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Why I Make: Lasting Legacy

Tulip (front), 2011; sterling silver; photo by Eric Law

Tulip (front), 2011; sterling silver; photo by Eric Law

Tulip (side), 2011; sterling silver; photo by Eric Law

Tulip (side), 2011; sterling silver; photo by Eric Law

Tulip (front), 2011; sterling silver; photo by Eric Law

Photo gallery (2 images)

When I am in the studio, sawing, hammering, or musing as to what to do next, I am at peace. I enjoy the techniques used in silversmithing, and the process involved in working with silver affords me a respite from personal problems and the "troubles of the world."

Silversmithing also gives me the opportunity to express myself creatively. As a self-taught artist, most of the classes that I took focused on the prerequisite skills needed to produce an object developed by the teacher. After years of building my vocabulary of metal techniques, I wanted to create my own designs. In 2009, I was a Lucy C. Morgan scholarship student at Penland School of Crafts. Penland transformed my thinking about the art of making. I realized that I had the necessary skills to shape a sheet of metal into a form that reflected my thinking and sensibilities.

The making of objects also reinforces what I strongly value: lifelong learning. This fall I will be taking an architecture course and a basic design course. I believe that both of these courses will enhance my understanding of basic design principles and better inform my work.

The most important reason that I make is that I can create legacy. I once toured a North Carolina plantation. During the course of the tour we stopped at a building that had been constructed by slaves, and the tour guide pointed out a corner brick. The brick had the thumbprint of a builder. Though a slave, the builder had taken pride in his work and he wanted all who came after him to know he built that building. I have chosen to create legacy through the making of flatware, specifically spoons.

Why flatware? Boris Bally wrote, "The ‘eating-ritual' intrigues me as the perfect moment to indulge in the intimate viewing and using of art." In addition, spoons are designed for serving food, an association with life giving and sharing.

The spoon Tulip (pictured above) was forged, and it is a reflection of me. The bowl of the spoon is the shape of a tulip. I enjoy gardening and the tulip is the first flower that blooms in my garden each spring. Tulip also exemplifies my commitment to practicing traditional silversmithing techniques. Making the spoon not only provided technical satisfaction; it has become part of my legacy.

Sheila Gaddie is a librarian at Lawrence Technological University. She is currently working on a flatware collection.

Why I Make is a guest series exploring the human impulse to create. Read more posts in the Why I Make archives or submit your own story.



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