What Drives You to Create?

Oct 11, 2011

From Jennifer: I'm always fascinated by the process behind making art. The need to make art is so mysterious and so human that I want to find out from other artists what's behind their call to create. Helen Driggs, the managing editor of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine, asked some of today's top metal jewelry artists about what fuels their creations and shared those answers with us here. Enjoy!

Helen Driggs is the managing editor of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine
From Helen: I often wonder where art making comes from. I know I can't not do it, especially when there is an insistent need to. That need wells up from deep inside my chest when I am looking far away or far inside and I feel as if I will explode with violent force if I am prevented from acting upon it.

For me, making art is instinctive--it's a hardly understood interaction of eyes, body, and mind. My hands shape what I make, but the act of making springs from soul questions I must answer with line or plane or form or color. It goes to paper, or it goes to metal, and I don't know how it happens or why. Sometimes, I can't even recall the experience, even when I am holding what I have made or drawn in my hands. I do know that I am a better person and made whole when I do it.

Sea of FateBrooch. Nu Gold, sterling and fine silver, hand fabricated, roller printed and patinated brooch. Oregon sunstone, citrine, and Royal Sahara jasper. Photo: Jim Lawson.
I fabricated the brooch pictured at right by roller printing the Nu Gold, creating a partial bezel, building the bezel box for the sunstone and tube settings, and soldering everything together. The stone reminds me of my father - he was a merchant seaman in the late 1940s, and worked around ships and shipyards for most of his life. Like everything I make, the concept for this piece started in my sketchpad.

I like to find out what drives other artists I know well and work with regularly. When I was in art school, theory and passionate debate about art making went on daily and was fueled by coffee from 9-9 during the week and alcohol from the other 9-9 on the weekend. Out here in the real world, life (and cleaner living) gets in the way of artspeak. It is rare to sit with fellow artists and talk about the need to make art; it isn't the easiest way to live a life, though a brave few are compelled to follow the path. I decided to invite some contributors from the June issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist to summarize what drives them. It was an interesting exploration, and several of them told me it was fun to think and talk about art making again.

If you'd like to engage in some artspeak, try a visit the blogs and forums on Jewelry Making Daily and make friends with your fellow artists - there is nothing better for the soul than a lively discussion with your peers. In the meantime, start here:

Q: Why do you make art?
Lexi Erickson: Because I'm a very expressive and passionate person. I would go nuts to have all these ideas in my head and not have some creative outlet for them. Metal speaks to me, the patinas, and the textures--and let's not even talk about stones! I took my first class in jewelry making at a university, and was only planning to take one class . . . and then I fell in love with being able to move metal, to hammer and solder it, to create a 3D object from a sheet of silver.

Lexi Erickson is a gifted and patient teacher, and I'm extremely grateful to have her as a friend. This Conical Petrified Wood pendant is one of my favorite pieces of hers, because it was inspired by the work of an artist we both love -- Albert Paley. It appeared in the February 2010 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.

Q: Where does your drive to make art come from?
Sam Patania: I don't know, I can't explain that part, some pieces I have recently made I feel like I had little to do with except to execute them. Sometimes it is sheer drive to finish something, sometimes it is a technique to explore, sometimes I'm too bone headed to quit.

Sam Patania is an all-around great guy. He comes from a family of makers, and I love his down-to-earth way of making jewelry, and talking about making jewelry. His awesome turquoise cuff project was the cover project of the June 2009 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.

Q: What inspires you and moves you to make something?
Todd Reed: The thing that most moves me to make something would be the time given to do it. I tend to have limited time to make new items so I really have to think about that when starting a project.

Todd Reed's distinctive organic style and use of raw diamonds has made his work instantly recognizable to collectors and artisans alike.

Q: Do you have a mentor/community of peers that you talk to about art? Why?
Roger Halas: As odd as it sounds, living in LA there aren't really many places to discuss art. Outside of having a passive appreciation for art forms like film or music, many people are becoming increasingly disconnected from actively embarking on any artistic journey.

Roger Halas is a true metalhead -- I love getting photos of his projects because I can see the uncropped versions and have a peek in his studio. Metalhead paradise! This is his Bronze Medallion Pendant from the June 2010 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.

Sadly these days, so many people are bio-linked to their cell phones and computers -- they don't have the time to create anything other than an email. Especially our youths, who may have hidden talents that could be beautifully expressed if only they'd be willing to tap into them. It is so important to get young people involved in creative endeavors -- such as lapidary or jewelry making, lest people like myself -- as well as my brothers and sisters processing this thought -- will, one day, become the last of our kind.

I always tell people that as humans we are defined by our art. From the cave paintings of our ancestors to the technological expressions of the modern world, art is that magical looking glass through which our true identities are revealed.

So, what are you waiting for?
Are you inspired to get working right now? Subscribe to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist today, and try your hand at some of the projects inside. You'll find projects for every skill level, with clear and complete directions for successful results. Or if you prefer to take your subscription on the road with you, you can now get a digital subscription and have your magazines delivered right to your desktop, laptop to tablet computer.

