Creating Your Own Reality with a Purple Crayon

My "recent acquisitions" stack next to my
bench; Orion welder to the lower right;
one of my godmother, Bobbie Crow's
 Tornado series paintings in the upper right
I remember in elementary school, the awe and anticipation tinged with uncertainty as the teachers would pass out the Scholastic Books printed forms from which to choose books. I remember wondering how books came to be on the forms. Who got to choose them? Are these books on the list all there are? The only ones for sale? The books were by grade reading level. I had to choose them based on the titles alone. I think maybe my mother had a say in my selection. I seem to remember her saying I couldn't order every single title. The choices were blind, tough. I'd wonder if I picked the right things or if I might be missing out on what I didn't select.

Eons later, maybe two to three weeks, the books would show up at school. They were bundled with rubber bands. No boxes. No bags. Most of them were paperbacks. Most of them were in color. My bundle would be handed to me by a teacher. They went alphabetically, and though, if by last name, I've always been midway through the alphabet, it took eons more for my bundle to be placed in my hands.

Studio Wild Thing
This was the moment. This was when I would find out if the titles I picked on the form were really portals into hidden worlds or if they were duds. Somehow they were never duds. - In retrospect, I believe the forms were mostly lists of Caldecott award winners. - Where the Wild Things Are, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Frog and Toad, Bread and Jam for Frances...Scholastic Books were my tickets to other worlds of vividly colored imagination, where the main characters created their own realities out of sheer determination...and the occasional purple crayon.

It wasn't until I was reading Neil Gaiman's acceptance speech for the Newberry Medal, recently published in The View from the Cheap Seats that I realized how profoundly receiving those rubber band bundled paperbacks was an event that I still seek to relive. Gaiman was speaking in favor of libraries and their crucial role in helping kids develop. - Reading his book made me realize I ought to venture into the Fulton-Atlanta Public Library System to borrow Kindle books. I could read even more stuff!

Lilah's new interest in Egyptology during
last summer's overhaul of my studio
Truth be told though, as a kid, libraries completely intimidated me. It always seemed that in order to find the best books, you had to deal with adults, and I would do just about anything to avoid dealing with adults. They were endlessly patronizing and said stupid thoughtless things to me. I was always the smallest in my grade. My mother made me wear my hair in pigtails with nauseatingly cute outfits. - There were no baby Stevie Nicks clothes in the 1960s and 1970's, so I never quite felt that I got to be me when I left the house. - Everyone always thought I was at least 2 years younger than I was, so the patronizing baby talk was even more insulting to my precocious mind. Did they not realize I would be reading these books to myself, that they needed to be colorful, fanciful, and all encompassing for my escape from the world of these same clueless adults?

My cuff, Inspiraled, in Brandon Holschuh's
The Jeweler's Studio Handbook
on the shelf at my local Barnes & Nobel
No, they did not, so I didn't beg to go to the library much when I was a young child. Later I would beg because they had computers but not because of the books. The bundles of Scholastic books were critically important because they were sacred, seemingly nearly bereft of adult interference, and they were mine forever. 

These same books have moved hundreds of miles with me over the years and now sit proudly on my son's bookshelves. Reading them to him is among my fondest memories as a parent. Even though he is a teenager now, he stil understands the vital importance of Harold and of Frog and Toad, whose life lessons many American narcissists would do well to embrace. The Wild Things sit on my studio shelf. My son did not favor the monsters as I do, preferring instead Maurice Sendak's character Mickey, a little boy to whom he could better relate. After all these years, I can still sing most of A Aligators All Around set to Carole King's melody since I was requested to sing it every day for several years. 

Thrilled to be on the shelf at the Strand Book Store in NYC
As a child I escaped into books, music, and making things. I thought I was biding my time until I could be an adult and make a world for myself. Ironically, as an adult I am no different except that now my escape includes recreating those childhood portals to a world better imagined. The thrill of the rubber banded Scholastic book bundles has been replaced over and over by shipments from Amazon and Edward R. Hamilton. 

I can still find the books I love best by choosing titles and covers with little more info than the Scholastic forms held. When I rip the cardboard boxes open, I am again 7 years old, hoping for Wild Things and ways to shape my own destiny through other people's shared ideas. Rarely am I disappointed. The books are mostly about art 
and fine craft, occasionally about Egyptology. They are stil mostly full of color images.

Best of all are the rare trips to bookstores like Strand Book Store in NYC because then I am inside the list on the form. The gatekeepers are a bit more removed, and I can flip through every spine or cover that calls out to me. I can even find my own artwork on these shelves. I don't usually create beautifully drawn monsters, but maybe I've succeeded just a little in making my own world.

