Vive la Boheme

Working with Zebulon on Russian filigree
For the past 3 weeks I've been helped in the studio by my intern from Ecole TANE in France.  This was a very special situation since I don't normally take on apprentices or interns because I tend to work best alone.  Also, my studio is in my home, and like most artists, my life is a carefully choreographed balance of chaos.  Occasionally, I teach private students who travel to Atlanta to study with me, but having someone in the midst of said chaos for an extended period of time is something quite different.

When Zebulon contacted me about doing his school required internship with me, I politely explained that there isn't really space for more than one person to work in my studio.  (It's a big room, but filled with a lot of stuff!)

In his charming French accent he replied, "I will make myself very small!"

"Send me images of your work, and I'll think about it," I answered.

When I told my son about the possibility, he, whose best buds live in upstate NY and whom he has never met in real space, said, "Mo-o-o-m, did he get your phone number off the internet?!? Are you freakin' kidding me?!?  This sounds dangerous."  Fortunately Skyler changed his mind in time.

A fast dash of kum boo
Besides learning Russian filigree, granulation, and a whirlwind of kum boo on his last day, Zebulon polished Eastern repousse tools (about 200 of them, quite a job!), helped me make Russian filigree wire, packaged products, and learned that being a successful artist means being tied far more often to a computer and a phone than a workbench or a drawing table. I was sorry to have to break that last bit to him, but I'm happy to report that, though he's not looking forward to that aspect work, he's not discourraged by it.  Actually, I don't think anything could discourrage this young man.

There are days - many days - that I wish I had someone to handle the emails, contracts, bookkeeping, online and phone orders, calls from galleries, etc, but there are 2 very important reasons that it has to be me:
1. I've seen the overhead and the missed oportunities of my friends who have such help in their studios.  Hired help will never be as passionate about your work and success as you are.
2. Good things come from having direct relationships with school directors, workshop coordinators, gallery directors, and especially customers and collectors.  People seem happy (and often surprised) that it's me on the other end of the line.  (Occasionally, when there's too much even for me to cope with, it's my very overqualified assistant, aka my husband, but being my biggest fan, he's the next best thing.)

Having Zebulon in the studio made me metacognitive of how my days look from the outside.  To be honest, it was more like how someone might feel in a time machine looking back or forward at his/herself, for Zebulon reminded me of what it was like to be young, free, bohemian, and full of passion for jewelry, metal, and design.  We have many of the same influences from the past: ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Scythian metalwork,* Leonardo, and Dali.  We share the challenges of time both in being on it and in believing we can solve the problems of the universe and make one more piece of intricate artwork before dinner.  However bad I might feel for anyone with my overachiever need to do so many many highly involved things, it was good to remember what I was like when everything in life was a love for ideas and possibilities (without an overwhelming load of responsibilities).

Some  people might have been jealous, but I asked myelf, even knowing what an insane juggling act my life is now, would I trade where I'm at?  No.  Granted, I had to think about it for a day or so, but no.  I thought of the artwork I've done in the last few years, and I wouldn't trade being where I am as a vastly experienced creative even if it means the obligatory attached desk job part of my career.

When Zebulon asked me about granulation, he said that his art history teacher told him that no one really knew how granulation of the past was done and that few people do it now. "Guess again!"  I said.  "Let's get through the second Russian filigree project, and I'll teach you how to do it."  As a teacher I absolutely live for those "Yes, you can!" moments.  That feeling especially I would not trade.

My family and I said au revoir to Zebulon this morning. He's on his way to Montreal for the second segment of his internship. Hopefully he'll return next year to study Eastern repousse.

Zebulon & me
Having a busy career, a homeschooled son, a husband who also has his own business and works from  home, a mortgage, a dog, and a 9' grand concert piano (yes, really, 9 feet, and no, I don't play) mean that the closest I can get to calling myself bohemian is wearing my vintage cateye sunglasses and once in a blue moon dressing like Stevie Nicks.  That said, a touch of freedom now and again is vital.  That's why this weekend I'm going on retreat in my studio.  I kicked it off with an irresponsible nap in the middle of the afternoon and a break to blog this at my favorite coffee bar in my 'hood.  By tomorrow afternoon I'll be imersed in too many projects with not enough time, but they won't involve Quickbooks, website updates or office work.

Vive la boheme!

*Zebulon was amazed that I had books on the Scythians since their work is less known in the west than Egyptian or Greek.  In French the word for Scythians is something that sounds like 'la Sheet.'  He said 'repousse' and 'animals,' and I grabbed a book off the shelf knowing exactly who he meant. I guess it's a metal geek thing. Most of my kindred spirits drool over Scythian metalwork.

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