What drives you to create? Do you have a supportive crafting community in your town? What inspires you to create a piece of beadwork? Share your thoughts here on the blog!

Bead Happy,


Featured Products

Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist February 2010

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Price your jewelry for profit. 10+ ways to hand-texture metal. Learn to sandcast. Combine resin with paper, stone and metal. And more.


Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist June 2009

Availability: Out Of Stock
Price: $9.99

Magazine Single Issue

Learn about making your own stamps and then discover how to make a basic stamped cuff. Find out more about bronze and brass for jewelers and tips about working with both materials.


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on Oct 12, 2011 7:26 AM

While I use my beads on my art quilts, I am as passionate about beading as I imagine that may of you are. If it has a hole, or can have one put in it, then it's fair game for embellishment uses. I get itchy if it's been too long since I've sewn with my buttons and beads. If I were on a desert island, I'd probablybe doing something with coconut shells.

on Oct 12, 2011 9:28 AM

I truly believe that everyone has a creative need.  Male and female both.  It is entirely up to the individual what how that creative need is fulfilled.  It just so happens mine is beading.  I knew a man once who had a concrete/ ready mix business.  He was gruff talking and rough around the edges. He also made the most beautiful stained glass projects I had ever seen, and I have been working with glass for quite a few years.  I believe that to complete ourselves we all have to create in some form or another.  Creating speaks to the very soul.  I have been working with beads since 1994.   They have been my sanity in different stages of my life and will continue to be so till I cant see to bead any more.  Lol.   Thanks for this opportunity to express how I feel about creativity.  :o)

on Oct 12, 2011 10:26 AM

My design process is an organic one, where I start with "something" that catches my eye.  It may be a cab, a shell fragment, an interesting fiber, or who knows what else.  I try to come up with a holistic piece that features it.  It may end up as jewelry, something knitted or knotted, something quilted or embroidered, and so on.

on Oct 12, 2011 10:28 AM

In my earlier post I forgot to mention the support for arts and artists in my community, Las Cruces, NM.  It's terrific, and it is easy to find groups who welcome new members.  

Kathi George wrote
on Oct 12, 2011 7:24 PM

I love art, beads, silver, clay, etc. I only wish I had the ability to be an artist with these different materials.  I enjoy purchasing beads, wires, stones, findings, etc. but have actually been to afraid to attempt to create anything with them.  I am just afraid of ruining these beautiful materials.  Wish there were classes near my home I would love to be taught.

Ilyahna wrote
on Oct 13, 2011 6:30 AM

I believe that I see the soul of creation in the colors and shapes of the beads that use.  I feel a deep connection to the natural world as well as to that which created it.  I do beadweaving, and my beadwork usually reflects the harmony of pattern and color that I see all around me.

I have a bead group that I get together with once a week, and we share work and ideas while we create our pieces. And, while not filled by passionate disscussions on art, it is nice to know other artists.

KimM@92 wrote
on Oct 15, 2011 10:20 AM

My creativity in so many craft areas (pottery, jewelry making, knitting, ad infinitum) is simply seeing some crafted piece I fall in love with, and I am compelled to try to figure out how it was made, and create something of my own. Creativity is a compulsion, and a compulsion that cannot be denied.  Who knows what really  drives that need in each of us.  It sometimes drives me (and my family members) bananas....but I can't imagine not ever needing or wanting to create something out of my mind's ideas....!  

kitties wrote
on Oct 15, 2011 10:51 AM

I'm not sure what drives me to create, it seems as necessary as breathing.  Most of my ideas come to me when I'm stepping into the shower.......don't know why on that either.  I seem to always be thinking of creating and am always looking at the colors and lines in everything I encounter.  I find it fascinating, and feel very blessed that I am able to be part of this . So needing to create to me is as essential as living.

on Oct 15, 2011 10:58 AM

Art is in my soul. In the twenty-two years that I have been a professional jewelry artist, I have felt the ever-present conflict between my conservative side of myself and my wild bohemian side, the gainfully employed adult versus the artistic free spirit. I constantly see dichotomy in the world around me as well as within myself; I see beauty in objects that create a sense of uneasiness, even fear in others. For me there is a concurrent sense of balance, a yin/yang, within the inherent conflict of perceptions.

After moving to Montana in 2006, I found myself becoming creatively restless, wanting to reach deeper and unleash a more primal nature, a grittier creativity. By using my art to provocatively confront the uncomfortable feelings that force us to stare at a train wreck even though we want to look away, or to create something that represents a very human quality we tend to want to hide, I feel that I am fulfilling an important aspect of my divine purpose, to touch people and change them in some way that they otherwise might not have achieved alone.

This is what drives my creativity.

on Oct 15, 2011 6:04 PM


all sorts of things inspire me, nature, my family, a great book. i am also guild master of the nw suburban beadwork guild in schaumburg, il and the nw indiana beadwork, practical crafters guild in hammond, in so i have many members to inspire me along the way. if anyone is interested in the guilds i can be reached at melanie.silver@crystalfeatherstudios.com.

melanie silver