Just before 2015 drew to a close, I received some big news. The email began this way: “Congratulations! The Indiana Arts Commission is pleased to inform you that you have been selected as a recipient of the Arts in the Parks grant for 2016.” It was exciting to read, especially since I’d been waiting nearly three months to hear whether my grant had been chosen for funding. Grants, at least the ones with which I am familiar, are lengthy processes. I started writing the proposal in July, 2015; submitted the final draft in September, and heard in December that I received funding for my project, which is scheduled to run January-December 2016.
The project itself is no small task either. I titled mine, “Perspectives in Topography” and chose Clifty Falls State Park as the location. For years, I’ve been fascinated with topographic maps. These maps, sometimes called contour maps, represent land elevation with lines. The steeper the incline, the closer together the lines on the map are. They are beautiful, and I have long wanted to incorporate them somehow in my artwork. Clifty Falls is situated at the southeastern border of Indiana, on the cliffs overlooking the Ohio River and the park topography is pretty spectacular, which is why I chose it.
Now, I’m a jewelry artist, so my accustomed scale is relatively small. And, I’m not sure when people think of pairing artists with public parks that jewelry is the first thing that comes to mind. Painting or photography, yes, but jewelry? Yet, the idea has been bubbling and percolating in the back of my mind for years, literally. This grant provided just the kick-in-the-pants I needed to pull this idea down off the shelf and get serious about it, and I am grateful.
My project consists of three distinct phases and takes place, as I’ve mentioned, over the course of the year. The first phase consists of research and preparation, and I am just finishing this phase. In addition to obtaining maps and familiarizing myself with the history of the park, I spent six days and five nights in an artist-in-residency stay on park property, hiking, sketching, thinking and journaling. February in Indiana is not the most scenic time of the year if you like color (which I do!) but the bare trees made it easier to get an overview of the contours of the land. Shapes, textures, patterns–all was fair game for observation and inspiration. I kept my eyes wide and looked and looked and looked.
The second phase of the project takes place back in my own studio, where I will be fabricating jewelry inspired and informed by my research. Historically, my own flameworked glass has been a prominent feature in my jewelry designs, although within the last year or two I have been incorporating more and more fabricated metal elements and the glass has become much less predominant. At this point, I am uncertain to what degree, if any, I will use my flameworked glass in this new body of jewelry. It is helpful to be well versed in many different media, as I can draw on the techniques and materials that best lend themselves to my objective with any given piece. Glass may or may not be involved.
I look forward to delving into the fabrication phase. There is little I enjoy more than losing myself in the creation process. It is, on a good day, truly where time stands still for me, and on a bad day, I’d still be hard pressed to name anything else I’d rather be doing. My only concern is self-discipline. I have resigned myself to the fact that the paradox is eternal: I love creating yet am easily distracted from it. I am aware that I am going to need to guard my studio time ferociously, unflinchingly saying “NO” to distractions. I am secretly looking forward to this. It is an area I have long wanted to get better in, and now I have no choice.
In the autumn of 2016, the third and final phase of my project will likely take place. (I say likely because the exact date has yet to be finalized and could happen anytime prior to December 31.) I will return to Clifty Falls State Park to give a free, public presentation of the entire project, complete with images, work samples showing my techniques and stages of fabrication, and finished jewelry pieces. Though looking forward to this also, I am already experiencing the fluttering in my stomach when I think about this. I am hoping many of your friendly, supportive faces will appear in my audience! Stay tuned for more posts about the development of this project.