Metalsmith Joy Raskin featured in League of NH Craftsmen’s exhibit
Friday, February 1, 2013
Silver, pewter and glass are a few of the materials artist Joy Raskin uses to make metallic magic. She creates ornate metal sculptures, fancy jackets woven out of metal wire, flatware that is functional yet beautiful, and jewelry smooth to the touch.
The Bedford artist has been a silversmith since 1984. The tools of her trade are torches, pliers and hammers. Her work has been exhibited in national and international shows that draw the world’s best artists. She is renowned locally for her custom-made flatware – spoons and forks with accents of twisted metal – and also for her sculptural works and jewelry items that echo the free-flowing shapes of leaves and almonds and other wonders of nature.
Raskin was still in high school in Manchester when she was welcomed as a member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, an organization founded in 1932 to help Depression-era artists earn a wage. Today, the organization of about 150 members remains highly esteemed. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Rhode Island School of Design, and a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Massachusetts. She now creates her designs in a spacious, well-equipped studio and spends about half of her work time teaching in-state and elsewhere. She frequently conducts classes at the League of N.H. Craftsmen’s Nashua retail gallery, 98 Main St., where many of Raskin’s works are on sale.
“There’s something magical about joining metals together with heat,” Raskin said. “I’m not really a jeweler, I’m a metalsmith. I found my career early on and never looked back. I like to have a hammer in one hand and a soldering torch in the other.”
Raskin enjoys sharing her craft. Her workshops in metal-smithing techniques, wire weaving and jewelry making have have earned accolades from many. Her students range in age from teenagers to age 90.
Raskin examines a woven-metal purse made up of five colors of metal loops. She runs a finger down the interlocked stitches that make its layered design. Rows of black loops blend into those of colors named gun metal, hematite, titanium and silver.
“I started out in jewelry but I like working big, maybe a foot across,” Raskin said, showing some discs of heavy, gray metal. “Pewter is good. It has some heft to it. If I make something, I want it to be functional.”
In Raskin’s studio, a mannequin wearing a dress of woven wire and seed pearls shares space with other unusual artworks. There is a whimsical bustier and a matching, wide-brimmed hat made of strips of pounded-copper ribbon accented with sections of thin, round, copper wire. A heavy bronze serving spoon nearby is a project from a casting class.
Near the bronze spoon on one of the her studio’s counter tops is a clear, plastic box occupied by Raskin’s pet hedgehog, Spikey – the most recent of 10 she has called her pets. She lifts Spikey gently out of a woolen ski cap that he considers his condo. A Raskin original, a sculpture of a hedgehog made out of welded nails, stands near the cage.
“A lot of my work has a spikiness to it,” said Raskin. “It’s a repetitive form found in architecture – bridges and the like.”
Ruth Boland, owner of the League of N.H. Craftsmen’s Nashua gallery, said Raskin’s artwork at the gallery always draws substantial interest.
“We have some of Joy’s knitted-copper chains with sterling-silver clasps and some rings made of sterling-silver metal and gold,” Boland said. “There are quite a few pieces that incorporate hearts, perfect for Valentine’s Day.”
Boland, a juried basket maker and teacher, said the Nashua retail gallery opened in May 2010. The work displayed is created by members of the League, and includes objects in metal, wood, art glass and other mediums. Boland said Raskin’s one-day workshops are a popular offering among the gallery’s many activities. Raskin will conduct a wire-working workshop from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, March 16. She also is scheduled to teach a workshop on making earrings from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, April 20.
Boland said Raskin has been a teacher and a contributor to the gallery since it opened. Visitors can view Raskin’s work at the Nashua gallery, 98 Main St., on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Thursdays from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Call the gallery at 595-8233 for more information.
“Joy is very passionate about her work and very enthusiastic,” Boland said. “People want to be creative. They want to make things with their hands. Our classes here offer instant satisfaction. You go home with something you’ve made.”
Raskin, meanwhile, fires up a torch that allows her to manipulate metal at temperatures of up to 1,600 degrees. She joins a silver collar, about a half-inch high, that will be a ring. As she focuses on adjusting the flame, she mentions she has found “extreme happiness” in her work and wants to continue her mission of sharing her knowledge.
“As long as I can lift a hammer, I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing,” she said. “I’m in a bowl-making mood lately.”
For more information about Raskin’s work, and workshops and venues where her work is displayed, visit www.joyraskin.com.