Restrictions Can Lead to Greater Freedom

TNG-esque Chalice from my Senior Year
Nondogmatic chalice from my senior year ©1998 WTEK sterling silver

In college, my metals program had some very constrictive ideas. They didn’t like double majors, they preferred you took your electives within their department, and they didn’t like cultural experimentation. By this I mean they didn’t want you to make work in the style of cultures you didn’t belong to.

Mostly they meant “if you aren’t Navajo, don’t make Indian jewelry.” (I think there may have been a problem with this in the 70s/80s) I found this rather restrictive. I like metalwork from other cultures. At the time I was particularly interested in African and Celtic metalwork. I didn’t want to copy it, but I did want to explore.

The restriction went into materials too. Though our department was in the vangard of using techniques involving electroforming, plastics, and CAD/CAM, they really deemphasized mixed media. No fibers, ceramics, or especially glass were to be used. I know their motives were to keep student work from devolving into flea market style macrame hippy jewelry, but it still seemed restrictive.

Angled bowl from two weeks ago.

I always thought that these restrictions were stifling and casued the students to all have a “Tyler look” to their style. But I was forced to develop my own ideas, my own symbols and forms. I could be inspired by work from other cultures, but I couldn’t just copy it. This makes you figure out your own interpretations, to find your own voice, your own style.

Don’t get me wrong, my style has totally changed since college. But the spirit of interpreting techniques, forms, and symbols through my personal voice has remained. For this I’m thankful for being restricted.