Featured Member

Each month a new Featured Member is chosen from the completed member profiles on our website. Their interview and work is highlighted on our blog and social media. Visit our archive of past Featured Members.

August 2017

  • Curtis H. Arima
  • Curtis H. Arima
  • Curtis H. Arima
  • Curtis H. Arima
  • Curtis H. Arima
  • Curtis H. Arima

Curtis H. Arima

Emeryville, Ca

Tell us a little about yourself.

My mother is a master seamstress, and my father was a mechanical engineer and inventor. My works, their conception, and the way I move through the world reflect their influences.

My mother has a passion to make clothes for people to help them feel comfortable in their own skins, and feel special for any occasion.

Growing up I loved seeing my mother take bolts of fabric and turn it into wedding dresses for to be brides, and watching clients’ faces light up seeing clothes that complimented the lines of their body the first time.

She guides her clients through the process of customizing clothes, helping thems understand aesthetic and the best choices for the project.

I carry her knowledge with me when I do custom work.

Listen carefully to my clients, decipher what they want, use expertise to help guide them through their best options, and create a piece that makes them feel special.

I grew up in Santa Clara, California while Silicon Valley was on the rise. My Father was enamored by the ever changing technology. He enjoyed latest tech (before it was even called tech). In the 80’s he bought a video camera that needed a portable VCR to record, a huge 40” projector TV that distorted the view unless you watched it from head on, and a laser-disk player when the disks were bigger than vinyl records. This equipment seems antiquated now, but are examples of how technology is ever changing. With change there is an opportunity to learn.

Through my parents influences I have gained an interest dedication and transformation:

  • I enjoy constantly moving through challenges to achieve steady progress.
  • I enjoy things that develop more fully through practice, repetition, and innovation.
  • I am thrilled by taking basic things and transforming them into something that holds meaning, emotion, and/or experience.
  • This is why I am drawn things in my life that I can be never fully master. Metalsmithing, teaching, practicing Ashtanga Yoga, making my own body and hair products, brewing beer, baking bread, cooking time consuming meals, gardening, and sewing.

    What is your favorite tool and why?

    A particular forging hammer would me my favorite tool. Gary Griffin a master metalsmith, and my graduate instructor gave me it to me at a going away party after completing my MFA at Cranbrook Academy. I use it often and when I do I think of him and the life changing, exciting, challenging, and productive time I had in the Detroit Metropolitan Area and Cranbrook Community.

    Where do you draw your inspiration from?

    Inspiration is everywhere and anywhere if you are open to identifying it, absorbing it, then recalling it when needed.

    I try to be mindful about the way I move through the world…it does not always work….but I try to observe rather than just look.

    When observing, if my heart/mind jumps at something I try to capture it, take a image, save it on a file, or write it down. I analyze why am I attracted to it…. its shape, form, emotional connection, intellectual food? Usually don’t have a plan for it, I store it away in my artistic arsenal, for use later.

    Here are some things that I go to regularly to be inspired:

    Travel – Helps me see other worlds, ways of being, eating, observing. It broadens my aesthetic possibilities

    Our garden – Beautiful and ever evolving, a reminder of our impermanence and the changes in life cycles

    Psychology and Science – Connects us or disconnects us to ourselves, each-other, and the universe. My dream life is active, and I lucid dream often (long story for another time). I often pull a dreamlike feeling into my work.

    Art of any kind – At a museum, in a gallery, online, outside, in a book.

    Making a new body of work or major piece, takes recalling the inspiration, then translating that through intellect and physicality. These are the three main ways I develop work. Sure sometimes I have an idea fully formed in my head, but that is very very rare.

    I try to add a new technique to my artwork every few years. It started with stone setting, then engraving, casting, working with a lathe, and enameling. Now I am at the baby step stage experimenting with CAD and 3D printing. This has been the most difficult, as it is the least hands on.

    Learning something new does not take the mystery of it, it opens new pathways of curiosity, and the more you learn about something the more you realize the depths of knowledge to be learned.

