Tuesday, June 15, 2010

am I a metal artist?

Untitled, 2006. Wood, paint, wire, more than 2000 paper clips.

Today the Handmade Division is blogging on the topic, "Do you consider yourself to be only a (metal) artist?". An interesting question and one I've been thinking about lately as I become more involved with various metalsmithing communities online.

I do not think of myself primarily as a metal artist or metalsmith, I'm a conceptual artist who happens to be working with metal. My MFA is in Fiber Art and I worked with textiles for 15 years before moving to mixed media, and eventually metal three years ago. Perhaps I will become interested in painting or ceramics one day, I have no idea. I can't imagine limiting myself to one medium for the rest of my life.

Front View, 2000. Canvas, thread, glass beads.

I do not consider any of my wearable, everyday jewelry pieces to be art objects. I think of them as design exercises, as well as a means for me to support myself while improving my craftsmanship and metalsmithing skills. That body of work appeals to my interest in the process over the product and is firmly based in craft and craftsmanship.

Necklace, 2010. Sterling silver, copper, brass.

My conceptual work is my art, these objects are primarily about the expression of ideas; craftsmanship, while still very important, is always secondary to this expression.

Don't!, 2010. Nickel silver, sterling, copper, aluminum door bolt.

I really like working this way, moving back and forth between design and art. For years after grad school I put a lot of pressure on myself to make nothing but conceptual work, which is hard for me because my art tends toward sociopolitical commentary, and that's difficult to conjure up - it has to come from my gut, organically. Making wearable, design-based pieces takes away the pressure to produce and allows me to remain happily creative without added stress. I sell enough of my everyday jewelry that I don't have to worry about making money with my art, so those objects can remain authentically mine and aren't subject to the vagaries and influences of the market. It's a nice arrangement.

Please visit the other members of the Handmade Division to read their views:

Andes Cruz
Jewelry by Natsuko

Lisa Hopkins Design

Abhaya Fibers
ArtJewel Designs

Susan Moloney

Bill Martin
Tamra Gentry
Maureen BZ (Cosmo’s Moon)


  1. awesome post Tomi - I loved learning more about you - once again :)

  2. Fantastic post--what wonderful photos of your work!

  3. Extremely powerful and perceptive post, Tomi! I love the distinctions you make between craft, design, and art. You navigate the gamut for us and expose exactly how you retain your integrity as a creative.

    Beautifully photographed examples too. :)