This panel was Elise Matthesen, Laurie Edison, and Kate Schaefer talking about their art/craft, with physical examples. "High geekiness" is Elise's term for the ways she thinks about her work. Elise and Laurie make jewelry, and Kate makes one-of-a-kind wearable art. Lately, she's doing hats; for several years she made gorgeous complicated vests, which I never had enough money to be the high bidder for at the Tiptree auctions. (After the panel, I asked her, if she goes back to making vests to sell, to please let me know.) Neither Laurie nor Elise calls herself a "jeweler," that apparently being a term of art: Laurie is a sculptor who makes jewelry, and Elise names herself as a metal-bender, and was bending metal throughout the panel. She swore us all to temporary secrecy: the item in question was for Geoff Ryman, one of the guests of honor (and he was wearing it that evening, for his GoH presentation). The panelists talked some about their work, and interrupted at the midpoint to invite people up to look at examples they had brought, because they felt that would work better than saving the looking (and feeling, in the case of Kate's work) until afterward. Being familiar with Laurie and Elise's recent work, I only went up to look at Kate's, but I highly recommend all three. (Laurie has a work blog as laurieopal
on LJ, and Elise is elisem
here, and does regular "Art Log" and "Current Shinies" posts about her work. AFAIK, Kate isn't blogging about her art, or otherwise.)
The panelists all agreed that the art/craft distinction is irrelevant if not harmful, and largely political (not a new idea in feminist terms). They talked some about the difficulties fitting art into the rest of life: Kate isn't doing this full-time, and mentioned that visiting grandchildren are an interruption, because while her actual workroom is sacred, when she's at the stage of piling up fabrics to decide what to use, and how, she piles it on the beds they sleep on when visiting. Elise's work grew out of her pain management and physical therapy, in part as a way of reminding herself to do the necessary exercises, and "work is a comfort" when things are difficult for her, physically or emotionally. [Many people throw themselves into their work to avoid or cope with emotional issues; fewer for physical problems, I think.]
Laurie said that a lot of jewelers hate her work, because, having trained as a sculptor, she's using very different techniques than they were taught, and the techniques work well enough to annoy some people. She also told us about her grandmother, who had run a fairly fancy antique jewelry shop in Greenwich Village for quite a while; the rest of the family was disappointed that Laurie didn't follow their plan, in which she would become the first member of the family to get a Ph.D., but her grandmother was pleased with her work.
Some quotes I jotted down: "There's an art to pausing in the middle of something, and knowing when you have to pause." —Elise
"I make a difference in my head between the work in my hands and the thinking about it." —Laurie
"My definition of 'perfect' is evolving." —Kate That was part of talking about learning both craft skills, and what does and doesn't need to be gotten right. On the one hand, the person who buys the garment isn't going to care whether every stitch in the inseam is perfect, because they won't see that: they'll care that it's lined up right, and holds. On the other, as she does it longer, she can get an equally good job done in much less time.
"Materials science is the buzzword to sound respectable." —Elise
This is the panel I had trouble explaining to a coworker when I got home, when she wanted to know what we did at a feminist science fiction convention.