Monday, August 4, 2014

How to put 10 lbs. of shit in a 5 lb. box

Welcome to another installment of Blog Carnival, the ongoing international blatherings of the artists of EtsyMetal, of which we are one (well two actually, if you want to get all technical like). Every month we pick a topic and each of who so chooses writes about it from their unique and often unfathomable perspective.

You, the reader, are thusly treated to a real time comparison of how one artist’s dysfunction stacks up against another’s on the same point of reference. This is our gift to students of psychology and snoopy people everywhere. You know who you are. Enjoy.

This month we are supposed to be writing about tools, a subject that all metalsmiths are obsessed with. We have “tool envy”. We look at “tool porn”. We compare our tools to the tools of others. And we fuck with out tools incessantly, changing them, modifying, making them bend to our will.  We can’t help ourselves.  Just know that the fastest way to seduce a metalsmith is invite her up to your room to look at your tools.

While we all like to talk about our tools, we don’t talk so much about the dirty little secret we all live with. Namely, where do you put all those tools.  Yes, we are all trying to fit 10lbs of shit into a 5lb box. As much as we all like tools, studio space and storage is the Holy Grail.

For our own part, we have literally built “floor to ceiling” shelves and storage into every square inch of our 4 room studio space. This has not even come close to providing adequate storage, so we built 3 additional outbuildings – and immediately filled those up too. Stick around for the super-nova sale that happens after we kick it. We’re pretty sure we actually DO have the arc of the covenant in there somewhere. Maybe Jimmy Hoffa too.

Here are two photos showing our individual benches. Take your best guess at which one belongs to Pig Pen and Ms. Lucy.

The arrangements have evolved over the years to put the tools we use constantly within arm’s reach.


The area under each bench is also lined with shelves and drawers that pull out to provide easy access and additional work surface.

We are big on using every square inch of space to compactly store the small tools we use frequently. Such as this modular system for keeping the various flex shaft bits hands.

Revolving trays tucked into dead corners can store a boat-load stuff. Specially if you pimp them out like ours.

 Peg board is simply the most important discovery for artists since the invention of the automatic coffee maker and margaritas.  I would line my refrigerator with this stuff if Corliss would let me. One of the many things we are using peg board for is to store our wire stock. We picked up this remarkably efficient trick many, many years ago on a visit to another artist’s studio. See the pattern here? 

Sheet gets stored in an open filing system and smaller pieces migrate to sorted bins in the drawers.

Any wall surface that does not contain selves is lined with peg board. This one is over a bench and contains frequently used tools.  We have found that stacking the peg boards is far more efficient than having one tool per hook which in our case would require a building approximately the size of Hong Kong International Airport. And, its not for sale. We asked.
As you might imagine the daily workings of a studio creates a powerful swirling tornado of tools, materials and project in varying degrees of progress. This lends itself to an environment of barely controlled chaos. Considering the context, the word “controlled” is itself a variable term, open to a wide range of interpretation. 
By way of example here are two views of our “mini machine room”.  The room itself is most definitely a work in progress, much akin to attempting maintenance on the car while you are driving it. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Patina is a thin layer that forms on the surface of stone, copper, bronze and similar metals (tarnish produced by oxidation or other chemical processes); a sheen on wooden furniture produced by age, wear, and polishing; or any such acquired change of a surface through age and exposure. Patinas can provide a protective covering to materials that would otherwise be damaged by corrosion or weathering. They may also be aesthetically appealing.

This month’s Blog Carnival topic is “patinas”.   While the original intent of the assignment was no doubt the common practice of applying patinas to metal, patination also refers to the accumulated changes in surface texture and colour that result from normal use of an object such as a coin over time.

 Of course all of this can be said of people too. That part about  “may also be aesthetically appealing”, is where things get really interesting where people are concerned.

For instance, Billy Gibby here, who tattooed the web address of several porn sites on his face as part of a breakthrough idea to become a human billboard.  Don’t get us wrong, we love the art of tatau, particularly as practiced by indigenous cultures the world over.  And far be for us to dredge up that old saw “but what will it look like when you get old?!!” 50 years from now we’re all going to look like shit and people will still be watching porn.
The patina people exhibit over the years often goes far below the surface, and the accumulated age, wear, texture and polishing exhibits itself in so many strange and beautiful ways – or not.  In the worst cases, we just end up scared and damaged from years of abuse, frequently self-inflicted. In the best of cases we acquire a glowing inner light and perspective enhanced by accumulated experience and knowledge.

 And then there’s Charlie Manson who, in a supreme twist of irony, looks like someone’s grandpa, except …what’s that on your grandpa’s forehead!?   

