Not every creative experiences this. It seems to be purposely removed from academic settings such as graduate schools/MFA programs, university/art school faculty/teachers, or coveted artist residencies such as Arrowmont, Tennessee or Penland, North Carolina, or Vermont Studio Center. In many ways – the wisest move for an artist exiting academia is to apply for and obtain a residency somewhere still within this insular environment, away from the Look. One can grow his/her own body of work or experiment with new materials, not only in a supportive atmosphere but in the case of many craft artists – with a fully-equipped studio, chock-full of kilns, slab rollers, steel hammers, rolling mills, dies, bandsaws – without that costly expense to set up one’s own full-time studio.
I didn’t take that path. After receiving my second degree in Fine Arts/Metalsmithing, I decided to pay off those nagging student loans by working four years as a production jeweler and diamond setter. I decided that I wanted my own studio; my own walls in private where I could bang, hammer, chase, draw, think, sulk – and it wasn’t going to be a temporary situation that would end in a year or two. Working as a production jeweler allowed me to learn so many aspects of the jewelry trade, not to mention how to “work on the clock” with precisely-timed production pieces. Still, I was in an environment that was immune to the Look; peers, friends and others didn’t question my profession. Not even my then-accountant! With the growing advent of the dot.com boom, this evolved into working professionally as a graphic and multimedia designer at a Philadelphia software company. I bought a modest house and in small doses, began setting up my metals’ studio. I was unmarried at the time and living the “single-girl” dream (which honestly I did not find glamorous at all.) While my life took this path – I had the respect of my peer group, work colleagues and immediate friends. However, deep-down, I knew that making art, creating the one-of-kind jewelry pieces that I had begun while studying at Parsons and New Paltz in NY were what I really wanted to pursue creatively.
The next year, 2014, is already looking strong. I’m working towards the first solo exhibit of my “widget lockets”/ one-of-a-kind jewelry at a gallery in upstate New York. The only downfall: now that I’ve “opened up the floorboards to the attic”, those folks from my past are peering back up through the new openings in a once-concealed floor and thinking to themselves while unknowingly giving me the Look: “Is she out of her blasted mind!??” “Full-time studio artist in this economy?”