Jim ~ The Value Project // Hillsborough, NC

“Talk less, listen more. Offer whatever you have. I think I’ve become more mindful and aware of this and try to practice more of this kind of living, just out in the world.” 

Driving out to Jim’s studio, the sun warming my face through my car window, my mind was filled with thoughts about the session; “What kinds of questions should I ask? What’s the space going to look like? Am I going to be able to handle myself without my awkwardness taking center stage?” I was struck too by how much excitement I was feeling to be getting the chance to work with this man that I’ve come to know just a tiny bit over the past two years. What was I going to learn about him?

“I’ve always liked shaping metal and trying to make elegant shapes out of this stubborn material that’s typically not elegant looking. I’m really turned on by nature, observing things; Weird little nuances in my periphery catch my attention heavily, so they get incorporated into my work. Like the little spindly tendrils off of plants. I’m as interested in those as I am the flower. Very rarely will I make a blossomed flower, but I make all kinds of tendrils and leaves that become sculptural pieces or pieces of jewelry. I try to capture those in my drawings and paintings. Boats and vessels, the forms and ribs, are all things that catch my eye. I like curves that are very feminine and flowing, rather than abrupt. Those things are on my mind all the time.”

“As a full-time artist, the idea of value is one that’s always on my mind and generally translates itself to the work. The work; They’re just objects. They’re only as valuable as what someone is interested in paying for them. But in terms of my personal value, I think I try to bring that into my work as well. It’s the notion of something that’s seasoned and has a sensibility to it, but also is spontaneous and elegant. There’s some history in the work that I do. Every hammer mark changes the shape of the thing that I’m making. It takes a lot of hammer marks to change them into what they end up being. Maybe I (personally) have a lot of hammer marks… If I let my experience and perceptions influence what’s coming out of my hands, then the work has even that much more interest and that much more character. It might even look simpler than something I did years ago, but it took a lot more to make it.”

“Now, I want to eliminate everything that’s non-essential. The curve of the line, the general form, the elegance of it; The simpler it is, the more that has to be the significant thing. I feel that way about myself too. Get rid of everything non-essential and that’s been a big part of my life over the last 4-5 years. My time with my daughters is essential and the quality of it. Maria and the relationship that we have, is essential; The guys that come out to the studio, my time at the coffee shop, all of that is essential. Just being present is a big thing. Taking that time to be fully present. It’s not common necessarily. This concept didn’t even have a name for me until maybe 6 or 7 years ago.; to be present. It’s practicing being mindful and considerate of whats going on in the moment and not distracted by what’s outside or in the periphery, but to be intentional. It’s not just focus; It’s a deeper awareness than focus, if that makes sense?”

Sitting across from Jim as he talked, I was struck by the kind way he allowed me to enter into this private space; how he was so willing to be open and share bits of his life with me. There’s a grace and thoughtfulness in his presence, the way he carries himself. His character is as evident as his deep voice, resonating around the studio as he shared more of his thoughts.

“Most of the work I do now is commission based, meaning I’m in a relationship with that client. I want the clients to come out early on and sit in the studio with me to talk about how they live. If I’m going to make them a table or a bar for their home, even a drawing or painting for their wall, how they live will determine how I make that. What it LOOKS like is secondary; How you live is really important. I want to design with the way that you live, positively. I think there’s a way to incorporate your own form and language into the context of what people would like to have and still participate with as well. Because they still want YOU. That’s why they came to you. But to get them involved makes it even more meaningful and I try to do that.”

“I have been really fortunate in the art world to have great teachers. I wouldn’t know how to do anything that I do if they hadn’t shown me the way.You don’t just wake up and know how to do this.I don’t care how good you are, how much skill you have, there are people around you who are equally as skilled and maybe do things differently. I have so much still to learn. I have a lot of respect for people who quietly excel. I’ve watched some of the most masterful people be incredibly humble, quiet and generous teachers. I long to be that generous as well. I love teaching. I love when people come to my studio and want to learn. I love teaching them whatever I’ve got. Listen more and offer whatever you have.”

“I love to get to do what I do. It’s not an easy way to get through life. It’s pretty humbling to be really good at something and barely make a living at it. I could be really puffed up about this, but it’s hard to be because the fruit of the labor is minimal. Except for the fact that there’s a lot of joy in living this way.”


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