With apologies to Mike I’m making this about the food in yet another “Get on Bike and Go” episode. I’m supposed to keep this blog “relevant” in the eyes of Google to attract clients to my custom jewelry design website, Gary Dawson Designs. And I’m pretty sure I’ve had a problem following rules since my earliest memories of toddling off to the outhouse so I’ll just go with the Free Beer Tomorrow theme and Google can jump off a high Oregon Coast cliff this time.
This past weekend I rode Poderoso, my trusty moto named after Che’s bike (featured in the movie, “The Motorcycle Diaries”) to meet my brother George at a location on the coast that I’ve known fairly well in different decades. It matters not what you think if Che Guevara, it’s the bike I’m idolizing here.
Charleston, Oregon is a tiny fishing village with a large commercial fishing fleet located about 8 miles from Hwy. 101 and beautiful downtown North Bend at the mouth of the Coos River drainage. With this information in place, take your mind back a couple of decades and visualize Red’s tavern, reputedly the most rowdy tavern in Oregon in its day. I worked on a very small salmon boat during one of my last summers of high school (early 70’s) and my captain was very stern in his warning, “Don’t ever, ever go into Red’s.” I note in trying to find a link here to some of the Red’s history that the legacy remains oral. Maybe that’s a book that needs writing since stories abound if you start asking around in the area.
So at some point after a bunch of cheap beer and a little good whiskey (I brought the whiskey!) my brother and I decide to go find some seafood. We ended up across the street from the old Red’s Tavern site in a place called “High Tide Cafe”.
I was skeptical, having spent many cold winter days in Charleston crabbing from the docks and in those days one was lucky to find anything beyond soggy French fries and yesterday’s fish, deep friend in old oil. But despite the exterior with its look of older Charleston, the place actually seemed to have some promise once inside. We sat at the bar facing an open kitchen, something you just don’t much see in a dingy tavern.
We were greeted by an appropriately wise-acre server/bartender and he helped me select the first decent beer I had that day, a local amber ale. I guess craft brewing has even penetrated here, a happy surprise! It didn’t take too long to decide what we wanted so with orders in, we settled into our beverages when the next surprise arrived, our cups of house-made clam chowder. This was the most herbal chowder I’d ever had and it surprised my palate. When queried, the bartender made us guess the herb. A heavy dose of thyme gives this chowder its very distinctive flavor. George and I ate about halfway through our meals and then swapped plates. Mine…a fried razor clam dish with fresh garden summer squash thoughtfully enough prepared to really capture my attention. How veggies are cooked and presented is one of my real tests of culinary care. There are a lot of good cooks out there in the world and many can put together an entree. But the sides can tell more about an actual love of good food. George’s dish was a seafood pasta, a creamy take on an Alfredo dish with plenty of crab, shrimp and clams.
Not one to shirk a responsibility (to you, dear reader), I struck up a conversation with the chef as a short lull in filling orders ensued. Turns out he was a former chef at one of my favorite hangouts during my Portland Saturday Market days, Jazz de Opus and Opus Two which “…became a cultural nexus…” that “was known around the country as the Oregon version of the Village Vanguard, the fabled New York club, and it contributed to Portland’s reputation as a thriving jazz city.”, according to the Oregon Encyclopedia! Both closed in 2003 and it was an end of an era.
Chef Steve Raplee is doing it right, right now at the High Tide Cafe, in Charleston. We got to reminiscing about the Opus era and when I asked him what the heck he was doing in Charleston, he simply replied, “getting out of Portland.” I understand…getting out of Eugene was why I was in Charleston that evening too. Free Beer, Tomorrow! is the logo worn on staff t-shirts but I’m happy to pay for my beer and meal today and any day that the food is this well prepared!
Shout out to you Chef! We survived Portland in the 70’s-80’s and now on to doing our different things, making the world a better place, one meal, and one piece of jewelry at a time.
My recent post, “Finding a Voice”, seemed to be a topic of interest based on the response I received over various media. It is both encouraging and delightful to have good feedback and thoughtful comments, thank you everyone!
One of the more interesting comments was through LinkedIn, from Dan Christie…
”Nice article Gary. It is difficult as a custom designer, as you are always finding someone else’s voice. The plus side is, it makes you very well versed in many styles.”
I wholeheartedly agree with Dan’s last statement. In my view, constantly working within or toward someone else’s expectations by doing custom work tends to broaden my horizon rather than limit it. Here’s how I put it to a current client in an email in response to his concern, “Are you tired of us yet?”
“Au contraire! I’m enjoying working with you a lot!!
I know that a lot of creative people only want to do their “own” thing but for some reason I find it very exciting to work with people to help them realize “their” vision while maintaining my standards of aesthetic and integrity. I find that it helps me to grow in ways that I might not discover on my own and somehow that is very satisfying to me. And a very huge advantage of that is that for me is that I can then apply what I’ve learned on an occasional vision of my own.”
And I think Dan’s first comment brings up a good topic for further discussion. I’m pretty sure I know what Dan means here, and I think mostly I would agree with the sense of what he’s saying. When you do custom work, you are indeed realizing your client’s vision and working within parameters that they define. But are you really finding your client’s voice when you are doing custom work? I think maybe not, at least in the sense with which I use the term “Voice”. Let me try to find an analogy for a more clear understanding of my use of “Voice”.
