"Craft In America" Day 1 - Fabrication in Video Time vs Real Craft

Triangular tin can braceletAmong the many last minute preparations during the final week before "Craft in America" came to my studio, I planned and laid out a sequence of jewelry fabrication demonstrations that they had requested.  (The images in this post are a few of my step-by-step demo samples for the video shoot.)

The executive producer had specifically requested that I demo the making of a triangular bracelet featured in the Ornament Magazine article....(shown below) which is a fabulous, fabulous, fabulous bracelet, but it is made from tin cans that are very hard to find.

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Altoid-tin-step-one-bracelet-fabricationA major difficulty, however, was figuring out how to modularize the making of a one-of-a-kind bracelet that is dependent on difficult-to-find, one-of-a-kind tin cans.  I don't buy tins from e-bay as I truly want my materials to be scavenged from the waste stream of our society, and NOT from a retail site like e-bay, ..... but this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

Nothing was going to deter me from my plan. I eventually found (and guiltily ordered) two triangular Altoid tins offered on e-bay. One of them arrived only the day before the crew arrived. That was too close!  I do not like to operate on the margin of a crisis.

Altoid-tin-cutting1200The "Craft In America" crew, chose to dedicate the first day to fabrication techniques in the studio. 

In this situation, I learned of the extraordinary difference between "video time" - one or two minutes is all they wanted - and real craft fabrication time of five to 40 hours.  I'll bet in the final television segment we will be looking at the fabrication for no more than a few seconds.

Altoid-tin-cutting-edgeMy regret was that I didn't have more of the intermediate step-by-step progressions prepared.  However, I can take some comfort retrospectively that this was not a "how-to-video."  My assumption is that they will use this setting to give the audience some insight into the creative process, and not a fabrication lesson.  I've watched almost all of the prior "Craft In America" library of DVDs or videos on Youtube, and the fabrication shots are only part of the bigger picture.  

Seriously, they would video each step for only a few minutes
-- and even that seemed to be too long for the cameraman. Secretly I was told by Bill, my husband, that the cameraman seemed to be making all kinds of hand signals to the crew.  At the time, I didn't notice (because I was not supposed to look at the camera). 

Altoid-tin-paper-template-wrist
Eventually, the camera was turned off and the cameraman said, "Let me know when you get near to the end." 
I think he meant, "When will some real action happen?"  I guess sawing, drilling, filing or grinding are not very exciting video content. 


Making-wrist-for-tin-can-braceletFrom an initial state of naïveté, I became increasingly aware of the chasm between my sense of craft making real-time and their sense of "video time". 
I was shocked by the rapid fire chop, chop, chop, jumping from one set up to another.  No feedback, no transition and no time to reflect.  I frequently found myself taking a deep breath, repeating the mantra, "I can do this" .... back straight, abs sucked in, go forward. Telling myself, "I can do this." 

Altoid-bracelet-top-two gold-rivetsFor example, hammering one tiny gold rivet usually takes me a few minutes.  From my normal perspective, I had hours to go with more riveting, . . . but they were done with each segment of video recording after 3 or 4 minutes and cut off my snail's pace of gold riveting.

Every few minutes, the Director would ask, "What do you do next?"  I would then jump right into a very short description of the next fabrication activity. 

Typically a very short discussion ensued between the director and the DP, then a decision was made and instructions given, usually requiring the crew to move or shift the camera. 

Altoid-bracelet-top-two gold-rivets-two-arrows
The yellow arrows point to tiny Gold rivets.

Moving the camera was a production in itself. I am not kidding!!!!  The DP would lift the camera off the tripod with muscles flexing.  The gaffer and focus guy would take charge of the tripod, collapsing the legs, pick it up, carry or move the very substantial tripod to the next proposed location.

Within a few moments, the tripod was placed in a new spot and the camera clicked back into the tripod. Simultaneously, lighting and sound were moved to new locations. Then sound was tested, lighting and framing confirmed, and focus checked. Ready? Go! 

Inside-tin-gold-rivet
Look for the very small gold rivet on the inside.

While the crew was repositioning, my brain was going a mile a minute about what tools I need to be ready for the next scene.  I couldn't really pay any attention to what the crew was doing; if I wasted their time, I was also wasting this opportunity. 

Truly the more variety of video scenes that they could record in that afternoon, the more possibilities that they would have to edit for the final product.

Inside-tin-gold-rivet-arrow
The yellow arrow points to the gold rivet.

Any extra recorded scenes might become useful for YouTube excerpts or other promotional material to promote the show.  In my head, it was my responsibility to be prepared and do my best.....but get this....there were never any practice takes.

No multiple takes.  No "Take 2" or "Take 3". Each segment was done once! And then, video time moved on to the next step, segment, or topic.

I'm fascinated by film production and the making of documentaries.  I'm no expert, but I have gained some insights over the years.

Documentaries emphasize capturing the video recordings without practice, it is supposed to be real life. I just didn't realize they would take that precept so literally considering the importance of this show.

Blue-bracelet-top-wrist-templateAnother precept of documentaries is that they expect to get the best verbal commentary on the first take, especially with real people, not actors.  Instead of improving with iterations of practice, the documentary subjects tend to begin sounding "rehearsed" or artificial.  This was the foundation of making documentaries when I took a video class at the local community college several years ago.

I've also heard these kinds of comments by listening to the director's commentary on movies from Netflix, videos from the library, or YouTube!  Every time I can find a director/producer commentary, I listen to learn more. 

IMG_20210629_143736095_HDRThose director commentaries always provide some new insight for a novice like myself.  Some directors prefer to do several takes of a scene. Small changes in each take of the scene -- Take 1, Take 2, Take 3, Take 4, . . . .  Other film makers,  like Clint Eastwood, are well known for doing only one take of a scene. The expectation is that the actors put everything into the first take if they know that there will be no backup, no Take 2. This is it.   

That was how the entire day went for me. One take! And on to a new scene . . . one take.  Then another new scene . . .  one take!  Chop, chop, chop.

I grew more comfortable with this as the day went on, but it still surprised me.

Also, I was instructed to look only at Coby (the director), not at the camera or elsewhere.  For me, that was really hard to do with five other people standing just outside of the "scene". In the beginning, I was very distracted. The artist's eye wants to see and look at everything. I have an eye for detail. How could my eyes only look at one spot or one person?  This was yet another stress to force my brain to not look elsewhere.

Harriete-fabrication-at-benchWe ended the day at five o'clock. Again I was a little surprised.  Video and film shoots are usually 10-12 hour days.  I can only hope that they reached their goal for Day One. 

What do you think?



Previous Posts in the "Craft In America" in my studio series.

A Gigantic Wish Come True...."Craft In America" Visits My Studio

 

Perspiration in Preparation & Planning for "Craft In America"

 

An Optivisor for a Crown - Two Vans Arrive with the "Craft In America" video team

 

 

 

 

 

  


An Optivisor for a Crown - Two Vans Arrive with the "Craft In America" video team

Finally, on Saturday, June 5, the first day of the "Craft in America" video shoot arrived. I was told that a "small crew" of six people would arrive by 11:30am coming from Los Angeles. I've hired individuals for producing videos before, but could not imagine how or what would require six people (as they defined "a small crew").  Of more concern, I could not imagine how six people would fit into my studio at one time.

