Sustained By Chukar

Chukar wishbones in sterling silver.  Simple.  Clean.  Effortless.  Wild and true.

The pursuit of this bird saves our souls, bonds us to our dogs, feeds our bodies and washes our spirits clean.  By this bird, we are sustained.

I’m delighted to be offering this beautiful, delicate necklace in my shop again.  If you ever wanted a quiet piece that is truly

+OF THE WEST+

this is it.

XX

Afield

I feel the daylight stretching.  I stay in the studio as long as I dare, straining my eyes for one more solder, one last hammer strike.  I run late, pushing my blurring feet towards a sunset that is slinking Northward.  In the field, we don’t know if we’ll find a bird or a shed antler behind the next bitterbrush.  The mule deer are dropping their burdens as the world tilts towards waking and spring.  I expect to hear meadowlark song any moment, their flicking tails conducting the curve and sway of bunchgrass in the wind.

Unyielding

Unyielding.  Fixed.  Staunch.  Pertinacious.  Unmovable.  Merciless.  Adamant.  Relentless.  Determined.

But first, let me tell you the story in its fullness.

We were in Arizona hunting Mearn’s quail under the exquisite sky islands and Tater Tot was working brilliantly despite the heat of the day.  We crested a drainage and I could tell he was on scent so I hurried my pace more, shifted my shotgun and did my best to keep up with him.  He began to slow, taking halting steps, doing the thing pointers do when they test their prey and calculate, step by step, how close they can pinpoint a bird without busting it.  I was watching him closely as I followed him into what I thought was a sort of meadow, thickly carpeted terrain with a funny looking sort of grass.  On my third step into this strange flora, I realized I was not walking through grass.  Through the double layering of my brush pants I was being stabbed in a hundred different directions by a tiny forest of mini-yucca (Latin name unknown).  Suffering succotash, it hurt.  I took a moment to glance down before I lifted my eyes to my dog who was now locked up on a hard point.  Something Robert taught me years ago is come hell or high water, you honor your dogs work by following up on every single point.  To not do so is a betrayal.  So I kept on walking through that yucca patch, each step as agonizing as the next, and soon enough I reached my dog, flushed the quail, did some shooting and fetching and once all the action was over with, I turned and walked through that yucca forest again to safe ground.  On the way to safety, I stopped and snapped off a stalk of yucca blooms that had turned to seed pods, saying to myself, “This experience and these pods will make lovely earrings some day.”

I’ve always admired the yucca.  We tend to spend my birthday in Arizona or New Mexico on a camping and hunting trip in the month of February most years.  One year I told Robbie all I wanted for my birthday was a flawlessly beautiful yucca spike specimen with not a pod missing.  We spent days looking for the perfect one and I had it on display in my living room for years until we left Pocatello and I had to downsize my collection of curios.  I like the yucca against the gloaming in the wide open territory of the high desert — it’s high desert punk and I’ve always been a little counter culture in my own way.  I like the way the plant is beautiful but fierce.  I like those tenacious blooms that persevere in all manner of wind and weather.  When I look at the yucca, the words I began this prose with come to mind: unyielding, fixed, staunch, pertinacious, unmovable, merciless, adamant, relentless, determined.  When I passed through the unassuming forest of deadly yucca on that fine day when I chose not to quit on my dog, I was all of those things, too.

Now you know the true story behind the work.

I’ve been building these beautiful yucca earrings of mixed metals and man, are they wildly elegant.  As they move and sway and shimmy they whisper out the word UNYIELDING so that you might be reminded to remain staunch of soul no matter the task at hand.

