to be comfortable, you should taper it. Here are two sketches that show this concept, because I told you I have to explain things with drawings.

Helen Driggs

Wider cuffs are more comfortable when tapered.

Luckily, bracelet mandrels are typically tapered just for this reason. On a wide cuff, you won’t need to flip the bracelet around and remove the taper — you’ll want to preserve it, both for the comfort of the wearer, and for the metal too! Here’s why — a bracelet without a taper is more likely to be stressed and work-hardened more and more by the wearer as she struggles to get it on and off her wrist. That means cracking or fracture lines, or creases or bends, so do yourself, and the wearer a favor, and allow for the taper of the wrist. And, it goes without saying, that depending on the design of your cuff, a plain, ordinary rectangular blank of metal might not do the trick — you might have to cut out a wedge-shaped blank instead. To figure out your pattern, tape a sheet of paper around the mandrel and draw the shape of the cuff you’d like to make in the round. Then, untape and flatten the sheet of paper to use it as a pattern to cut out your metal.

More good news

• In honor of Tamra’s great question, and for those of you interested in the book, IWP is running a terrific “Friends & Family Sale” for the holiday shopping season. If you’d like to order a copy of my book, use code FFDEC25 and recieve a 25% discount! So, Happy Holidays! Here’s the link:
http://www.interweavestore.com/jewelry-makers-field-guide

• And, to thank Tamra for her great question, and to see her work, click:

http://www.justforyoujewelryandbeads.com
http://www.facebook.com/justforyoujewelryandbeads