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Art Versus Craft

This month's Blog Carnival Topic is "Art or Craft, to which we reply...

There once was a kingdom that had two villages. All the subjects of the realm lived in one village or the other.  Much ado was made by the inhabitants of each village that they alone were the favorites of the Gods, and thus obviously superior to the inhabitants of the other village. These frequent declarations led to constant warfare and skirmishes between the two villages.

Despite generations of warfare, neither side was ever able to win a decisive victory in their claim to superiority over the other. This did nothing to dampen the fervor and tenacity to which each side proclaimed its virtue over the other.

Now, as it happened, this warfare between the villages was carried out in full view of all the other kingdoms in the land.  Rather than taking sides, the inhabitants of the other kingdoms were confused and frightened because both villages seemed completely the same to them.  What are they fighting about, they thought, the people in those two villages must all be crazy.  And so, the people of the other kingdoms stayed away from the two villages, not wanting to get dragged into the fighting.

So caught up in the fighting were the people of the two villages that they didn’t notice that no one was minding the crops, and the people of both villages were starving.  Or that the people of the other kingdoms no longer came to trade at their village markets and fairs.  To make matters worse, the generations of warfare had left some villagers so confused that they no longer could tell which village they belonged to.
It was if they were all the same.

Of course, this could never be. For the wise men of each village had prophesied, in tongues no less, the certainty of their differences. More sacrifices were needed, said the wise men, so that we may prove once and for all throughout the realm, which village is indeed the best.

And so the villagers continued to fight and starve and sacrifice their children in a battle that no one outside the villages cared about and those in each village no longer understood.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

How does your ethnicity impact your art

This months Blog Carnival asks “What’s your ethnicity” and how has it impacted your artwork. Easy, we thought! Then again, what exactly does “ethnicity” mean? We looked it up. Turns out it covers a lot of ground.

Ethnicity or ethnic group is defined as social group of people who identify with each other based on common ancestral, social, cultural, or national experience.

Membership of an ethnic group tends to be associated with shared cultural heritage, ancestry, history, homeland, language (dialect), or ideology, and with symbolic systems such as religion, mythology and ritual, cuisine, dressing style, physical appearance, etc.

Larger ethnic groups will tend to form smaller sub-ethnic groups (historically also known as tribes), which over time may become separate ethnic groups themselves through the process of ethnogenesis.

Not so easy after all. Particularly if we are trying to draw meaning or particular influence on a lifetime of art work.

The Ancestors
John come from a very long line of seafarers. Norwegian Vikings as the parents pointedly reminded us as children. This was the way of the father and grandfather and great grandfather, etc., and was certainly the path proscribed for John from an early age.

Travel, looting and pillaging certainly had its appeal for a while, but participation in other groups of artists and intellectuals offered perspectives on life paths that were considerably different – and safer.

Corliss’ parents also had plans for her life. She was being groomed to take over the family floral business. Under the tutelage of her father, Corliss developed a strong creative voice as a designer.

Then John happened.

This had pretty much the same effect on the family plans as any standard Viking invasion. The odd twist of fate being that Corliss’ family tree stems from Germany, Ireland and France. An ancestral appreciation for drinking and brawling set the basis for an instant love match with John.
Oh yeah, and there was this art thing we shared too.

Cultural Experience
Hippies. Joining this tribe was a game-changer for both of us. By now all the parents were getting the idea that John & Corliss were straying from the chosen paths. This was a period of intense political activity made more intense by a massive quantities of sex drugs and rock&roll. As it turns out sex, drugs and rock&roll are just fine with everyone. Put politics into the mix and things can get violent quickly. Extensive travel during this period offered perspectives on other life paths that were considerably different – and safer.

National Experience
Duty called. Military service sort of summed up John’s life experience to date. It had it all. Travel, politics, looting, sex, drugs, rock&roll, and violence on government sanctioned scale that cannot be imagined until it is experienced. Being part of an invading army is a transcendent experience. Whatever ideas John had that there were any rules for anything, pretty much evaporated during this period. Moral ambivalence turned out to be just what the military was looking for however, and special assignments followed. Corliss became part of the military lifestyle in wartime – which is to say bat shit crazy became the new normal. By this time it was abundantly clear that just about any other path would be considerably safer than the one we were on.

Religion, Mythology and Ritual
Catholicism and the Mob. Both John and Corliss were raised Catholic- old school Catholic. In John’s case the parents were mobbed up AND staunch Catholic. Two groups that share a lot of similarities in an many odd ways. The kinder softer church was still half a century away, and corporal punishment was accepted, encouraged. The mob never did make the transition.