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Two vans and a third vehicle drove up with lots of equipment and the 6-person video crew went right to work unloading, setting up equipment, checking functions, and synchronizing channels.   Arrival-studio-van-sound-DP

I was amazed at all the equipment. Now all this equipment compounded my concerns.  Even though I had cleaned and organized the studio for weeks, there isn't much space other than a narrow aisle on each side.

With rapid-fire "hellos" from everyone, I was introduced to all six people (but could only remember three names and that everyone confirmed full vaccination status and a recent covid test, which is the industry standard). 

Each member of the crew remained focused on their equipment.  Soon, as a group, we  had a quick walk through the studio and the house (where some of my artwork is displayed).  Within a few minutes, Coby Atlas, the director decided to start the shoot in the studio and stay set up there for the entire first day. 

In the photo below, Emil, the sound person, is checking the audio stream connection to the camera via blue tooth. 
Arrival-sound-focus-runner-DP

In the next photo below Sal Coniglio, Assistant Camera is in the center. ) Eventually, I figured out that he was person responsible for focus. As the focus puller, it is his responsibility to maintain the camera lens's optical focus on the subject or action being filmed.  He has a separate monitor that is also connected to the camera via blue tooth. In addition, at any time when the camera needs to be moved, he helps move the tripod to the new spot and/or adjusts the tripod height up and down. 

Arrival-focus-director-DP

While the crew was setting up all the equipment, Coby asked me to show her my bench, tools, materials, displays, etc., and explain my work processes and step-by-step fabrication that I had planned to show. She wanted to familiarize herself with possible options for the shoot that day. 

Harriete-Berlman-Coby-Atlas-studio

This was the last time on Saturday that I looked so nicely dressed because I asked Coby what I should be wearing for the studio shoot. (Since we would be shooting in the studio that day, I did not want to look "fake" or unrealistically "dressed up" in the studio.) 

Coby responded by asking what would I normally wear in the studio?  I said "overalls" with tools in hand.  Immediately after that brief discussion, I dressed "down" to my overalls and donned an Optivisor - i.e. the ever-required jeweler's crown.  

Optivisor for a crown

Thank goodness I had spent so much time cleaning up the narrow aisles in my studio.  Six people in my studio was indeed crowded.  Sid, the DP (Director of Photography) was a substantial person. The camera was very large, evidently very heavy and unwieldy.  The tripod was even bigger.  In the photo below, you can see five people (Sidney, Coby, Mark, Sal, and Denise Kang, Associate Producer ) squeezed into the narrow aisles.
Saturdayam-producer-focus-runner-director-DP-camera

Sal, the focus puller with his own monitor is in the foreground (in the photo below).  I am envious of his stool mounted on rollerblade wheels. Focus-runner-DP-monitors
The Director, Coby, was ever-present, but physically very tiny.  Notice that Coby is barely visible in these shots.  In the narrow studio space, she could not see me directly.  She could only see what I was doing by looking into the monitor on the camera.

The camera was gigantic with all kinds of knobs, buttons, ports, and dials. (Forget any idea of video taken on your phone.) Below you see the camera's view and Sidney Lubitsch, the DP, looking at what is framed in the display.  

DP-Harriete-bench

Emil, the sound guy (and a S.F. Bay Area local), had a soft fuzzy microphone at the end of the boom. He had to work from the aisle on the other side. I loved that he was really into the sound of metal - sawing, grinding, filing, riveting and the step shear. Go Emil!

Sound-boom-DP

The sound guy had the priority of capturing good audio without letting the boom, or the shadow of the boom, appear in the shot.

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Notice how they added extra light (top center of the next photo) even though I had a widow and skylights directly above me, and the garage door open.  Light and more light!

Gaffer Mark Markely (photo left) was responsible for lighting, helping move the tripod, and every other detail job.   Saturday-runner-lighting-studio

After an hour or two of shooting in this tight space with everyone kind of stacked on top of each other, it was time for lunch.    Saturday-am-runner-Coby-DP-camera-
I had offered to make lunch (in previous phone conversations,) but thank goodness, the Director had relieved me of this responsibility and said they would cater lunch.  Denise, the associate director, had identified a nearby Greek restaurant providing take-out meals.  

We all sat outside on the deck for lunch and it felt good to be in the open air and out of the cramped studio space. And this outside table was the only surface without something on it for the video shoot.
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For me, this was the first time to have people and food come into my house from the outside world in 16 months. What a treat! This "Craft In America" video shoot was my first official break from the hibernation of covid quarantine.


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In this photo above (from left side clockwise around the table to the right) is the crew;  Denise Kang, Associate Producer; Sidney Libitsch, Director of Photography; Coby Atlas, Director; Sal, Focus (at the end of the table); Mark , Gaffer; Emil, Sound; and me on the right.  Bill, my husband, took all of these shots, without which there would be no images of the day and it would all be a blurred, waning memory. 

Harriete's Interview-clapboardStay tuned for more images in this photo diary of "Craft In America" in my studio. There is still the fabrication and "interview" on Sunday with a Clapboard initiating Harriete's interview. 

Stay tuned to find out how the crew set up and shot the raw content for one segment for a future episode of "Craft in America."  

Harriete

 

Previous posts in "Craft In America" in my studio are listed below:

A Gigantic Wish Come True...."Craft In America" Visits My Studio

 

Perspiration in Preparation & Planning for "Craft In America"


Perspiration in Preparation & Planning for "Craft In America"

Harriete-Photoshoot-1200In late April, I first heard that "Craft In America" would like to do a video shoot at my studio during the first week of June.  That left a little over a month to prepare -- and I was grateful for every single day.  However, I could not simply drop everything else that I needed to get done, but I did prioritize two broad categories of preparation.  One priority was to clean my studio so that a video crew could access the inner sanctums of my working space.  I knew how to do this, but it would take weeks of intense effort. There was a lot to do! The month of May already had a full agenda before this popped up!  

The other preparation priority was to fulfill a stream of requests from the Associate Producer, Denise Kang, and the Director, Coby Atlas.  

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Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Denise Kang asked for images of my artwork and studio shots of Harriete in her studio. These images would be used primarily for "advance publicity".  Wow! This never occurred to me.  At this point, I had no idea when this "Craft in America" segment would be aired, the crew had not even arrived yet, and already they needed images?

Fortunately, I had an extensive portfolio of professional quality images for my black plastic jewelry. This, of course, should be every artist's and maker's number one level of preparation (as I have written about extensively on ASK Harriete).

Harriete-studio-drawers-tins-1200
Studio shots caused me more concern as I hadn't taken updated images in the studio for a while.
 Usually, I take studio shots on a regular basis. I also make it a practice to take images during the fabrication of every piece because the work-in-progress images can come in handy for books and magazines.  But once in a while I forget or get overwhelmed with the demands on my time. 

Harriete-studio-working-brake
Lady luck was on my side! 
Coincidently, my daughter was coming for a two-day visit in May.  She knows how to get the best smiles from her mother and frame the photos in the studio with her creative eye. 

If you look closely at these images, you will see that the chaos of a messy studio surrounds Harriete the artist.
Chaos-at-feet

During the pandemic, I had grown accustomed to stepping over and around all the stuff on the floor.
In these photos, you can see that the aisles are filled with pieces of metal, scraps, and open tins. Definitely not ready for the video crew.

Harriete-mess-in-the-studio

To better anticipate what needed to be done, I scoured the local library and checked out all of the available DVDs of previous "Craft in America" episodes. I found even more "Craft in America" shows and excerpts on Youtube. Although they varied in content and style over the series, I saw that they like to emphasize and integrate the fabricating processes of their craft subjects.

