Ruth’s Song, The Early Formation

I’d like to tell you the story of Ruth’s Song.

Last winter I decided to study in the spring of 2008 with Angela Bubash for a week at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. I was intrigued with the concept of working with found materials. I had long admired metalsmiths who can do that well (ie. Keith E. LoBue), but I had not really found success for myself using old keys and rusty parts as materials in pieces that have narrative power but are still cohesive and refined overall. Having studied at Penland School of Crafts, I had heard about Arrowmont and was also anxious to explore the offerings there.

I began the way I often begin a new thing – a little too exuberantly. I sent an email to about 68 of my closest friends and family asking them to scrounge through their junk drawers and send me their stuff. Anything goes. And, let me tell you, anything went. I received a holograph, a slide rule, skeleton keys, antique knitting needles, eyeglasses, military medals, photos, musical instrument parts, an antique typewriter, bits of hand-tied lace, old books, computer innards, wood carvings, bottle caps, feathers, vinyl albums, game pieces, belt buckles, spark plugs, and on it goes. What a thrill! Fortunately, I would be driving to Gatlinburg and therefore able to take all these finds with me. I did. My classmates thought I was obsessive at best. It’s true.

I had been studying these objects for weeks, displaying them around the studio in a grid so that one item would not be presented as more important than another. When it came time to pack them up, they filled several boxes and a vintage suitcase. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.

An idea was forming as I drove to Tennessee. Something about music. Something about the healing power of music…. I stopped in Knoxville to visit my great aunt and uncle on my way to Arrowmont, and, having read my email, she had a box of treasures waiting for me. She gave me a photograph, circa 1910, marked “W.B. Atkins” and “Bluefield, W. Va.” In it are two ladies, posing before a studio landscape backdrop, flowers strewn about, with a guitar and a banjo.

“These are not our relatives,” my aunt told me.

“Are you sure?” I wasn’t so sure. “Look at her eyes.”

“Yes.” She was sure.

It didn’t matter. I was smitten by this image. There was something in the way they chose to present themselves. The hats. The dresses. And the obvious closeness between them. They shared an intimacy that women understand and yearn to find. And with them the instruments. I knew this image would be part of my Arrowmont work. There were other interesting images in the stack she gave to me, such as the mountain farm couple perched on the fence, each with shotgun in hand. But they would have to wait. These ladies were stirring my heart.

(To be continued…. part 2 coming soon)

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~ by gingermeekallen on August 28, 2008.

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