Today's Blog is an interview with Metalsmiths Unite member Ginger Meek Allen- Enjoy!
How would you describe what you do as an artist?
I am a storyteller. I speak metal.
Art jewelry is the most intimate of art forms. We wear it on our bodies, often because we associate it with something precious in our lives. Or, perhaps it’s just a simple aesthetic statement. Either way, it tells a story. Preserving and honoring that story is my goal.
I am a custom metalsmith. I create commissioned pieces as well as one-of-a-kind pieces for retail sale. I occasionally do limited production lines. And, when the muse is alive and engaging, I create small-scale narrative sculpture inspired by and incorporating found objects.
What inspires your designs?
Story. I believe in connections. I believe in relationships.
Connections between friends, between families, between lovers…. My designs tend to have multiple connections, and elements that coordinate to tell a story.
For example, for a woman’s 40th birthday, her husband recently commissioned a ring with her children’s birthstones in sizes that represent their ages at that time in her life, 19 dapped impressions going down one side of the shank, his birthstone gypsy set inside the underside of the shank to represent her holding him close, and 21 dapped impressions going back up the other side of the shank. She met him when she was 19, and they’ve been together for 21 years. Hence the 19 and 21 dapped impressions. (I don’t care so much about perfect symmetry.)
Sometimes the story inspiration is actually historical.
Reading from my own antique book collection, most of which was inherited from earlier generations, I was inspired by a short story of love and affection, though misplaced. I studied the author and his other writings, and created Weakness Scorned. A book-like form, it features deeply etched text using the book itself as a graphic, hinged connections, and another text stamped crudely in the dark interior. It became the inaugural piece in an entire series of works. (Read the story of this piece here: http://www.gingermeekallen.com/21.html)
I am a huge fan of old things. Working with found objects is a favorite approach of mine. Perhaps it is again because of the story element that fascinates me so. One example is a small-scale sculpture that began with an antique photograph of two women. Ruth’s Song is built of sterling silver and stands about eight inches tall. Its form alludes to a stringed instrument, or a female form. It features an etched image inside from an antique photograph, a tortoise guitar pick, an optic lens, a bone guitar peg, and an antique wallpaper design graphic. (Read the entire story of this piece here: http://gingermeekallen.wordpress.com/ruths-song-the-story-of-a-found-object-sculpture/)
How long have you been involved in this type of making?
In 1991, I met a metalsmith. She changed my life. I was an undergraduate student in journalism, but I spent every spare moment and penny in her shop, buying beads and learning jewelry connections. A seed was planted, and soon I recognized that metalsmithing was the perfect fit for me. I began to independently study both the techniques and the practices of the field. I took a few workshops here and there along the way, but today, 19 years later, I would say that I am primarily a self-taught artist.
Where are you located?
I live and work in Historic Downtown Wake Forest, North Carolina, 18 miles north of Raleigh, nestled among several large universities, and Research Triangle Park. We are a three-hour drive from the beach, four hours from the mountains, and only a few minutes to Krispy Kreme doughnuts, sweet tea, and barbecue with spicy vinegar-based sauce (not all at the same time).
Do you have a website?
My portfolio website can be visited at: www.gingermeekallen.com My studio/gallery website is www.ledestudio.com
My blog: www.gingermeekallen.wordpress.com
(MBZ, I have an etsy shop, but I’ve never developed it. I need some tips! :-) )
What other ways do you market your work?
For the last five years, I have been a resident artist in a collaborative gallery – The Cotton Company. This summer I will be realizing a long-time dream when I move my studio into my own space. Lede Studio and Gallery will have a small gallery, and a large studio (as metals studios go). I also market online, through my website and blog, Facebook and Twitter.
My studio is in a former newspaper plant. Lede Studio and Gallery. “Lede” is a journalism term for the first paragraph of a news story or the main story on a newspaper front page. My tendency toward narrative work is strong, hence the name.
Do you teach?
I am coming out of a teaching hiatus. I will be teaching in my new studio beginning this summer, including project workshops for beginners, and ongoing intermediate studio sessions.
Any sage advice for newcomers that you would like to share?
I have found two things to be absolutely essential to an artist’s life:
First, cultivate a creativity habit. I have wasted much waiting for the muse to show herself and get me going in making. A much better approach is to show up at the bench pin regularly and warm up with a mundane or repetitive task. I heard of a writer who always stops writing mid-sentence, so he knows where to begin when he returns to it. I like to leave the bench in the middle of a task, so I know exactly how to resume when I return.
Second, make the effort to understand and practice sound business principles and persistent marketing efforts.
Where do you envision your work going in the next year? (artistic direction)
I have great expectations for the next year. My gallery will be going strong, presenting the work of innovative metalsmiths and narrative artists. Students will fill the studio – both beginning and intermediate metalsmiths. Clients’ stories will be honored and preserved through commissioned pieces. And, I’d like to explore narrative sculptural work further.
Anything else you would like to share?
Call to Metalsmiths: Lede Studio and Gallery is looking for metalsmiths interested in exhibiting in the gallery. Contact Ginger for more information – firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks Ginger for such an informative interview!I hope you have a great start to your gallery- and we look forward to hearing about your future successes!
ciao- Maureen aka Metalsmiths Unite mamma!