Monday, January 21, 2013

Creative Braveheart for January: Jen Cushman

Last November was a lucky month. Not only did I find myself filming video workshops for Cloth Paper Scissors, but I also got to meet the amazing Jen Cushman! Jen was filming her video workshop on the day of my arrival, so I got to sit behind the scenes and watch. Jen's video workshop, Breaking Out of the Mold: Resin and Clay Casting for Mixed-Media Art (available for pre-order through the Interweave Store), shows you how to create resin and clay objects that can be used in all kinds of creative works.
As I watched Jen filming, I was blown away not only by her level of knowledge and skill with her medium, but also with her easy-going and fun way of presenting her craft.

Although I did not have much time to chat with Jen, I learned that she has all kinds of amazing things going on, including a new book, Making Metal Jewelry; How to Stamp, Fold, Form, and Forge Metal Jewelry Designs (North Light Books, 2012.) I thought to myself, "Wowser, this lady's got it going on."

I recently had a chance to ask Jen a few questions about how she got started and was so inspired by her story. Like many of us, she did not start her career as a mixed-media artist, but instead stumbled upon and fell in love with it while doing something else. Lucky for her fans, that something else was journalism, a skill she puts to great use as she writes about her creative adventures. 

1.  How did you get into working with resin? 

I was writing and producing a column for Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion magazine called Paper, Scissors, Crop, which was the first time a general (shelter) magazine really covered something from the crafts industry on a regular basis. Because of that column, I began looking at artists to feature. I thought at the time the column would be more scrapbooking, actually a wider category of paper arts, but I knew pretty quickly that I was interested in mixed media. This was in 2004. I learned about Art Unraveled, a mixed-media art retreat in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. I met Susan Lenart Kazmer at this event and absolutely was blown away by the sophistication and creativity of her work. The next year, I took a resin class from her and learned to make resin paper. I was hooked! From then on, I dreamed about all the things I could do with resin and started my journey of working with metal and resin. Susan self published her book, Making Connections in 2007 and I helped her do the PR of it. We became instant friends when we met and later business partners. 

2. Tell us a little bit about your new book!
The very next class I took after taking Susan's resin class was one of her metalworking workshops. The first time I used a torch to draw a bead, my insides literally melted into a puddle and I knew I had finally found my medium. That led me to my local community collage where I signed up for beginning metalsmithing. My instructor was a third-generation goldsmith and was not interested in mixed media in the least. I was so frustrated that I searched and searched for the book that would give me basic metalsmithing skills with projects that would inspire my artistic aesthetic. Bits and pieces of it appeared in books here and there, but nothing every really pulled it all together for me. Finally, I felt my skills were up to snuff enough that I could write the book I had always had in the back of my mind. I presented it to Tonia Jenny, Acquisitions Editor for North Light Books and she loved the idea. I'm so thrilled to have Making Metal Jewelry available to people and am hoping they find it informative and inspiring. 

3. What do you hope your viewers will take away from watching "Breaking Out of the Mold?"
Resin obsession! LOL. Seriously, I hope they will see that there are alternatives to using their most precious found objects in their art work. Also that they can make multiples of these objects for their work since repetition of imagery is an important design concept. Breaking Out of the Mold shows all the steps one needs to have success when casting found objects and then lots of tips and techniques for turning these cast resin (or resin clay, polymer clay or paper clay) into gorgeous elements for all mixed-media mediums. All of my books, workshops, videos, the DVD, etc. are technique based, as I believe strongly that mastering technique is the best way for the artist's voice to shine in his or her work. 

Meeting and learning about women who are living their creative dreams really encourages me to keep moving, I hope Jen's example inspires you as well!


  1. Pretty fascinating work, resin seems to be the most versatile thing these days, have yet to try it. I can see some resin making a three d appearance on stitched works. xox

  2. Thank you so much Jenny for taking the time to interview me. Your work is incredible. I cannot wait to buy your 2 -- count em' TWO DVDs! Hugs!!! -- Jen Cushman

    1. The pleasure was mine, Jen. Thanks for taking the time to share with us!