Both the mob and the church were a big part of growing up and each organization had a very dense mythology and ritual. Sometimes they overlapped. This all seemed like the natural order of things growing up, even if it led to some truly bizarre nuggets of parental advice and guidance. Strange and beautiful advice it turned out, that provided a perspective on how to survive in an unsafe world. God works in mysterious ways.

Art - Our tribe through all of the above. Art embraces everything, expresses everything. Art has been a shield and a weapon, sometimes both at the same time. Art is our way of seeing, our way of doing and our way of being. Everything we have ever been and want to be comes out in the art. It has always been safest path – even when it’s not.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Santa's Elves

This month’s Blog Carnival burning question is: What do you do to celebrate the holidays? Which holidays do you celebrate? What foods do you make? What special holiday jewelry do you make?

Glad you asked. We asked Santa’s elves once how they celebrate Christmas. They replied in a chorus of tiny voices, “How the fuck do you think we celebrate Christmas!? We Work!!” Elves are a little edgy that way.

And so goes our own steady descent into Christmas Elfdom. The madness starts each year in September when the Christmas buying season starts.  That is when the stores buy that all stuff they will use to hype you into a month long frenzy that would make a hungry shark blush. Of course, we’ve been toiling steadily throughout the summer to support the madness and frenzy. We’re team players.

The madness typically continues all the way through the holiday season, and crescendos on Christmas eve. Each year and every year for the last 20 years we have had a stranger knock upon our door on Christmas Eve. Usually around 8pm. Always a man.

He’s terrified, this man. “I need a Christmas gift”, he blurts out. “You’ve come to the right place” we discretely reply, while checking the street up and down, “come in quickly”.   We always wonder how these hapless souls find their way to our doorstep, but we’ve learned not to ask any questions.  Cash and goods quickly change hands and they vanish into the night, off to bestow thoughtful gifts to beloveds none the wiser.  So goes our Christmas Elfdom tradition.

It wasn’t always this way. As children we had different holiday traditions. Like going to Grandma’s house. Grandma ran a gambling parlor in her rural Indiana kitchen and also had a booming fruitcake business on the side. Gram and Gramps we’re also moonshiners, and at Christmas time you got a fruitcake with a gallon of shine. Gram had a secret recipe for the fruitcakes and they were awfully popular at Christmas parties. 

A few days before Christmas all the Uncles and Cousins would gather at Grams to deliver fruitcakes. This was always done after dark and would take all night until the last cake was delivered.  It was also the occasion for Gramps to make his traditional Fuckyouuppo holiday punch.  Gramp's Fuckyouuppo punch was much like Gram's fruitcakes. Nobody new exactly what was in it, but you sure recognized the effect once you had some.  

Delivery parties were always occasions to test the products to ensure quality. It was the consensus that it was “mighty good shit”, which I believe is the very tippy top highest accolade awarded by Good Housekeeping or Journal of American Moonshine or something. Once adequately fortified with shine and fruitcake Uncles and Cousins roared off in their hot rod sleds like so many sotted Santas  to deliver gifts till the wee hours of the morning.

We come from a long line of Christmas Elves. 

*Note: 2Roses makes jewelry. While many people testify to the stunning and intoxicating effects of our jewelry it is not a substitute for a good martini. We do not make moonshine, so don't ask. Not even on Christmas eve. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

True Confessions. What artists really do when you’re not looking!

Welcome to Blog Carnival, where you, the reader, gets to wander around inside the brains of an international collective of artists. Please watch your step, its slippery in here.
Each month a random selection from over 300 artists around the world give their perspective on a common theme related to living life as an artist. If you have ever wondered what it is like to live life as an artist, or been curious how the creative life compares in different parts of the world…read on.

This month we’re talking about “Favorite things to do in the studio”.  We’ll assume for a moment that sex and drugs is probably not what they had in mind when they brought this up. So, moving on, what DO we really, really, like to do in the studio?

Many people, particularly non-artists types (you know who you are), look at the creative life and think of it as unfettered playtime. "You sit around and make shit up"…and they are right…sometimes. Most of the time however it is nothing like that at all. Its deadlines, and pressure to come up with designs that meet specific, often multiple objectives related to concept, style, production methodology and salability.  Surprise! Artists think about such things in addition to engaging in the hard work of creating stuff that your kid could probably make better.

But all that silly romantic business stuff is likely not what drew us all to being artists. We confess, it’s the fun of sitting around and making shit up.  You discover truth in doing this. Truth about yourself, truth about your work, truth about the world you and your work exist in. It is a magical process, and we don’t know of a single artist who gets to engage in this activity of pure creation as much as they would like. 