My one of a kind book, The Falcon, featured in
500 Handmade Books on the shelf at
the Strand Book Store in NYC


Starfish and Coffee

Catch a Falling Starfish
Granulation and Russian Filigree earrings
Sterling, fine silver, 14k gold accents
© V. Lansford $460.
I was deeply saddened when David Bowie died earlier this year and thought nostalgically of the many hours I spent listening and dancing to his album, Let's Dance, in the 80's. The day I learned of Prince's untimely death, I got the wind knocked out of me. In recent years I've been less likely to listen to Purple Rain than to Bowie's "Cat People" or "Suffragette City" with my son, an avid Bowie fan. Still, if there is one musician that shaped my transitional teen years, it's definitely Prince.  

Long brocade coats, asymmetrical hairstyles, one long earring, lots of black eye liner, Prince and the Revolution was the look to which I aspired in the 80's. It's a wonder my copies of 1999 and the 12" single of "I Would Die 4 You" / "Erotic City" aren't completely worn out. One of my prized possessions is a special edition, purple, vinyl 45 of "When Doves Cry." I had Prince's butt cleavage sporting poster from the 1999 album on my bedroom door, much to my mother's complete horror. Prince even inspired an ongoing theme in my current work for over a decade but for different reasons.

Waving Starfish
 Ancient style wax seal ring
Sterling, 18k gold & sterling bi-metal

size 6-1/2
© 2006, V. Lansford sold

Starfish XII
18k gold, 22k gold, sterling, blue zircon

size 7-1/2; 7/8” x 3/4" x 3/4"
© 2015, V. Lansford $620.
It's no secret that I'm also a die hard fan of Jim Henson's work. I was skeptical in the late 90's when his son, Brian relaunched the old show as Muppets Tonight, as skeptical as I was when Disney recently launched Muppet Studios. Leave it to Kermit and crew to always come through.

The episode of Muppets Tonight with the then known The Artist Formerly Known as Prince is one of the very best. Muppets in Purple Rain gear, it doesn't get any funnier than that...until Prince gets off the elevator to meet them, and he looks like an average Joe in a letter sweater. It's his skit about how he can create songs about anything that is the consummate answer to that stupid question most artists hate, "Where do you get your ideas?"

The idea that you could create song lyrics out of menu items speaks to the point that creative people see ideas anywhere. Put the setting in a Muppet commissary and things get a little zany. - Were they purposely referencing Monty Python's Spam sketch? Who knows. - I picture Muppets Tonight writers brainstorming a skit about how you can write music about anything. Life imitating art imitating life. Colorful, texturally fascinating, and always goofy puppets surrounding a rock star, known for his relentless pursuit of excellence, talking about eating starfish with coffee.

That's the real genius of any artist, to imagine something no one else has or would and then birth it into being, really, really well. This is the kind of absurdly out-of-the-box creativity I spend my life pursuing in all types of media.


Screwing up in Style: Why Perfect Doesn’t Always Win

Ok, yes, I admit it: I have a little problem with perfectionism. In fact, sometimes it gets so overwhelming that I realize I’m berating myself for not having a better handle on my perfectionism problem. 

Ring shank chasing in progress
(before the melt down)
The good news is that my determination for things to always work pushes my creative problem solving skills to their max. Truth be told, it’s the creative problem solving that keeps me working in metal. I can bring a drawing or a collage back from the edge of the trash can, but the feeling of doing so is not nearly as satisfying as the mechanical workings of turning a half melted mess into something that looks, if not perfect, very professional.

Yesterday I pulled a chased ring shank out of the pickle and grabbed my optivisor to see what the gunk was all over 1/4 of the band. It wasn’t gunk; it was tiny reticulation where my delicate chased scrollwork pattern had been hours before.

This is what happens when I spend more hours answering email that I spend at the bench and what happens when all my bench time has centered around etching and forging. It’s also what happens when I go from soldering with the last whisper of acetylene to a new tank that did not need the pressure regulator up quite so high. I threw the shank on a jeweler’s anvil and grabbed my tiny line tool and Fretz 417 hammer and began putting the scrollwork back. I didn’t berate my mistake, but I may have sighed at how long some things take me. Stay tuned for the finished ring later.

Today I was painting my newly upgraded master bathroom. - It was add on 80’s with a prefab fiberglass shower and is now gorgeous art deco tile and plaster. - Ella Fiztgerald was blaring out my bluetooth speaker, reminding me that some of the best ever screw ups go on to win big awards.

