April 2021

Sudha Irwin

Websites: sudhairwin.com
Instagram: sudhairwin

  • Sudha Irwin
  • Sudha Irwin
  • Sudha Irwin
  • Sudha Irwin
  • Sudha Irwin

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in India and came to the US almost fifty years ago.  After college in India, I joined a four-year art program but dropped out after the first introductory year to pursue a graduate degree in English Literature.  The art school was considered a vocational school, my sister and I were the only female students.  Our father persuaded us to go back to academics, as he didn’t think a vocation in arts was appropriate for women in our family. 

Almost twenty-seven years later, here in California, I had the opportunity to enroll in metal arts classes.  This opportunity came in a chance encounter with a local librarian whose metal brooch I admired and inquired how I could learn to make such things.  She sent me a catalog of classes at the Richmond Art Center.  I have been learning ever since.   

A couple of years after I started classes at the College of Marin (while continuing classes with Hugh Power at the RAC), our jewelry teacher selected a few students to form a small partnership of jewelers to rent a space at ArtWorks Downtown in San Rafael.  We called our group the Marin Jewelers Guild.  I have been part of the Guild since its inception in 2000.

What is your favorite tool and why?

It is hard to name a favorite tool. I love my hammers and anvil for forging, folding metal, texturing, shaping, riveting. Rolling mill and flex shaft are other tools I use for just about every project.  And my vise and my new Paragon kiln.

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

Most of my work is done in Sterling and Argentium silver, often with accents of gold. I combine these with gems or enamels.  Recently, I have created some pieces in gold but with the price of gold so high, I have used it sparingly. Copper is another metal I use mostly as a base for enamels and for some experimental fold forming.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I am endlessly fascinated by the shapes, forms, textures, color and symmetry in Nature.  My walks in the woods or on the beach, be it the texture of a tree bark or a piece of seaweed, always inspire me to come home and create.  Besides fabricating forms found in Nature, I also like to cast textures and shapes from plant materials.

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

I started out making beaded jewelry but soon realized, I wanted to create my own metal components.  My first jewelry class was at the Richmond Art Center in the fall of 1998.  That led to a passion of making things in metal.  Classes at College of Marin, workshops at CCA, Mendocino Art Center and from various other teachers have helped me to acquire skills. After a few years working with metals, I found myself wanting to explore creating small vessels. However, two freak accidents in which I injured my right hand, forced me to concentrate on smaller pieces.  Hence my focus on creating jewelry using multiple techniques.

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

Persevere and follow your dreams. It takes a lot of patience to acquire good skills, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and to start over. Learn from Different teachers.  Experienced metal smiths develop many bench tricks that prove immensely helpful in the studio. Learn and practice safe studio procedures.

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?

Marketing, social media.  I am not good at it and don’t enjoy spending much time on the computer. I understand that learning some more computer skills will help.  Maybe this year…

Favorite resource/vendor or website

Otto Frei for tools.
Rio Grande for sheet metal, wires.
Hoover and Strong for gold alloys.
Ganoksin
Gem shows

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March 2021

Jenn Parnell Kirkpatrick

Websites: jennparnelldesigns.com
Instagram: jennparnelldesigns

  • Jenn Parnell Kirkpatrick
  • Jenn Parnell Kirkpatrick
  • Jenn Parnell Kirkpatrick
  • Jenn Parnell Kirkpatrick
  • Jenn Parnell Kirkpatrick
  • Jenn Parnell Kirkpatrick

Tell us a little about yourself.

I moved to the Bay Area in August 2019, leaving the East Coast where I had spent my life and career to that point. I teach at Silvera Jewelry School (physically in Berkeley, but I’ve been teaching from my home studio for almost a year at this point- since early April 2020!), and it’s been quite an adventure being in CA so far! Joe and Anat and teaching have helped anchor me during the pandemic. Developing and getting to expand our teaching offerings has been a real bright spot, I love learning and am constantly wanting to explore new things, and this has been a perfect opportunity for that! 

Having the pandemic take hold just as I was just starting to get my feet under me out here has been challenging for sure. I’m still meeting fellow local artists and finding galleries, and want to continue that as well as showing my work at shows when doing things with people becomes more commonplace again! I had just finished unpacking and putting together my studio the day our first shelter-in-place orders came down. 

