Collaboration and creativity

As part of my education in the world of studio glass I read interviews and articles about artists and how they approach their work.  While some artists prefer to work alone, many of them find a lot of inspiration in working with others, either on a temporary basis in workshops, classes and residencies, or in a permanent setting in co-location studios.  One artist (whose name I can’t remember at the moment) said the most creative period in her career was when she shared studio space with a metalworker and a woodworker, because she saw her work through new eyes.   Another more general example of this type of environment is the Rivers Arts District in Asheville NC, where over 100 artists occupy studio space in a dozens of rehabbed industrial buildings.  The majority of those spaces are occupied by single artists, but there’s such a concentration of creative expression in the area that they are all exposed to each others ideas and techniques constantly.

We have our own art collective here at home, since my wife Amy is a talented pen and ink artist, and started applying her talents to watercolor painting a few years ago.  Her interest in watercolor journaling led her to investigate book arts, and she’s now working on a series of accordion fold books based on the story of the Salmon of Knowledge.  She’s used several of my beads as closures for other books, and while working on this series we’ve kicked around ideas for beads related to the story.  I made a few fish, keeping the form simple for durability, and then cracked up laughing when I realized that my approach had been to build the flattened sides of the body parallel to the mandrel (on the right below), instead of at right angles to the mandrel, so that the mandrel hole could suggest the eye (on the left).  There are a few of these worth keeping, but most will go on the bead tree.

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While I was busy making hearts for Valentines, Amy suggested beads representing hazelnuts (another feature of the story).  I’m happier with how these turned out.  Sharp eyed readers might have noticed them in the pile of beads fresh out of the kiln last week.

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Since Amy’s already used one of the beads, this photo shows the inside of one book (left), a purple hazelnut bead (center), and another book with fish trim bead and hazelnut closure bead (right).  Here’s a closeup of the book on the right:

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I love the paper she used for the cover!

I’m extremely lucky to be able to express myself through my work, and having someone to spark your imagination, ask “what if…”, and cheer you on when you’re doubting yourself is a tremendous bonus.  I hope I do the same for her.

I almost forgot: our collaborations were mentioned in an article on the Campbell School blog last year!