When Ella covered Mac the Knife at a live concert in Berlin in 1960 she forgot the words. I don’t mean she switched a line or flubbed a word. I mean she forgot several whole verses. At full voice. Accompanied by her big band. 

But when you’re Ella, you don’t panic, you don’t freeze, you don’t whine on your therapist’s sofa about how you screwed up your career. No, you improvise. For 3 full minutes!!!

Oh Bobby Darin and Louis Armstrong
They made a record, oh but they did
And now Ella, Ella, and her fellas
We're making a wreck, what a wreck of Mack the Knife…

The recording won her not one but two grammies: one for Best Vocal Performance, Female and one for Best Vocal Performance Album, Female. Now that’s screwing up in style...

Listen to the fabulous recording in full here. Note what she says when she introduces the song. 😉


Art in the Big Blue House

After over 17 years of living in my house, I saw it from the other side. Literally. My husband and I sat around a fire pit at our neighbors' house across the street. It was the first time I'd ever been to a purely social event at a neighbor's. When the topic of what I do came up, another neighbor from further down the street asked wide eyed, "Do you really make a living from your art? I've known lots of people who've tried, but hardly anyone who does."

"Yes, really," I replied, which is 100% true and has been true for well over 25 years. My neighbor was clearly impressed. My answer seemed to give him a little hope in this Walmart society of ours, and yet, whenever people ask me some variation of this question, I always feel a little weird. No one ever asks an IT pro or a lawyer this question. I gazed up at my own screened in porch, unable to see, but knowing within it is the studio window though which I'd been gazing out this direction while working less than 2 hours before. 

I thought about the projects that have been consuming much of the last 4 months of my life, the projects that I can't yet talk in detail about because I signed a non disclosure agreement, the projects that promise to make my expressive account's eyebrows raise one more time when he goes over next year's corporate tax returns for Victoria Lansford, LLC. How could any successful artist still get hit with doubt, fear, or imposter syndrome?
Granulation ring; sterling silver, 22k gold, blue zircon
size 7-1/2; 7/8” x 3/4" x 3/4"
© 2015, Victoria Lansford $620.

Here's why: artists exist caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of society's legitimizing us through buying our work, and accusations of not making real "Art" by our peers if we sell enough art to make a living. This means there is no right answer and no legitimacy to be had.

One of the weirder questions I sometimes get is whether I really make my living selling my art, or if I just sell some and make up the rest of my income by teaching, as if my legitimacy as an artist now depends on a pie graph. "Some of the rest of what?" I always wonder. The ability to live in a regentrified historic district that was still sketchy until a few years ago? The ability to pay the mortgage and eat? The ability to take my family on vacation? The ability to turn down work my heart is not in? 

No one ever asks the reverse question: "Can you really make a living teaching specialized metalsmithing workshops, or do you make up the lack of income by selling your art?" The funny thing is the answer to that question would be "Hell, no." Even though I'm toward the top end of the food chain in terms of workshop fees, I could not passionately teach at the level of giving that I do enough times in one year to pay all the bills. It's not physically possible. Sadly, the way the question is usually asked of me, my willingness to share illegitimizes my status as an artist to the outside world. Huh?!?

I figure creative people have enough to worry about without society and our peers telling us both directions are wrong. It is more than enough for us to worry about making good art and spending twice the number of hours to put it out in the world and find it a good home as it took to make it in the first place.

In today's Brain Pickings newsletter, Maria Popova interviewed poet Sarah Kay. During the interview, Popova paraphrased Seth Godin's take on making a living making art:

Seth’s point was that for the vast majority of history, one made a living and then one had a creative life — the two didn’t have to be the same. Only recently did we come to believe that what legitimizes one as an “artist” is making art full-time and having that art also make one a living. The insidious implication of that belief is that the art made by people with day-jobs is somehow less valid, less legitimate. Which, of course, isn’t the case. It is indeed a rare thing for a creative life and a living to be one and the same.

My neighbor, who is originally from Europe, was probably not likely to have been raised to value mass produced, made in China, plastic stuff from Walmart more than hand made art by locals. Much of the rest of American society tends to need more convincing. The reason society legitimizes artists through the full-time sale of their work is because people are more comfortable liking or wanting something they know other people want or already have. Most people aren't comfortable being the trendsetters, the impressarios, or wearing, using, or hanging something without its creator's back story of struggle-turned-success.

