I find that I am drawn to old jewelry and ancient artifacts. I like
the power one senses in really old work. I like the power that derives
from the functions of these objects.
When production of even the simplest objects was laborious, artisans
reserved fine objects in precious materials for the display of power,
veneration of the sacred, protection of the owner, and the demonstration
of wealth. These were the functions of the art. Beauty was either an
integral part of the commission or just a happy by-product of the worker's
hand and eye; it is impossible to know.
When I see beautiful work that is several hundred years old, I get excited.
When I see beautiful work that is several thousand years old, it gets my full
attention - to the point of obsession. I must incorporate it into my work. I
invent (or reinvent) techniques that allow me to capture a particular facet of
a piece I admire. Usually the technique that I invent is as basic and laborious
as the original.
My techniques derive from carving and small sculpture. I recall carving a toy
dagger and a toy derringer around the age of seven. At the age of thirteen, I
discovered and taught myself the art of inlay.
My work still has much carving and sculpture in it. I carve the ivory of the
long-dead mastodon, the woolly mammoth (50,000 years old), and the walrus (300
to several thousand years old). I inlay 24-karat gold and gemstones into this
fossil ivory. I do a lot of wax carving, especially for rings. I mostly have
them cast in 22-karat gold because I like the color and the way it works in my
hand. That rich of a content of gold feels alive to me.
Lately, I have been developing a way of using 24-karat sheet for bas-relief and
high relief elements for necklaces, brooches and earrings. Most of the very old
cultures had objects made from sheet gold that was pounded thin and then worked
from front and back to produce designs. These sheets of ornamented gold were often buried with people of great importance. They were applied to furniture, boxes and functional objects of wood and ivory. Many cultures sewed decorative sheets of gold onto clothing or leather.
I fill my gold sheet work with lightweight, stable material that protects their shape and allows for the setting of gemstones. However, they are quite fragile, as were the originals that inspired them. I feel that the fragility adds to the sense of preciousness that I am attempting to infuse into the objects
My design inspirations are far and wide. The gold work of the ancient Eurasian normadic peoples (around 600 to 400 B.C.E) is a current fascination. Islamic metal work, especially from the period of occupation and rule of India by Persia, has always intrigued me. In European art, I love the classic Greek, Etruscan, and Roman gold as well as the work that came from the Byzantine Empire.
I have very little choice in the production of my artwork. It rules me. I design work while I walk or swim. I must keep my hands busy. I carry a small pouch of tools with me and will burnish, sand or carve while I wait in lines for films, listen to lectures, go on long car rides, or talk with friends. This, I am sure is how the ancients worked. Wherever I can pull out a tool and work on a piece, feels like home to me.