3.11.2007

Brace Yourself: Process

Superstar soft toy creater Abby of While She Naps has been wowing me for months with her brilliant creations, including many that are currently on display at the Wellesley Free Library in Massachusettes. A portion of the proceeds from her etsy shop sales will benefit the library. I mention this because it was the lovely Abby who posted a comment a while ago who inspired this post today. She inquired about the process behind the Original Intent project, so for those of you who care to know... here's how it goes.
When I first started the project back in January (my initial O.I. post describes why I assigned myself this task in the first place), I thought that I would take one picture each day and translate it into a pair of earrings that very night. This worked for a while, but issues of weather, light, and life sometimes got in the way of capturng a good image on a daily basis. Out of necessity, I no longer take one photo per day. When the light is right and I'm in the mood, I head out for what Barry and I now call an Original Intent Walk, during which I may take close to a hundred photos (about one-fifth of which I actually keep on file). Camera in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other (coffee, honestly, is one of my biggest inspirations), I stroll around the streets of Astoria, peering down alleys, craning my head up at buildings, and keeping my eyes open for striking images. I'm on an image scavenger hunt of sorts. (Side note: anyone who has lived in New York City will appreciate the humor in this New York Times photo scavenger hunt challenge.)
What strikes me? I'm drawn to images that are highly geometric - images that register in my mind as abstract color fields rather than pictoral representations. I sometimes focus in tightly on small portions of the subject that I'm shooting in an attempt to keep the image extremely simple - to keep it about form and color - not about a scene, as I find it easier to translate such images into the jewelry I create. I like bold colors, and colors paired with colors that don't seem to make sense. And I'm naturally drawn to old, worn out, decaying, and poorly maintained items. We have lots of those in Astoria. I often end up with images that are pleasing to me (many of which are inspired by Barry's photographic style), but that just don't inspire me to make jewelry, like these:

condensation on laundromat window

scale in out-of-business bakery

But I usually come home with a handful of images from which I can derive some inspiration. I go through the photos on my camera's screen first, trying to delete a few duds before I load them onto the computer. Then, I look at each image on the computer screen. I'm always amazed at how totally different they look from what I saw on the camera screen moments before, and I usually regret that I had deleted so many images earlier - I'll never learn.
Then I turn to the beads. I've never purchased any beads for the specific purpose of using them for an Origianl Intent photo. In fact, prior to the O.I. project, I never went into bead shops with any particular shapes or colors in mind (unless I was looking to pick up some beads that I'd run out of and really wanted to work with again). I wander up and down aisles and grab whatever strikes me. I don't have designs in mind at all at that point. I just buy what I like (and I buy a lot of it), knowing that somehow it will all come together once I get home. Since I've been buying beads in this manner for close to four years now, I've accumulated quite a little stash, so I usually don't have trouble finding something that connects to the O.I. photos.


I then play around with beads that reflect the colors and shapes that are in the photos, going back and forth between my supplies and the image on the computer screeen, until I come up with a design that both reflects the image in one way or another and that is pleasing to me, independent of the photo.
Once the earrings are made, I try to photograph the earrings in a manner that references the photo as strongly as possible, arranging pieces at angles that almost mimic those in the photo. And I'm neurotic about pairing vertially oriented photos with vertically oriented jewelry shots, and horizontals with horizontals. (Another side note: Maditi is a master of photo pairing, sometimes pairing photo with photo, sometimes photo with spot-on links. Check out her blog, Micasa.)
So... that's the Original Intent process. No searching out hard-to-come-by images. No special bead purchases. No sketches. It's all pretty loose. And I have to say, I've been loving it. It completely rejuvenated my excitement about jewelry-making, and has made me look at my surroundings with a more focused eye.
What? You're still here? You made it to the end of this thesis of a post? Well, then, I should tell you also that I love how the Original Intent project has brought me in contact with some amazingly talented, kind people (like you), which has been the best part of it all. Thanks, you guys.

24 comments:

erin said...

i liked getting a glimpse at how you do it...i have said (more than once) that i need to just walk around with my camera. you are inspiring me susan!

kat said...