Of course, we are talking about that aspect of creation that is unfettered and independent from all worldly concerns. Which leads to a related human experience of being completely absorbed and focused on a single task. We don’t mean, “intently paying attention to what you are doing”, we mean time stops and the external world fades completely away focus. The artist literally gets lost in the work. THIS is what artists really like to do in the studio. It is certainly what we like to do in the studio, and it is a luxury when we can give ourselves permission to do this. Did we mention that artists tend to be a very disciplined lot, despite our disheveled public image.

Not coincidentally, psychologists have studied the common traits of truly happy people. Ten things that happy people have in common is the ability and practice of singular focus on a task to the exclusion of all distractions whether they be internal or external. Does all this mean that artists are happier?  Who knows? Ask one…or click on the links to see what other artists have to say.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Woe be the path of the polymath

Welcome to another installment of Blog Carnival, where an international selection of artists provides their perspective on a common theme. This month it is “Businesses you have started”. For artists this is a distinct and separate question from “Businesses you have finished”. As all artists know, a work is never finished - it’s only abandoned.

Artistic discipline (or lack thereof) aside, the real point of all this is that artists tend to be polymaths. That is a ten-dollar word meaning a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. Artists probably aren’t born polymaths, but become such in a life-long quest to make a living while hopefully staying as close to their art as possible. In plain English this all means that artists do a lot of things to get by. This often results in a rather curious effect, when charted out, of the artist’s career bearing a strong resemblance to the path of a pin-ball. Artists will often remark that the effect in real life feels very much the same.

We like to look at artistic economics in geological terms: many little streams come together to make a mighty river. This perspective has generally worked out well over the years, but occasionally results with us ending up a creek without a paddle. We passed through distinct phases on our way to fame and fortune; “Empire Building Mode”, “Get Rich Quick Scheme of the Week” and “Black Market Über-Lord” are just a few that come to mind.

The odd part is that we have started, operated and sold so many businesses over the last 30 years that we are now by definition serial entrepreneurs. Here’s a peek at some of the businesses that got us here…

One Hit Wonder Bong Factory.
This was many years ago during our ceramics period. This seemed like a natural extension of our manufacturing capabilities. Based on our extra-curricular activities at the time we also had a built-in distribution network. The world needed more artistically designed bongs and there was a distinct moneyed niche that was willing to buy something unique. The business prospered, but the product R&D proved to be a real impediment to efficiency. We eventually sold the business to our partner when we became interested in other media.

The King of the Bar Nude.
Small town USA, particularly throughout the mid-west, is generously populated with old bars and saloons. Many of these places are left-overs from the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. They haven’t changed much since the day they were built, which either adds to their charm or designation as a “shit-hole” bar depending on your point of view. We are hopeless romantics, so we thought these places quite charming.  We were actually doing research for a book, “Guide to America’s Shit Hole Bars” when we began to notice that more than a few of these places had old paintings of nudes hanging over the bar. More often than not, these painting had degenerated into state of very poor condition. Sitting, drinking, thinking at one of these bars, it occurred to us that WE paint nudes and were totally capable of reproducing historical styles (thank you old school art training). This had opportunity written all over it. We approached the bar owner about either repairing or replacing his bar nude. Bingo - Our first sale! This led to a five year run and hundreds of bar nudes. We eventually burned out and just stopped taking orders. Never did finish the book.

Gingerbread Taj Mahal.
One of our artistic hallmarks is embracing a wide spectrum of media. For many, many years we were into playing with our food. Not content to build mountains out of mashed potatoes ala Close Encounters of the Third Kind, we took food sculpture to a whole new level. It was an instant success, and on an international level we had not experienced before. The recognition, money and offers came pouring in. Frankly, we were not prepared.
This eventually became a pivotal experience in our careers and our lives. Prior to this, we had a vague idea of what “fame and fortune” meant and an illusion of what the lifestyle would be like. It was all that, and a whole lot more. Unfortunately, that “more” part was stuff we really didn’t like. In fact, we hated it. As the saying goes, “be careful what you ask for, you may just get it”.  We were doing television, traveling with royalty, making more money than we had ever thought possible and were utterly miserable. How can this be you ask? Another saying goes, God says, “You can have anything you want in this life, all you have to do is pay for it.” Meaning everything comes with a cost – to your metal stability, health, personal relationships etc.  Sometimes knowing what you want is defined by knowing what you don’t want.

Over the years there have been many, many more businesses that we have started and run. All have been more or less successful. We have made money, but more important, we have learned. We have learned to be comfortable with who we are, and we have learned that the best things in life aren’t things. 

We currently own four businesses that operate internationally and constantly fight the urge to make it an even five. We have learned that entrepreneurialism is addictive.