My name is Jen Townsend and I am a creative person. I have begun to view creative lives in terms of evolutionary moments; these are circumstances or events that forever alter the trajectory of creative people and their work - everything from going to college to seeing a particular piece of artwork to successes, failures, and comebacks.
I announced to my family I wanted to be a jeweler when I was 13 and have devoted the last 26 years to that declaration. I have studied everything from stonesetting techniques to fine art and architecture. I built my business on my passion for jewelry and my love of working with my clients. It has been a lot of hard but very rewarding work.
Last year I suffered an injury that has seriously limited my ability to work in the way I always have. While there was a short period of crying and watching Netflix, I am beginning to see the silver lining... this injury has forced me to reconsider who I am, what I value, and how I determine my self-worth. While painful (both physically and emotionally), I am beginning to see interesting things emerge...
It has opened up time and space for my tertiary interests. Staying engaged in my field while being unable to be in the studio has been a daunting challenge, but I refuse to quit. I joined the Board of Directors of the Society of North American Goldsmiths (an organization that I have loved since college) shortly before my injury and because of the forced time out of the studio, I have had extra time to devote to digging deeply into my areas of responsibility in a way I never could have with my business running at full-steam. I am also writing a book with Reneé Zettle-Sterling about casting. I have had this book in the back of my mind for years, but never had the time and mental space to take it on.
I have funneled my creative energy into these other areas while I'm healing and feel myself evolving... it's interesting. Dormant and undeveloped parts of me are strengthening. I'm asking questions I never would have asked...
How important is technique? Has it been a crutch for me? When I feel really low, I look to Chuck Close, who made amazing, highly technical work before a debilitating stroke, and has continued to make incredible (and arguably more interesting) work ever since. (See more about his work on Artsy)
What can I do? In some ways, I've felt like a deer in headlights in the last year... my whole world has revolved around the use of my hands... I have always thought of my hands as the root of my own worth, and yet, I'm still here and I'm trying (maybe even harder) to bring value to the world.
What comes next? I am intrigued by this question because I don't know the answer. I always thought I would absolutely wilt if I couldn't make jewelry, and don't get me wrong, this year has been really hard, but surprisingly, I have a lot of irons in the fire.
"Planning a Triumphant Return"... I was recently a visiting artist at the University of North Texas and had the pleasure of hanging out with James Thurman, Harlan Butt, and meeting Ana Lopez. As we talked, Ana told me she is a big believer in planning the triumphant return; this resonated deeply with me an now... it is on.