This week's blog post is written by Susan Hunter of Bodie Design Studio.
Making jewelry came to me through love. I met a special person later in my life that re-sparked a creative and curious heart that had been dormant for years.
Stephen Manteca was driven by art all his life. Stephen was at one time a painter and gallery owner and collector in his varied career with side jobs that took him away from his first love of art. After we met we went to galleries and museums and openings. On one special occasion there was a reception for his friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the poet and painter, who was signing a new book at the latter’s studio. Stephen was a bon vivant on a budget with a wicked and original sense of humor living in a rent-controlled apartment in North Beach. It was a wonderful time. We enrolled in community college art classes - he in pottery and me in drawing and design. And then jewelry. I was very curious about it and wanted to learn how the fabrication process worked so I signed up for a class. He was so supportive and insightful in my endeavor.
He patchworked jobs together as best he could but was having more difficulty doing so and his speech started to slur. His gait was changing as well. It was apparent that he needed to go to a doctor about this, that something was not right. It was about that time that we were married. A month after we were married he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). He was given two to five years to live. No cure.
We collapsed into tears. But Stephen said we had to be strong so we were. We kept each other upright and brought him as much life as we could in the little time that remained. I can’t explain how we got through that but somehow we did. Friends and family rallied together to support both of us. There were angels who touched our lives and kept us going.
And then he died. This was a time in my life I don’t revisit often because it was so painful and I still cry. But in keeping with Stephen’s artful life and his wish to be remembered I wanted to create something that would honor him. Our dear friend and jewelry designer Marty Bobroskie showed me how to fashion a piece of jewelry from wax (via the lost wax casting process). From that experience I made a rather clunky yet sincere piece dedicated to Stephen called Kick ALS. In 2005 the price of silver was around $11 per troy ounce so I had a mold prepared and was able to have multiples made to use as fund-raisers at the ALS Walks in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was no Ice Bucket Challenge, but I managed to raise a few dollars.
I found the process of creating something from the heart to be healing so I continued to make other pieces in wax. There was a series I called the Trees of Golden Gate Park which were inspired by leaves from various trees that were imported into the sands of what became Golden Gate Park. Other designs have followed since then, and I enjoy the fabrication process even though it can be a frustrating one. I’m still practicing, enjoy it all, feel grateful for the opportunity to be able to do it and place those pieces at Artistic Portland.
Several years after Stephen died I was very lucky to meet a kind and perceptive man who was also encouraging and supportive of my artful endeavors. He is the happy endnote to my story and I just want to share that I married him.
Bryan Baer is a metal sculptor whose works are seen throughout the Co-op. The largest of these is a bird sculpture he calls the Great Blue Heron perched high above the main floor.
Bryan’s metal sculpting began when his creative mind saw the possibilities of using parts from his day work as a welder in heavy equipment repair which he has done for many years. He began collecting parts that were of no use in the repair business and were just tossed out. He initially had no clear plan but thought the gears, heavy springs, rods, cams, etc., were interesting pieces. As they stacked up he studied the work of other metal sculptors; and since he already had the skills and equipment to weld, cut and form metal pieces, he decided to see what he could make with these spare parts.
About five years ago he started creating pieces and putting them in his yard. His neighbors were impressed and bought his sculptures which spurred his imagination to make more interesting creations. Where others might see ball bearings, railroad spikes, or horseshoes he sees feathers, crab pinchers, eyes, bird legs. and the like. He then puts them together in interesting and often whimsical ways. His imagination takes over when he walks in his shop and sees parts from ball bearings to brake drums. He usually has all the parts he needs but admits that sometimes he scouts around in junkyards and auto shops to find a special part that completes a creation.
Bryan sells his sculptures on eBay and at craft shows and fairs. His creations are compelling enough that people have been willing to pay more for the shipping than for the price of the piece itself. Some of his small pieces only take a few hours to weld and shape. Others he has spent seven to eight months trying to find the right pieces and ways to fit them together as his mind envisions. Sometimes he sees it all before he starts and at other times the end product comes out of the process itself. It took 178 small pieces of metal welded on the great heron just to create the feathers for this striking and beautiful sculpture. He gives most of his pieces names that strike his fancy and taps into past memories. Songs from the ’80s are a special source of names and titles that he may use. Each piece may have significance as a reminder of events from his past such as a whimsical piece he entitled “Scorpion” that refers to a song and a memory.
Bryan’s partner, Kymberlee, is a major supporter of his work and is working toward marketing some of her own creations as well. She does tie-dye clothing, jewelry, and is making Christmas ornaments. Bryan is considering branching out and making some smaller items like ornaments and decorative objects. Besides working full time he finds the time and energy to hike, mountain bike, and do cross fit training. We have to know that he is in good shape to lug some of these heavy pieces around his shop! We are privileged to have him as a member of the Co-op and grateful that he is always willing to do his part to keep Artistic Portland successful.
Stop by Artistic Portland to view and purchase Bryan's work in person!
June 1st we open our doors at our new location in Downtown Portland at 318 SW Taylor Street. Because of the move to this bigger space, we will also be welcoming 13 more artists into our co-op (and counting!). Here is more about a one of these exciting new members:
Tom Jackson developed an interest in metal and mechanical work when he was a boy. For many years, he worked as an auto and equipment mechanic. After obtaining an education in automotive and manufacturing technology, he put his fabrication skills to use in 2011 with his new fascination in metal art.
He has combined his love of metal and nature into unique metal artwork. His continued quest for knowledge and attention to detail brings on a new evolution of art regularly.
His artwork integrates art and technology. CAD designs are created by Tom, cut from metal and then artistically formed, shaped and colored to create each unique piece. His belief in using many types of equipment available from old-school to CNC CAD design allows him to produce extremely detailed and precise hand-made art.
Tom’s work is usually colored in primary forms consisting of heat treating and application of natural metal colors. He enjoys working with a variety of metals including steel, brass and copper.
Come visit us in June to see some of Tom's metal sculptures in person!