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

  • Holly Carter
  • Holly Carter
  • Holly Carter
  • Holly Carter
  • Holly Carter
  • Holly Carter

Holly Carter

Richmond, Ca

Tell us a little about yourself.

Originally from Minnesota, my family moved to a small southwestern horse town in Arizona when I was in first grade, and then we moved to the ‘Big City’ of Phoenix when I was in high school. Making has always been in my blood as I come from a long line of custom cabinet makers. I loved to create with scraps of wood, paint, rocks, sewed Barbie clothes from fabric scraps, and created knotted embroidery thread jewelry. I used crocheting skills taught by my grandmother to make doll clothes and doilies. I even wrote poetry and had my first published poem in junior high. I was also quite the little entrepreneur, selling to my friends my hand and machine sewn scrunchies, and seed bead bracelets that I made on my bead loom.

My grandfather, who used to let me hang out in the cabinet shop and help a little as I got older, influenced my creative side with his own art. Before deciding to continue with the family business he dreamt of being a cartoonist with Disney. As a child, I would revel in his colored drawings and would try to draw like him. It was easy for me to copy the cartoon characters that I grown up seeing, but I always found my own original drawings to be of still life, landscapes, and architecture instead, even as young as six or seven. This is probably why I had planned to be an architect when I grew up. Ultimately, I decided to enter college for Interior Design, because I thought that I could express more creativity than I could as an architect. And then after many years of design school, I eventually changed to Fine Art metals and have been working and teaching as a metalsmith ever since.

In 2012, I moved to the Bay, and now reside in Richmond where I have become involved in creating art within the community. I am also now the president of the Northern California Enamel Guild.

What is your favorite tool and why?

Although it is hard to really choose one tool over another, I would probably say my torch, because what metalsmith doesn’t like flame! A torch is also a very versatile tool; it can melt, connect, create color changes, and make something malleable.

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

I use silver, copper, and natural materials most. I love to work with silver because it is very versatile in fabrication, casting, and enameling, but I especially love how it looks and feels when it is freshly sanded and bright white right out of the pickle. Copper I love most for enameling, if you let it do what it wants it can surprise you with the beauty of colors and patterns it will achieve. I often cast natural materials into metal that I find interesting because of how it is constructed or just for its simple beauty. I believe in paying homage to its life by preserving it in metal. I also have affection for wood; I love to touch it and smell it, and find interesting textures and patterns in it. I especially like to recycle old wood into frames for my wall pieces.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I draw inspiration from the ‘architecture of natural forms’. I find myself inspecting how things are made and how natural animals and plants grow. Vertebrae, for instance, is an amazing structure that allows movement of life, every piece has its place and moves perfectly aligned. Plant forms and how they grow fascinate me. I find their natural structures and stages of growth to be perfectly engineered processes for creating life, one way or another, as many natural organisms have multiple ways of procreation in order to further their species.

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

I have been working in metals for 14 years. After many years of working towards an interior design degree I began to realize an attraction to metal working. I began to teach myself rudimentary soldering so that I could build models for my design class projects. The more I did, the more I enjoyed it, and then I decided to look into the metals program where I was enrolled at the Arizona State University. When I realized that I could also learn jewelry making, I decided to change my major. As I learned metals fabrication, I found that I could also use some of my designs from interiors in my metal art. I believe learning about architects and designers such as Antoni Gaudi, Victor Horta, and Louis Comfort Tiffany influenced my switch to metals.

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

Learn everything you can from a good teacher about many techniques, even if you don’t end up using all of the skills you have learned, all of the time. It is good to have at least a basic knowledge to pull from when the need arises. But, do focus and perfect those processes that speak to you.

Most of all, find a good metals community wherever you are, it shouldn’t be hard! Because of my connections with the metals community, my move to the Bay was so much easier than it would have otherwise been. I moved a long distance from home, not knowing anyone, not having family nearby, and not knowing where life would bring me. I joined MAG and instantly found support and new lifelong friends.

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?

I find the constant struggle of time and finances to still be an issue. It takes a lot of time and/or finances to maintain a web presence and do marketing/advertising. But then, if I am not bringing in enough sales I add more teaching to my schedule and that just takes more time. I find that I end up with little time to focus in the studio or on the website. With teaching taking so much extra time outside of the classroom and classes not always filling, it has not been sustainable. I have come to the conclusion that a simple part time position may allow me to pay for someone else to maintain some of the business side of things, so that I can better enjoy and focus on my time in the studio when I am able to be there. The hope is that this may jump start the business and sales part of my art career so that eventually it will be more self sustaining. In addition, I hope this will allow me to focus on larger more fulfilling pieces, thus spending less time on smaller, less expensive ‘sellable’ work. I am currently working towards seeing if this configuration will be successful.

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

Ganoksin is always a great resource for getting advice in new and old techniques. I also like to order my enamel supplies from Schlaifer’s Enameling Supplies. The late Joan Schlaifer was always so helpful and had a lot of information about the products that she sold.