Those who have spent years learning all they can about metal and
it's work....a lot of times they don't even call themselves
artists. You gotta earn it....and by that I mean live it.
Thanks to Kim Starbard for her insightful comment. Having just spent
an embarrassingly long time attempting to document a creative episode
in my life a lot of thoughts are still bussing around in my head.
I now realized that “Artist” is what I am only when one looks back
at my body of work, identifies its creative evolution and recognizes
value in what has been achieved. After nearly 40 years of creating
what should be made, rather than what has, my work stands on its own
evolutionary history of invention, discovery and refinement. It has
developed it own complex and mature aesthetic language, however
"artist" is not who I am and it is not what I do.
Who I am seems to depend on what I’m focused on. At times I’m a
goldsmith struggling with issues that push me to the limit of my
experience and skill, I’m definitely not thinking art at that point in
time. In fact I almost never think about making art, only about
pushing the work in hand to the emotional pitch that I’m visualizing.
Usually I come up a little short, so the next idea develops and I’m
in love with a new more demanding mistress. Eventual I reach a point
where I’m either satisfied or burnt out and I switch to something
else that fascinates me.
When I’m designing or inventing I’m intensely involve in each of
those activities. At those times I’m a designer or if I’m lucky an
inventor. At other times I’m a lapidary or if I measure up to it, a
jeweller. Every project ortask consumes me, I don’t multitask. When
I’m engaged in a new idea or project everything else is blocked out.
Most activities take longer, much longer than I expect to reach a
point where I stop. You could say that I sell my failures, it is my
evolving trail of failures that constitutes my oeuvre, each led me
to the next improvement. Its only in looking back that one develops
the perspective to see the creative force at work. I’ve had some
spectacular failures, creative turning points that changed me and
changed what I do.
In truth I don’t know what “artist” does. The trite answer “makes
art” is meaningless to me. As Kim so aptly put it, you can’t decide
to be artist. You might become one, you might not, it all in the
work. The art of a goldsmith, ok I get it, goldsmith artist, not a
If I were a painter I would be a painter to the very core. Maybe if
I discovered something fantastic, developed mastery over it and
evolved it into a real language, not a style, the paintings would
become works of art and you could say that I was artist, but in truth
I would be more concerned with being painter.
You might be thinking, wow that’s too hard to do, it might never
happen. I guess that’s the point. Art changes us, it exposes our mind
to what the best can be and in the process we develop expectations.
Exceptional works of art are thrilling because they exceed our
expectation and elevate our standards. They are rare because works
substantially above the norm are difficult to conceive and perform.
Now that’s something to live up to.
Dennis Smith - thejewelmaker