Wednesday, November 19, 2014

From the Sustainable Stones Studio...

Winter has returned. The chill in the air is matched by the first snowfall as quiet settles back into the wild woodlands.  The garden is asleep, many of the birds have migrated, and the seemingly endless parade of bugs have disappeared. In years past, a sad longing for summer usually accompanied the change but this year it's replaced by a sense of bubbling excitement.. now begins the studio season.

We practically live outside when snow isn't on the ground. Hiking through dense woods, sowing and harvesting, watching the plants and animals, and one of our favorites, collecting stones from the mercurial creek that cuts through this amazing place. By now there are stacked containers, filled with our favorite rough stones. They're little snapshots of expectation, selected from countless others for their subtle promise of what might be, once polished.
Stones collected by Steve Tieken and Wanaree Tanner, cut by Steve Tieken

Steve released the first collection of the season, a striking series of stones born from the many months of patient searching, and the one below I couldn't resist.
Metal work by Wanaree Tanner, Cabochon cut by Steve Tieken
"Khjung-ah-ma-la" was hand built with layers of 960 silver clay appliqués to surround this beautiful high profile stone. For more on our new collection of stones, Earthworks artwork, and creative processes check out our new Facebook page Sustainable Stones or our website

Create and be at peace.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cultivating Creativity

Perception is a funny thing. It would be redundant to say that it's relative, yet we always have to remind ourselves of that. Wether it's in our aesthetic taste or how we perceive a situation or person, we are viewing information through a set of subjective lenses. Those lenses become filters, filters become rules, and then at some point those rules become so steadfast that we can't even see something that's plainly before us.

Take a tree, for example. When I say tree, a mental picture is conjured up and a sense of knowing bubbles up along with it. "Yes, tree, I know what that is." Do I really though? Or am I mistaking the word for the experience? What's the difference?

Fall along the mighty Mississippi River- photo by Wanaree Tanner

It's kind of like half watching a movie, yeah, I "watched" it, but did I notice all the subtle cinematic intricacies, secondary plot lines, or even the soundtrack? After all, someone orchestrated every shot and every movement to express a very specific idea or feeling.

In the same way, I only half watched the world around me. A tree was a tree, it had it's value, it had it's place, but the list of trees I actually knew was profoundly shorter than the list of movies I'd fully experienced. Learning to share their space, be observant, and not pass judgment reset my perception. An entire microcosm was revealed, with leading characters, struggles for life and death between numerous incects and animals, all playing out on the stage of a single tree.  It was then that I realized I could never really "know" a tree. I can experience it in a moment, list it's characteristics and qualities, but I can't be the tree. Claiming to "know" it automatically subjugates it to a severely inadequate label, and can turn a vibrant living being into a sterile litany of words.

What does this have to do with art or with inspiration? While beautifully spun words can be very inspiring, there is no replacement for the inspiration born of an experience free from preconceptions.

Which reminds me of a piece of advice sometimes given to to young authors: "Don't write anything at all until you've experienced something. Don't even write for the school paper. Until you've experienced something, there's nothing to write about." One might think this means we have to go get a motorbike and ride across the country or hop on box cars like bohemian hobos, which can create an experience free from preconceptions, but it can also happen while occupying the same space with a tree as an observer instead of as a knower.

Somewhere within that practice is jet fuel for creativity. At least for me, it's in being open, in being observant that the seeds for inspiration can germinate. All the words and chatter (both internal and external) about inspiration can place it on an unattainable pedestal. Obsessing over finding it, harnessing it, marketing it, defining it, capturing it, when it's readily available all around us for the low, low price of being open and aware. It's not something someone can give or sell to you, it's there waiting for you.

The pursuit and perpetual searching can transform into an active living flow, with moods and seasons that tolerate no expectations. When it's allowed to be and arrive at will, it gives birth to the the clarity that noting man creates can ever match the wonder of what already is. Surprisingly, this takes the pressure off. You can simply become a contributor to the creation that is already happening all around us all of the time. Create and be at peace.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

MetalClay Arts Conservatory

I'm pleased to introduce the first in the series of online classes from The MetalClay Arts Conservatory. This new cutting-edge format has given me a platform to include all the skills and techniques I've developed throughout my career.


"Kinetic Bell Pendant" Fully articulated and musical, this project emphasizes dimensional design in metal clay, walking you though not only the clay process but how to design dimensionally as well.
Learn how to create a piece that's your own all the way from texture to patina.
Incorporating kinetic elements into metal clay: a fully articulated bell stem and swing bail.

Introduction ot kinetic connection in metal clay
with "Kinetic Earrings"

Learn to create your own unique designs.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A year in retrospect...

Where does inspiration go when it's lost? How can such an intangible experience appear or disappear? Perhaps it's not lost, maybe it's overshadowed by busy thoughts, busy ideas, busy, busy busy everything.

