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REGARDING PROCESS AND THE USE OF FOUND OBJECTS

When new to the field of metals and jewelry, I worked exclusively with sterling silver, bronze and copper.  Several years ago, however, I began incorporating found objects into my work.  I like the visual interest they provide and the loose, playful approach they initiate.   Most of the materials are without value – a penny, a feather, a piece of mirror, a watch part.   When considering found objects, there are no “right” or “wrong” materials.  The objects themselves are considered on the merits of color, texture, size, and shape - whatever will contribute visual interest to the overall work.
   
Found objects are complex.  Along with their physical attributes, most found objects beg a dialogue.  What was the object in its former life?  How was it used?  Was it part of a larger piece?  In one way or another, all found objects bear the marks of their history.  Since most of my work is narrative in nature, it is not only the physical attributes, but also the smaller intrinsic dialogues that capture my interest.  I select objects whose smaller narrative will support the work’s larger overall theme.  To illustrate: in several works, I have utilized coins.  To most people, coins represent money in general.  Each of us, however, brings to a viewing our own feelings about money.  If you are struggling to make a living, you might feel differently about a handful of coins than someone who has easy access to wealth.  While a single penny may represent money, it can also imply value; or, when referencing  the structure of the US dollar, it may represent “the lowest common denominator”, the smallest of things.  While a single penny might represent value, a handful may imply wealth; while a single penny displayed right side up may raise no question, a row of pennies displayed upside down is apt to stir curiosity.

Generally, I collect found objects at random.  At the outset, I am attracted to those attributes that will add visual interest.  Often I pick up discards off the street; or if junking a broken object – one no longer useful for its original intent – I will salvage the interesting parts.  Flea markets and antique stores also provide a source of options.   I store the objects in stacking drawers, each marked with some indication as to its content: plastic, wood, glass and mirror; medical, cosmetic, bone and nature; culinary, mechanical, and antique oddities.  The cataloguing is rather vague as it speaks only in general to the various collections. 

When formulating ideas for a specific work, I begin by considering the narrative in general, and the basic form I will choose  – a sculpture, something utilitarian, a piece of art jewelry, or an object of faith.  If planning to incorporate found objects, I then begin the first of what has developed over time to be a three stage process.   As I progress, I have discovered that each stage possesses its own rhythm. 

During the initial stage, the hunting and gathering phase, I collect anything that is visually interesting and might fit the general theme of the work.  I revisit the goods I have already acquired and, setting aside all objects I feel are even remotely relevant, continue collecting until I have a sufficient number of options from which to choose.  This initial phase moves relatively quickly, as I work intuitively, gathering objects based upon my gut reaction.
 
During the second phase, I begin refining the concept as well as the collection of objects.  Because my works are small, it is important that I pay attention to size and to relative proportions.   I play with arrangements until I can settle on one that seems to makes sense, adjusting and readjusting until each section flows smoothly into the next.  During this honing phase, the tempo slows: the selected objects undergo close scrutiny and I review the contribution each makes to the overall piece.  
  
The final phase proceeds very slowly.  While this stage is the most enjoyable, it is also the most challenging.  Ideally, decisions regarding object selection and arrangement have already been made and I can begin focusing on the mechanics of assembly and the craft of execution.    More often than not, however, some of the objects will present unique problems regarding placement, attachment, or durability.   When such problems arise, it may become necessary to review the choice of found objects, and seek appropriate substitutes.   On occasion, a newly selected object proves a better choice than its predecessor, but it may also cause disruption to the original order of assembly, thereby sending me back to “the drawing board” to resolve new problems.   

I find the repurposing of found objects to be immensely satisfying.  With the investment of time and effort, each piece becomes more precious, and takes on a life of its own.  The process of problem solving commands my complete focus, as I attempt to create works whose visual interest will compel the viewer to linger sufficiently to discover each underlying narrative.
                           

 
     
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