ISABA: How did you become interested
in creating metal art, and how did you get started?
CHRISTINE: Back when I was working
as a credit manager for a big company I took a class at Studio One in
Oakland, CA. We made simple silver rings and I was absolutely hooked.
The fact that I was able to sell some very, very simple metal earrings
afterwards, at work, was the “icing on the cake.” I puttered around
with metal during the next few years but got sidetracked by rubber
stamping and bookbinding. Around 2001, I took a class with Tracy and
Teesha Moore and that got me interested in metal again because they
showed me that I could put metalsmithing and bookbinding together in
really funky, cool ways. The class gave me all kinds of inspiration and
motivation and I continued taking classes and improving my skills
steadily. I then started teaching classes featuring metal-covered
A few years ago, I took a week-long class
from Tim McCreight at the Oregon College of Arts and Crafts
in Portland. That class opened the flood gate of metal inspiration for
me. I look back on it now and while I did learn an unbelievable amount
of metal fabrication from Tim during the class, it was his generous
spirit, democratic teaching style, passion and knowledge of his medium
that affected me the most. Somehow, I absorbed that from him and
brought it home with me. Now, working with and teaching metalsmithing
is my passion and my comfort. I explore new media and technique all of
the time, but metalsmithing is my sanctuary.
ISABA: What inspires you to create
your marvelous works of art, and how do you go about planning each piece?
CHRISTINE: Thank you!
I usually back into my pieces. I’ll want to
learn a technique, try a new product, or practice with a tool, and so
I’ll plan a piece around that goal. I think that I’m fairly
left-brained, so I approach projects very systematically; i.e., these
are the tools that I need, this is the materials list, or these are the
articles or books with the information. In my journal, I draw out any
mechanical systems (like hinges), or work out in what order things have
to be done. Then, I start working on the piece. Sometimes things can
percolate for weeks or months, so I have many projects resting on my
mind’s shelves at any given time. If I could execute half of what I
plan out in my journals, I’d be a very prolific artist indeed!
ISABA: What are the things that you
like the most in working with metals?
CHRISTINE: I love that there’s
always more to learn and the feeling that I can make anything that I
want. Metalsmithing made me more observant of the world around me
because I now notice how things work or are put together….I don’t feel
so surrounded by mechanical and scientific mysteries. A friend of mine
once commented that she didn’t understand how houses “work”. The whole
idea of what was going on behind the walls was a mystery. That’s how my
world was before I started metalsmithing, and now I have a small
peephole into what’s going on behind the “walls.”
I love how metals work so seamlessly with
other media…glass, paper, mica, wood, fabric, etc. Metal can be a flat,
hard, cold sheet, or it can be an evocative, tactile, flowing piece of
colorful form. It’s practical, frivolous, and life-saving. Everyone
sees something different in it…art, science, wealth. It can be melted,
bent, hardened, colored, coiled, etched, soldered, and alloyed with
other metals to become something else completely. My little “hamster
brain” loves the variety, energy, and challenges of working with
something so open to my goals and ideas.
ISABA: What are some of the hardest
things that you have discovered in working with metals?
CHRISTINE: I can’t think of one
negative thing. I mean, some people are allergic to a certain metal or
chemical, or I might not have the hand-strength to form a heavy-gauge
piece of metal, or someone might be afraid of a power tool…but there are
ways around most of it. Working with thinner metal or annealing it in a
torch flame softens it so that it can be manipulated more easily.
Someone with the right chemical, machine, or tool can be hired (or
begged) for a particularly difficult step; goggles and masks are
available for your protection. Metalsmithing can be difficult if we
make it that way, but it won’t come to us. We have to adapt to the
medium and our own conditions. In terms of satisfaction and
inspiration, it’s worth a reach across the divide.
Maybe if there’s any negative to working
with metal at all, it’s that we might not have the experience in our
lives to make us "forge" ahead and try things that are unfamiliar. I’m
projecting, of course, because that’s what stopped me from trying more
challenging projects for years. There were all these tiny little holes
in my knowledge or skill that I let stop me from going further. After
years of struggling and experimenting on my own, that is the dam that
Tim’s class broke for me, and that’s what I hope fervently that people
take away from my classes.
ISABA: There are various forms of
metal…tin, copper, steel, etc. Could you explain some of the basic
“positive” and “negative” qualities in working with each?
CHRISTINE: My experience in working
with tin is cutting apart old cookie and tea tins and then riveting the
pieces to other things. Copper and sterling-silver are my primary
materials. They’re easy to color, form, solder, drill, saw, etch,
enamel and so much more! Steel is marvelous for its strength. I use
steel nails and bar stock to make my own chisels and simple chasing
tools. I get a great feeling of satisfaction when a tool that I made is
exactly right for the job at hand.
ISABA: How can working with metal
help to enhance the altered-book artist? In other words, what are some
suggestions on how metal-crafting and altered books could be used
CHRISTINE: The mind boggles with the
possibilities! Have you seen Nina Bagley’s work or Marcia Engeltjes
work? They both use metal “on” and “in” books in amazing ways! Here
are a few quick ideas:
Closures for holding bulging altered
Copper eyelets holding mica and copper
mesh pages together.
Sheet metal eyeleted, or riveted, to the
front of an old book cover.
Copper or brass mesh wrapped around the
spine of a book to cover the stitching, or sew through the mesh and
the stitches will show on the outside.
Thin gauges of metal can be folded
around book board for covers.
Metal corners can easily be added to the
corners of an altered book to protect them from wear or to hide wear
from their previous life.
Charms can be dangled from bookmarks.
Hinges can be added to dress up a