INTERVIEW WITH GENEVIEVE FLYNN
"As an artist I receive gratification from working in noble metals that someday will be owned, displayed, utilized or worn by clients in their everyday life. It is my hope to have my artwork passed down from generation to generation."
Please can you tell us a little about your background?
As a child I was enamored with sparkling things, especially costume jewelry. I was also very interested in becoming an archaeologist. Obviously the sparkle of jewelry would win out! I would like to attribute my mother and father’s encouragement in doing what I wanted to do with my life, to where I am today in my work and career.
I have no background in art, as in middle school my art teacher harshly criticized my artwork, so I made no effort to pursue art in any field. (I was a more sensitive person at that age and did not take criticism well!) When I graduated high school I decided that college was not for me. I pursued a short-lived career in secretarial work before becoming interested in a jewelry school in Kansas City. I was 18, just a year out of high school and a young man encouraged me to take a jewelry making class and to continue in the jewelry industry. I attended a trade school called the Kansas City School of Watchmaking where I took only jewelry related classes. A short year later I graduated and began working as a bench jeweler at a local jewelry store. I worked as a goldsmith for 10 years before taking my first metals course at the University of Kansas, with Jon Havener. This opened a door of creativity that I had never experienced. I began designing and creating a line of gold and silver jewelry that was to be marketed in the American Craft Council shows starting in 1986. I continued doing this circuit of shows for 14 years before closing that chapter of my career.
In 2000 I began to supplement my income by teaching beginning jewelry technique classes. In 2004, after missing the camaraderie of people, I decided to open a retail shop offering jewelry tools and supplies for sale to the public. I set up a small school, teaching jewelry technique classes and workshops as well. This opportunity opened the doors to inviting national and international instructors to teach master classes in metals techniques. My first instructor was Ronda Coryell, who taught a beginning class in Argentium. I had always worked in Sterling silver and this was an eye opening experience.
I decided in 2010 to close my retail shop and concentrate on my own work in my private studio. Owning and running a business did not allow me the time that I desired to be creative. I found an opportunity to attend a hollowware workshop with Irish silversmith Kevin O’Dwyer in 2014, introducing me to the techniques of making teapots. I came away with a sense of patience that I had not had before. This workshop taught me to slow down and to think things and processes through before proceeding.
I continued to work in Sterling silver and finally decided that I should incorporate Argentium Silver into my vessels. Experiencing the immense amount of firestain on my pieces and then the process to remove it convinced me to use Argentium.
What inspires you to be creative?
As a child nature was of great interest to me. I enjoyed being outdoors, collecting bugs, spent flowers, seed pods, rocks with crystals and just about anything my mother would allow me to bring home. My studio walls are covered with wasp nests, branches, leaves, pods, found insects, shells and much much more. I call it my wall of inspiration.
The patterns made by tree branches are a
Hercules Beetle Repoussé Bracelet
prominent influence in my work. You can see this in the base of the Taro Leaves and Dragonfly bud vase as well as my Ssssssumptuous Teapot, (in Sterling silver) and my previous works such as the Tree of Life series. Beetles and insects, as well as leaves from oak trees have heavily influenced my jewelry pieces, in the last 5 years. Nature is a strong influence in my work.
How did you first discover Argentium and has Argentium changed the way that you work and design?
I had traveled to San Francisco to take a chasing and repoussé workshop with Fabrizio Acquafresca at the Revere Academy. Whilst there I met Ronda Coryell who was teaching classes in Argentium. I had decided that I was going to offer master classes and instructors at my studio, so I took a chance and asked Ronda if she would be interested in teaching her class at my studio. She graciously accepted and I participated in the workshop. This began my journey in working with Argentium.
I don’t know if you would say that Argentium has changed the way I work but it has definitely enhanced my way of working. The ability to fuse something rather than soldering is wonderful. Not having to deal with fire stain is something that I cannot begin to express in words.
How do you start to design a piece - do you work through sketching, photography and making models, or do you have other design processes that you use?
Only recently have I started to make models of shapes and sizes of my intended idea. I believe that making models has vastly improved how I go about working in the material chosen. Making a model gives me the time to ponder construction problems before they arise. I can easily adjust the size of the paper model before laying it out on the metal.
Not having drawing experience I have a tendency to draw a simple sketch, write down what I think materials should be used and possibly what process or technique the piece/pieces should be made. I can visualize what my simple drawing suggests, which is a plus for me. I am sure many will cringe when hearing that I have a tendency to “fly by the seat of my pants” when creating my work. I was taught by my parents to jump into my projects and to not be afraid of making a mistake. Most of the time this works but I have had many experiences when it has not. As I have grown a bit wiser in my age I am finding that I process ideas before diving in and just doing it. I find this to be the BEST way to go about working.
Your silversmithing techniques create wonderful shapes, forms and textures – how did you discover these techniques and how long did it take for you to master your skills?
I have been working at mastering my skills for the past 42 years. I will say that I have truly begun the mastering of the skills I know in the last 5 years. I had a realization after taking a workshop that if I wanted to achieve my lofty goals of exhibiting in a museum that I needed to give 300% all of the time. I can tell the difference in my work since adhering to this. I believe that one can continue to learn new techniques and ideas so I feel that I strive to achieve even better results in the future.
I am a self-taught artist but I have to admit to taking a few workshops in areas of silversmithing that I have had interest in. There are two instructors that I give credit to for where I am today - they are Fabrizio Acquafresca, Italian Chasing and Repoussé Master and Kevin O’Dwyer, silversmith.
Genevieve receiving her Saul Bell Award
Where did you learn your larger-scale silversmithing skills?
When I attended the University of Kansas in 1984 I was introduced to raising vessels. I took only two semesters of metals classes at that time, I was more interested in making jewelry than vessels. It really wasn’t until 5 years ago that I started making hollowware.
Which of Argentium’s properties do you find are most beneficial to your work?
I get so excited when I realize that I can fuse a seam or fuse a component onto my piece instead of soldering. Not having to clean up a soldered seam is so wonderful! I especially like the tarnish resist factor in Argentium, as well as no firestain or very little. The process of polishing Argentium is much less time consuming because of the lack of firestain.
Oak Leaf Series