I taught at the Corcoran College of Art in DC, Maryland Institute of Art in Baltimore, and then the Baltimore Jewelry Center, beginning teaching in 2004. I began my jewelry business in 2000, did craft shows regularly (even with teaching) up until 2008. I went back to get my MFA at that point, as I realized I loved teaching, and I also needed a creative recharge. 

There are very few aspects of making and the history of jewelry that I’m not into, and I’m always looking to try something new, explore a new technique, and continue making art. I love doing commission work as making someone’s vision come to reality, and seeing the happiness and meaning that something you made brings to their life is one of the best feelings. 

I’m very much looking forward to being more involved in the jewelry community and exploring the Bay Area (and California) as we come out of the pandemic.

What is your favorite tool and why?

My favorite tool is my Frederich Dick safe edge barrette needle file. It cuts like a dream and it’s so thin, it gets into almost anywhere. 

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

In sheet and wire, I work a lot in silver, I adore green gold and wish I could use more of it. I also work a lot in copper between enameling and electroforming. I really like alloying my own metals and then using them, allowing me to play around with color in the material itself. 

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

While a lot of my work has an organic overtone, most of my inspiration comes from my teaching. Every time I teach a topic, I’m reminded of how much fun something is, and my mind starts going off in all the directions I want to explore how to push that material or skill.

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

I’ve been making jewelry since 1996, I got both my BFA and MFA in Jewelry and Metals. I have been teaching jewelry since 2004. I initially entered Jewelry as a major in college instead of illustration (the original plan) because I didn’t want someone telling me what to paint and draw for the next 3 years, and metal seemed really fun.

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

Don’t be afraid of messing up. Don’t be afraid of melting things. We learn so much by exploring the materials, how far you can stretch, heat, hammer, push it, that playing it safe means you don’t really wind up understanding how ductile metal can be. Try melting copper on purpose and see how long it takes to really get it to melt! You’ll be a lot less afraid of melting things while soldering after that.

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?

Timely question! The biggest challenge I have found is having time to make my own work when I have the bandwidth to do so. Many times when I’m feeling creative and excited, I’m doing a million things and sitting down for even a day in my studio to work on my work can be hard to find. I keep trying to do that. The times when I have more free time, I tend to be tougher emotionally (hello, global pandemic!) and creativity is hard to come by. It’s harder on those days to see what things can be rather than staring at half done pieces and feeling overwhelmed. I try to have an ongoing list of tasks that take various levels of brain power so that I can get *something* done every day. Even if it’s replenishing my jump rings, that’s doing something that I need to, and I can do that somewhat mindlessly.

Favorite resource/vendor or website

Oh, tough. I was gleeful to be living so close to Otto Frei and I got to go there before they stopped having browsing hours. I’ve been ordering from them since the mid-nineties back when they were Frei and Borel! I also love Rio and Contenti for tools. McMaster Carr, Reactive Metals, enameling.com…. there’s so many!

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February 2021

Trevi Alohilani Pendro

Websites: trevitrove.com
Instagram: trevitrove

  • Trevi Alohilani Pendro
  • Trevi Alohilani Pendro
  • Trevi Alohilani Pendro
  • Trevi Alohilani Pendro
  • Trevi Alohilani Pendro
  • Trevi Alohilani Pendro

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a non-binary mixed-race femme, California grown in Los Angeles and the SF Bay Area. When I was a child, I wanted to grow up to be Frank Lloyd Wright. I was obsessed with the idea of not just designing a home, but everything in it. Making it all. Since receiving my Jewelry/Metal Arts BFA with a Writing & Literature minor from California College of the Arts (and Crafts), I have continued to learn as much as possible. These adventures have included: the craft school experience, an artist residency, being a bench jeweler, group shows, teaching youth and adults, craft fairs, and working in higher education as an Academic Advisor at my alma mater. All this to say, I am passionate about trying new things, navigating life as an artist + metalsmith. Most recently I have been focused on my production jewelry and one-of-a-kind work, letting myself experiment in the studio again, and freelance copywriting. 

I currently live where the ocean meets the redwoods as an Artist in Residence at the Mendocino Art Center, and feel so lucky to be here. Still rooted in the Bay Area, I am the Social Media & Marketing Director for Shibumi Gallery in Berkeley, CA.

What is your favorite tool and why?

