LEAP Winner – Amanda Packer

the artist at work

Contemporary Craft is excited to announce our 2014 LEAP winner and finalists! The LEAP (Lydon Emerging Artist Program) Award honors exceptional emerging talent in the contemporary craft field. The winner receives a $1000 cash prize and the opportunity to sell their work in SCC’s Store.

We caught up with our 2014 winner, metal and jewelry artist Amanda Packer, to learn about her journey as an emerging artist. Amanda’s collection will be available in the SCC Store beginning Friday, January 10 and will be for sale throughout the calendar year.

Every month for the remainder of 2014, we’ll be profiling a LEAP finalist here on the blog to coincide with the launch of their collection in the SCC Store. Be sure to check back often!

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Recollect (collection of pendants). Copper, silver, enamel, paint, thread. $200 each. 2″ x 5″ x 1.5″ average.

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Recollect (collection of 7 pendants). Copper, silver, brass, enamel, paint, thread. $200-$350 each. 3″ x 7″ x 2″ average.

SCC: Tell us about your work.

My most recent work is in response to my investigations of autobiographical memory. Autobiographical memory is necessary in constructing our identity. While it is so valuable, it is equally as fragile. Memories are not literal recordings of past time that we can summon from a repository. They are formulated and abstracted based on our experiences, biases and perceptions. Memories are reconstructed each time they are recalled, and the narratives associated with them are fragmented and irreversibly molded. While there is a human drive to possess memory and keep it from disappearing, it is the act of telling and retelling that further distorts memory from actual occurrences.

I am intrigued by nuances of memory and the impact that tangible and visible mnemonic triggers have on our ability to recall. I am very much interested in nostalgia and the impulse to long for the past. Memory triggers or cues can have an overwhelming power to force stories to the forefront of our mind. Synaptic connections firing coerce bits and pieces of stories together. The fragments of recollection are snapshots that we can affix to objects to make them physical and therefore more accessible. Some memories are enhanced or triggered by a photograph, object or artifact. Objects have the power to connect the visible with the invisible and can embody transient moments. The objects that we surround ourselves with are often embedded with stories and sentiment. Our collected belongings contribute to our sense of identity and hover in our periphery as memories.

The personal and intimate scale of jewelry invites us to investigate it thoroughly and sensitively. My most recent body of work embodies abstractions of the physiological characteristics of memory in the form of precious mysterious jewelry objects that have a sense of nostalgia and history. They hover on the line between old found heirlooms and constructed contemporary objects. When worn on the body they are utilized to carry and posses memory as a tangible fragment, as well as to project an expression of identity. The physical experience of touch and the inclusion of subtle evocative material qualities in the pieces are meant to activate the surfaces with traces of our intimate relationship with objects. Fleeting and ephemeral unless recorded or captured in some way, it is the physiological wonders of memory and our relationship with the past that I attempt to conjure with my current work.

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Elicit (#18). Copper, ink, paint, thread. $280. 78 x 62 x 26mm

SCC: Tell us about your training/education/special mentors.

I received my undergraduate degree in Art Education with a concentration in Jewelry and Metalwork at Rhode Island College. While working various jobs and substitute teaching, I was very eager to continue learning more within this field; so I applied to graduate school and just recently completed the MFA program at San Diego State University in Jewelry and Metalsmithing. During my undergraduate career my instructor and mentor was Dianne Reilly. Her enthusiasm and encouragement was infectious and inspiring as both an artist and a teacher. During my time at San Diego State my head instructor and mentor was Sondra Sherman. She is one of the most insightful and intelligent people I have ever met and I am so grateful to have had her guidance during my time there.

SCC: Why were you drawn to metal?

Working in metal is really like nothing else I have tried. It is addicting. It is incredibly time consuming and takes skill and precision. The more I have learned about its inherent properties and how to manipulate it and experiment with it, the more my curiosity is provoked. It is because of its challenges that it is so satisfying once you eventually get to a finished product. Also, it has permanence. In such a disposable age it is strange to think that something that I create will most likely out-live me.

SCC: What inspires you?

This is a difficult question to answer because there is not really a specific thing. I can be inspired by subtleties that I notice in the every day, like how a part on something moves and functions, or a texture and color of some paint on an old fence, or something in an ornamental design that I find beautiful. Right now my interest is in memory functions, what it is to feel nostalgic and our relationship with the stories of our past. This was partly influenced by my move across the country and the loss of my grandparents but the inspiration for work comes from many places.

SCC: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a young/new artist?

The best advice that I’ve received is that you have to be your own biggest fan; in other words, if you don’t promote yourself, and put yourself and your work out there as much as you can, nobody else is doing it for you. This is difficult for someone like me who tends to be my own biggest critic. I am somewhat modest and have a hard time with this, but I know it is important.

SCC: What advice do you have for others considering a career in the arts?

I don’t know that I have too much good advice to give yet, considering that I am only just beginning my adventure in this field. But I would say, don’t expect that there is a career path to follow. Unlike most degrees there isn’t a ‘job’ that you apply for at the end. You have to figure out what your goals are and what your motivation is and find the opportunities that will get you there.

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