Nancy Megan Corwin, Megan to her friends, is an artist in the truest sense of the word. She has worked as a bench jeweler with her own line. She has also taught in Arts centers, colleges and universities for over 30 years. She was an adjunct instructor at Cabrillo College and Monterey Peninsula College in California since 1984. Nancy was head of the jewelry and metals program for the University of Oregon from 1989 until 1994. For the past 15 years she has traveled across the United States teaching short courses in an impressive list of schools. Including Penland school of crafts in North Carolina, Haystack Mountain school of crafts in Maine, the Glassell school in Houston Texas, the University of New Mexico at El Paso, Pratt Fine Arts Ctr., Danica design, as well as various other programs all across the United States. Megan’s handcrafted jewelry and hollowware are an outstanding blend of contemporary artistry and old world craftsmanship. Hammer in hand, she raises rich textures and sculptural forms capturing the intrinsic beauty of the various metals that she works with.
We were lucky enough to sit down and talk with Megan.
Megan, I know you do a lot of teaching, locally, nationally and even abroad, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us today.
Thank you, I am happy to be here.
With all of the classes and workshops that you teach, what type of things will students learn by attending?
I teach chasing and repousse, both modern and ancient methods. It is an ancient yet
contemporary technique that brings the artist closer to the artwork through process.The students will learn the history as well as the contemporary usage of the specific techniques of chasing and repousse. They will also learn how to express their ideas utilizing these techniques in metal. I concentrate on having them work on pieces not necessarily emphasizing getting a piece done during the class, but to learn the process, to learn to really handle the tools. It is a technique that is not taught in a lot of places, and it’s great to be with like minded people who can help you.
What exactly is chasing and repousse?
Chasing and repousse is push out or up in French. Repousse is the process of forming the
contours of a design from the back of a metal sheet using blunt hammer-struck punches (a chisel-like tool). Chasing is the opposite technique and refers to the detailing of a design from the front using smaller, specially shaped punches. The two are used in conjunction to create a finished piece.
How did you develop your passion for working in metal?
I was attending college in Florida, and was actually a music major. I took a drawing class and part way through the class the instructor told us that we were the worst drawers he had ever seen! He gave us a choice of working with metals or ceramics, the entire class chose to work with metals. The metal was for me love at first touch. I will never forget the first time I touched silver, the way it looked, felt and smelled.
Megan is your work shown in any public or private collections?
Yes it is in numerous private collections and at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Tacoma Art Museum in Washington, the gallery of the state College of New Mexico at Las Cruces, and crafthaus.
Do you belong to any professional groups or societies currently?
I’m on the board of directors for the Northwest designer craftsmen organization, a member of the Society of North American goldsmiths (SNAG), the workshop coordinator for the Seattle Metals Guild, Northwest Design Craftsman, the American Craft Council, and Art Jewelry Forum.
Megan, we carry your book at Seattle Findings Chasing and Repousse : Methods Ancient and Modern , and it has definitely become “THE” book on the subject in the industry. What was it about chasing and repousse that called to you in such a manner that it has become a passion for you?
Well thank you for saying that about the book. It is a text and gallery book that I did with Tim McCreight which was amazing! As for chasing and repousse, the first time I tried this technique I was hooked, I knew it was the technique for me. I was able to incorporate my sculpture with the metal. Most of my work isn’t of figures, it’s abstract textural work. I love to create challenges for myself both aesthetically and technically.
What is it that inspires you in your work?
Well, gardening, botanical illustrations, marine life and ocean plants and life! And also just the techniques of chasing and repousse when applied to metal.
Can you tell me about one of your projects?
Several years ago I did a series of sculptures that came out of a sculpture that I did, that is now in the Tacoma Art Museum, these pieces developed out of woman’s hairdos throughout history. I’ve been looking at women’s hair being like a man’s helmet. Women’s hair would give out a certain message to society. If their hair was the right way then they would be accepted by society. So I made a sculpture with hairpins in it, and inside the holder for the hairpins you would put scented oil. Then you could pull the hairpins out and it would be scented and you would wear it in your hair making it an interactive sculpture. I really like to have a wearable part in most of the things that I make.
Recently we have been seeing a lot of interest from students who want to add chasing and repousse techniques to their skills. Why do you think this is?
I think that it is because these techniques so flexible. And the fact that the connection that you have working by moving metal in this way is so remarkable it is very deep and satisfying. You can create sculptural forms by working directly on the metal. These resulting forms, textures can be organic or they can be chased into sharp, crisp edges and angular shapes. And there are so many times when you need some three-dimensional texturing or forming in a small area, chasing and repousse are excellent techniques to use. A flat sheet “grows” into expressions of imagery and abstract form as a response to the way you hammer it and the tools you use. Many of these tools are made by the artist .
Where did you get your training?
I have a terminal graduate degree MFA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in Jewelry and Metals.
What advice would you offer to someone who wants to learn chasing and repousse but has no experience?
I would advise them to take a short introductory course to start with; there are some
specific tools that need to be purchased. It is also helpful to get feedback on how you are holding the tools and using the hammer. Go study repousse work in museums, galleries and books, and then get up as close as possible to the work to examine both sides carefully. The metal is your most important teacher. The way it responds to the way you hammer it and the tools you use, that lets you know what works and what does not. My book is designed to help people to learn the process on their own. Right now it is being used by both schools and individuals around the world as an instructional manual. Chasing and repousse are not instant gratification techniques. It’s important to have patience with yourself, it will slow you down and renew the joy. Always remember: slow is fast -fast is slow, practice that, and you will become faster!
Any last advice for students working with metal?
You have to be willing to put time and effort into learning and practicing, into the
process. Develop an intimate relationship with metal; keep it close to your heart. And never, never stop working!
Megan thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us today, it is been a pleasure and an honor to speak with you.
Please take a few moments and visit Megan’s website@ NancyMeaganCorwin.com . There you can learn more about her techniques as well as get information on upcoming classes. Her excellent book Chasing and Repousse : Methods Ancient and Modern is available both online on our website or in the store. I highly recommend it.