This may be a basic one, but my absolute favorite tool is my solder pick with an oversized wooden handle. I almost never use tweezers these days. Playing with fire is one of the allures of working with metal, and the solder pick is what allows me to put my hand into the flame. It’s magic! The handle on my pick is comically large, but perhaps more ergonomic and comfortable with my tendency to “death grip” tools when I’m concentrating. 

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

Almost all of my pieces are made with sterling silver. I am attracted to the color of course, but also its versatility. Compared to other metals, I think its properties are a very pleasant middle ground. Silver is never too hard or too soft to accomplish something with, takes a good amount of heat, etc. While it has fluctuated a lot over the years, the price is a significant factor too because I want my work to be accessible. 

I’ve recently been branching out a bit into gold and platinum… and wow are they too much fun!

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I am not inspired solely by the world around me, but rather my full experience of it. The pieces I design are an amalgamation of what I observe and how it makes me feel. While I am often looking to nature and my immediate environment; I also find inspiration in my complex heritage, the materials I am working with, and exploring new techniques.

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

I took my first jewelry fabrication class at The Crucible in West Oakland when I was twelve years old. After taking a handful of classes there, I was encouraged to apply to their youth internship program, which was just beginning at the time. I ended up interning for two years in a row, and had begun thinking about my options for college. I decided I was only going to apply to schools with jewelry programs, and that was that.

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

Working with metal is hard and involves a lot of problem solving! There is always more to know and you will see folks that are more skilled than you (yes, especially your teacher who has been doing it for twice as long or longer!). It is all time and practice. Also don’t forget why we do it, no matter how difficult it can be… because it’s FUN and we love it!

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?

The biggest challenge I experience as a metal artist is making it financially sustainable. It is an expensive trade to be in, from materials to tools, which I wish was addressed and discussed more. I think this puts a lot of pressure on making work to sell as opposed to making just to make. As someone who is fairly new to investing so much time in my practice, I am still figuring out the balance. Creating a schedule for myself and sticking to it as far as designated studio time, freelance work, other small business responsibilities etc. has been helpful!

Favorite resource/vendor or website

Metalsmith Society (@metalsmithsociety) on Instagram has been a fun way to feel connected to the jewelry community through the pandemic. Their tips & tricks posts are wonderful and I want everything in their Society Shop! 

Girl Gang Craft (@girlgangcraft) was my favorite craft market to do when in-person events still existed. They are now my go-to for info on running a small business – online workshops, a blog of free resources and interviews with other entrepreneurs, a podcast, and more. So 

Lastly – All the amazing jewelers, artists, makers, craftspeople that I connect with and learn from. Thank you for your advice, expertise, and support.

 

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January 2021

Bob and Mary Zimmerman

Websites: strandsofhistory.com

Instagram: strandsofhistory

  • Bob and Mary Zimmerman, Strands of History
  • Bob and Mary Zimmerman, Strands of History
  • Bob and Mary Zimmerman, Strands of History
  • Bob and Mary Zimmerman, Strands of History
  • Bob and Mary Zimmerman, Strands of History
  • Bob and Mary Zimmerman, Strands of History
  • Bob and Mary Zimmerman, Strands of History

Tell us a little about yourself.

We’re both native Californians and sailors, which may help explain our strong connection with the Golden Gate Bridge.  Mary has lived here her whole life, while Bob’s family moved to Ohio when he was five years old, where he grew up always knowing he’d live in California again. He’s lived here now over 35 years, 28 years around the Bay Area and seven in Tahoe City.  We’ve always been attracted by creativity, problem-solving and science, whether its coaxing 1930s suspender ropes to take on new roles, or working in biopharma drug development, which we both did for almost three decades around the Bay Area prior to taking over Strands of History a little over three years ago.

What is your favorite tool and why?

Bob’s favorite tool is the three-phase, 10 hp Kalamazoo Industries 14” chop saw we use to cut the suspender ropes.  We tried several other more “modern” technologies to cut the ropes, like laser or water, but those techniques didn’t work.  As one of these groups told us, imagine holding a handful of toothpicks and trying to cut it – the vibrations from each of the 229 individual wires in the ropes as they get cut just doesn’t allow for a clean cut.  We talked to a metal artist friend, who asked us if we had ever seen that big chop saw run.  When we said no, he just smiled and said, “Well, sh*t flies everywhere.”  And he was right.  We benefited from an excellent discussion with the Kalamazoo tech line who got us dialed in with the correct blades and provided us with several valuable insights.  Now, I can make a cut through a rope and a stainless steel band in about 40 – 50 seconds.  And it does put on an incredible show with every cut.

