Hello people, I’m Back!
I returned in late June from a teaching tour of the USA. Five
workshops in 6 and a half weeks. I taught eyewear-making to
jewellers and opticians in Baltimore, New York City, San
Francisco, and Phoenix; and taught one-hour ring-making sessions
to i touristi in the Colorado Rockies. I saw a lot and did a lot.
High tea with cad-cammers in Philadelphia, spring growth trees
around Alice’s Restaurant, Old Bay with Baltimore crab, New York
SOFA gala, Golden Gate friends, Phoenix a ‘cool 90 deg’, snow the
day before I land in Flagstaff, the painted Grand Canyon, bison
farms from a bus, Mile High City , Pearl Mall in Boulder, and the
YMCA of the Rockies doing 8100’ jewelry. Mos t places had
’unusually cold’ weather for May/June.
Funnily enough most of my communications were by email. Of
course I already have a reasonable net presence with my web site
and the Orchid and Artmetal postings, which all helped enormously
to introduce me, a relative stranger , to many arts
administrators over there. So making contact, teaching request s,
text and image attachments, and other workshop arrangements were
all done v ia email. Including the panic email to me on one Coast
for back-up brochure in fo that was lost after a crashed
hard-drive on the other Coast! An etrip.
I accessed my remote New Zealand email ‘POP address’ from
mailcity.com a fr ee web-based email service, and even subscribed
to Artmetal from that address. I unfortunately had to unsubscribe
from Orchid as the mailcity system would n ot handle all those
messages. As it was whenever I accessed my mail it pages were
very slow to load. Even from high-powered processor computers.
These free web-based email services are really no more than
advertiser platforms. However it was great that I was able to
access my home email account, and that Ruth and I were able to
make email contact throughout the trip.
The many jewellers, students, teachers, and program organisers
that I met around the country were mostly ‘screenpals’; buddies I
had met on the net. I was treated with warmth and generosity,
driven from and to their huge airports, housed in comfort, shown
around the country, loaned the occasiona l car, and helped with
organising my teaching. I can still feel the delight being driven
along the back roads from Stockbridge Massachusetts, through
Connecticut to New York State with all the trees showing their
Most intriguing? 24hrs on a Greyhound from Phoenix AZ through
Albuquerque N ew Mexico to Denver CO! The Hound was certainly a
memorable part of my trip. B ut it was fantastic to be able to pay
$80 for the whole trip from Phoenix to Denver then get off and
stay a day and at Flagstaff AZ. There I was feted b y Serena
Mankiller and Patrick Smith. Patrick drove me up to the Grand
Canyon and back along a road that looks out to the Painted
Most nerve wracking? Luggage. Hobbling round the patchy streets
Chinatown with my early unstable roller suitcases and lugging
them in and out of airports, shuttles, taxis, subway stairs, and
4 flights of apartment stair s. I bought better ones.
High point? To be literal it was Estes Park. Operating at over
8000’ in suc h a dry atmosphere was really weird for me. Half the
oxygen levels in the air , they say. And my mouth was drying out
so that my tongue stuck to my mouth, and swallowing was
impossible without sloshing water around it first. I was drinking
gallons! What is it about our saliva that at altitude it seems
to be rendered ineffective?
Real high point? Teaching my Eyewear classes. The workshops were
invigorating, lively, and fun. They were five days of relative
calm and control! That is, I felt I knew my stuff and delivered
it with confidence. It was fabulous to have such a range of
students come on the classes. Opthalmologists, opticians,
metalarts students, lecturers, fibre artists, total beginner
students, and on one class an 80 year old artist. The worksh op
facilities were a little different wherever I went, but all were
at a very high standard. The organisation of the workshop admin
was always top notch, and I was treated with generosity and
generally looked after. The students seemed to like the classes,
too. I got written comments like ‘Here’s lookin g at you!’,
‘Thanks you crazy Kiwi you!’, ‘Spectacular!’, ‘Your technical
tip s alone were worth the price’, ‘I am developing a totally new
The slide lectures I gave in USA were about my work from when I
started making eyewear in 1981, showing as well a few shots of
New Zealand countryside, some New Zealand craft artworks, and
lots of New Zealand contemporary jewellery to put my work in
context. People liked the work in general. Of the New Zealand
work many thought it was strong and delightful. Of course I
pumped up the image of the lone Kiwi artist working in isolatio n
from the rest of the world making artworks with a fresh,
down-to-earth approach to materials and ideas.
