by Patty Lakinsmith
Have you ever collaborated with someone to design a piece of handmade jewelry? I've had the pleasure of working with other artists a few times, and really find it energizing when you find common ground and can feed off of each other's special strengths and energy.
The first time was with Cyndie Smith, a metalsmith I met in the forums on Etsy. Here's the story of how we decided to create Mean Green Mother Earth together for the initial ISGB / Bead & Button Convergence exhibit. The coolest thing about that project was that neither of us was shy about going over the top, and creating something that was what I call, "Bearable", or Barely Wearable. I sent photos and actual beads to Cyndie, who expertly crafted the metal leaves and flower petals, and she assembled the piece. Her talents with metal allowed the piece both she and I had been dreaming about for years to be born.
We decided to team up again the next year for Convergence II, where we did a piece called The Bone Goddess (description is here). I found myself reaching to do new things with glass, like using glass bones as hinges to join the three-segment neckpiece. Much time was spent experimenting to see how the two materials (sterling silver and soft glass) could be joined, whether through cold working or heat processes. While this piece was a little more wearer-friendly than the first, it's still a bit over the top as far as jewelry goes. Another really interesting aspect of this project for me was the research we did to understand and relate our concept and components to folklore surrounding older women.
There are so many ways to communicate electronically these days that it's not necessary to live near each other to work together. Cyndie lives in Florida, and I live in Northern California, and we completed Mean Green Mother Earth without ever having met in person, believe it or not. We have shared design ideas in emails, Picasa web album photos, and over Skype, to the point where it seems like we're neighbors down the street from each other (I wish!). Cyndie even talked me through my first wire rivets over Skype one night, when I had possession of the Bone Goddess to add the final "fringe" bones and felt backing, and had to alter some of the connections. It worked!
I've also collaborated with Rachel Nelson-Smith on a neckpiece entitled "Confluence", representing the power and fluid nature of water and glass. We met a few times to talk about concepts, I showed her some prototype beads, and finally made the final beads which she incorporated into the finished piece. This piece recently sold and we're currently at work on another, and this one is hugely creative and exciting to us both.
Have you had the chance to work with another artist before, and if so, how was your experience? Did you find it easy or difficult? Did it frustrate or energize you? Were you happy with the results?