December 7, 2011

AIR Interviews: Leslie Shershow

This week, we share the second in a series of interviews with our current artists-in-residence (AIRs). Leslie Shershow is a metalsmith and jeweler from the small town of Belfast, Maine. After graduating from the Massachusetts College of Art with a BFA in metals, she stayed in the Boston area to further develop her jewelry at her studio in Somerville, MA, exhibiting her work in various group shows around the country. Prior to joining HCCC as an artist-in-residence, she taught metalsmithing to children and adults in various art centers and colleges in the Boston area and managed the metalshop at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts  for several years. She has been with HCCC since August and will be here through March, 2012. 

Diamond Rings by Leslie Shershow (plastic). Photo courtesy the artist.

Leslie Shershow. Diamond Ring, 2011.
Copper, brass, silver, auto paint. Photo courtesy the artist.

Tell us a little bit about your work.

Right now I'm inspired by wonky home improvements and functional crafts. I find much beauty in the way a novice craftsman might fix his home--I'm interested in the evolution of a domestic structure due to regular maintenance. I tend to work the same way--by starting with an object and scrounging for the part that will turn it into a functional piece of jewelry. The theme is pretty nostalgic for me--I grew up in Maine, so I use fishing and nautical imagery, along with funny home-maintenance things my dad used to do.
How did you get your start making jewelry?
I had first learned a little metalsmithing in high school crafts class and hated it. I melted my first project!  Later, in college, when it was time to choose my major, I was really impressed by the work that came out of the metals department, so metals is what I chose.

Where do your ideas come from? 
Everything, really. I guess my work comes out of interests that keep surfacing over and over again.

Leslie Shershow's necklace from the Home Improvement Series. Photo courtesy the artist.

Leslie Shershow's bracelet from the Home Improvement Series. Photo courtesy the artist.

What artist or designer do you admire, and why?
Iris Bodemer is one of my favorite jewelers (among many). I admire her because, in a lecture, she told us she took out a bank loan in the form of a gold block and proceeded to slice it into jewelry. That is very admirable to me.

In your bio, it says that you’ve taught metalsmithing to both children and adults. What do you enjoy most about teaching? What is it like teaching metalsmithing to children?
I really enjoy the challenge. Metalsmithing embodies so many different techniques, and many times, there are multiple ways to do something. I mostly taught small classes, so I had to work with each student individually to see what methods work best. Teaching children can be really difficult.  Metalsmithing is a tedious and time consuming practice, and there isn't much instant satisfaction. It's hard for kids to sit down and sand for hours, especially when they're wound up from a day at school and candy they got from 7-11.
What are you doing when you’re not creating?

I like hanging out with the other lovely AIRs and HCCC staff, visiting museums, and going for runs. Lately, my boyfriend and I have been working on a large stained-glass terrarium to prevent our cats from eating our plants. 

 Metalsmith and jeweler, Leslie Shershow. Photo courtesy the artist.

Describe yourself in five words.

I like to make things.

Being a Northerner, is there anything you find humorous or strange about Houston? I think it's funny that a lot of people in Houston's public places are either really dressed up or in their gym clothes. I come from a place of in-betweeners.

December 1, 2011

Needlepoint & Group Therapy with Mary Smull

Needlepoint artist and Society for the Prevention of Unfinished Needlepoints (SPUN) founder, Mary Smull, will be at HCCC for two events this weekend. Smull is one of the artists featured in HCCC’s current exhibition, Beyond Useful & Beautiful: Rethinking Domestic Craft and will be hosting two community events this weekend in the large Gallery at HCCC.

Mary Smull and participant at a recent SPUN event.
Mary Smull, Old Woman, 2008. Found unfinished needlepoint completed by
artist using only white yarn. 19 ½” x 23”. Photos courtesy the artist.

Smull’s work and SPUN deal with completing an object of labor--something that was abandoned and unfinished, despite the arduous effort put into the project. She is creating a sense of absolution for this occurrence that most everyone has experienced in one way or another. With our anticipation for these upcoming events, we thought it would be amusing to share some of the works that have been left unfinished by our staff members and artists-in-residence.

I sent out an email requesting a photograph of an unfinished work, a brief description, and why it was left incomplete. Fittingly, I received zero responses. This is most likely due to the inherent guilt people experience when time is invested in a project that has been left incomplete indefinitely and their reluctance to be an example. Humorously, because of this, I was now left with an incomplete project, being unable to actualize this blog post in the way I had intended.

I am hoping that the event on Friday evening will give me more insight into the realm of incompletion and all of the intense emotions that come with this territory. So, if you find yourself filled with anxiety or guilt about projects that have been abandoned around your house, then please join us for a conversation with Mary Smull for Group Therapy – Finish Fetish, Friday, December 2, from 6:00 – 7:00 PM.

If you are unable to join on Friday, Mary Smull will also be present on Saturday, December 3, from 1:00 - 4:30 PM, to host a SPUN session in our large gallery. SPUN is a community needlepoint project, founded by Smull in 2009 to “eliminate the worldwide phenomenon of unfinished needlepoint,” and has been rescuing incomplete works through performances across the country. You are invited to participate by completing stitches in unfinished needlepoint projects. Needlepointers of all abilities are welcome! Once complete, these works will be archived as part of SPUN’s collection. To learn more, visit the SPUN website here:

This is a great opportunity to release a little residual guilt or anxiety you may have and also help support SPUN’s mission, to prevent any needlepoint project from going unfinished. We hope you will join us for these two exciting and engaging events!

--Ashley Powell, HCCC Curatorial Assistant