As a maker of objects, I have navigated the waters of sentiment and studied the point when an object becomes a beloved object. This often involves a transaction: a gift, a purchase, the exchange of wedding vows. It involves time. The years spent wearing (or living with) the piece – getting to know it a little more each day. In the case of a wedding ring, it requires understanding its relationship to your body, the weather, the environment, the work one does, one’s age. The Mexican essayist, poet, and diplomat Octavio Paz, in one of my favorite essays, said, “The handmade object does not charm us simply because of its usefulness. It lives in complicity with our senses, and that is why it is so hard to get rid of – it is like throwing a friend out of the house”. I am humbled that some of the objects I have made live daily with friends and strangers alike. Over the last five years of making jewelry, I’ve returned to this idea of making the quiet things that are worn daily, that are impossible to part with. What would make your list?
This poem is part of a series in which I explore traditional jewelry materials and the ways in which they relate to the body. When I was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, I tried to keep my material curiosity alive by tracing the medicines back to their roots, in this case the element platinum. I thought a lot about how systems within the body mimic systems without, veins and arteries echo streams and rivers, sediments accumulate in silt and bone. Thank you to Metalsmith Magazine for inviting me to publish this poem.
Alluvial Deposits (after Carboplatin chemotherapy)
My friend with size 12 fingers insists on platinum
so I set to work carving wedding ring from wax block
refining the crude hacks of my handsaw
with a file and a multitude of sandpapers.
It weighs barely a gram, this brittle model
but transformed into metal it will become
a heavy ballast, it will right the ship,
at least that is what my friend imagines.
I carve slashes into satiny 600-grit surface
as if it has been mauled by a bear my friend directs me
he is watching a Werner Herzog movie
about caves and signs, man and animal.
He wants the animal present in the ring I craft.
I could hone a bear claw, make a tiny tool
become a Wild Thing scratching at ring’s surface
instead, I use precision tungsten burrs to engrave an ursine alphabet.
What constitutes treasure is subject to interpretation.
Aguirre, spun round on a river raft, searching
for El Dorado. The contents of the treasure chest
are usually gold and gems, perhaps feathers
ink, bone, water.
I’ve never seen a chest full of silver’s dull, heavy relative
But I’ve tasted it. Platinum flowed through my veins.
I have known it to be a precise poison
that lingers still
as heavy metals do.
When my living is done
when blood and bile leach back into earth
when my seas evaporate
and my fascia lets go
the well-built pyre of my bones
will reach substantial temperatures
capable of drawing platinum out
and you will find that all along
deep in marrow hair follicle
it’s been mating with the gold.
I’ve written an article that appears in the new issue of Metalsmith Magazine available digitally or in print. The piece asks the question, How to begin again?, in the studio and beyond. I hope you’ll read the stories about the three artists I profile in the piece.
Friendly Tides at Marin Civic Center
Feb 6th - May 18th
Reception: Thursday, March 16th, 5:00-7:00pm
Friendly Tides showcases the work of artists from Marinship Studios, a studio complex in the Marinship neighborhood of Sausalito, California. Located on a site that has been a beacon of creativity for artists, philosophers, writers, and poets since the 1950’s, it has been a workplace and residence for the likes of Maya Angelou, Gordon Onslow Ford, Allen Ginsberg, Jean Varda and Ruth Asawa among others. Marinship Studios was founded in an effort to continue this creative history and support the arts in the Bay Area.
The neighborhood of Marinship began as a shipyard during WWII before blossoming into a creative enclave defined by houseboats, marine businesses and the ebbs and flows of the bay. The title of the show - Friendly Tides - is a nod to the neighborhood’s inextricable link to the tides of the bay and how everyone in the community is impacted by them for both good and ill. All on the waterfront are subject to the pull of the tides, especially when the seasonal king tides threaten to breach our doorways. Many buildings flood during these times, recently including the studios of some of the artists presented here..
In addition to Sausalito's very tangible shores, Friendly Tides also refers to the tidal force of artists in the Bay Area. Unlike many art scenes, it is common here for artists to include the work of their friends and peers in their exhibitions out of an instinct for making space for others and sharing conversations with one another. In this spirit the exhibition includes a group of works by artists from Sausalito and the greater Bay Area who are friends of Marinship Studios. We watch the waterfront to live with the movement of the bay, but we are the friendly tide.
Marinship Studios Artists
Mary Button Durell
Daniel Melo Morales
Bay Area Artists
Lynn Marie Kirby