Whenever I visited my grandparents, my grandfather had a project going, some carpentry/building idea he was working on. Despite being from a more traditional generation he happily accepted the fact that, even though I was a girl, I was also the one most interested in his projects.
I loved his workshop – an amazing, beautiful mess – piles of wood, pieces of broken furniture, screws and nails in baby food jars, cans of oil and paint all stacked and organized around a ShopSmith. The smell was fantastic. He would plan something special whenever I came and we would work together building a little spice shelf for Annie, my grandmother, or fixing the basement hatch door, you know the kind that opens over a set of stairs leading down to the basement?
He loved to fix everything, so we cut, soldered, glued, bolted and screwed things back together.
This love of designing, fixing, creating has stayed with me throughout my life. The small amount of time I’ve spent in various offices always felt like something I was doing until I could get back to my real work, designing, creating and fixing with tools and material using my body, mind and imagination.
As I work, my main goal is to get out of my way and really feel, experience and notice what’s happening as I construct, Using metal, clay, wood and found objects, I usually have an overall shape in mind as I start, often inspired by an intense personal experience or a trip where I was surrounded by a new landscape. The details start appearing as the piece takes shape.
One of the most valuable gems I took away from my time with Yun Dong Nam, my professor at UNC-CH, was not to let a piece become too precious to push. As soon as I feel any kind of hesitation about trying something for fear of ruining the piece, I do it. I’ve learned so much from pushing.
How do you know how far you can go if you don’t know what’s too far?