Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Michael Manthey, Jewelry Alchemist, Tells His Story

From early childhood I had a curiosity where things came from and how they were made. I found that almost everything comes out of the ground to feed, clothe, shelter, and transport us. So I developed a trust with rocks and their knowledge, learned skills to transform them, and found that some rather beautiful and difficult things can be made in a surprisingly short time.

The decision to become a professional artist came at age forty while I was recovering from a broken neck injury. The discovery that the creative process gave me a vision of a goal beyond myself saved my sanity and my spirit. I am forever grateful for that.

My contact with the craft of jewelry came when Avishai Greis of Aion Manufacturing cast my first carved waxes into silver. Because he liked my designs, he offered me a traditional apprenticeship in his workshop. Avishai was trained by a Russian jeweler so I became part of a long tradition -- the craft of fire and metal, crystals and gems.

When I started to show my work at local and regional art & craft shows, patrons began commissioning ornaments to commemorate the important moments in their lives, from birth to death. I was asked to create symbols of beauty and durability, a source of joy forever. Trust is an important factor in this craft, not only for the tangible wealth, but also because patrons share their dreams, aspirations, hopes and visions with me. The artist becomes historian of these times as future generations pass on these ornaments, and the stories that come with them. I work alone in my studio, I do not have a production line, I do strictly one-of-a-kind and commission work. I cut and carve my own stones, and have made wedding bands from meteorite, amulets for pregnancy, a magic wand, and turned ancestors gold fillings into treasured family heirlooms.

So, that said, I would like to use this opportunity to shed some light on a question many people have: What makes artists tick? If we look back in history at a civilization where we do not know the language, customs, and religion, what is left to look at is the artist’s art. So artists are really historians who record dreams, aspirations, fears and hopes. This influence encourages us to use creative alternatives that work well and are needed to balance the precarious situation the status quo has led us to.

I would like to share some of my most favorite quotes with you. They range from Astronomer Johannes Kepler, 1619, to the Chinese dissident artist, Ai WeiWei, 2013.

“Throughout history aesthetic revolution has always been a harbinger of social revolution, that changes in the way artists portray reality lead inevitably to the changes in the way the common people think and behave.” Quote from the book, Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai WeiWei by Barnaby Martin

“Artistic vision is a label for a difficult-to-define combination of close attention, perception, understanding, intuition, and ambition, and none of that counts for much unless it is combined with remarkable execution, or the communication of that vision.” Quote from Astronomer Johannes Kepler, 1619

“In a work of art there is a kind of merging between the precision of poetry and the excitement of pure science … and the greater one’s science, the deeper the sense of mystery.” Quote from A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic by Peter Turchi

“Shapes are in the archetype prior to their being in the product, in the divine mind prior to being in creatures, differently indeed in respect to their subject, but the same in the form of their essence.” Quote from Kepler’s Philosophy and the New Astronomy by Rhonda Martens

“We work in the dark, we do what we can, we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” Quote from Henry James’ novel, The Middle Years

Out yonder is this huge world, which exists independently of us humans, and stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking. The contemplation of this world beckons as a liberation. The road to this paradise has shown itself reliable, and I have never regretted having chosen it.

This is Week 12 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Michael’s post today. To contact Michael please call him at 215-574-8121.

Note: All photo credit: Lu Szumskyj