Original pattern Vertebrate chain bracelet with a clasp of Eastern repousse from 
dimensionally patterned mokume ganefine silver, sterling, copper, shibuichi
8" long x 7/8" wide x 3/8" deep. Links can be added or subtracted for sizing.
The inspiration for the shape of this series comes from the genie bottle shaped, 
blown glass perfume containers I've collected from Egypt and the gilded glass Christmas 
tree ornaments that belonged to my grandmother. The title, Allahoudine, is the Arabic 
word for Aladdin. ©2011, Victoria Lansford; $1120.
I had a wonderful philosphy professor in college, David McCarty, who smilingly described himself as a "professional philosopher." He had found that, if he merely answered "philosopher" when people at parties asked what he did for a living, his answer was not taken seriously because people tend to dismiss philosophy as a way to make a living. Adding the word professional in front, didn't make people think he was less strange, but it stopped the jokes before they happened. Though I didn't feel the need in last evening's receptive crowd, I've used his strategy more than once at parties.

When I go back into the studio today, Alice will once again be on her usual side of the looking glass, in front of the window, hammering away on the projects that cannot yet be revealed. The view of my house from my neighbor's backyard is now indelibly imprinted on my brain. When I stand on the deck outside my studio, I can see all their houses, and I'd assumed all these years, that they had an equally reciprocal view of our comings and goings, but my lot is lined by small trees that shroud it even while still bare. Several of our neighbors told us that they'd long wondered who lived in the mysterious blue house. My view from within reveals much of the world, but the view from the outside reveals so much less, no matter how hard a cobalt blue house is to miss.


The Ties that Bind and Gag

Letter to my great grandmother, Minnie Kelley
I come from a family that saves things. Not significant things perhaps, china, silver plate, (very) small amounts of money, an anvil, a forge…my maternal grandfather died a few days short of his 97th birthday with an inventory of nails, screws, nuts, and bolts in every size, all sorted in mason jars, the lids of which lids were mounted into the floor joists above his basement workbench. Their retrieval was an easy one handed job in the midst of any project. 

Tucked away in an old metal box in the attic of my grandparents house was a large stash of letters. They were mostly the correspondence between my maternal grandfather and his mother while he was in the Marine Corps and between him and my grandmother during their early courtship. - It is wonderful yet disconcerting to reconcile the quoted poems and sheet music my grandfather sent my grandmother with the stoic man who horded all that hardware and every license plate and radiator belt from every car he ever owned. - These letters, together with the letters between my great grandparents and the letters between my great great grandparents, tell a story of loneliness and hard, boring, tedious work, interwoven with a secret desperation for love and its promise to rescue these people from their various situations.

Wedding photo of
Orman Edens and
Minnie Irene Kelley Edens,
my maternal grandmother's parents
December 25, 1912
My mother has spent the last two years photographing and transcribing all these letters, one Sunday afternoon at a time. On Christmas Day she handed me the latest notebook, the photos and transcribed letters between her maternal grand parents and the letters between her mother’s paternal grandparents. These love letters reek of secrecy. disappointment, and yearning. Their semi-middle, semi-working class literacy elicits constant promises of “Please write me back with a long letter soon,” begged for mostly by the men, whose letters are usually short and full of excuses. They are Jane Austin with bad grammar and odd spelling.

Letter form Orman to Minnie when they were dating, April 22, 1911
I grew up deeply socially connected to this side of the family, but I never quite felt that I was really part of them. My mother and I have the same smile and the same raising and alternately furrowing of the of the eyebrows when we take in information. When I look at look at her hands or her legs I see my own exact appendages a little forward in time. 

My mother strongly resembles both her parents, who look so much like each of theirs, yet these American descendants of Brits and Scotch Irish, these Grahams, Kelleys, Lansfords, and Edens with their serious expressions and enormous picture hats, look nothing like me. These letters explain a little of how I was hard wired as a child, but their writers offer nothing to explain what I see in the mirror. It’s a bit like having local maps for small towns from a lost continent.

At some point in getting to know people, I get asked the question of my ethnicity. Part Italian? Dagastani? Persian grandparent? Half Syrian? It’s not uncommon for native Spanish speakers to address me first in that language or for acquaintances to be certain I would know on which date Yom Kippur will fall. In my globe trekking days I was never once pegged as an "American  tourist" until I flashed my passport or opened my mouth.

Last year I decided to find out. I participated in National Geographic's Genographic Project 

42% Mediterranean
38% Northern European
19% Southwest Asian
1.1% Neanderthal
1.2% Denisovan
(Yes, according to NatGeo, I am 101.3% whatever I am. Perhaps that is why I always feel driven to do and be more.)

My MtDNA, the mitchondrial DNA handed down unbroken from mother to daughter, belongs to H7, a somewhat rare, little understood, and oddly scattered haplogroup. H7 originates in Western Asia, and later some of it spread west into Asia Minor, Northern Europe, and the Meditterean. 