Coby (the director)  had mentioned this also.  Therefore, I needed to prepare examples of work-in-progress. Coby specifically requested step-by-step examples of the fabrication of a tin can bracelet and step-by-step examples for the black plastic recycle bracelet.

Below are a couple of photos of the steps to make a tin bracelet, cutting the tin, and drilling the rivet holes. 

I was really worried about how to "stage" the fabrication process -- if every step takes three to five hours or 10 hours, and every bracelet is one-of-a-kind, how would they edit for continuity? 
Harriete-studio-fabricating-braceletHarriete-Studio-bracelet-drilling

 

Below are three shots of a fabrication step for the Black Plastic Gyre Boa Constrictor Necklace - cutting black plastic shapes.

Harriete-studio-cutting-black-plastic Harriete-studio-cutting-black-plastic-down

Harriete-cutting-black-plastic
I began to think of this staging of my fabricating process like a cooking show.  The cook has only 30 minutes to show the major steps of how to make a cake that takes four hours.  In this case, the video crew would be digesting the fabrication of a bracelet that might take 10 - 20 - 500 hours into minutes. YIKES!    

IMG_8218
All of this seems so simple,
but throughout the month of May, I was just guessing about what they would need or like to see. My excitement was turning into concern. One-of-a-kind materials and labor-intensive efforts are difficult to demonstrate in minutes.

In addition, any time taken to for new photos or staging a fabrication example would be time taken away from cleaning the studio.  Every minute of May was stressful.

Now that the video shoot is over, I realize that the weeks of preparation did indeed help to highlight the fabrication steps.  Still, there were a couple of times when the video crew was recording as I meticulously sawed or cut tin for an extended period of time (i.e. a few minutes) and they grew exasperated.  They eventually stopped recording and said, "Let us know when you are almost done."   I suppose they thought I was nuts!  They want action.  By their standards, my crafting work appeared very ss-ll-ooo-www. . . .

I'm told it will be edited and condensed with the skills of their amazing editor for the final video.  We shall see...... 

Harriete-and-Aryn

Photos of Harriete Estel Berman in the studio by Aryn Shelander

Previous Posts about Craft in America video shoot are listed below:

A Gigantic Wish Come True...."Craft In America" Visits My Studio

 


A Gigantic Wish Come True...."Craft In America" Visits My Studio

Harriete-eye-in-studio1200
Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander
 


I must confess -- for more than a decade I've had a wish... that my artwork would be featured in "Craft In America
," a Peabody Award-winning series about craft.  And sometimes, wishes do come true.  This past weekend a six-person crew arrived at my studio and home for a two-day blitz of video.

The experience is still overwhelming, even in retrospect, too much to describe or digest in one post.  I am both exploding with elation and trying to get my feet back on the ground. While fresh in my memory and with elevated consciousness, I want to share some of the impressions and highlights through the next several posts with lots of images.

It started in late April with a surprise phone call asking if I would be interested in being interviewed for a segment on an hour-long program about jewelry in the documentary series, "Craft In America?"  The caller, Carol Sauvion, is the Executive Director, Executive Producer, Director, and perhaps, most important, the Visionary who has developed "Craft in America" from the brainstorm of an idea to a 15-year run with PBS.

And this came about largely because of a sequence of three events:

Harriete-standing-messy-studio-1200Carol said she wanted to move forward quickly with the shoot on June 5 & 6.  This put Harriete into overdrive at warp speed through the month of May. Now I really had to finish the other artwork that I had already started and promised to complete which was overdue two months ago (more on this later), study and take the tests for re-certification as a Certified Group Exercise Instructor (my secret lifestyle), and clean up my studio after 14-months of accumulated "I can just push stuff aside since no one is visiting" pandemic mindset.

Harriete-studio-out-of-control My studio was out of control.  I had organically let detritus pile up leaving only irregular lilypad-like spots to barely step through. I hadn't cleaned or dusted my studio in more than a year (some parts perhaps for maybe two or three years).  Chaos reigned in competition with sedimentary layering. The dust had accumulated beyond my realization. 

IMG_20210531_145111401_HDR Hours and hours each day cleaning, sorting, tossing, Goodwill, SCRAP, give away, repositioning, hiding elsewhere (e.g. stuffing the car), consolidating, etc. for over two weeks , soaring past 14,000 daily steps on my Fitbit without ever leaving my house -- I could never have cleaned the studio without the amazingly generous assistance of emiko oye, Jen, and Sara.  emiko (my most trusted studio assistant from years ago) helped for three solid days during the two week cleaning marathon. 

Anticipation fueled this grueling, intensive effort. Then the excitement morphed into trepidation during the last three days. Was I ready? Was my preparation adequate? 

There still seemed to be a lot to do beyond just cleaning the studio to be ready for this oopportunity.

Stay tuned....getting ready for a "Craft in America" video crew.  There was so much to do.....so little time.

Harriete

 

Harriete-cleaning-studio-1200
Photo Credit: William Shelander

 


There is No Substitute for Great, Amazing Images.

There is no substitute for your very best, amazing images. I mean this very sincerely and am witness to the results of having great photos readily available. 

Almost two years ago, Glen R. Brown came to my house/ studio to interview me for a proposed article in Ornament Magazine. Yes, two years ago.  I was thrilled and filled with anticipation prior to the interview, but the actual interview turned out to be one of the most difficult of my career.  Why do I say this?

IMG_20190702_154521361I had been preparing diligently the entire week before. I painted all my cases, changed all the work on display to show a selection of jewelry, and was very excited with expectations for a comprehensive dialog.

However, the reality of the interview became a rather dry hour or so, and I subsequently felt as if Glen was not interested in my work or in what I had to say about it.  Instead of an enthusiastic conversation, I grew afraid that Mr. Brown was somehow disappointed.  Despite the apparent lack of connection, I drew deep on my years of experience and dogged determination -- I kept trying my best with one tactic or another through the interview. 

IMG_20190709_090843342Afterward, for my own mental stability and self-esteem, I pretty much wrote it off as a lost cause. 

Consequently, for more than a year and a half, and especially through the isolation and dark days of the Covid pandemic and quarantine, I moved on and effectively tried to forgot about my expectations.

Then in March 2021, a faint glimmer of excitement reawakened when Patrick Benesh-Liu called to say he was considering publishing the article in the upcoming issue of Ornament Magazine.   Patrick requested "some photos" to consider for the article as well.

This started a flurry of activity, as I searched through my inventory to send a few possible images for the article.  In follow-up discussions, and in striking contrast to the initial interview, Patrick was supportive, enthusiastic, and loved the images.  He then requested more images, "if I had more."  I jumped at the chance and sent more images, and more images. I was unbridled in searching through years of images stored on CDs for the biggest and best images to send to Ornament Magazine.  With each communication, Patrick would say, "the more images the better."

When I say the "biggest and best images," I mean high-resolution images, 28 - 45 MB each, for print.  No cell phone images either. All of the images were taken by Philip Cohen.

Quality images are not just an ego boost for documentation of your artistic effort. Quality images are critical to include in a magazine or book. Quality images attract the audience and reflect the quality of the magazine or book.    

IMG_20210427_150756006_HDR (1)I had no idea how things would turn out after that initial interview.  But in the end, the amazing photographic images taken over the past  32 years would indeed be appreciated and complement this Ornament Magazine opportunity.  And it did so beyond my expectation -- an eight-page article with 1, 2, or 3 photos on each page.

