Amy Tavern

"This is It"

By Amy Tavern, jeweler and Penland resident artist, reflecting at the end her residency:


My residency officially ended last week...I wrote "this is it" on a huge piece of paper taped to a wall in my studio when I first moved in and "it," meaning my residency, truly was. It was IT and one of the most remarkable times I have ever experienced. I reread my application recently to remind myself of what I said I would do with my three years. I talked about transitioning from production to one-of-a-kind jewelry, starting a new studio practice, and finding my voice as a studio jeweler. I was happy to realize I did pretty much everything I said I would...and so much more happened, too, more than I ever expected or even imagined.


I was making production work when I came to the program, and although I loved it, it just wasn't enough. I wanted to make work that was more challenging both technically and conceptually and I wanted to explore how I was going to do that. I am well on my way to defining this for myself now and I use those words because I know this discovery will be life-long, not something I figured out in three years. I believe my residency gave me the tools I need to keep moving forward with my work, to understand it better, to make it stronger.


The unexpected things that happened begin with discovering my fascination with process. I don't remember ever using the word process when talking about my work until I spent some time in this program. Then, rather naturally, I became devoted to the why and how behind my work. It is important to me to understand these things and to be able to speak about it in a simple and clear manner. I often say I wear my heart on my sleeve personally and I believe this is also true in my work. I like sharing all the steps that go into making something and see no reason to keep any of them secret or to talk about my process and my jewelry in a way that is vague or overly intellectual.


I am also fortunate for the many teaching and public speaking opportunities that came up over the past three years. I remember the first time I gave my resident PowerPoint presentation during Spring Concentration 2009. I was terribly nervous and afterward I vowed to get better at it. I wanted to be more comfortable and to learn to manage my nerves. I can now give a talk without notes and I am finally beginning to feel like myself up there in front of everyone. (And yes, I still get nervous but nothing like how I used to feel!) My teaching opportunities have been varied and rewarding and I believe I am now a better instructor. I have more experience, skill, and confidence which comes from lots of preparation and practice. I see each experience as a moment to became better and I learn something new every time.


And then there's my work...I can't begin to describe what this residency has done for my jewelry. I am in awe sometimes when I consider what I was making before and what I am making now. I loved what I did before--I got to make jewelry everyday and I liked my designs. I still get to make jewelry everyday but now it has more depth, it challenges me more, it excites me more...I love it more.


I will be forever grateful to Penland for giving me this precious time.


This really is it.