Mention the name of Tim McCreight to any aspiring jewellery-maker and the usual response is something along the lines of, ‘Ah, Hot and Cold Connections,’ (my first ‘serious’ jewellery book) or, ‘I don’t know where I’d be without my Complete Metalsmith (whatever the edition, this is currently top of my wishlist) .
Well, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had an email correspondence with Mr McCreight – alright, then, Tim – and I have to tell you that, not only is he a lovely, enthusiastic and incredibly helpful man, there is also far more to him than Hot and Cold Connections.
Next week, we’ll be publishing the story of Tim’s Brynmorgen Press, the company he began in 1985 to provide practical, high quality textbooks on metalworking and design, followed by a six-week series reviewing some of the books and DVDs published by this small, independent press.
You will probably be as surprised as I was when you discover that some of those bibles you can’t live without – e.g. Cogswell’s Creative Stonesetting – or those to which you aspire – like Lewton-Brain’s Foldforming – come from Brynmorgen. So, although the reviewed books and other media will all be from the same company, they will cover very different topics. There’s enough variety to be of interest to most everybody.
To be honest, I should be a bit miffed with Tim: my discussions with him have had me thinking and rethinking all sorts of wider issues to do with this craft/profession/hobby we love. Not least, he’s had me thinking about teaching methods. But, that is for another article…
Now, let’s hear from the man himself:
How did you get started in jewellery designing/making?
In college I felt the need for something to take my mind off the press of academic studies so I bought a mandrel, a mallet, and a sawframe and taught myself to make a few trinkets. One thing led to another, more or less while I was busy making other plans, and here I am. I still have those three tools.
What was the piece that made you think “yes, I can do this”?
From a technical point of view, I recall a brooch I made after I'd been working in metals for a couple years. I drew the piece more carefully than usual, worked methodically, and when I was done I set the finished piece on the drawing and they matched perfectly. That was startling and confirming at the same time. I think more important than "I can do this" was the feeling of "This is what I want to do." In college I shifted from one subject to another, enjoying them all but not seeing a career in any of them. I was pretty far along in my school program when I realized that what I'd thought of as a diversion was really my primary interest.
Have you had any training? Where do you get your knowledge from?
I attended a small liberal arts college that had no metals program, nor any books in the library for that matter, so I was entirely self-taught. Having just discovered what I wanted to learn, I went directly from college to graduate school for a metals education. What I didn't know was that graduate programs are very independent and assume that candidates already have whatever technical skills they need. I was basically on my own again.
I received a Master of Fine Arts in Jewelry and Metals but I felt like an imposter because I knew how limited my knowledge was. I couldn't afford to spend any more time in school (by this point I was married and had a baby daughter), so I did what work I could and continued to teach myself. Eventually this led me to a teaching job and an opportunity to write books. Then and now, that's how I learn, by researching, writing, and testing.
Where do you work?
My professional life includes publishing, consulting, teaching and studio work. I have a building about fifteen minutes from my house that serves as office, shipping department, warehouse, and studio. Most days I'm there for about ten hours, typically moving between all these activities multiple times.
Are there any artists or jewellery designers you admire? Why do you admire them?
For names you might recognize I have always been a fan of Alexander Calder (for his elegant simplicity) and Svetozar Radakovich(for his idiosyncratic composition). I'm not much of a collector, but the handful of objects I am so drawn to that I want to make them part of my life tend to be ethnographic or vernacular pieces from unknown makers.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I'm not comfortable with the word "inspiration” as much as "impetus." The former sounds like there is a lofty goal that I seek to attain. My approach is more a matter of taking small steps of enquiry, so the question is really "What are you curious about today?" And the answers, always different, would probably sound pretty simple and possibly boring: I wonder what this will look like if I burn it? and that sort of thing.
Have you got a 'signature' style? How would you describe it?
I have been told that I have a style but I don't see it.
What skill or technique would you like to learn?
Which piece are you most proud of - can you tell us the story behind it?
In 1974 while I was in graduate school, my wife and I learned that we were going to have a child. We were thrilled and I remember that I was unable to sleep the night that we learned of this impending change in our lives. I went to the studio, somewhat in a daze, and made a bracelet that included a symbol for male, female, and creation. I affixed the bracelet permanently on my wrist and remember stepping out of the studio into a hazy dawn. That bracelet was unlike anything I'd ever made before in appearance and technique and I have no recollection of how that happened.
Do you have any pets? Tell us about them!
We have had a succession of dogs and cats and at the moment have only a cat, Casco.
Which of your personality traits comes through in your work, do you think?
I have traits?
What are you currently working on?
In my publishing company I am writing and illustrating a book on design and working with about a half dozen artists on other books. I am also designing a new iPhone App. In the studio I am making work for the Metal Clay Masters Registry and pursuing technical research in metal clay.
Where do you see yourself/your work in 1/5/10 years?
With luck I will be doing what I'm doing now. I can't imagine a life without the mix of activities that fill my days.
Where can we see more of your work? (your chance for a shameless plug)
To the degree that my work consists of books, they can be seen at http://www.brynmorgen.com/(and one hopes, in your local library and bookstore). I don't show metalwork online myself but a few pieces can be seen in the Meet the Masters section of the Masters Registry