I have said this before, and I will say it again, there is no substitute for great, amazing images that represent your jewelry or artwork in any media. 

Great images all by themselves can create opportunity.

IMG_20210427_150647331_HDROrnament Magazine gave me several extra pages for an Artist's Showcase because of the great images -- and the color quality of the printing is fabulous.

So lesson learned:  Take fabulous images of your artwork.  They may expand or even create opportunities in your future. It did for me! 

Stay tuned for upcoming posts.  I will be documenting a super surprising video experience in my studio that starts tomorrow. So much to say....so little time.

Harriete 

P.S. Find Ornament Magazine at Barnes and Noble or at your local library or renew your subscription today.  The article also led to a Zoom panel which you may find insightful for the variety of perspectives. Panel participants include: Amy Flynn, Wayne Nez Gaussoin, and Holly Anne Mitchell, moderated by Patrick Benesh-Liu, Associate Editor of Ornament Magazine. Special Guest Harriete Estel Berman

IMG_20210427_150819280_HDR
CraftOptimismpanel_4-23-21The article also led to a Zoom panel which you may find insightful for the variety of perspectives.  Panel participants include: Amy Flynn, Wayne Nez Gaussoin, and Holly Anne Mitchell, moderated by Patrick Benesh-Liu, Associate Editor of Ornament Magazine. Special Guest Harriete Estel Berman

Screen shot courtesy of emiko oye. 

 

    

 

 

    

 


Interviews - Croquet, Roulette, or Chess

Interviews may turn out unpredictably.  Actually, this could be an understatement.  Some interviews are like a game of croquet; delightful, easy repartee, you hit the ball through the hoops. It can be a fun, feel-good experience with plenty of joyful and mutually relatable understandings. IMG_0162

Interviews can also be like playing Roulette. Take a position, place your bet, the wheel spins, but the ball seems to drop everywhere except where you are.  The outcome is unpredictable, despite lots of wishful thinking. 

Or interviews may proceed like a game of chess; lots of preparation and strategic thinking, anticipating possible moves, all to help to stay on track. 

Interviews can take more detours than rock slides on California One.   Sometimes interviews feel like they go through all three game analogies at one stage or another. Throughout the past two years, I've been able to participate in several interviews.  Now, with the COVID isolation and time for introspection, I've also arrived at a few observations that I would like to share over the next few posts.

But at the moment, I'd like to invite everyone to listen to the recorded  ZOOM panel discussion from Friday, April 23. 

For this online discussion, I set up all my lights, prepared my notes, and jumped through hoops. 

 



Ornament-Magazine-panel
Here is the link in case the link above failed.  

https://smithsonian.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_-nOxubxPQO6ptn4K4RwCdQ?fbclid=IwAR3AH2GdM0KVyidJ5eiJsyOcdoRtRDdOelIyLI8b0HJtSx_mRiV5lX2pknc

This panel discussion is connected to another interview just published in the latest issue of Ornament Magazine where some of my work is highlighted.  
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More about this later. This was definitely a Roulette opportunity with plenty of chess overtures.

Here is a link to purchase purchase Ornament Magazine.

Harriete


Thanksgiving With Covid Style

Year after year I have proudly shared my Thanksgiving and Seder tables. Decorating and preparing the table settings have been my favorite part of festive holidays -- and friends and family have enjoyed looking at photos of the creative table settings. I routinely painted tablecloths, adapted themed decorations, found unusual dishes, and used plants and flowers from my yard to reinvent the possibilities.

This year a new dimension of creativity was called into action for Covid-19 style and safety.

This year, the number of people was reduced to only a few neighbors. 
Three tables were spaced 10 feet or more apart, which used the entire length of our outdoor deck. IMG_20201126_135937523_HDR

Two people from each household at a table.

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Table setting had to be implemented quickly to avoid problems with animals, and wind. There were individual flowers at every table. The "flowers" were mostly from my yard. A challenge to see the potential with new eyes and some creativity. 

I loved the orange seed pods with the orange dots on the vase (below.) IMG_20201126_140114137_HDR

 The red berries looked great in a red vase.
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For the safety of guests and hosts, no one was allowed inside. After checking for personal requests, I brought out a full plate of food for each person.  Once everyone was served, we ate outside in the seasonally cool air with jackets and hats on, and fortunately warmed by the fall sunshine -- all socially distanced at our seats. All of us wore masks if we moved around.

Learning to entertain with social distancing requires a new repertoire of social skills -- and advanced planning along with layers of clothing to stay warm -- for me, four shirts and a sweatshirt for the middle of the afternoon.

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For us, Thanksgiving 2020 was a new adventure with unprecedented challenges that will be remembered as a special event in a most unusual year.  Yet every day, I am conscious that the sustaining goal is a healthy future for all.

Stay safe and socially distant for the holidays.   

Harriete 

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 A few Thanksgiving Tables from Past Years:
(I think I should make a book with all my holiday tables so you can do this too.
Thanksgiving 2019
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Thanksgiving 2017 in Black and White
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Artistic Expression and Being an Artist 2016
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Vintage Visual Feast Thanksgiving 2015
Thanksgiving 2015 052

Thanksgiving 2014 
Thanksgiving 2014 flower arrangements 012
Thanksgiving 063
Setting the Thanksgiving Table

Gelt, Gilt, and Guilt
ThanksgivingPlate closerlower

Thanksgiving Visual Feast Giving Thanks 2012 with a Mondrian Theme for the table and food.
Thanks2Mondrian2012ARyn and Harriete

Thanksgiving 2010
IMG_6288

Thanksgiving 2009
ThanksgivingCenterpiece

 


The Font of Experience "InFlux"

In the time of COVID-19, daily existence seems fractured.  Efforts to move forward feel constrained, challenging, and like a never-ending series of marathons filled with obstacle courses.  To cope, I try to focus on the expectation that this will all be a memory some time in the future.
 
Berman-spicebook-measure-time

There have been other historical eras impacted by plagues, natural disasters, and political upheavals. In the late 1960's, I was a much younger version of myself, but the daily news brought images of shocking political unrest and social change into every home.
 
Womanizer-Kitchen-QueenThis current intersection of political upheaval, pandemic, wildfires, hurricanes, and social change makes the book, "In Flux: American Jewelry and the Counterculture,"  especially apropos and relevant.  The book covers art jewelry of the 1960s, '70s, and early '80s. (More about this book in another post.) My metalwork from that time period is included because much of it exemplifies the emerging feminist frustrations of the time. 

On Thursday, November 19, Cindi Straus will be leading a conversation with me and Joyce J. Scott.  The  conversation is titled "American Jewelry and the Counter Culture."  We will discuss our early experiences as makers in the turbulent and politically exciting period of the 1970s and early 1980s -- and possibly how our past exposure in those social  disturbances has influenced our work to the present day.  Do the values and issues of our formative years as makers relate to or inform us in these current events?

Zoom makes it possible for everyone to listen in to this one-hour conversation.  You don't have to travel to New York or spend any money on hotels.  Zoom right into this conversation about how the politics of that time changed us and changed art jewelry and metalwork forever.
 
This event is presented as part of New York City Jewelry Week in partnership with Art Jewelry Forum, both of which are financial sponsors of "In Flux: American Jewelry and the Counterculture."
 
