My Name is L. Eugene Nelson. I am a Navajo artist who works in silver, gold, and turquoise that is constructed, shaped, and polished into individual works of art – jewelry. The process of hand-fabricated, sheet and wire construction allows me to emphasize design that shows an artistry that is uniquely individual, and that does not limit me to a style that I cannot continually evolve.
Being a self-taught jeweler/artist, and not having any of the major outside influences that usually occur through formal training or family trade involvement, has allowed me not to feel any obligations or boundaries in designing my work. However, living in the Southwest, I cannot help but be influenced by the creativity of others, especially in Southwest architecture and contemporary three-dimensional art, and in the use of traditional materials of Southwest jewelry (primarily silver, turquoise, and coral). In addition, my background through high school in mechanical and architectural drawing and design has been the strongest influence in my work. This training emphasized the importance of precision, straight lines, and geometric shapes and angles.
My approach is not simply “to make jewelry” but to create “art.” Enjoyment and creativity are both necessary in this process. In designing I approach my art as a three-dimensional object with details that only complement the overall piece. This allows me to highlight certain parts of the work without overdoing the piece and ending up with an ornate, and sometimes, gaudy appearance. My eye for composition and detail required that I become proficient at soldering metals so as not to take away from the preciseness of edge, surface texture, and scribed lines on the polished surfaces. This is where experience, craftsmanship, and patience, especially patience, are important. Whereas you can have a unique design, if you do not have the patience to complete it properly, the piece falls short of the uniqueness of the design.
I try to learn from each piece of work what is possible and what are the limits to the metal sheet and wire construction process. I feel that these limits are actually a plus that allow the artist to put more of his own abilities and artistic expression into his work. This would mean that he would have to become a better craftsman and make an effort to create designs that are uniquely different than anyone else who is working the same construction process.
The challenge is to create designs that no one else has though to make. However when you do become successful with your designs, then the challenge is to continue to be creative and to be satisfied with your past successes. The process of creativity should be an on-going experience that requires you to build on what you have previously created. This process is art. The joy of creativity is in the force that ensures continued success.
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