    If I am fascinated by a technique or way of working I make samples. It is fun to see what is possible and my physical or emotional limits with the technique. I often don’t have major plan, but loose ideas. Through lots trial and error, making progressively more challenging samples, patterns and concepts will emerge. Then I can move forward in a more direct way.

    Sometimes I will have an idea I want to communicate. I research the topic in books, online, anyplace I can gather information. Then it is a matter of going through my inspirations to see how that can be communicated. Doing sketches, paintings, sample pieces, paper models, and photographing things that are related to the idea.

    Other times I will have an image or form that I am attracted to. I do iterations. I will make several variations of that form, some quick jewelry, paper models, more complex works. I research what forms are related it and the possible meanings they could have, then more iterations. Sometimes they develop into something substantial, other times they stay samples and quick jewelry.

    How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

    I was first introduced to jewelry when I was about 12. I made origami brooches lacquered with nail polish for gifts. In a few years I had figured out a more advanced way of preserving the paper, and it turned into a small business I had with my mother. By the time I was 17 we were doing 8 craft shows a year, and I was in three stores in the Bay Area and LA.

    I started in 1994 at what was then named California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC now CCA) I loved throwing clay on a wheel, and liked painting/drawing. As an elective my second semester I took a Jewelry/Metal Arts class with Marilyn da Silva. She taught us how to raise a bowl. My mind was completely blown to see a seemingly solid sheet of metal transform into a three dimensional object with torches and hammers. It had the same excitement of seeing a bowl being thrown on a wheel for the first time. Bacis into extraordinary. I continued to be fascinated with metal and clay during my student years at CCAC.

    Now I am honored and privileged to be Co-chair with Marilyn da Silva in the Jewelry & Metal Arts program at California College of the Arts. The fantastic group of faculty teach students to be excited about the many different directions in metalsmithing and help them fund their passions.

    What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

    Learn the process of getting to know yourself. What makes your heart beat faster, what makes you cry? what captivates you so much, you lose time in it? What make you feel uncomfortable? These are your topics of research.

    Do some things that are challenging for you in your art and your life.

    Say yes to opportunities big and small.

    Do lots of “productive failure” and learn from mistakes. You won’t know what is successful if you don’t know what didn’t work.

    Listen to your teachers about your work, but don’t always do what they say, prove them wrong in a big way if you really think you are right.

    Don’t just look at metalwork!

    Dedication and drive is way more important than natural talent. You can’t succeed on talent alone, but you can succeed if you have the motivation to accomplish your goals.

    What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

    Knowing what kind of work to focus on and Finishing work are my biggest challenges.

    I make work to make money, client based work, work to further my artistic growth, and work that a gallery wants to show.

    In the past it has been difficult to decipher what to focus on. If I dedicated time for client based work or production work to make money an inner voice would say “This work is not helping you progress as an artist” and vise a versa if I were to focus on the other. Now I understand that there is a natural rhythm and balance that happens (if I pay attention), all work helps each other, as long as I am finishing things.

    That brings us to the second issue….

    I love to start new project, finishing them although satisfying, is hard for me. I use to think once I had an idea of what the piece was going to look like I lost interest. I realize now, once the excitement of starting a piece is over, it gets harder to make. It is going to go through some challenging stages before it is done. To finish a piece means it is going out into the public eye have my own and others critical reaction or praise. This always a bit scary. When something is unfinished it has the potential to be something. When it is done the potential is depreciated greatly.

    Half of arts work’s purpose is to be seen by others, so I have to trick myself. I make deadlines and goals, or have exhibitions where work has to be done to be sent off. The work I make with clients is easier to finish. They have a deadline for me and a payment, which is a motivator.

    I try to remember If the piece is terrible, it is an opportunity for learning, it can be deconstructed, it can go in the recycle bag, or melted down to make something new. So I guess work always has potential.

    Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

    Art Jewelry Forum
    Hoover and Strong
    Otto Frei
    McMaster Carr
    You tube for anything