Walking Through Life
Linda Stiles Smith
I say this with the growing conviction that that is just what I’ve been doing, walking through life. Maybe sometimes it’s a stroll, but a lot of the time it’s a power walk. I don’t jog. Or run. I just keep on walking. Not always in a straight line, and there is some pausing along the way.
I wasn’t among the first to work with silver metal clay. That’s a good thing for me because if I had been, I might have lost patience with the process and never gotten past my first piece. I like to let others work out the technical bugs in a product so I can concentrate on creating. Even so, that first piece was a disaster! I took a workshop even though I don’t work very well in the classroom. I’m easily distracted by other people and what they are doing, trying to absorb EVERYTHING at once. Usually I can’t design off the cuff and there wasn’t a lot of direction to the class. I had to beg to borrow tools to work on my unfinished piece at home, but when I took it out the next day the clay had melted into the wet paper towel it was wrapped in!
Rule #1; don’t wrap metal clay in wet paper towels. It’s ok if it dries out in between work sessions.
Ultimately I really wanted to work with this new silver material, so I sought out the answers and grew my knowledge any way I could. I love to read. Reading is my main method for learning anything. Since most of the books at the time (2002) were in Japanese and there wasn’t anything like YouTube yet, I kept devouring the information I could find from other artists in magazines. I also don’t travel a lot. I really like living in the Midwest, so my class experiences were restricted to what was available in my area, which hasn’t been much. But I just kept on walking: teaching myself and MAKING as much as I could.
When certification classes became available, I took them. I am a Senior Certified Instructor with Art Clay World, USA and have completed the Rio PMC Certification course, and am now working towards my Level 1 Master’s Registry.
My initial plan though was to make jewelry I could sell. So that’s what I did, creating an occasional show piece here and there, if I had time. All the while I kept on walking and learning and MAKING.
Do you see a theme?
With any craft, art, trade or occupation, you just have to keep on working to learn. Fortunately, the jewelry I make does sell. I love what I make, but I make what people like to buy and wear. And I really like to MAKE things. And as I learn, I keep raising the bar on the quality of my work.
After a couple of years while I was just walking along doing my own work, people started asking me if I would teach them how to make jewelry with metal clay. Why not? I was certified to teach wasn’t I?
My goal was not just to teach, but to help others realize a faster start than I had working with metal clay. For example, I had to teach myself how to torch fire my pieces because I could only find one or two paragraphs on the topic, it wasn’t taught in the classes I took. Now, every beginner in my classes learns how to torch fire so they can go right home and do it.
Pulling the best information I could find for my students I realized that there was a plethora of how-to’s but not a lot of quality overall basic information (the brand wars seem to influence this). So I gathered up my notes and tips and all the knowledge I had acquired over the years and wrote a book for students: Metal Clay Basics & Bench Reference released in 2009.
It’s all been great fun learning and working and MAKING something both beautiful and useful. Now, my journey in metal clay is walking me down the path of tool invention and writing. It’s amazing to me that I actually invented a tool to use that hadn’t been developed by anyone else! Linda’s Lid Metal Clay Syringe Holder is still a sought after tool for metal clay artists.
And there are more ideas on my bench, as well as a growing list of topics to write about!
Staying receptive to opportunities, keeping true to myself and ideals, spreading the joy of MAKING and walking forward are what it’s all about for me.
It’s an interesting journey…
will you join me?