Belated but Merry

A very belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!  I hope you had a magnificent holiday.  I shut my Etsy shop down two weeks earlier than usual in order to spend my energy on some other important things and to give myself a great, wide open creative exhalation.  I managed to let the studio rest for three full weeks which is pretty unheard of for me!  If I am home, I am working.  I love to work.  I thrive when I am working.  But there’s something so special about those times when we let ourselves lie fallow like great tracts of dark earth, to soak up the sun and the wind and the rain and to spin nutrients into gold and growth.  Yesterday I sat down at my bench to blow the dust off my tools and scrub the rust from my hands and I had a tremendous sense of simply being full on rest and ready to work again.  I tinkered most of the day, not wanting to over commit myself to any of my ideas.  My compass was swiveling in too many directions and I find it’s always better to begin again with a strong sense of “THAT-A-WAY” than to spend a few days pandering to whims.

My muscles remembered my work space, the distance between tools, the swirling rhythm of the pellet stove and the staccato of birds at the feeders.  It was a lovely re-entry into work.  I’ll be in the studio again today and I’m looking forward to going gently as I tap my hammers to the beat of this new, beautiful year.

While I wasn’t working, I thought much about what I specifically value regarding creative work.  It’s not the finished products.  I like what I make.  How could I not?  It’s all a direct reflection of my life and my experiences.  I’m finding what I value more is the process behind the work (which is ultimately the sum of my living).

I drew a late season cow/calf tag for the Idaho side of Hells Canyon this year which is one of the biggest reasons I shut my studio down earlier than usual, so I could focus on my hunt — and it was a great hunt.  The territory was snowless so herds of wapiti and deer remained up in the high country which is where we had to go to find animals.  It was strenuous hiking (can I still call it hiking if I was using bunchgrass as handholds as I covered ground???) in treacherous country and once we found animals, I made a great, intuitive stalk.  I had a lucky, strong wind to blow away my noise and my scent.  The herd was bedded down, chewing on cud, puffing cold smoke into winter air, oblivious to my presence.  I had all the time in the world to set up, watch the herd and enjoy their beauty through my scope.  I was patient enough and lucky, too, when a cow stood up for me, perfectly broadside, on the edge of the herd at 300 yards.  I took my shot calmly, steadying my reticle with a sharp eye as I had practiced so many times, and it was perfectly placed.  She died well and this meat does not taste of fear.  When I finally approached her where she lay, I took off my gloves and buried my hands in the soft fur around her lovely ears and there, on my finger, was the Diana Ring I kept for myself which depicts an elk standing on a ridge in a puff of clouds and I thought, “This is a moment in my life that gives context and spirit to my work.  Without this, without my experiences and the stories of how I live, the work would mean nothing.  This would be a ring with an elk on it.  I would be making hollow objects that resound with nothing.  Because I live what I make, these objects are more than meets the eye.”

I keep thinking this very thing, repeatedly, when I am out riding Resero in the canyon, when I am running and I stop to explore a rock outcropping and find a hare skull, when I am hunting behind our birddogs in the sunshine and basalt with Robert, when I am tending my garden or my hens, when I am warmed by a sage fire in the nook of a rock safe from the claws of a ghastly wind — all of those life details matter to me and inform my work.  The point is not to to go my studio every day and make as much as possible as quickly as possible.  The point is not to tie myself in knots trying to immediately appease people.  The point is to live my life as beautifully and wonderfully and curiously as possible so that when I do sit down to work, my work is born of depth and power that comes from the true story of my life.

I wasn’t art school trained.  I quit university (numerous times) before I was taught how to be an artist (and I am 100% unapologetic about that).  I’m not sure what would have been impressed upon me but I have come to know it’s all this living I am doing that directly fuels the work of my hands.  Without it, my work would have a different truth…a different everything…a different degree of believability…a different context.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past decade at my bench in the studio it’s that I want to know that my work and my ideas are my own, that they have stemmed and branched and grown directly from the elements of my life and the details and ideas I find communicable therein.

I’m not one for making resolutions in the new year, I think every day is a new start that can be full of intention and momentum in the direction of our choosing, but I am always curious to hear about how others are approaching a new year.  I begin 2018 with a continued commitment to living my life with depth, gumption and courage and thereby creating with that same essence when I sit at my bench to work or when I stand afield with my camera in my hands.  What about you?

 

From Arizona, with love.

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