If you’ve ever been a part of a formal art training program, especially one predating the vast array of professional practice resources available for artists in the 2010’s, you may have found yourself stumbling through the wilderness in a post-graduation haze. I’ve been told that up to ten years of this kind of wandering in the desert can be common, though I’m sure it’s different for everyone. As for me, I have one, two kids under four now – I do what I can when I can and for the time being, am not the boss of me.
Utilizing snap rings sourced from my Dad’s machine shop.
As a direct response to having children, my work began to diminish in size. Once large enough to sit inside of, I could no longer afford the time, space or materials that I would have chosen to use previously. Initially, my hypothesis was that jewelry is just tiny wearable sculpture, right? Wrong! Jewelry must become a counterpoint to the body, to move with it, withstand abuses and weather the wear of love. I would find there is much, much more to this most precious of art forms, just like my kids – so very small and of immeasurable value.
The images below are of early experiments in wire-wrapping and photographic display. Initially trying to recreate these beautiful rings that a few of my aunts and uncles made to sell as youths in the 1960’s, I can’t seem to do it successfully. There’s a lot of creative nuance in the examples I’d inherited, and in the family at large – potters, architects, sculptors, basket-makers – sometimes hard to hold a candle to! They helped me along by nurturing a keen eye for quality in craft, hands-on knowledge of material properties and an appreciation of historical precedents in art.
Wire-wrapping after a family tradition on the Sweeney side.
Deer antlers and machine parts hailed from my Dad’s machine shop, which I rifled through endlessly in search of bits and pieces to assemble into something wondrous. Unfortunately, he passed away in a hunting accident when I was six, but the way I remember him is through making. His loss galvanized my creative response to the world, I can’t think of another more influential event in my life. He was an engineer, an inventor, a craftsman and woodsman. I thank him for my red hair, a healthy temper and a love of the wilderness. This is also where the fascination with memory, storytelling, myth-making and magical thinking comes from. Because of this event, both art and magic would became guiding practices when times were tough.
Dad with some crow magic.