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Paula McDowell

Metal / Lafayette, LA

Artist Statement

I consider myself a jewelry artist, and I create jewelry objects that echo the love I have for nature; featuring textures, forms, and movement.

Years ago when my creativity was longing to be expressed, I started investigating a number of jewelry techniques. None satisfied my need, or let me express myself, until I found metal clay. Metal Clays contain microscopic particles of metal carried in a clay-like binder. This allows the artist the ability to work with the material in its wet state much like a potter works with pottery clays. In its dry state, the material can be carved, drilled, cut and re-assembled into new objects, somewhat like a woodworker. And once the object is subjected to a firing cycle in a kiln, the result is an object of metal in which traditional metalsmithing techniques used by bench jewelers can be applied to continue to manipulate the object. I am fascinated both by the technological minutiae of how this happens, but also with the ability to continue to affect the object as it progresses through its various states.

I generally make one-of-a-kind items, or related items in a series. Since each piece is hand sculpted, even items that are similar to each other will have significant variations in texture, pattern and shape. Currently I am working with concepts of negative space and the creative use of “broken” objects, either intentional or accidental.

I also have a strong need to communicate my love of the material to others, and I offer classes in these materials at several locations around the state. While I focus on the technical use of the materials, I allow my students creative freedom to implement the skills. This has created a community in which ideas are shared and support is freely given.

Biography

Originally from a small town in northwestern Ohio, I started my career with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Throughout my 20+ year software and human resources career, I found that interacting with people, mentoring and teaching resonated strongly with me.

In 1999, while looking for an outlet for my creativity, I took up metalsmithing. While my initial results were frustrating, I quickly was introduced to metal clay and found my medium. In 2004, I left the software world to focus on my jewelry business. I am fortunate to have a very supportive husband, James McDowell, also an artist who continuously encourages me to develop my skills and creativity. And, since moving to Lafayette in 2006, we have gone about making it our home and creative center.

I recently completed a 10-month accreditation program with Hadar Jacoboson, creator of Hadar’s Clays. In December 2013, I was awarded “Hadar’s Clay Accredited Teacher”, an accreditation that demonstrates a depth of knowledge in Hadar’s bronze, copper and steel metal clays. I also hold certification in Precious Metal Clay (PMC) from Rio Rewards and PMC Connection.

I attend two to three workshops each year to continue my education and learn new methods. Mostly Recently, I have attended workshops with Terry Kovalcik (hinged lockets), Thomas Flores (sterling metal clay cuffs), Robert Dancik (concrete, faux bone and plastic in jewelry), Chris Darway (titanium) and Hadar Jacobson (color patterns in hollow forms, architectural forms). I also like to delve into other art forms as a way to broaden my abilities: traditional metalsmith techniques, enameling, drawing, pottery, sewing and mixed media.

Community, and in particular, creative community, is very important to me. In 2011, along with 4 other close colleagues, I formed L’esprit du Metal, The Louisiana Chapter of Metal Clay, to promote metal clay and support its artists. As president, I continue to drive the organize with meetings, presenters and instructors as we build awareness of our chosen medium.

In 2013, I took on the role of President of the Lafayette Art Association to help drive fund-raising. As an all-volunteer organization that receives very little outside funding, its important that I give back my time and expertise to an organization that has provided great support to me.

I am grateful for the opportunity to share my expertise and love for the arts.