interview with artist April Bower
Updated: Apr 11, 2020
What is your medium and why did you chose it?
I investigated many mediums while in school and loved many of them, mostly Photography and ceramics but the one that stuck was metal. It is such a versatile material; elastic yet hard, functional yet precious. It can be worked hot as a liquid and cold as a solid. From steel to copper, gold or aluminum, all have similar yet different properties. I'm not a technical geek, but if you understand the basic science behind it you can better control the outcome. I always spend a short moment explaining things like work hardening and annealing to my students in ways we can all relate. Like when you bend a wire coat hanger many times it cracks and breaks ( work hardening) and when you put that wire hanger in the campfire ( after you've eaten your marshmallow) it gets red hot and is very bendable after: annealing. Another couple of sentences about crystal structure and they get it. They now know why we heat our metal to dull red to soften it up after hammering.
How long have you been making art?
Always. My parents were artistic in very practical ways and allowed and encouraged me to pursue art and was lucky enough to have art in school as a child. While in college I had the opportunity to examine many different medias, as well as design. Knowing the slim chance of making a living making art, I took a few art education classes in college but had no plans to teach art in schools. Ironically my fist job out of college was teaching silver jewelry making and lost wax casting to adults for City Parks and Rec. One of my students went on to apprentice as a gold smith and he later hired me and taught me that aspect of the jewelry making biz. I worked in Fine Jewelry as a goldsmith for almost 20 years. In those days there were few women doing that job and I had some resistance from customers on occasion who thought they needed to see an elderly man at the jewelers bench instead of a 25 year old woman, but my company supported me heartily. I learned every day on the job and took specialty education whenever possible. My Jewelers' bench was ON the sales floor where people watched you work, so all day I heard the salesmen deal with customers. That (and the Yidish) WAS a specialty education, and I value it.
Working in fine jewelry wasn't really all that creative like what I did in art school, so when it was time to move on I was able to do the wildly creative designs if I wanted. My husband & I kinda fell into the business of making copper fountains. Hey, it was the 90's, fountains were popular and I made one for ourselves out of old copper tubing and sheet. One thing led to another and we spent the next 10 years developing, making and selling our Fountain wares at art fairs and Festivals throughout the southwest.
From silver to gold to copper and steel, I have now come back to creative jewelry designs working in all of those wonderful metals.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Sounds trite, but Everywhere. Really. I see a cool texture and think....how can I translate that into metal or see quilted fabric shape and would like to translate it into a metal design. I look at jewelry creations others make and am inspired to make my own translation of it. What would be the point in copying it? It already exists. I want to create something that doesn't yet exist. I try to stress to my students that we all just made the same project, but look how different they each look. Also I try to tell them to take the Technique and use it and make it your own. That's not particularly easy, as everything pretty much HAS been done before, but hopefully not in the exact way I would do it.
My mother loved Asian art and decorated in an oriental style. I never was that fond of it, but the aesthetics' of it must have rubbed off on me because my signature style is simple with clean lines and balance but not symmetrical.
What does your studio look like?
I can work in a very small space, and I can fill every available inch in a very large space!
I consider myself very fortunate to be able to be a "snowbird" and live in 2 places seasonally. The down side of that is I have to move every 6 mos. and I had a LOT of stuff to move. I have tried to duplicate my workspace in each studio space, and only move hand tools but it's difficult and expensive to do that. I still move a lot of stuff. The upside is I have to clean my jewelers bench 2x per year...(and my refrigerator!) Iam not a tidy worker and my studio reflects that. If I have students in my studio it makes me tidy up.
What is your favorite time of day to make art?
Actually I am most productive in my studio between 9pm and midnite. There is solitude and I am able to accomplish quite a bit during these short hours. I work in the studio pretty much daily but there are the distractions of real life.
Do you listen to music or have complete silence when you work?
I think I started listening to music while working at the jewelers bench because I could, and did not find it distracting. Sometimes I used music with ear buds to "tune out" the distractions around me while working in a retail setting. Nowadays I need music playing when I work. I have satellite radio, so no advertisements and an eclectic assortment of rock and roll.
Describe your creative process
An Idea hatches. I like to jump right in. Sometimes I make a drawing but not routinely. I start out making the critical element of a piece, then things change....evolve. Maybe the original idea doesn't look exciting enough or it's too busy. Add things. Take away things, LOOK, make more changes, LOOK. All this looking and seeing takes time. That is why one of a kind works are costly. Design and balance are not usually conscious acts but always dictate a successful. outcome. If you get a design you like and want to duplicate then it goes more quickly but is less interesting. This creative process is the same no matter the medium I'm working in.
Speaking of time: It takes almost as much time to make one earring as it does a pair. Most often if a client loses an earring and asks me to reproduce its mate, I make 3 earrings; the needed one and a new pair to sell. It's the only way to justify the time spent and not to charge the client more than half the original price.
What else would you like people to know about you or your art?
I would like people to know that I enjoy creating several different types of art and not just metalsmithing. In the early 90's I figured out that the paintings that drew me from across the room were watercolors. They glow with a reflected light. I was intrigued and pursued it, taking classes and painting. When I moved to the mountains I painted barns and peoples homes in snowy scenes and sold many thru a local gallery and commissions. I still love watercolor painting but have little time to do it. These are pics of Watercolor on Masa Rice paper, a technique that results in almost batik like look.
I kind of morphed my watercolor painting into my metal work thru reactive chemicals on copper panels which I call "Patina Paintings" These have evolved thru the years from scenes of canyons and arches to abstract groupings to trees and leaves. I currently have galleries carrying these Patina Paintings in Utah and Colorado. I post 3 photos that shows the process involved in creating a Patina Painting, from design layout to finished, and the challenge of working large.