Throughout 2020, I have explored the theme of flightless, felled, and dying birds in my jewelry work, culminating in my end-of-year Charity collection, slated for launch in mid-December.
As 2020 continued to usher its horrors, I sought refuge in my studio from my ever-thrumming anxiety. I worked alone for months as the news grew more surreal. I was compelled to call – no, beg – for compassion as selfishness and division fueled the spread of the virus, civil unrest, and political gaslighting.
Without conscious thought, the theme of dying birds arose again and again in my work. In hindsight, it is not surprising. While sheltering alone throughout the year, the doves, sparrows, chickadees and finches that visited my backyard were among the few living beings I encountered. I grew to know their songs and anticipate their movements. I learned what they ate, that some were fearless while others fled my slightest movement. Watching and sustaining them became a source of simple pleasure, their lightness of spirit, a joy to observe.
Rendering these tiny deaths, one after the other, was somehow a conduit to express how I felt; it was an exasperated, unaimed plea for empathy.
But I did not consciously set out to portray the creatures wounded, dead, and dying. This is simply what emerged from within the metal; I could not seem to depict their joy, though I tried. Rendering these tiny deaths, one after the other, was somehow a conduit to express how I felt; it was an exasperated, unaimed plea for empathy.
There is but one living bird among the collection – a dove perched safely in a tree. This design was a concession of hope that I created in honor of my mom, a lifelong bird lover and rescuer.
Exploring a New Technique
I was compelled to undertake a new technique for these works; I wanted a challenge that would require intense concentration and repetitive motion – a meditative pursuit to quiet my mind while the world went mad. I decided to try chasing and repousse.
Some time ago, I had taken a chasing and repousse class with Liza Nechamkin. At the time, I purchased a set of her tools and a pitch pot, but I left them abandoned in my studio for two years; I was intimidated by the many mysterious aspects of the technique. Now, with extra time due to lockdowns and isolation of the pandemic, I decided to dust off the tools and give it a try. It was satisfying to discover I had some proclivity for the technique and I went on to sculpt seven pieces, happily lost in the tiny world of an ancient craft. Each piece took about two days to form.
Back to Enameling
After hundreds of hours of hammering, I found myself longing to return to the silent and delicate practice of vitreous enameling. So, I rounded out the collection with painterly renderings of felled birds, at times adding small elements of color to imply the ochre feathers of a drowned goldfinch or blood on the downy breast of a mourning dove.