In 2014 I was elated to receive an invitation to teach a jewelry-making class at West Dean College in southeast England and immediately began making plans. I launched my own personal “crowdfunding” campaign to help finance this adventure and was humbled by the overwhelmingly positive response. Teaching at West Dean was a dream and I want to thank my friends and supporters who helped to make this trip possible. What I observed, felt and learned fed my creativity and kept me returning to my studio during some rather tumultuous times.
The beautiful campus of West Dean is extensive and l walked through the woods and gardens before class every day. The students were inquisitive, smart and an absolute joy to work with. I was challenged by a studio that was a bit different than I am used to. Among other things, I encountered a borax cone in a ceramic dish that you grind with a little water to make flux and flexible shaft machines that operated with a collet system.
Beyond teaching, my time in England included explorations of Chichester and the beautiful coastal villages of Bosham, Brighton, and Dover. The strong winds made getting close to the edge of the Dover Cliffs a little scary!
In Oxford, I visited the Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology to see the exhibition of Joseph Beuys & Jorg Immendorff: “Art Belongs to the People!” The curator, Sir Norman Rosenthal said, “the exhibition demonstrates the involvement of both artists with contemporary politics and issues of universal human concern, and their belief in the role of art in changing how people think and how they live their lives.” – I couldn’t agree more with that last statment.
In Chipping Campden I visited the Court Barn Museum of Craft and Design. There I learned about the impact of the Arts and Crafts movement on the town and the designers and craftspeople including C.R. Ashbee, Gordon Russell, Hart Silversmiths and Robert Welch who lived and worked there. I loved visiting the Hart Silversmiths studios which are still in operation and marveled at the forming tools and got the sense that not much had changed since 1900.
Long walks were a favorite part of the trip and I enjoyed the public paths from one town to the next. The Cotswold Way, a 100 mile trail from Chipping Campden to Bath was one of the best. I walked the first six miles to the town of Broadway ending with tea and crumpets at the Hunters Tea Room.
In Dover I joined a “Meetup” group to hike the Dover Cliffs before ending my trip in London where I lingered over the collections of the Victoria & Albert and British Museums. On my last night in London I was joined by a friend to watch a theater production of Les Misérables. It was a great finale.
Back at home I began thinking about the pieces I would make for those who helped support my trip. It has been a two-year journey to create and finish these pieces. I began and invested a good deal of time on an initial concept, but was not satisfied with the results. Although frustrated with abandoning my initial effort, this is often part of the process. I was very excited when subsequent efforts and plans came together. All of this transpired during a period of the best and worst of times. I continued my work as the Executive Director at Pocosin Arts, which included the high of completion of our jewelry and clay studio renovations necessitated by hurricane damage and the lows of a complete turnover in staff. Then, quite unexpectedly I met and then married the most wonderful man, Derry Fivehouse on New Year’s Eve of 2014. This was followed by the sudden and untimely loss of my mother, something I have yet to fully comprehend. On the up side, Derry and I packed the belongings of two separate households and moved into our new home last October where I set up a studio. I am proud to say these pieces are fittingly the first to come out of my new studio.
I made many trips to my studio attempting to digest my time in England and create a brooch/pendant embodying this experience as a “Thank You” gift for those who supported my trip. The final design involved lots of experimentation as I integrated elements from things I had seen and felt. I call the piece “Pilgrimage.” It is made of manipulated recycled steel (bottle caps), steel wire, and enamel. To the many friends who helped make this trip possible, I am forever grateful. The brooch is modeled by Ken Bova (above right), one of my many wonderful friends.
What’s next is a body of work based on this initial design that I hope to exhibit in the near future. Thanks again to all my very patient friends, I hope you enjoy your piece.