I love hearing how people go about their work + what they find inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

OfTroy said...

i love the urban images.. i love NYC,(and lived in astoria as a young child)

i think NYC is beautiful, and i love that you capture that beauty, and then reflect it.

kait said...

This is a wonderful series! Thanks for sharing your process. I think that the side-by-side with the photo really highlights the subtle qualities of the beads you're choosing. I love your work!

amandajean said...

thanks for documenting your process. It was extremely interesting to read how it all comes together.

I loved getting a glimpse of your bead box as well ;)

abbyjane said...

Thank you for taking my comment so seriously and taking the time to tell us the story behind earrings. I had never thought about how the shot of the jewelry reflect the image that inspired it. So interesting! Thank you.

Connie said...

what a nice little dive into the mind of the artist. plus, wow, look at all your beads!

Momo said...

i loved loved reading this post especially since it is your original intent project that inspired me to try earrings of my own :) Also, your bead collection is stunning for a newbie like myself!!! Hehe, I can't wait till the day I have one of those nifty organizer things with all my beads perfectly sorted. I'm still resorting to the little zip loc bags that they come in.
Thank you soo much for sharing!

Rachel said...

Love this post! And I have been thoroughly enjoying the O.I. posts too. The anticipation is high when I scroll down to see the earring picture and you never disappoint.
Thank you for sharing!

Robyn said...

I love that you shared your process. I really enjoy your photos, and the one's that you don't reference for OI, like those window reflection photos. I came up with an idea as I was coming home from dinner at my SIL's - what if you did OI from different cities, like one's you visit on vacation or what if you have people submit a photo from their corner of the world and you make earrings representing them? I have a tendency to have ideas, far-fetched one's at that, but I'm just throwing something out there.
Anyways, you know, Susan, that I love what you come up with. It's nice to learn a little of the process.

Nadia said...

I love hearing the story behind the art!

Lexie said...

speaking of process! apparently its a long one trying to get my friends to realize that they dont have to write an email to comment on my blog! thank you for being blog savvy and commenting properly on Mitzies. appreciated :) ps- you're going to love today's pics on Red Hook I think.

Shona said...

I love this process post! 100 photos? WOW! That is a lot of work after an already long day of teaching.

As for mid-month...yah, we thought the 15th too. Our current landlord is, as my friend Heather terms it, a "country club drunk" so we are thinking he might not remember making this generous offer.

Gloria said...

This makes me want to start making my own jewelry, but luckily (or perhaps unluckily) don't have enough time to take up another hobby.

ambika said...

Serious envy over:
1) the bead stash. The cinnabar alone has my drooling.
2) how organized it is! My beads have only recently started to live in those nice plastic kits but there are more types of beads than openings so it's still a bit of a mess.

julieree said...

thanks for sharing! I've often wondered what your process for that project is. Definitely inspiring. I should get out with my camera more often!!

Brittany said...

i love inspiration walks!

Kristine said...

I love this! I am so glad that you shared this. Makes me want to create and use my camera more. Gosh - this is great!

wende said...

It's nice to get a feeling for how you work. And for how the earrings in my ears were created!

How's your weather? Spring is blooming here. . .not that I'm supposed to notice. Heh.

Sweet Treat said...

aaaahhhh... that was a nice read...love hearing about the process of all things, that is the most interesting bit! Makes me appreciate the end result much more.

Sonya said...

I know - fall over - I read the whole post. I know exactly what you mean about being influenced photographically; Benjamin is actually the photographer of the pair of us. His style has informed my own and yet we notice and photograph different things. Thanks for spelling out the process, I like how loose and organic it is, and a stash is a great thing to have. Yours is proof positive.

maditi said...

I loved reading about your process and of course I´m a big fan of the results :) thank´s for the lovely mention!!

MB said...

Thanks for sharing this...I love hearing about people's "process." Perhaps we should start a week of processes...all about how we go about different things...you game?

Erin said...

Thanks so much for explaining your original intent. Very unique. Your photos are very inspiring. I find it interesting how you base the design of your earrings on your photos. BTW... you should put all those photos into some kind of book...they really are cool!