In my own case I was such an artist, believing from my teens in
this myth o f the creative artist on an island. I mean it’s okay
for a while, but please add to that the incomparable value of
sharing ideas with stranger artists a nd finding fellow thinkers
in other countries. I burst my particular balloon when I went to
SNAG’94 in Portland Oregon. A main emphasis, to my delight, of
that conference was ‘eyewear by jewellers’ and I was stunned and
pleased to meet other artists working in this area. From the sole
resident eyewear-mak er to being one of many such artists in a
short while. Actually I revelled in this, as I found I was able
to retain much of my identity throughout the ‘outing’, and even
have the admiration, wonderment and support returned by some of
the others. Plus I found a good friend and artist-sister in the
delightful Deb Stoner.
Well after a very tolerable 12hr flight LA to Auckland (thanks
to Halcyon I slept most of the time) I was welcomed in the arms
of my delightful Ruth, a nd it’s so good to be home and done
travelling! You’ll understand what I mean - no more dressing from
a single suitcase, keeping tools together, worrying about getting
round, having everything I need for the day’s activities. I’m
definitely loving being back. The trip was stressful for all the
travelling , but definitely manageable, and successful for the
teaching. I seemed to perform well and to my host school’s
expectations, and I had a whale of a good time.
On my trip round USA I had stuff I wanted to keep: catalogues,
photos, receipts, business cards, brochures, etc, but didn’t want
to lug them aroun d with me the whole time. I had little space for
that. So I mailed these thin gs back. Great idea. Till I got to a
post office, or those Mailboxes Etc place s. The cost was
horrendous! So I sent them surface mail. Well I’d been back
nearly 3 weeks and when the first of the mementi touri surplusi
arrived. To ok over 6 weeks to get here! Lucky too, because I’d
almost forgotten the East Coast part!
A week home and I set off again. A 5-day workshop I taught here
in New Zealand at the Nelson Polytechnic Winter Art School. My
course was: JEWELLERY - Practical Alloys and Spontaneous Casting.
Mix your own alloys with a new confidence, turn scrap into
ready-to-use objects. See what can be discovered by designing
’from the ground up’. Bring along your favourite materials and
ideas, both precious and spontaneous. It was great spontaneou s
fun. Some student comments: ‘very spontaneous!’ and 'wonderfully
productive ', ‘a great group, working together supportively and
with super energy’. One student is an Orchidite too. Maybe we’ll
hear something from them!
What’s next for me? I have some exhibition work to finish for
’HeadHandsHeart’, a mixed media exhibition curated by Helen
Schamroth. I’m doing a couple of eyewear frames. One frame is
normal and sober, the other is called ‘Double Espresso’. Opens 20
July, until 8 August at the Centre of Contemporary Art. Held
during the Christchurch Arts Festival this festival is a good
time to see some good craft and works that challenge the
definition of craft, not to mention all the other arts.
An Australian teaching tour: ‘Eyewear’ workshop Sep 18 - 22 Uni
of Sth Australia, Adelaide. ‘Street Jewellery’ Sep 25/26 and Oct
2/3 at the Centre for Contemporary Crafts Object Gallery Circular
Quay, Sydney. ‘Eyewear’ workshop Sep 27 - Oct 1 Sydney College of
Art in conjunction with CCFC Obje ct Studios Sydney. And another
’Eyewear’ workshop Oct 6 - 10 1999 JMGQ, Brisbane.
Someone asked me today if I’d like to teach and lecture in the
States again next year. Well I’d love to, but to be honest I’m
still in recovery mode fr om returning from the last one!
But keep the cards and letters coming in!