Womanizer_crownCindi Strauss is the Sara and Bill Morgan Curator of Decorative Arts, Craft, and Design for the Houston Museum of Fine Art. As a curator, she will be asking the questions to me and Joyce J. Scott. 
 
Both artists have art jewelry currently on view in 45 Stories in Jewelry: 1947 to Now at the Museum of Art and Design in New York.  We will discuss our early experiences as makers in the turbulent and politically exciting events of the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s.
 
The online event is free for MAD Members and Art Jewelry Forum members, but anyone can pay a small fee to listen in to the conversation. Learn more by clicking here.
 
MAD Members, please email membership@madmuseum.org to receive your promo code for free tickets.
AJF Members may email yvonne@artjewelryforum.org.Womanizer_panel72
 
 

Updates on the Professional Guidelines

Professional-guidelines

The Professional Guidelines were conceived in 2000 and I along with others pursued this idealistic effort until completion a few years later
.  Many people helped to bring these documents to fruition -- and to give them grateful recognition, their names are listed at the bottom of this post*  and at the bottom of every document.

Now in 2019, a few updates are due.  

The updates involve all three contracts: 

and updates in the professional practice documents:

Professional-guidelines-professional-quality-imagesSome of the updates are significant, such as references to outdated visual technologies like slides (which have been removed). 

The updated versions are now ready for more current use. 

Take a moment to download any of the 19 documents that interest you to boost your career goals -- or share with a fellow artist or maker. More updates are coming. If you notice anything that should be updated, please bring it to my attention. 

Artists and makers may sometimes underestimate the value of professionalism in their field, but a recent situation reminded me just how important it is to keep appropriate records. A well-known curator in the jewelry metal arts field contacted me regarding an important and historic book.

7729-A Lucretia-Mott-Way Harriete Estel Berman 1979
7729-A Lucretia-Mott-Way

Amazingly she asked me to go back 35 years looking for exhibition records.  When did I first show this work? What other artwork was in that show? We are talking about craft history of the 20th century and I hoped that my "20 something" self wrote it down or kept sufficient records. 

Yikes! 

 

Fortunately, (or at a bare minimum), I found my original index cards with the necessary information -- but I had them.   Looking back, those index cards were the precursor foundation that led to the recommendations presented in the Professional Guidelines document "Inventory Records: Documentation and Provenance".

Photos of Harriete posing for Silver-Iron
Photos taken for Silver Iron, 1979

 

Silver-Iron-1980
Silver Iron, 1980

Ahh, what a stroll through distance memories as I was looking through boxes of old images, even black and white photos, that seem so archaic in comparison to our technologies now, but I found them.

 

 

 

Berman-silver-iron-open
Silver Iron, 1980

Your work could be part of the history in your field. Yes, the media that you might be inventing today may become history in future decades, but only if you document the work in a permanent way.  Posting on Instagram is great, but it is not a permanent record. 

Are you prepared for your future history in the arts?

Harriete  

 

 

 

 

 

Professional-guidelines-inventory-records

Professional Guidelines Committee:

Author: Harriete Estel Berman
Artist, Advocate
San Mateo, CA

Contributing Editor: Andy Cooperman
Jeweler, metalsmith
Seattle, WA

Suzanne Baizerman
Independent Curator
Previously curator, Oakland Museum of California
Oakland, CA

Boris Bally
Production metalsmith
Providence, RI

Sharon Campbell
Collector, Artist Representative
Seattle, Washington

Tami Dean
Jeweler
Portland, Oregon

Jeannine Falino
Independent Curator
Previously curator at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Wayland, MA

Cherry LeBrun
Owner, de Novo Gallery
Palo Alto, CA

Nancy Moyer
Jeweler, Professor (retired)
McAllen, TX  

Marc David Paisin
Attorney at Law
Oakland, CA

Sienna Patti
Owner of Sienna Gallery
Lenox, MA

Biba Schutz
Studio jewelry
New York, NY

Linda Threadgill
Educator, metalsmith
Santa Fe, NM


Bruce Metcalf
Board Liaison & Editor
Bala Cynwyd, PA

Kathleen Browne
Board Liaison
Ravenna, OH

Lloyd Herman
Independent curator
Bellingham, WA

Darle and Patrick Maveety
Collector, former curator and gallery owner
Gleneden Beach, OR
Palo Alto, CA

Marilyn da Silva
Metalsmith; Professor, California College of the Arts
Oakland, CA

Lynda Watson
Artist
Santa Cruz, CA

Don Wollwage
Distribution of paper copies
Alameda, CA

 

 


Uneasy Beauty - Original, Personal, and Provocative

Uneasy Beauty at the Fuller Craft Museum
Last week, I was 3,000 miles and a world away from today.  Saturday, October 13 was dedicated to my first visit to the Fuller Craft Museum and the opening reception for the exhibition "Uneasy Beauty." The whole day was a rich experience. Why was it worth traveling 3,000 miles? Why even go to an opening reception? 

Uneasy Beauty CoverFirst, true confessions.  I went to this opening because there are too many times when I wonder why I make my artwork.  Perhaps like many artists, I spend so much time alone in my studio, experimenting on yet another vague and uncertain idea . . .  and wondering why should I try so hard or care so much
.  At such times, I can remember this opening and the images of my artwork on a brilliant fuschia wall at the Fuller Craft Museum (above.) The photo of my Black Plastic Gyre Boa-Constrictor was on the cover of the catalog for "Uneasy Beauty" as well. 

Wow!  It does indeed feel good to see this exhibition in person.  And the bonus honor to have my work featured in this way doesn't come that often. So, if and when I find myself at that uncomfortable, uneasy moment working in the studio, struggling, pushing, testing unwilling materials to look like something unexpected, a little shot of memories from the Fuller Craft Museum opening will help me push forward with the challenge.

At the opening events: It was a real treat to see old friends and meet new fellow makers (shown below).

Uneasy-beauty-exhibitrion-opening800
(left to right) Masako Onodera, Boris Bally, Curator Suzanne Ramljak, Harriete Estel Berman, Holland Houder

 

Uneasy-beauty-Boris-Bally-Brave72
Brave 4: Breast Plate, 2013
Boris Bally
gun triggers, gun bolts, and gun barrels, brass shells, stainless cord, 925 silver 26" x 11 1/2" x 2"

Notice that (in the photo above) Boris Bally is wearing his gun triggers necklaces so well with pride and bravado. They echoed the uneasy beauty of his Brave 4: Breast Plate necklace in the exhibition (left.) 

I finished and wore a smaller, special version of the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace (above) just in time for the opening.   (It filled 85% of my largest suitcase and was definitely not a carry-on option.)  I can't understand why jewelry artists don't take the chance to wear some amazing examples of their work at openings.  It is sharing your work with an appreciative audience.

 

Uneasy-beauty-erica-spitzer-rasmussen72
Spoiler, 2009

Erica Spitzer Rasmussen
cotton, buttons, handmade paper, human hair
27" x 18" x 9"

 

 

The exhibition "Uneasy Beauty" has become my favorite exhibition in a very long time. Curated by Suzanne Ramljak, she carefully selected the artwork to be original, personal, and provocative. The exhibition overall and the individual artworks always surprised, expanded, shifted one's thoughts addressing diverse, difficult subjects.  But first, you were captivated and drawn in by the beauty of individual objects. 

(I will include a selection of images taken at the Uneasy Beauty exhibition in this post.)

