Tuesday, March 5, 2013

It's Not a Finishing Problem, It's a Starting Problem

Melissa Cable
Sterling silver, brass, rosewood, Faux Bone, glass eye and peridot
The eye is mounted to a pendulum and swings, revealing the flash of peridot


I just completed a 4-day class with instructor and artist extraordinaire Andy Cooperman. His classes are always so liberating. He practices "ninja soldering" (just get in there, leave a pile of bodies and get out), he hates the jewelers saw, and he mocks me for using my jeweler's tap and die when you can simply use a pre-made screw (always in jest of course, and I am convinced I will change his mind on this one topic someday).

This is the second class I have taken with him (the first being his Flexshaft class, coming up again at Danaca) and I again walked away feeling great about what I learned and what I accomplished...and for me that is big. I often leave a class having learned a lot but rarely have something to show for it. Which is okay, of course, but it is so fulfilling to use the class skills to create an object that I am truly proud of (and can't believe I made). My buddy and classmate, Linda Larsen, finished three such projects in class, including this amazing pin she made for me! (It made my heart happy).

Linda Larsen
Sterling silver, brass and glass eye

I learned both from Andy and from my own experiments and mistakes. I will share one of those accidental findings in my next post, but today I want to touch upon the most important lesson I learned.

I finished much of my piece the second day and sat with Andy for some one-on-one time. I explained that I was at the point in the project that always causes me frustration...the finishing work. How do I give the piece the perfect patina and polish. He didn't see why this was a problem. And then, like the best teachers always do, he began to ask me a series of questions, allowing me to come to my own conclusions without feeling like he was judging me or my work. I walked away not sure I had solved the problem, but the questions stayed in my mind all night.

I woke up the next morning and realized something important. I didn't have difficulty with the finishing work, I had problems with the starting work. My solder seams were sloppy (I had given myself too much permission in the name of learning), my filing and sanding could have been improved using the Flexshaft tools he had demonstrated rather than being done by hand, and the overall design would be enhanced by taking the time to do some mock ups and trying different materials.

So with the class half over, I started again. I pulled the piece apart, soldered the areas that needed fixed, played with dozens of backing materials from leather and linoleum to fabric and wood (which I eventually settled upon). I came home and painstakingly inserted 31 tiny hand-tapped screws into the piece (remember, I will convince him one day), and burnished every single one of them.

It was 1am. My husband had stayed up with me, vowing to be the first person to see the piece. We cracked open a bottle of our favorite wine to celebrate. I made a piece I was proud to bring into class the next day, even knowing I'd have to share it with someone I admired as much as Andy Cooperman.

And that was the start of a beautiful finish.

Melissa



10 comments:

  1. I hear such amazing things about his classes, I have to take one someday! I love love love this piece, wish you had taken a 'before" photo. I am also a "finisher perfectionist". I strive for a mirror finish and keep hearing my old instructor barking "the only good finishing work is done by HAND!".. Shudder LOL. I had "eureka!" moment reading about your realizations. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. He is a fabulous instructor! I too wish I had taken a before photo...I didn't realize its significance until later in the game! I had a PMC instructor who also pushed us to do mirror finishes by hand! It was great to learn as it really makes you understand how metal works, but yes...shudder!!!

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  2. Beautiful, stunning, LOVE it! Where did you get the eye?

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    1. Thanks! Andy gave us the eye, but you can also get them at www.objectsandelements.com which is Linda Larsen's site. : )

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  3. unbelievable! you should be so proud, it is a very beautiful high end piece! it looks complicated to me, pat yourself on the back! i love andys work too, you are so lucky to see how he does things! aloha, angi in hana

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  4. Beautiful work Melissa and Linda wow I would so love to do his class.

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    1. We MUST take a class together someday!

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  5. It was a great class and I learned so much! I tend to want to be a Ninja worker in class and I learned from Melissa to be more patient and do the details right! She did a great job and was so persistent to follow through her idea! It was pure bliss to be in there for four days....

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    1. It was pure bliss, wasn't it! Thanks for being my seat mate and for all my fun goodies. See ya next week in Santa Fe (is there a cheesecake factory there...a precedence has been started and its my turn to get cheesecake to store in the tub with ice)! ha ha

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