Featured MCA Institutional Member: Metals Collective

Metalsmiths are some of craft’s ultimate conductors, taking raw materials and melting, twisting, hammering, smoothing, shaping, texturizing, and embellishing them into whatever form their mind has envisioned, in a symphony of inventiveness and agility. Metal craft brings us a wide range of objects of beauty to behold, from functional tools of incredible strength, to elaborate, dazzling, one-of-a-kind accessories with which we adorn ourselves. Since 2010, the members of Portland, Maine based Metals Collective have been working together and challenging each other to bring life to their visions for their individual and group metal craft. For ten years, the group has been growing and changing just like their vision, skill and reach.

Originally founded by Maria Wolff and Holly L Gooch as Metal Heads Redux, an homage to a previous Portland group of metalsmiths from the 90’s called The Metal Heads Society, the group is currently composed of eighteen artists within different stages of their careers, each with different backgrounds and styles.

The Metals Collective continues to surprise and excite its audience with intriguing and relevant work in a variety of unique exhibitions. These exhibitions encourage members to work outside of their individual comfort zones to breathe new life into their studio practice while enhancing their personal creative growth. Participating members respond to their given exhibition themes with extraordinary skill and exquisite vision, resulting in a profound collective experience often displayed where one would least expect to see a craft installation. This immersive technique exposes more people to the world of fine craft.

One such unexpected exhibition space is the exceptional cocktail bar The Jewel Box on Portland’s Congress St. The beautiful and unique space has served as host of Piercing the Pickle (2015), The Fragrant Jewel (2016), Cocktail Accoutrements (2017), Refraction (2018), and most recently Cabinet of Curiosities (2019). Other locations have included Bar of Chocolate, Patty Daunis-Dunning Jewelry Shop, Maine College of Art, Portland Fine Craft Show, The Center for Maine Craft, and Fore River Gallery.

In order to reflect on the past ten years of creative success, Metal’s Collective members Maria Wolff, Cat Bates, Emily Percival, Mary Forst, Shelby Goldsmith, Naomi Grace McNeil, Nikki Warren, Holly Churchill-Lane, Michael Hofheimer, Tegan Curry, and Jessie Irish discussed their favorite shows and pieces, as well as their growth within the group over the course of their membership tenures.

Q: How many years have you been a member of the Metals Collective? 

10+ years. Co-Founder with Holly Gooch, and current board President.

Cat: I have been a member for about 6 years, and currently serve on the board as
Communications Director.

Emily: I’ve been a member for 6 years, and am currently on the board as the Social Media Coordinator.

Mary: 4 Years. I have been a member since the spring of 2016. After graduating art school, I felt the need to be a part of a community of makers. The Metals Collective helped push me to keep making art jewelry.

Shelby: Since 2015, so 5 years! Proudly serving the Metals Collective as Secretary.

Naomi: 10 years. I have been involved with the Metals Collective since 2010, and I have had the honor of curating, displaying, and propping the work for the last 5 years, including hanging the RETROSPECTIVE: Metals Collective Through the Years show in 2017. This involved hanging all of the work we had access to for the Collective from 2010 – 2017 in the Artists at Work Gallery.

Nikki: About 5 years, with a gap for when I was traveling outside the area.
Holly: 3+ years.

Michael: 10+ Years. Since before the beginning. I was a founding member, and member of the Metalheads Society before.

Jessie: I have been an active member for less than 1 full year. I just celebrated my 3 year anniversary of metalsmithing this month. After moving to Maine from Wyoming 4 years ago I was greatly inspired by all of the talented metalworking artists, including several core members of this group, along with my passion for minerals.

Tegan: 3 years.

Q: What was your most challenging Metals Collective showpiece & why?

Nikki: My piece for our current show, 20/20 Visionary was definitely my most challenging so far. Although the piece itself looks simple, it was a technical challenge, and it required me to learn several new and different processes.

Tegan: Cabinet of Curiosities was the most challenging for me. I had troubles honing in on ideas without being scattered.

Shelby: My “Vinaigrette Necklace” was my first time making a threaded cap to fit an existing glass bottle, and alongside that I made a ”Smelling Salts Ring” with a tension fit cap. Those were likely my most challenging pieces because at the time, I had little to no experience making pieces with mechanisms that had to function securely.

Cat: Making a flask for Cocktail Accoutrements was a really exciting challenge to overcome.  I chose pretty early on to work with stainless steel for this piece.  I had done some steel brazing before, but never on that scale and never with stainless steel.  The material forced me to put in a lot of research, and to reach out to multiple professionals in related fields.  During the process this was frustrating as the level of research required had not been anticipated, but it meant
that the final result was all the more rewarding.

Maria: ‘The Viking Key’ Strainer, 2017 show Cocktail Accoutrements at The Jewel Box. I had to make the chainmail bowl of this piece 3 times before getting the effect I wanted. Learning chainmail in the round was a challenge for sure!

Naomi: Bloom and Doom, “Bee the Poison”, I’ve always been a fan of mechanisms and this piece allowed many of them. One of the gold hexagons on the lid lifts up, releasing the top of the ring to hinge open, then the bee bottom unscrews, revealing a small area to hold poison. See attached images.

