An aesthetic of fortunate mistakesJewelry artist Jane Martin finds her own way to artistic success.

"Artists like Jane Martin develop unique processes - and then step back out of the way to let them work.In the exhibit opening Aug. 4 at Bainbridge Arts and Crafts, Martin shows earth-toned jewelry that bears the imprint of construction.I take advantage of so-called 'mistakes,' Martin said. When I was at school, and someone said 'This is how you have to do it,' I'd try it that way once - and then do it my own way.This is about my artistic expression. I'm an artist who happens to make jewelry. "

  • Wednesday, August 1, 2001 8:00am
  • News

“Artists like Jane Martin develop unique processes – and then step back out of the way to let them work.In the exhibit opening Aug. 4 at Bainbridge Arts and Crafts, Martin shows earth-toned jewelry that bears the imprint of construction.I take advantage of so-called ‘mistakes,’ Martin said. When I was at school, and someone said ‘This is how you have to do it,’ I’d try it that way once – and then do it my own way.This is about my artistic expression. I’m an artist who happens to make jewelry.Martin designs the spirals, twists and other organic shapes that are a component of her jewelry, but lets the metal press meld the layers to form the final image. When she applies a patina – the chemicals that apply the last surface layer to a sculpture – she does not mix the components uniformly, encouraging surface irregularities.Martin – and other process-oriented artists – may owe a debt to the abstract expressionists, the 1940s and ’50s painters who first realized that flinging, heaving and dribbling paint built a surface that became the repository of the gesture that made it.Work that leans on process may often appear grown rather than made. Martin’s silver surfaces, embedded with organic shapes, are like layers of earth strata or rock pressed into rock by glaciation. Even when Martin buys commercial beads to use with her hand-made silver pieces, she tumbles them to take off the surface polish. This way, they are more like the earth, Martin said. Martin, who attended art college on the East Coast, has a national following she attributes to the jewelry galleries’ hunger for new work.I worked hard at making it good and unique, Martin said, rather than focusing on the hustle. She acknowledges, however, that learning the business is part of survival as an artist. I was fortunate that I knew what I wanted to do early on, Martin said, but I didn’t learn about the business of art at art school. At art school, what you have are professors who have the security of teaching, who don’t have to hustle, themselves. Martin began slowly, by building skills from part-time jobs that taught her various aspects of her trade.She worked at museums, galleries and for the photography department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where she learned about building a portfolio of her work. Then she began to put jewelry out into the market.Success followed, with shows at such venues as the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Martin now has work in 12 galleries nationwide.Martin works in a home studio with an assistant, knocking off after school bus hours, to be with her son. It’s a semi-solitary work life, but Martin maintains a network of friends among the community of Seattle art jewelry-makers she calls close-knit. The UPS man is my business partner, Martin said. He brings me raw materials and takes away finished pieces.She notes, too, that the kinship she feels with other artists and craftspersons transcends both geography and culture.When I’ve traveled to places like Bali, all I have to do is start making something with people and we are on the same plane, Martin said. Even if I we don’t speak the same language, as soon as we begin to work together there’s the thread, the connection – that universal bond of makers in the world.* * * * *An exhibit of Jane Martin’s jewelry shows at Bainbridge Arts and Crafts from Aug. 4 to Sept. 3. Call 842-3132 for more information. “

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