In the current climate of racist hate speech, I find myself identifying more with these remote ancestors from what are now Afganistan and Turkey. Even if it’s been a few thousand years since anyone in my family called these places home, I share something with many Western Asians in every cell of my body, and it's evident every time I look in the mirror. Though my percentages do not match the surnames in my family tree, they are not off by so very much. Genetic research regards English reference populations as being, on average, 49% Northern European, 33% Mediterranean, and 17% Southwest Asian.

I look far more like my father’s side of the family. Until I participated in the Genographic project, I had come to believe I was just a throwback from my paternal grandmother’s Jewish Lithuanian heritage, not that I look particularly Eastern European either. To my young romantic mind, however, this Baltic branch of the family was the exotic side, the non Celts, the non WASPS. The rest of my father’s family came from Germany, England, and probably Scotland. Again, the same questions repeat...

The field of genetic research tells us there is no such thing as 100% Northern European, no such thing as 100% white. There are only centuries of migration and the hopeful seeking of connection along the way. That is what humans do. It is the one answer on which my genes, my reflection, and my family’s letters all agree.

Hat tip to Erma Bombeck for the blog title, based on her book, Familiy: The Ties that Bind and Gag.


Fugue States

suspended from a Roman chain 
fine silver, sterling, copper, shibuichi, 22k gold, Koroit opal
2-1/2” x 3” x 3/8”,, chain 18"
© 2011, V. Lansford 

I've never believed the stupid paradox that "less is more" or that simple is anything other than something that is well marketed but cheaper to produce. Sometimes when I'm talking with friends whose design sense is more streamlined, I become aware of just how layered and complex my design agenda really is. I  love Japanese design in which everything serves a visual or functional purpose. I crave less clutter in my kitchen when I see really well done minimalist interiors, but I well know I'd never be content in such a space for long. 

I joke my work in recent years is like fusion cuisine, a blending of things no one expects to combine but that somehow coalesce into a pleasingly complex result. Technically, my pieces lean toward a kitchen sink approach with 5 different processes thrown in. Why? Well, it's a bit like asking Sir Hillary why he climbed Everest, because it's there; because I can. 

Eastern repousse front cover of a one of a kind, 
long stitch book with calligraphic hand lettering 
over a giclee printed montage of original collages, 
and an acid etched copper back cover
Copper sheet, handmade and photo papers, 
Japanese stick inks, gouache
6" x 6" x 2", height of repousse on portrait is 1"
text: William Shakespeare, Midsummer Night's Dream, 
Act V, Scene i, lines 2-22
©2013, V. Lansford; $12,500.

A few weeks ago something dire happened. For no apparent reason, some distant memory was triggered by some unknown stimulus, and I realized if I let myself, I could hear Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor in my head. - If that name doesn't ring a bell, think back to Captian Nemo's organ playing in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and you'll know what I'm talking about. - While for some this might sound like a worthy skill, for me it's a like a bad flashback. My brain quite literally came into existence to that music. Live. On the Organ. At home. All the time. By the time I was 8, it had become a threat, a quick jump by my father to the organ bench, hands poised, "Clean your room now, or else..." - My husband was forced to clean to Disco. It produces similar childhood trauma, the result of which leaves us in constant need of a housekeeper.

Imagination Bodies Forth
I get asked a lot of questions about my background, how I got into metalsmithing, was my family artistic, and so on. I've let slip more than once that I grew up in a musical household, where the "3 B's" were Bach, Beethoven, and Brubeck. 

I've talked often about the Brubeck part, but I've never disclosed much of the Bach side. Beethoven...there was a music box in my room that played a chimy version of Patetique. I can remember screaming from my baby bed for the baby sitter to reach an arm around the door and pull the string for the fifth time. I must have been about 2. Moonlight Sonata is humanity at it's most sublime. For me, Beethoven just is.

Bach on the other hand is tough. I love Bach...for strings...and strings alone. Yo Yo Ma or Joshua Bell playing Bach, and I could just about forget that humans are usually a fear based war loving sort that frequently lack logic or compassion. Bach for organ...that's another story. Not a pretty one. I like crazy circus or movie theater Whirlitzers or a funky solo on a Moog from the 1960's or 70's. Pipe organs, however, are a no go. I listened to too many of them live as a kid. Like people who've had one too many drinks and will go raving mad if they take another, or Inspector Clueseau's boss who devolves into nervous ticks at the mere mention of Peter Seller's famous clumsy character, the sound of a church organ, and I start seeing the benefit of a solitary padded room and meals slid under the door.