 

 

 

Uneasy-Beauty-Sally-von-Bargen
Elegy by Sally von Bargen
The center brass disc says: "this elegy of truth-these lot treasures - lies brought this lament."

I wish that I could share an image of every artwork in the exhibition. 

Not one artwork was a dud. That in itself is an accomplishment. There are times that you go to a show, and there are pieces that you wonder, "how did that get in?"

Come on, admit it! We've all been to exhibitions where some of the work just does not measure up to the quality of the other art or craft. 

 

 

 

 

 

Uneasy-beauty-Sally-von-bargen-cu
Elegy  (close-up image), 2008
Sally von Bargen
brass, paper, digital photographs, paint
10" x 18" x 4" 

In "Uneasy Beauty" nothing disappoints the viewer either visually or conceptually.  Powerful artwork demanded thoughtful introspection such as Elegy by Sally von Bargen. ( I assume that these are photos of military personnel that have lost their lives, but I have not been able to confirm this.) 

If you can possibly go to this "Uneasy Beauty" exhibition before the closing date of April 21, 2019, I recommend you go out of your way or at least purchase the catalog.  

 

 

Uneasy-beauty-installation-victim-fashion
Uneasy Beauty exhibition at the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA

Another striking aspect of this exhibition was the installation of the artwork.

There were subcategories for the organization of the work in the exhibition. (These same categories organize the artwork in the catalog.) The subcategory titles on the wall really helped with the visual flow of looking at the work. For example, under the Victim Fashion category, Spoiler (shown above) by Erica Spitzer Rasmussen hung on the wall near a pregnancy shaped corset by April Dauscha (left) or bra undergarments by Mimi Smith (below right.)

Uneasy-beauty-mimi-smith
Protector Against Illness: Black Tamoxifen Bra, 1996
Mimi Smith
nylon, lace tamoxifen pills, acrylic paint, satin hanger 16" x 15"




  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another superb example of the thoughtful installation of the artwork was one display case with four different collars by three artists.  White fabric shirt collars by Anika Smulovitz, silver Corporate Collar by Edward Lane McCartney and a worn black fabric Object of Mourning collar by Renee Zettle-Sterling held a close conversation when grouped together in a case.

Uneasey-beauty-collars
White Collar #9                                      Corporate Collar                          Object of Mourning:Impermanence#3
Anika Smulivitz                               Edward Lane McCartney              Renee Zettle-Sterling



Uneasy-beauty-Doug-Bucci-bracelets72
Mellitus Bracelets Installation, 2011
Doug Bucci
Mellitus bracelets, process installation, insulin pump, and Continuous Glucose Monitoring transmitter

There were many more excellent artworks within the exhibition. Doug Bucci's red Mellitus Bracelets Installation was one of my favorites. He doesn't hold back from sharing the personal experience of wearing an insulin pump as the most modern of accessories. What can be more uneasy and challenging than dealing with a life-threatening disease, and the impact of constructive or destructive lifestyle decisions? The presentation of the three red 3-d printed bracelets was very effective both visually and conceptually.  

During the evening events at the Fuller Craft MuseumSuzanne Ramljak gave an insightful slide lecture,....though perhaps a bit long, this slide lecture provided context for the selection of artwork. I love listening to lectures like this. I want to see gears working, the stretch that curator's take to pull together a diverse group of work.

This is a show worth seeing.     

Harriete

 

Uneasy-beauty-Masako-onodera72
My Dear, 2015
Masako Onodera
repurposed fur coat, parts from silver-plated coffeepot, oxidized, thread
12" x 7" x 50"

 

 


Fabulous and heart-stopping news!

Uneasy Beauty Cover

Black Plastic Gyre Necklace Boa shown on a mannequinFabulous and heart-stopping news! That is what I would call it when Curator Suzanne Ramljak told me that they were using a photo (left) of the my Black Plastic Gyre Necklace Boa for the cover of the catalog "Uneasy Beauty" (shown above).
 
How did Suzanne know about this image? Because Suzanne discovered it on an ASK Harriete blog post Photography -- Mannequin Needed! Rent, Buy, or Borrow? Basic or Stylized?  
The post covered several of the mannequin shots taken on one of the photo shoot days. Maybe, out of 50 mannequin shots, Philip Cohen and I  had winnowed them down to five images. An exceptionally painful irony was that I usually only buy a few photos of each genre and had not purchased that one image, neither was it sent it to Suzanne Ramljak at an earlier deadline.....so back to my photographer Philip Cohen to buy another image. 

Being featured on the cover of the catalog is good fortune but also at least partially a result of two approaches that any artist can take for their own art or craft.

The first one is diving deep into an idea without reservation or hesitation. Going all out. Making an artwork for an exhibition without compromise is not the same as art or craft made for your customers. I believe it is necessary to put blinder's on and ignore market influences. Consumer tastes can be superficial, trendy, or financially motivated.  In contrast, speaking purely from your own artist's voice amplifies the potential to stretch into uncharted waters. Magnify a vision far beyond "average." Fabricate your dream. Whether this work will sell or not is irrelevant to the artist's vision. 



Black-plastic-braceletWhen Suzanne Ramljak and I were discussing work for this show I showed her a bracelet
(right) made from black plastic waste. I told her that I had dreamed of making a much larger version.  She encouraged this direction, pursue that dream and I  proceeded to make a Black Plastic Necklace Boa that was 26 feet long with my entire force of nature, full blast every available second of the day or night for two months. My family and I had to survive the two months of craziness. I took the deadlines seriously. 

HB61-9089_EmailFileThe other approach is planning the photography. Documentation and vision of the photos, while the artwork is in progress, can really help create a successful photographic image.  The quote from Louis Pasteur always comes to mind for me, "Chance favors the prepared mind."  What are the possible uses for the photo?  Can a close-up, full view, plain white paper background, model or experiment capture the artist's intent?  One photographic approach may be appropriate for a specific situation, and the model shot takes the photography in another direction. 

It is super exciting to have my work on the cover of the catalog. Super thanks to Suzanne Ramjlak who had confidence in my work to invite me to make something unknown for the show. She had unbridled optimism for the artist's vision without restriction. 

Black Plastic Necklace Boa from black plastic trash.The Black Plastic Gyre Necklace Boa will also be on the entry wall of the exhibition (I've been told) but will have to see for myself at the Fuller Craft Museum opening.  If you live near by or will be visiting Boston, I hope you will be able to see this exhibition.

At the Fuller Craft Museum, there will be a related exhibition in another gallery by MassArt students: Discomfort Zone: Fashion and Adornment from MassArt.  During the opening evening, there will be a live model presentation of some of the student works during the event. 

The festivities begin at 4:00 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 13, with a not-to-be-missed Curatorial Lecture by Suzanne Ramljak! Who doesn't want to peer into the mind of the curator?  I for one can't wait!!! I am traveling 3,000 miles so I can get there really early.  Look for me there.

Harriete

Uneasy Beauty Reception Invitation

     

Harriete  

More Information about the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace can be found on my website.

Previous Posts in this series about photographing the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace Boa:
 

Photography -- Model Challenges & Working Out the Details

Photography -- Mannequin Needed! Rent, Buy, or Borrow? Basic or Stylized?

Photography and The Plain White Background

Photography - More than Documentation?

 


Is Artwork Ever Old? Stitch Care Mend Fold Muse Reach Stress Wear Break Torn Mad and ANGRY!

Is Artwork Ever Old?  An artwork from 20 years ago can still resonate today, perhaps even more so than ever!