Emily: [My piece for] The Fragrant Jewel! It was a piece that I made multiple versions of because the construction was so out of the norm for me. Getting it just right was a long and tedious process, but I’m so glad I did it. I learned so much and would actually like to make it yet again and approach it from another angle.

Michael: The Sterling Silver Absinthe Spoon [from Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder] because of the time I put into the work and the impact the piece had in the case.

Q: What was your favorite piece that you have made for Metals Collective shows?

Maria: ‘Viking Eddies’, a 10-charm bracelet for the 2018 show Charmed at BLUE. It was a great deal of fun making miniature Viking themed charms with various materials in trying to keep each piece authentic. I later proudly donated this piece to the 2019 Eimskip Scandinavian Christmas Charity Event supporting The Telling Room.

Holly: My favorite piece I’ve made so far would be the “Butterfly Box” that I made for the Cabinet of Curiosities show. It was an homage to Helen Keller. It spoke to someone who wanted to buy it. That is my aim as a craft person to speak to or resonate with the viewer.

Mary: My favorite pieces were from the show Refraction. I made a ring and two brooches using glass which was really fun to work with. I think the end result followed my aesthetic but helped to branch out my work.

Jessie: My 1st piece for the 20/20 Visionary show titled “Blurred Visions of the Future” featuring a tiny pair of sterling & quartz glasses hung from a chain.\

Cat: The Ballast Necklace, which I made for our Refraction show, stands out as a favorite for a few reasons.  Firstly, it gave me an opportunity to attempt a number of new techniques which I had been curious about; stone cutting, hammer setting a cast bezel, and transitioning between braids on the kumihimo loom.  Secondly, my connection to the theme was extremely personal. Refraction refers to changes in light as it passes through different substances.  The piece I made was inspired by beach combing, discovery, and the barrier that the ocean’s surface creates
between the world we experience directly and the visible-yet-alien world which exists within the sea.

Q: How has the Metals Collective helped you grow as a maker?

Maria: Co-founder Holly Gooch and I started this local inclusive makers group with the intention of consistently making new and exciting work while inspiring others to do the same. Becoming a lead & co-organizer of this group has helped me in my growth not only as a maker, but as a show planner, manager, networker, PR and interpersonal relationship builder and co-inspirer with a board of other dedicated members keeping our vessel moving. The Metals Collective has become my second family.

Cat: The Metals Collective consistently pushes me to try out new techniques and test new visual vocabulary.  As a production jeweler, I put a lot of emphasis on designing work which I can sell.  For our shows however, this is not a primary consideration and I can loosen up and take bigger risks.

Michael: I have enjoyed having “assignments” to take me out of the day to day bench work of my full time job and the creative interchange between working metal artists.

Shelby: For me it has been having accountability and deadlines to motivate me to create the type of one-of-a-kind art jewelry pieces that we typically make for Metals Collective shows.

Holly: Being a member of the Metals Collective has helped me connect with other local metalsmiths and to challenge my creativity, as well as having a public venue to show my work.

Mary: The Metals Collective has really given me so many resources outside of academia. I think it is easy to feel a little lost after college and the Collective really helped me keep making work. This group has given me so many opportunities for my small business and I am so grateful.

Emily: I really value the opportunities to work as part of the Metals Collective because it allows me to stretch as a maker and work with concepts or ideas that I might not approach on my own. It’s a great chance to try new techniques, play around with materials and subject matter, and push myself as an artist. Each exhibit is also a challenge where we are able to work collaboratively on marketing ideas, display concepts, and installation. It’s refreshing to change gears from a solitary studio practice to working with a group on these kinds of creative

Naomi: I joined the Metals Collective just a couple of years after finishing my BFA in Metalsmithing and Jewelry from Maine College of Art. The Collective gave me deadlines, I desperately needed a deadline not only to finish a project, but even just to have the gumption to work in the studio. I attribute those deadlines and the group collaboration and critique to being a studio metal artist today.  It allowed me to be able to find and explore my voice as an artist, one project at a time. This experience has been priceless to me.

Tegan: The Metals Collective has helped me grow as a jeweler in ways that I needed. The larger and excitingly more focused projects, rather than multiple repeats of a design have clarified that I need both.

Nikki: By giving me certain parameters and themes to work within, it gets me out of my normal box, but at the same time I get to figure out a way to manifest these themes from my unique viewpoint as a maker, and put my own signature on the idea.

Jessie: Becoming a member of the Metals Collective has encouraged me to jump out of my comfort zone and test out new skills and designs. It feels great to be a part of such a diverse and talented group of makers.

See the fine craftsmanship of the Metals Collective in their new exhibition 20/20 Visionary on view November 18, 2020 – January 3, 2021 in the window of the Bob Crewe Gallery at Maine College of Art, 522 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101.

For more information about the Metals Collective including their past exhibitions, current members, and upcoming events, visit their website.

The Maine Crafts Association Institutional Membership levels were created to provide opportunities for businesses, educational institutions, and other groups of all shapes and sizes to interact with the greater craft community within the state of Maine and beyond through blog posts, mailings, and other great membership benefits. To learn more about becoming an Institutional Member of the Maine Crafts Association, and which Institutional Level is right for
your group, visit: https://mainecrafts.org/membership-institutional/