Mary’s favorite tool is the custom-built hydraulic crimper that puts the stainless steel bands on the ropes with 7000 pounds of pressure.  No matter what the project is, it always starts with the banding to maintain the lay of the wire, which is the unique fingerprint-like organization of the 229 wires of 10 different sizes that identifies these ropes as the original 1930’s suspender ropes from the Golden Gate Bridge.  No other suspension bridge in the world uses the same lay of the wire in their suspender ropes, including the replacement ropes on the Golden Gate.  It’s a big machine that immediately catches your eye when you enter the shop.  Everyone always asks, “What’s that big thing”?  So one day Mary painted its name on it: “The Big Thing.”  It’s been a workhorse from the day it was built and is the essential foundation to all we do.

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

All of our custom furniture, art and mementos incorporate the original 1930s vertical suspender ropes from the Golden Gate Bridge.  They were replaced in the mid-1970s when problems were found with their connections to the bridge roadway during a routine inspection.  Unfortunately, it was impossible to repair that connection; the best solution was to replace the ropes and engineer new roadway connections.  A portion of the ropes were saved by the Bridge District in the event of emergency, most were scrapped, while the remainder were set aside for activities like what we do.  Strands of History holds all of the remaining stock of these original suspender ropes.

Who can’t remember the first time they saw the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time?  People come from all over the world to see San Francisco and walk the bridge.  Many people have a special link to the Golden Gate, including ourselves.  We sailed in the Bay for years and admired it from the water.  It was our adventure highway to explore the coast north of San Francisco, either for a vacation or a day trip.  And that rainbow tunnel into Marin!

We feel we are custodians of these historical ropes for all of the Bay Area, locals and visitors alike.  Our goals are to get these ropes incorporated  into public spaces, restaurants, bars, hotel and business lobbies for everyone to appreciate.  To provide people with the opportunity to pause in their day and reflect for a moment about that magnificent bridge, and what it took to build it; no computer modeling, no precedence to go by, just insights, imagination, slides rules and pencils.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

We strive to capture the beauty and power of the ropes in each piece.  They weigh one pound per inch, have a breaking strength of over 600,000 pounds, yet they are simply a collection of small wires, organized in a precise way to manage the strong winds in the Golden Gate, the fluctuations in daily temperatures the make the roadway rise or fall multiple feet per day, not to mention the load of the traffic on it.

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

Strands of History is our first experience working with metal.  We’ve built a barn, sheds, lived on a ranch with fences, water tanks, pumps, solar hot water and electricity, but never worked a lot in metal prior to the past few years.

A lifelong friend of Bob’s owned Strands of History for about a dozen years.  Initially we got involved to help expand the business into public spaces and public artwork.  Unfortunately, Bob’s friend passed unexpectedly about nine months into working together.  We were inspired by our mutual vision for the ropes and love for the Bridge, so we elected to take over the business and learn metalworking.

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

Wear appropriate protective equipment, have a lot of patience, ask questions of more knowledgeable people, be precise.  Metal is not like wood, you can’t force something to fit with metal, it either fits or it doesn’t.  A 32nd of an inch actually matters in metal work.  Sometimes, at least with the ropes, they just seem to have a personality of their own and decide not to follow the rules on some days.  All of our collaborators have noticed the same thing.  No one can explain it, so we go with it, sometimes modifying a plan or a working strategy.

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?

Aside from learning the technical and mechanical aspects of working with the ropes, our biggest challenge has been establishing ourselves as relatively new artists in the custom furniture and art field.  We collaborate with the highly respected wood craftsmen at Roundwood Furniture, and our blacksmith collaborators, Bushey Ironworks, are highly recognized metal artists.  Nonetheless, building that aspect of the business has been a challenge, even though we work with those established and award-winning groups, as probably many artists have experienced.

Favorite resource/vendor or website

We have learned the most about design and metal-working from speaking with our colleagues and collaborators.  There is a lot of knowledge available from experienced people who are willing to share.  For example, we spend a lot of time grinding and polishing to get the final finish on many of our works.  A simple tip about a product and technique from the Bushey’s has saved us hours and hours of time over the years.  The other way worked, it just wasn’t as efficient.  We’ve found that other metal artists are our best resources.