Artist studio visit 1: Daniel Icaza

I met Dani a few years ago when we were both starting out in jewelry making classes in Escuela Crisol. His skill and meticulous nature were obvious from the very beginning. After a little while he went off to college and returned recently with this wonderful wealth of knowledge and body of work that you’ll read about below. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I have. It’s been a treat to get some insight into his work and his way of thinking.

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How long have you been doing what you do and how did you get into it?
I have always enjoyed painting and drawing since I was a child. I began learning how to work with metal in 2005 at the age of 19 and I have not stopped since. My discovery of metal was a serious effort. I knew that I wanted to study art after high school, but I was not sure what type of art I wanted to study at the University level. As a result I studied at many artistic craft schools and learned about various techniques and materials, such as glass, wood, metal and photography. After learning the basics around these techniques and materials, I discovered there was one material that captivated me above the others, and that was metal.

What is ‘Monetary Bondage’?
Monetary Bondage is an art series that I created during my University studies. It became the thesis project for my undergraduate degree and has subsequently become the focus of my artistic metal work. This series has enabled me to win several scholarships, grants, exhibitions and has received much attention and critical acclaim.

The central theme of this series of art works is rooted in the concept of value. I like to take an object that people can easily associate with a specific value and then alter the object to distort its value. What better object to use than money, as people easily associate it with a specific value. By altering the aesthetic of the object but not giving it any additional function, the altered object provokes a reaction within each viewer as they must now interact with a very common object in a very different way.

Within this series I integrate a wide range of metalsmithing techniques and materials and I am continually looking for new materials and techniques to integrate into new pieces. I would dare describe the art work in this series as mixed media with metals. The techniques I have integrated so far include enameling, filigree, forging, stone setting, cold connections, Keum-Boo, etching, Mokume-Gane and marriage of metals.

The Biennale
In the summer of 2011 I had the privilege and honor of being selected to participate in the Biennale di Chianciano Terme in Italy. This was my first large international exhibition and I was honored to receive the “Leonardo Prize for Applied Arts: Second Place” for my participation with work from my Monetary Bondage series. Participation and acknowledgement in events such as these continue to motivate and encourage me to expand and develop this artistic series.

Tell us a bit about your workspace
My studio is my home and my home is my studio. Although I try to separate my work spaces, I always tend to create an artistic chaos wherever I go. I have areas of my home dedicated to specific types of work, however my projects tend to migrate around the house during their various stages of completion. Paintings and drawings find their way into the living room and bedroom partially finished and work happens whenever and wherever the inspiration strikes. Parts of rings and other metal projects are centralized in the metals studio, but inevitably end up in the kitchen, photo studio, painting studio, bathroom and bedroom. This happens because I tend to take my projects along with me around the house. I like to hold them and analyze them to figure out how and what they might turn into. Many times projects end up on my night stand as I think about them right up until I go to sleep.

Favorite tool(s) / materials?
A rather tricky question to answer, there are so many great tools out there that do amazing things but, in the end we could not use any of them without our hands so, in a strange way I guess my hands are my favorite tools. In a less abstract perspective I would say the rolling mill is probably my favorite tool, I love watching material transform into a new form; and few tools make such a dramatic transformation as a rolling mill can.
My favorite materials would be metals. It might be a little to difficult to pick one specific metal as a favorite because different metals have different properties and they need to work with each other like an orchestra to create a symphony.

What is your favorite process or technique?
Although there are a plethora of fascinating metal working techniques, the process/ technique of forging metal is absolutely captivating. To see a chunk of metal transform into a new shape like a lump of clay is completely mesmerizing and never ceases to amaze me.

What has been the craziest / most exciting / eccentric piece you have made so far (custom or otherwise)?
Difficult to pin point, I have made some strange things over the years. Although I do suppose that the strangest art work that I have made would probably be the “”Monetary Bondage” series. It is nothing new to integrate coins and other valuable items into jewellery and other objects. However in my approach I purposefully leave the piece of “money” as a non-functional object. Just like the original piece of money there are few things the resulting art work can literally be used for in a functional way. I do this intentionally to focus on the conceptual function of “money”. These artistic objects usually catch people by surprise as they can be very odd and confusing, usually always generating some sort of response from the viewer.

What do you love / enjoy most about your line of work?
I would say that the most enjoyable aspect of my profession would be the freedom to express myself, although that freedom does come with other consequences and compromises.

Do you have a favorite from all the pieces you’ve made?
It becomes increasingly difficult to pick favorites as I think of my creations as my children. The pieces that I am most fond of are usually my more conceptual and interactive creations. One particular piece that comes to mind is a work titled “Slave to Vanity” (pictured below). This is a large silver necklace taking shape in the form of a ball and chain with shackle and functional lock. This piece plays with the idea of pain/discomfort for beauty. The necklace itself has a particularly intriguing aesthetic which is alluring to people even though the ball and chain itself is a dark object with sinister connotations. On another level the necklace is constructed out of silver which communicates a certain level of wealth, dignity and affluence. Yet the silver is fashioned into a form that represents slavery and oppression. In short, this art work presents a paradox and represents the potential to become a slave to beauty and possession. Perhaps a dark piece to choose as a favorite, but this piece captivates my interest due to the obvious permeation of this concept within today’s society.

If you had a very capable intern working for you, what kind of activities would you like to delegate, and why?
A very interesting yet difficult question to consider as it touches on many aspects of artistic integrity that I continually contemplate. Historically it is not uncommon for “Master Artists” to have workshops with many apprentices that help the masters produce their work. Unfortunately, I take great pride in doing as much of the necessary work myself and try to resist the temptation to buy pre-manufactured materials, such as wire. I would therefore find it very difficult to justify having an apprentice or intern do any of my work for me. I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and I would not feel comfortable taking full credit for something I did not completely make myself. I do however enjoy working collaboratively and would have no problem working with others as long as every one gets the proper credit and compensation for their contribution. If I did have some sort of assistant the area in which I would most need it would probably be in the area of promotion and publicity. I have no problem producing work and ideas but getting them out into the public is not quite my strong point… But I am learning and trying.

What is a recurring theme you like to explore in your work?
There are a few things that appear fairly consistently throughout my work. Visually, I tend to use a lot of circles, lines and spirals. Conceptually, I tend to focus around values and the subjectivity of perception. I like to work through representation and symbolism so I tend to adapt the visual aspects of my work into a conceptual metaphor.

Do you have any horror stories (client related, accidents, etc) you’d like to share with us?
Fortunately I don’t have too many horror stories. The most dramatic incidents that have happened to me are a few minor accidents and breaking a few tools from time to time. I once had a tube I was constructing seal shut and blow up on me like a small fire cracker, and I now have the tip of a high speed ball burr permanently lodged into my right elbow. No permanent damage although my elbow does ache a bit if I am doing a lot of heavy work.

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b l o g  |  w e b  p a g e e t s y  |  z a z z l e  |  b e h a n c e  |  f l i c k r

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Make sure you visit Daniel’s webpage and other links to see the rest of his work, it’s worth the click, I promise.

And thank you Daniel for sharing.

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