Imagination Bodies Forth
(pages 1-2)

But a few days after I realized I still knew Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by heart (in my head, not to play, you understand), I suddenly understood that my work is forever shaped by Bach's compositions. The layers, the parts that move independently or in tandem, the somewhat strange need to put mokume gane, Eastern repousse, and Russian filigree into the same piece, this increasingly complex design agenda of mine is not simply because I have the chops to pull it off. It's because, as lovely as a simple melody can be, it's never enough to consume and fulfill my brain that is so hard wired for counterpoint.

Portrait of Skyler
colored pencil on deerskin vellum
(Creating this portrait gave me the idea for
the repousse bound book.)
Most people have to choose whether to go deeper or wider in their life's work. I always end up doing both. Some days the stress of doing so feels like I will follow in paternal DNA patterns and blow out at a young age (that side of the family is super smart but unfortunately also charter members of the Heart Attack or Stroke by 50 Club). Realizing that what is engaging, mesmerizing actually, about fugues, that they epitomize simultaneously going both deeper and wider with an idea, might just have provided me with the sanity of acceptance. One idea, one motif, turned on its head, played at the same time, over and over, layer upon layer, all together, at once. Bach was onto something. Maybe, so am I.


Best of 2015 - SNAG Juxtapositions

It's that time of year when we tip our hats to what was significant about the year before. All the nominations and reminiscences have reminded me of the highlights I was asked by Art Jewelry Forum to write for the 2015 Society of North American Goldsmiths conference in Boston last May. I primarily wrote in AJF's juxtaposition category, and they only posted a few of my suggestions.

As I look forward to SNAGneXt in Asheville, North Carolina this May, I'd like to share more of the juxtapositions that stood out for me from last year's conference and its many exhibits. Enjoy! (They might not be what you expect.)

1. Ruddt Peters and Joyce Scott

One of the best juxtapositions of the conference comes from speakers Ruudt Peters and Joyce Scott. Peters, known for his postmodern, hyper-masculine forms, and ironically humorous performance art, declared in his talk that he prefers brooches to rings or necklaces because, "I do not like holes." Scott, whose expressionistic and African inspired beaded jewelry and sculpture deal with racism and rape, entered and exited the stage singing improvisationally with a range from deep gutsy blues to trained soprano. The two artists and their bodies of work could not be more opposite in philosophy or approach, yet within the same conference, they bookended the wild diversity that is SNAG.

Ruudt Peters
2mm Squared, SNAG Conference
Keynote Speaker, Boston, 2015
photo: Conor Vella

Joyce Scott
American Craft Council Fellow Speaker
SNAG Conference, Boston, 2015
photo: John Dean

2. Orbit I and Peculiar Sign Language: There (here)

The line quality of both pieces evokes a feeling of symbols as if when worn, they point out a secret message to the viewer.

Akiko Ban
Orbit 1
2.25" x 1.5" x .375"
Alchimia: an Anthology
Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston 2015
photo: Victoria Lansford

Enrica Prazaoli
Peculiar Sign Language: There (here)
4" x 3" x 1"
Alchimia: an Anthology
Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston 2015
photo: Victoria Lansford

3. Home Sweet Home and Good Girls Wear Pearls

These pieces surround the wearer who becomes part of the voyeuristic goings on in each section of the respective works. In Maeda's bracelet the three dimensional characters exist within surprising transparency. In Roderick's necklace the two-dimensional silhouetted people evoke Film Noire scenes by partially obscuring black and white images within each link.

Asagi Maeda
Home Sweet Home
5” x 4"; 2015
Journey Through Time: Explorations of Artful
Adornment and Sculptural Vessels Through the Ages,
Mobilia Gallery, Boston 2015
Photo: Asagi Maeda, Courtesy of Mobilia Gallery

Jennifer Roderick
Good Girls Wear Pearls
Adorned Spaces, Boston Park Plaza Hotel, Boston, 2015
photo: Victoria Lansford

4. Kama and Collier

The links of both necklaces invite the viewer to peer into the hemispherical forms. With Eichler's the viewer peers deeper into the links with. With Yujie's, the deeper the viewer peers into the links, the more the viewer's image is reflected back to him/her, creating the sense of rebounding from the necklace.

Dai Yujie
16" x 2" x 1.25"; 2014
Alchimia: an Anthology
Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston 2015
photo: Victoria Lansford

Anja Eichler
18" x 2" x 1.5
Alchimia: an Anthology
Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston 2015
photo: Victoria Lansford

5. Choices and Invasion of the Bodie Snatchers

The sporadic placement of the components in each necklace creates a unique composition on the wearers. Alusitz's are partially open, whereas Eid's remain closed, yet both convey containment.