Peninsula Museum of Art photographing work installed in the exhibition

I've never considered my earlier work as "old inventory." Spoken clearly with the artist's voice, work made in previous decades can gain more meaning in another time.  This is how I feel about my artwork in the current exhibition at the Peninsula Museum of Art in Burlingame, CA. The #metoo movement and the Kavanaugh Supreme Court controversy have given this group of artwork from 1996 to 2004 new meaning.

After listening to the entire day to the Judicial hearings I am stressed, worn, torn, mad and angry about the mishandling by the Senate Judiciary committee controlled by old white men exposing their ignorance, incoherence, and insensitivity.   

Philip Cohen photographer at the Peninsula Museum of Art
O.K. back to the artwork...

I knew that the photos of the wall quilt titled, "Stitch Care Mend Fold Muse Reach Stress Wear Break Torn" from 20 years ago were not good enough, so I asked my photographer, Philip Cohen, to take new photos.  I needed new images. The original photographs were taken at the cusp of the digital age and the pixels from early digital images dated the artwork, far more than its theme and content. The master image was even stored on a format that I can't access. Some kind of supergiant mega-disc brand state-of-the-art digital formatting of that time .... that has since vaporized from the face of the earth. 

Philip Cohen testing the lighting exposure
The piece is also difficult to shoot because of its size
 (6 feet x 6 feet), so while it is installed at the Peninsula Museum of Art, this is the perfect time to have new images taken.

Having images taken of older work is not about being stuck in the past. No, not at all. This is about how, with time and experience, my standards have continued to evolve. Even styles of documenting art and craft change over time. New photographs can give this work better documentation for a wider audience and fresh eyes.

Facebook-banner-quilt-full-Phil Cohen-color-test

Digital standards have changed, evolved, improved. This is not unlike the changing social and professional standards since Anita Hill in 1991.  The #metoo movement has changed the standard of what was previously tolerated and survived, to a time of visible controversy and action.

Close-up Quilt
This Sunday, Sept. 30, the Peninsula Museum of Art will host a discussion titled, 

"Truth and Consequences"

 

Artists Harriete Estel Berman, M. Louise Stanley, and John McNamara will discuss work in the exhibition in the context of our time.

The event is free.

Sunday at 2 PM – 4 PM


Peninsula Museum of Art
1777 California Dr,
Burlingame, California 94010

Harriete

P.S. I will compare the old photos with the new photos in another post.

Big things are happening, stay tuned! 

 

Quil-before-after copy


A Mistake, A Miscalculation, The Precipice of Ruin Becomes An Opportunity

Life as an artist constantly presents missteps, hurdles, and obstacles to creating and presenting your best work. During fabrication, there could even be a mistake or miscalculation leading you to the precipice of ruining entirely your work in progress. When this happens, I know that the situation is an opportunity for improvement.  

This summer, it happened again.  I had planned to loan an older piece to an exhibition that had been on loan to my parents for years.
A Yard of Grass
The first hiccup came to light when my mother let me know that she really didn't want to part with her favorite piece. I could not disappoint her and take it away on loan for an entire year to an exhibition. So, I opted to fast forward as a "force of nature" into making a new artwork in the same dimensions as the 18-year-old original, only better.

IMG_20180612_220041065On any new piece, figuring out how to make it is always the slowest and hardest part.  But I had done this piece before, and now had 18 years more experience.  All that it required was an intensive 6-week long marathon to get it done in time!!!!!!!!!!!! Harriete-grass-assembly-Harrisburg
An additional obstacle was that I would have to assemble all the parts while away from my studio to be at my parent's house.   Like a crazy person, I fabricated new panels, cut slots in the panels and grass blades (as many as I expected to need) while in my shop at home. Then, I shipped the blades of grass in advance.  I could not take any risks of taking a 15-pound box of metal grass blades through airport security. Each blade of grass was as sharp as a razor blade.

Harriete-grass-assembly-Harrisburg-2

At my parents' house, I sat on the floor for up to eight hours a day (if I was lucky to work eight hours). Determination and dedication without rushing.  Careful choices to pick each blade of grass.

Harriete-Estel-Berman-assembling-grass3

The assembly marathon continued on our family beach vacation...every single day until this was done.  Each blade of grass was inserted one at a time.  Nearing completion, another hiccup came to light -- I realized that in my rush at home in my studio,  I had cut a lesser number of slots in the 2nd panel. Yikes! It wouldn't look as dense.   Another hiccup. I decided to adapt by inserting two blades of grass in each slot (except for the edge.)

Grass -3001-800

It worked!  This impromptu decision is invisible. Thank goodness. 

Harriete-Estel-Berman-fabrication-grass-close-up

Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

Speaking of the edge, I considered this the most important part as it was the most visible.

The selection for each blade of grass was very important, especially at the edges.

Here is the super good news. Right from the very beginning, I could tell that the new piece was going to be better than the older work. A super encouraging sign for all this crazy effort witnessed by my family, day after day.

Harriete-Estel-Berman-asembly-grass-6
Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

It is one thing to work hard in your studio where no one sees how much time and sweat goes into each piece. Quite another when everyone has to witness the difficult process, cut fingers, and choices to sit inside instead of going to the beach. 

Harriete-Estel-Berman-fabrication-grass8
Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

There are always unforeseen difficulties magnified by not being in my own studio. In this case, after completing the first of two panels, I realized that I hadn't pre-cut enough blades of grass.  I had to cut more by hand and custom fit them to the slots. Because I was in such a rush, and not working at home, these were variables that were not planned. 

 Harriete-Estel-Berman-Aryn-Shelander-assembly JPG

Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

Keeping the blades of grass and little shards and splinters of steel under control was important. This led to converting a corner of the bedroom into a makeshift studio space.

A-Yard-of-Grass-800-cu
Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

Do I need to tell you that I reached my goal?  The density of the blades of grass was super intense -- at least four times the quantity of my original in the series.

A-Yard-Grass-cu-800
Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

You can see this finished artwork yourself.  A Yard of Grass II is in an exhibition in New York City opening this week.

TERRA in FERMA Exhibition on climate change and pollution.
Dr. Bernard Heller Museum (formerly Hebrew Union College Museum), Hebrew Union College

One West Fourth Street
September 6, 2018- July 2019
Opening 5:30 p.m on Thursday, September 6, 2018.
I.D. is required for entry into the museum.

Admission is free.

Yard-of-Grass-Both-Pieces800
Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

 A Yard of Grass II              Harriete Estel Berman  © 2018

8" height x 36" width x 6" wide

(Photographed on the kitchen table with a leaf from the table for a matching background. Necessity really is the mother of invention.)

 


Arcata, Eureka! Craft Entrepreneurs, Humboldt State University Adventure to "Rivet, Tap and Die" Over

Former-home-William-Carson-pioneer-lumberman-Eureka
William Carson House in Eureka, California


Visiting a college or university is an 
exhilarating experience for me. Meeting all the students -- wondering what the future will bring for these students. How will their academic education prepare them
? Graduation time is when many begin to realize the magnitude of the jump they are making into the rest of their lives.

Streets of Eureka outside of Just My TypeI was recently invited to Humboldt State University in Arcata (Northern California), which will be discussed later in this post. But the trip also allowed me to spend a couple hours in the delightful historic town of Eureka.

While roaming around I discovered "Just My Type"  letterpress print shop and paperie.

