We are pleased to welcome Nancy Megan Corwin (Megan to her friends) to The Studio. Megan is the author of the book Chasing and Repoussé – Methods Ancient and Modern. Welcome, Megan.
SB: How did you get started doing chasing and repoussé?
NMC: I started in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Eleanor Moty and Fred Fenster were the faculty at the time. Eleanor had recently taken a master workshop with Satsuo Ando from Japan. Several well-known metals faculty members were invited to take this workshop in order to spread the information to as many US students as possible. The class was on Japanese style chasing and repoussé, which includes carving and engraving using a hammer and a special Japanese chisel. Eleanor also learned to make tools in her master workshop, and she shared all that she learned with us. My first piece was a revelation. With this process, the metal moves in such an organic and responsive way that it is almost as if it has become clay or wax. I loved every part of the process from the making of chasing tools to the tapping sound made when the hammer hits the tool against the metal.
SB: Tell us about one of your favorite creations.
NMC: I greatly enjoy making jewelry, but one of my favorite pieces to make was “Menorah for Samuel,” which is named for my son. This was the first piece in a series that involved making separate elements and collecting them together to tell a story. Many of the stories are about the detritus of the natural world and the “still life” created by leaves and branches lying on the forest floor. I study botanical illustrations of various plants as inspiration for the forms and textures I use. The large copper center leaf is fold-formed and then worked from the back and the front to create the textural surface. The other leaves are silver and involve a combination of chasing, repoussé, and roller printing. There are nine candle holders that are fashioned like pseudo berries.
SB: What made you decide to write a book on chasing and repoussé?
NMC: I teach all over the United States and abroad. I wanted a book that covered the topics I teach and also had a gallery of the diversity of chased and repoussé work in the world to use as inspiration for students. I wanted it to be in color and to have a lot of process photos. Working with Tim McCreight and publishing with Brynmorgen Press gave me everything I wanted and more. Tim is a marvelous editor and layout artist. I am thrilled to be a Brynmorgen author.
SB: We’re seeing rapid growth in the number of jewelers who want to add chasing and repoussé techniques to their repertoire. What do you think might account for this growth in interest?
NMC: These techniques are remarkably flexible. You can create sculptural forms by working directly on the metal. The resulting forms and textures can be organic or chased into crisp edges and angular shapes. There are so many cases when some three-dimensional texturing or forming in small areas is needed, and chasing and repoussé are excellent techniques to use. What I really think is happening is the deep and satisfying connection with the material afforded by moving metal in this way. A flat sheet “grows” into expressions of imagery and abstract form as a response to the way you hammer it and the tools you use. These tools are often made by the artist as well. It is an ancient yet contemporary technique that brings the artist closer to the artwork through process, something that is becoming foreign to the new generation of computer oriented expression.
SB: What advice would you give to someone who has no experience at chasing and repoussé but wants to learn?
NMC: I would advise them to take a short course first. There are specific tools that need to be purchased, and enough diversity in the materials that an introductory course is advisable in order to experience what works best for you. It is helpful to get feedback on how you are holding the tools and using the hammer. Study repoussé work in museums, galleries and books. Get as close as possible to the work and examine both sides carefully. Then you have to practice. The metal becomes the most important teacher. It’s responses to the tools and hammer blows lets the student know what is working and what is not. My book is designed to help students and the public to learn the process on their own. It is being used both in schools and by individuals around the world as an instructional manual, which was my intention in writing it. There are other books available through Amazon and jewelry and metals suppliers. Chasing and repoussé are not instant gratification techniques. You have to be willing to put time and effort into learning and practicing. The rewards can be great.
Thank you so much for time, Megan. Join us at Rio Grande’s Blog tomorrow for a step-by-step excerpt from Megan’s book for making a simple low-relief design in copper.