Cynthia Eid
16” x 6” x .25”; 2015
Journey Through Time: Explorations of Artful
Adornment and Sculptural Vessels Through the Ages
Mobilia Gallery, Boston 2015
photo: Cynthia Eid

Sylvie Alusitz
Invasion of the Bodie Snatchers
22” x 11” x 1.25"
Momentum, Boston Park Plaza Hotel, Boston, 2015
photo: Victoria Lansford

6. Array and Round Dahlia

Caballero-Perez's link focuses outward in a boldly embellished Aztec sun motif. Redman's link, also very dimensional, draws the viewer into the valleys and crevices. Together with the whiteness of the silver and in contrast with Caballero-Perez's solar link, Redman's link evokes a lunar feel.

Juan Carlos Caballero-Perez
3.5" x 3.5" x .75" , 2015
An Auction of Masterful Links to Benefit SNAG
Boston Park Plaza Hotel, Boston, 2015
photo by the artist

Jayne Redman
Round Dahlia
2.25" x 2.25" x .375"
An Auction of Masterful Links to Benefit SNAG
Boston Park Plaza Hotel, Boston, 2015
photo by the artist

7. Made for Amal Clooney and XI A Ring for Sarastro (Mozart Series) from An Alphabet of Rings Collection

These otherwise completely different pieces both use text to convey and define a message without making the text overly visually prominent. In Wong's work, the text becomes hidden when the piece is worn, symbolizing the spirit of the person whose hands would become imprisoned in the metal. No longer able to read the text, the wearer still physically feels and embodies it. In Coates' work, he uses hands themselves to frame the text. The viewer's eye reads the text while the ring's eye gazes back at the viewer. The sense of wearer and audience are blurred in the resulting connection.

Pin Wei Wong
Made for Amal Clooney
7" x 2.25" x 2" , 2015
Adorned Spaces, SNAG pop up exhibit space, Boston, 2015
photo: Victoria Lansford

Kevin Coates
XI A Ring for Sarastro (Mozart Series)
from An Alphabet of Rings Collection
1.04" high x 1.06" wide, 2015
Journey Through Time: Explorations of Artful
Adornment and Sculptural Vessels Through the Ages
Mobilia Gallery, Boston, 2015
Photo: Clarissa Bruce, Courtesy of Mobilia Gallery

(Apologies for formatting issues. It took 4 drafts over 5 hours to get this laid out in its primitive form. Some days I think Blogger hates me.)


Free Spot in Victoria's New Online Granulation Class

Online Granulation Class Giveaway!
Granulation Technique Demystified craftsy class with Victoria
Craftsy.com in partnership with Rio Grande 
Granulation Techniques Demystified with Victoria Lansford.
Craftsy will be giving away 1 free spot in this class as a pre-launch special! This class is scheduled to go live on the Craftsy website very soon.
Click here for a chance to win and
to be notified when the class is live.

This special offer ends: 
Saturday, July 5, 2016

I'm a Craftsy Instructor


Meet Victoria Lansford - Danaca Design's Jewelry Shop Talk

Meet Victoria Lansford

June 19th – 21st guest instructor Victoria Lansford will be visiting us from Atlanta, GA to teach a workshop in High Relief Eastern Repoussé. Victoria  has generated an exciting revival of nearly lost, old world metalsmithing techniques including high relief Eastern repoussé and Russian filigree.
I was able to ask her a few questions about herself as an artist and to get a bit more information about the high relief Eastern repoussé technique. Now I can’t wait to take her workshop myself!


One More Museum on the Way to the Airport

It will remain with me as long as I have a memory, that wild ride to Boston Museum of Fine Art that my mother insisted we could squeeze in for 45 minutes before our late night flight home out of Logan Airport. I was 12, wearing my newly acquired Harvard t-shirt that no one could pry off me plus about 14 other layers to cope with the unkind March weather. I was freezing outside and miserably hot inside the museum when my mother insisted we run to the Renoir exhibit. I will never forget how beautiful Girl with a Watering Can was nor how much more comfortable she looked compared to how I felt.

I was patient for Girl with a Hoop too, then I was just done. “We’re going to the ancient Egyptian collection and spending every last moment there!” I challenged. My mother had gotten a fraction of her desired Renoir fix despite all my and her best friend’s protests that we didn’t have time to stop at BFMA. Now it was my turn. - The collection seemed really small. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t more somewhere. There probably was, and there certainly is more now. 