When first I recognized inspiration, it was dressed in silence and focused obsession. On the radio the other day, a scientist reported our brain patterns, when in love, are similar to the brain patterns produced when we're OCD. Is creating a parallel to these as well? When a piece is first imagined, isn't it like falling in love? It follows your thoughts, haunts your chores, and teases with promises of long hours devoted to it. In this way, can we also neglect, forget, and devalue it when it becomes too familiar... like a relationship might after a time? With so much self centered and false busy-ness, it seemed I'd chased my inspiration away. I fell out of love.

I confess, all of that thinking and doing is a poor replacement for being. I'd left no space for anything beyond myself, instead of creating I became a persona of someone who creates. I planned with short cuts and the end in mind, it was about getting to that finish line as quickly as possible. I was tossing away the oyster in favor of the shell, never realizing it's the pearl I'm looking for. So I took a step back, a big step back. I pulled away from everything in order to find what I didn't know was missing.

Humbling myself was the hardest part. I didn't want to listen to anyone, I was an island that needed no other ships ashore, so over confident that I could plant in fallow ground. Fortunately, desperation rooted itself instead, right before help appeared.

Help is a funny thing. It can arrive as a chance encounter on the first warm day of spring or through a swarm of dragon flies on a humid August evening. It's a friend looking over your shoulder and questioning why. Why take the shortcut when the longcut takes you to some place so much better?  Why use a pre made component when there is such joy and intimacy in creating even the smallest things yourself? Well, I didn't see it that way, I only saw a sketchy idea and that finish line. I wish I could say it was an instantaneous epiphany, that at that moment I was forever changed. No such luck... you see, I'm more donkey than human. For me, it took a persistent friend, partner and active artistic collaborator, along with a full immersion back into life to wake me up.

Working through this new exhibition of pieces, the process became just as important as the outcome. There were no deadlines, no bells and whistles, no flashing lights, just time and devotion to each step and a reentry into the "real" world; the world where there is no division between the art you make and the life you live. Each piece echoes the place where they were created, the lingering and turning of seasons, the input of another artist, the playful chase of twin fauns, the ebb and flow of nature's many expressions... recognizing, no matter what I make, it cannot compare to the poetry, beauty, and brutality of this remarkable planet we all share.

I fell back in love with living, with creating. Each appliqué piece of metal clay was hand punched and placed, even though there might have been a faster way. Each section carefully hand built, even if it was redundant and could have been easily casted and re-casted right to the finish line. Each stone collected from the very place that renews me, and cut with tenderness by both artists in leu of a named stone whose origin and true cost cannot be determined. Hours upon hours of finishing work, problem solving, and barely navigated creative disasters. I wish I could say it was all candy canes and sunshine, but it was more like love is... beautiful and really messy at the same time.

So here's to the act of creating. With all it's joys and heartaches, when truly felt, the old axiom applies: Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

In other words, it's better to create a failure with all of your being, than to create a success of something only half felt.

Design and Concept: Tanner/ Tieken, Cabochons: Tanner/Tieken, Metalwork: Tanner

2014 © Tanner/Tieken
All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 15, 2014

"Morning Moon Flower: Harvest Moon"

"Harvest Moon"

 This ring is the companion piece to "Morning Moon Flower." I used PMC+ and PMC 960 silver, hand punched and each detail individually appliquéd. The stone is fossilized coral from our Sustainable Stones High Profile Collection 
( ) 

Concept and Design: Tanner/Tieken 
Cabochon and Metalwork: Tanner

Thank-you everyone for your continued encouragement and support.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Morning Moon Flower"


"Morning Moon Flower"

Bracelet Design and Concept: Tanner/Tieken, Cabochons: Tanner/Tieken  Metalwork: Tanner

This piece was entirely handmade with PMC + and PMC 960 silver, each detail was hand punched and appliquéd using several new custom tools I designed. The clasp is a seamless captive sliding pin lock. 
The stones are from our Sustainable Stones High Profile collection 
( ) and the small bullets are repurposed turn of the century glass fragments. After six months of concentrated work from concept to completion, "Morning Moon Flower," is by far the most technically difficult and complex metal and stone piece I've created. 

© copyright tanner/tieken 2014
all rights reserved

Monday, June 9, 2014

Sustainable Stones: High Profile Stones

"Promise of Spring"
 design and metalwork by Wanaree Tanner
stonework by Steve Tieken 

The last year has brought many changes, both personally and artistically. I needed to rediscover the purpose and passion of creating that first led me on this journey. I had become isolated from other artists and mediums, realizing collaboration was something I longed for. At the same time there was a burning desire to connect with nature on a deeper level. I'd always been interested in lapidary artistry, and began researching where and how rocks are collected and worked throughout the world. I discovered that in many cases, this was done with damaging effects on the environment. I also found it difficult to acquire stones with a high enough profile for my bezel work. Together with fellow artist, Steve Tieken, this led to the formation of

Additionally, I've been working on exhibit pieces and exciting new techniques I'm looking forward to sharing. May this spring season inspire and renew as it has for me.