Just My Type letterpress and paperie

 

Lynn Jones, owner of this print shop was a graduate of Humboldt State University.  She has found her niche business creating prints and cards, including a thriving business niche printing the packaging for a local premium chocolatier Dick-Taylor Craft Chocolate.   

The photo below shows the beautiful packaging for each Dick-Taylor Craft Chocolate.  

Dick Taylor Chocolate packaging.

Just My Type prints the paper wrapper for each and every Dick-Taylor Craft Chocolate bar.  The artisan chocolate is wrapped in paper that is like an artwork in itself.

Dick-Taylor Craft Chocolate bars wrapped in hand printed packaging.

The printed packaging even had an embossed texture of the image from the vintage printing process.

Just-my-type-vintage-presses

The high-end craft food and the craft of printing meld with artistic and entrepreneurial visions. It is wonderful to see these success stories. Dick-Taylor ships their chocolate all over the world. Premium craft has a market. 

IMG_20180414_131610628The Dick-Taylor chocolate factory was only a few blocks away from the historic Eureka shopping area and Just My Type.  I wish that I could have participated in the Dick-Taylor factory tour, but they weren't open that Sunday morning.

Still, it was a thrill to see that Eureka provided a lively community of small businesses in the historic area. A great example that craft in different mediums can be successful with a niche business focus.  

Why did I go to Eureka?


Emily Cobb and Harriete Estel Berman before lecture

Now some details about visiting Humboldt State University.  Emily Cobb (left), professor and head of the Jewelry Metal Arts Program was instrumental in inviting me to HSU as a Visiting Artist. Talk about taking months to bring an idea to fruition, the visiting artist gig was six months in gestation.

IMG_20180413_181001327_HDRLife's adventures can be hard to appreciate or even absorb at the moment. Traveling can be information overload. A Visiting Artist gig can be both rewarding and at the same time fill me with self-doubt. Will I provide the information and content to meet the expectations of the students and the teacher? Two days at Humboldt State University with Emily Cobb and her students was jam-packed.

It started with a torrentially wet, six-hour drive to Northern California which has a reputation for a lot of rain. Housing was provided at the very cute and cozy Rose Court Cottage.

Locally, the initials of Humboldt State University - "HSU" also stand for "hills, stairs and umbrellas" and that was definitely part of the experience.

The first part of Day One was an informal conversation with the students prompted solely by their questions. I responded to those prompts directly.  It is a challenge to channel a lifetime of experience into the smaller funnel of what students want to know at this moment in their careers.

For example, . . . . .

"How much do you plan before you begin making a piece? What is your planning process? Do you sketch? Make models? Mock-ups?" 

Harriete Estel Berman at Humboldt State University

Good questions.   There's no one set answer.  I always ponder how best to begin when I start a new piece.  I shared lots of samples of works in progress (shown above and below),  along with Powerpoint images of drawings, cardboard models, to high tech CAD drawings. 

  Harriete Estel Berman work in progress

"Your work has transformed and developed a lot over the years... Did you ever feel stuck in a certain series of work or style? How did you push yourself to try something new? Was your transition from one body of work to another gradual or sudden? Do you work on multiple bodies of work at a time or one at a time?" 

More good questions.
As long as I keep challenging myself into new territory, both technically, visually, and conceptually, I figure, one way or another, I will make progress.  I've come to realize that if making new work is super hard to do... which for me it always is, there is no doubt that I am in new territory. 


Parts from past artwork by Harriete Estel Berman

The final group of questions was purely technical.

Quote: "How do you "sand" things? In other words... how do you make your components so perfect? Is it in the making process or in the clean-up?" 

My response to this question, I think, was pretty clear. Practice. Experiment.
And practice some more.  At the beginning of every piece, I expect to learn or develop a technique, refining the skills over and over to obtain the effect I want.  Consequently, I get tons of practice. This is where having a job doing jewelry repair and silver repair for years and years (40+ years to be more exact), really develops skills to make almost anything. Even if I don't know how at first, I believe that I can figure it out with practice.  With all those years of experience along with a huge measure of frustration and patience, I usually find a path.


For my work, there is very little clean-up when working with tin cans. It has to be close to perfect, or the best possible, from the very beginning.  My advice to metalworking students and everyone still learning; instead of spending so much time on clean-up, learn to work clean from the start.  It is a real time saver.

metal grass by Harriete Estel Berman in progress
This mess of grass was cut from my backyard and used as models to fabricate my grass from tin cans.


I often hear a common expectation among students and the general public that making art or craft should be easy or fun. This is a myth that I do not entertain. For example, I recalled spending a week studying the shapes of the blades of grass from my yard and comparing hours of trial and error (so many errors) trying to make cuttings from tin cans resemble blades of grass.

grass as an example of blight made from tin cans
Weeks to months of discouraging, exhausting, and sometimes exhilarating experimentation is par for the course. I really try to shut down the measuring of time when exploring new ideas. 

HarrieteBermanPoster_Letter.700Following a suggestion from Emily Cobb, my public lecture focused on the political, environmental and social commentary in my work. Turns out these topics resonated well with the communities of Arcata, Eureka, Humboldt State University and the surrounding area. HSU has a strong focus on environmental science being surrounded by redwood forests and right next to the Pacific Ocean. Imagine, students majoring in Environmental Science came to an art lecture! 

I've never been to a place that so naturally focuses on being eco-friendly. The entire community cared about organic, reducing waste, and a holistic awareness of nature and the environment. So close to the Pacific Ocean, a 150-year-old lumber industry, and the center of marijuana cultivation -- the taking care of the earth vibe was everywhere. 

Instead of towers of disposable cups and plastic lids, the local community brings their own Mason Jar for a cup of coffee, and then refill it.   Both the town and the university shared an eco-focus that was refreshing and inspiring for a recycling evangelist like me. 

The second day was a workshop for "Riveting, Tap, and Die" in a condensed version of these essential skills for metal fabrication. If you aren't putting your work together with rivets and screws, this is a huge mistake. Years of fixing brass and silver objects, I see that even the most precious objects are often screwed together. There is a real art to concealing the assembly. It doesn't have to look mechanical.

KK-Flory-made-during-workshop
Quick project by KK to practice with screws

One day isn't a lot of time to allow for instruction and practice, but KK (one of the students) shared this project (left.)

I also spent some time reviewing student work and end of the school year exhibitions.  Initially, I felt a vague sense or vibe recurring in much of the work that seemed to include a bit of new age, hippie tendencies, meditation, and spirituality.   I didn't quite understand that impression until I walked around the town square and looked at the stores and shops.  There seemed to be a lot of mystical rock shops, beaded jewelry, statues of Buddha, and "discover yourself" merchandise from India. It all seemed like a "Summer of Love" time warp, a teleported bubble from Haight Ashbury.  But I think that Emily Cobb will introduce more contemporary and artistic rigor to the metal arts curriculum as she develops the metal arts program.

I marvel at the journey that awaits the students and look forward to seeing how their work develops.

Harriete
 

 

 

 

 

 
   

 


Visiting Artist Lecture with Harriete Estel Berman

HarrieteBermanPoster_Letter.700

Emily Cobb at Humboldt State University  (in Arcata near Eureka in northern California) has invited me to present two days of lectures and discussions for their students, but there is a public lecture on Thursday night, April 12 at 6:30 p.m.

If you have any questions or issues that you would like me to address, leave your request in the comments. I will incorporate that into the lecture.

Do you live in the area? I hope you can come.

Harriete