I think we were the last people to board the airplane, but we did make that flight. To this day when I bring it up to my mother, she reminds me that she was right, that we had time.

Everyone has defining moments in life, those early memories that stick and seem to explain so much about who we are. That 45 minute Renoir and mummies run is mine. My whole existence seems to be founded on the idea that I can fit one more thing in and live to tell the tale. When people ask how I am, I’ve gone back to saying, “fine.” “Busy” as a reply has become too cliche, and I find that what the term busy means to most people is what the term vacation means to me. When people ask what I’m working on right now, I often reply, “uh….” and stare like a deer in headlights, thinking I’m working on so many things at one time that I don’t know where to start explaining. I figure people can’t really be interested enough for the 20 minutes of my nonstop talking it would take to hit the highlights of my master task list.

A very friendly peacock at
Los Poblanos Inn where the final
round of the Saul Bell Design Award
judging took place
If “yes, we can” was my mother’s key parenting style, then clearly the worst thing she ever said to me flies in the face of this philosophy: “There will never be enough time to make into reality all the ideas you have.” - Rule #1: My mother is the most enthusiastic person on the planet. She makes the average Border Collie look like it has a vague interest in herding. Rule #2: When she contradicts herself, refer to Rule #1. (Rule #3: Watch out! My mother reads my blog.)

I’m a rebel to the core, as every good kid posing as an adult should be. The trouble is, I’m never sure if I’m rebelling when I don’t squeeze in one more essential thing to do, or if I’m rebelling when I try to implement all my better ideas. I don’t ask for time to do all my ideas, just the really good ones. I’m not completely crazy.
With All Chained Up and
Russian Filigree workshop
students, Tanya and Jesse at Creative Side
Jewelry Academy of Austin

Last month I flew to Austin, TX to teach a one-day All Chained Up workshop and a two-day Russian Filigree workshop, plus a meet and greet with a demo and talk by yours truly at Creative Side Jewelry Academy. From there I flew to Albuquerque to judge the final round of the 2015 Saul Bell Design Awards, then I had four days at home (sort of) before taking off for Minneapolis to teach a 3-day Eastern Repousse workshop at Quench Jewelry Arts. All three workshops were sold out, and all three were a blast to teach! 

While in Austin I caught up with my longest (I won't say oldest) friend, Cheri. In Albuquerque I got to catch up with good friends, Molly Bell and Ronda Coryell. In Minneapolis I got to spend time with Judith Kinghorn (before heading to the airport!). Getting to know Courtney Gray of Creative Side and Sarah Michaela Sitarz of Quench was exceptionally fun and inspiring. 
Meet & greet at CSJA

The Saul Bell Design Award finals judging
with fellow judges Todd Reed
and Blaine Lewis and
Rio Grande President, Alan Bell
photo: Kayla Torres

Of course the whole reason I was in Austin and Minneapolis was to work with more than 30 students whose creative endeavors I had the privilige to help expand. That's in addition to the incredible artwork I got to hold during the SBDA judging and the wonderfully supportive mates, friends, kids, and fur kids with whom I had a blast in all my travels. I suppose I should have been in social overload by the time I got home, but instead I was in withdrawal by the next Tuesday. As I've said before it's the stories people share that I carry home with me and hold dear. 

The number one question I get asked is, "When do you find time to create all your artwork?!?" Somehow when I was young I thought success looked like less work for more money, but I have found that instead, real success involves being in demand. The problem is that those ideas my mother warned me about don’t stop coming, and most of the work I do simply can’t be crammed into 45 minutes on the way to somewhere. 

The Saul Bell Design Award
finalsjudging with fellow
judges Todd Reed,
Blaine Lewis,
and Janet Deleuse
photo: Kayla Torres
Non-creative people who think they know what I do have some erroneous belief that I sit around all day making pretty jewelry. Enlightening them to the contrary involves my same deer in headlights, “uh…” reply described above.

With students from my
Eastern Repousse workshop
at Quench Jewelry Arts in Minneapolis

If I hadn’t seen those Renoir’s my life would look extremely different partly because of how deeply their technique and beauty affected me and partly because I persevere based on this ridiculous ideal that I can do it all. If I had a more practical approach to life there is much I would not have experienced and much I would not have created. 

I woke up to snow my last morning in
Albuquerque! The inn's white peacock
refused to get out of his nightly perch.
It's all about a balancing act with time, my ability to wear 46 different hats to do all that I do, and enjoying the journey with my fellow travelers.

The view from atop the pueblo of
Acoma Sky City, NM