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.

December 2017

  • Sher Novak
  • Sher Novak
  • Sher Novak” width=
  • Sher Novak
  • Sher Novak
  • Sher Novak

Sher Novak

Albany, Ca

Tell us a little about yourself.

I have a strong sense of belonging to a place. I grew up in an old house in a small town in Connecticut, surrounded by extended family. There were very few idle hands in my world. Quilts, clothes, sweaters, furniture, tin lamps, stone walls… we made things. I went to the woods for materials, or scavenged the trunks in the attic. My creativity has always been encouraged and supported.

I left home at 17 to attend Parsons School of Design. I took a semester off, and didn’t return. I was working for a designer in Tribeca, sewing her samples and managing the sample room. It was the 70’s; exciting times in Soho/Tribeca. I had intended to go back to school; but one way or another, life got in the way.

Fast forward a few decades, and I was a patternmaker in the Bay Area with years of experience in the garment industry. When my son was in high school, I decided it was time to get my degree. I graduated from California College of the Arts (CCA) in 2015, a month before my son graduated from UC Santa Barbara.

Being in school with kids my son’s age was challenging and often awkward. For the most part I got over it (I think the kids did too but you’d have to ask them!) I met so many wonderful, amazing, talented people at CCA; it was a terrific experience. My life has changed so much! Now I am navigating the waters of being an art jeweler, finding my path and my place in this new world.

What is your favorite tool and why?

Don’t get me started! I love tools. I’ve worked in other people’s shops with other people’s tools for as long as I can remember. Father, grandfather, father-in-law, husband, they all had, or have, a home workshop. My shop is a studio, and I am a woman and a full-time artist. Among all these men who were my mentors, I’ve integrated the group and excelled.

Many of my tools have special significance to me and at one time belonged to loved ones, mentors, or other artists. They bring the good creative energy that is within them into the studio.

That said, my favorite tool was bought brand new: a small Fretz PrecisionSmith narrow cross-peen hammer. It is very beautiful, and a delight to use for shaping and texture.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

I use silver, copper, and gold. Silver is a sensuous material and I love when it retains hammer marks from forming and folding. I often combine silver components with leather and thread, using knotting, lacing, and sewing techniques.

I patinate copper to make large, colorful, one-of-a-kind pieces. I like to do patinas, and copper takes to it so beautifully.

Recently I’ve been playing with adding gold to my silver pieces with wire, keumboo, and bimetal. Gold is such a miraculous and magical material, my heart flips when I work with it!

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I’m a “Country Mouse” and a “City Mouse,” in equal measure. My work is often inspired by memories of my childhood in Connecticut; its rural landscape, plants, and animals. Other work is more urban, referencing my city life in New York and San Francisco. For a long time I could not reconcile the two perspectives, but now I see both as reflections of visual environments; the settings in which my life plays out. I am inspired by structural organization in both natural and manmade places, and my work explores the concepts of rhythm, repetition, gradation, proportion, and order.

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

I’ve been working in metals for seven years. I decided to return to school in 2007. It was a “bucket list” thing that was making so much noise in my head, I had to stop ignoring it. I started taking community college classes that I could transfer to a four year program.

I was not sure of a major, but I wanted the academics of a BFA and I wanted to study a traditional, skills-based discipline in the Fine Arts. In 2010 I took Jewelry I at City College in San Francisco with Suzanne Pugh and the rest is history.

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

Even after thousands of hours at the bench, I consider myself someone who is just starting out. I tell myself the same thing I would tell someone else. Be kind to yourself; be patient with the process. Do the best work you can with the skills you have, keep learning, and practice. There are so many techniques I want to master, pieces I want to make. All in good time…

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?

My biggest challenge as an artist was allowing myself to be an artist, and acknowledging that I am an artist. For me it all got mixed up in feeling bad about myself for not finishing school. So I did the only thing that would take the bad feeling away. I finished school.

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