Amy Winehouse, a tragic loss no matter how you feel about her untimely death, covered a song by the Shirelles, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”. Check out both versions…(Shirelles here, Amy’s version here.) This is obviously the same song but I think an argument could be made that the “Voice” is entirely different in the two versions.
One of my favorite all-time poems is by Rudyard Kipling, called “If” I have read, and reread that poem as it hangs on my office wall, inspiring me in times of struggle, and helping me to remember humility in times of triumph with his line, “And treat those two imposters just the same.” When I first heard that Joni Mitchell did a musical version of that poem on her album, Shine, I was apprehensive to hear it. But her voice, and her more gender neutral spin on some of the lyrics, are a delight and in this case, her “Voice” seems to do nothing but enhance the message of that wise poem.
And so it goes with custom jewelry design. Several jewelry artists could approach the same materials and concept and applying their unique “Voice” would no doubt render quite unique results. My point in bringing this into a discussion about CAD is that it may be more difficult to find a voice within that medium than, say, carving wax since one has to break out of the “computer mind” within the parameters of the design application to actually find their voice!
I would love to hear more about what you all think about this. Please don’t hesitate to reply or respond, wherever you see this post, or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to further discussion!
We all need it. To refresh, renew and revitalize ourselves is an often overlooked necessity for optimal performance. How to do it is probably different for each individual and at least somewhat contingent on location and available time. For some it may mean going to a movie, for others, a hard workout. And the process can take minutes, days or months, depending on a lot of factors. Here at Gary Dawson Jewelry Design we are proactive in allowing ourselves the opportunity to revitalize to give you the best, most creative jewelry design service available anywhere!
First, I take a little personal time every day. Sometimes it takes the form of a nap, but most often lately it manifests as a long walk. I try to put in somewhere between 20-30 miles a week. This has several benefits. Recent research indicates that walking may be some of the best mental acuity medicine that exists. Dr. Gary Small writes in Psychology Today, “In a study of more than 18,000 older women for example, Harvard researchers found that 90 minutes a week of brisk walking, or approximately 15 minutes a day, was all one needed to delay cognitive decline and reduce possible risk for future Alzheimer’s disease. University of Pittsburgh scientists found that the more that older people walked, the better their cognitive abilities and the larger their brain. A larger brain is associated with a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease.”
I’m fortunate that I can walk in a rural setting because I can take my smart phone with me and make a lot of my daily business calls during these walks without fighting traffic noise or look up items of interest without worrying about being run over. My walks take a little over an hour and I can accomplish a lot of my more simple daily communication during this time and still have plenty of fairly serene time by just turning the phone off when I’m done with it.
I also need the occasional longer break and for this nearby wilderness areas afford a priceless luxury. Recently, an overnight of car camping in the Willamette National Forest at Waldo Lake, about a 2 hour drive from my home, provided for skinny dipping in some of the most pure waters on the planet. The chilly dip in gin-clear water followed by hugging a sun-warmed rock was a good grounding point and allowed me to hit the ground running when I arrived back at my overloaded desk.
A short stop at Salt Creek Falls on the way home was a perfect finish to our long weekend!
Remember this, a key factor often lost in our contemporary world is that by taking good care of yourself, you will position yourself to better take care of those that depend on you. That’s why the airlines remind you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others, and that’s why it’s ok to be a little selfish with your time. So don’t feel bad about it, go take a hike! (Or go to that movie you want to see!)
And know that here at Gary Dawson Jewelry Design, we are refreshed and ready to take on your custom design jewelry project with vigor!
This is the finished ring from a dream mentioned in my last blog post!
Platinum ring with rough diamond macle and love-knot shank. This project represents a solid “voice”. You can see this and many other custom projects on my portfolio page.
Many, if not most artists are encouraged to “find their voice” early in their career, especially if they begin their career in an academic venue. Finding a voice in that context usually means discovering, or adopting a recognizable style and then working exclusively within that style. This, they are told, is the road to commercial success.
A rare few manage to establish themselves to the point that they can then stretch that style, or even successfully adopt another style and not lose their following or their “voice”. Picasso is a classic example of an artist that was able to transition through several styles or “periods” from his very early academic realism to what may have become his most commonly recognized style, cubism.
Specializing in custom design jewelry has presented an interesting challenge with regard to finding a voice. As a custom designer my “style” has always been necessarily eclectic. One client wants something floral and busy, another wants something clean, simple and bold. Yet another wants a “futuristic” design while the next one desires something that looks antique. Finding a voice within the cacophony of client desires can be challenging indeed! And yet, I felt I had achieved a voice of sorts many years ago when clients began telling me that they could recognize one of my rings when they saw it. I like to think that within many “styles” I had achieved an elegance of execution that made my work distinctive. The feedback and success with which I was rewarded seemed to confirm that premise.
Enter CAD… (Computer Aided Design)
I had been fascinated by the prospect of computer design for a number of years before I actually embraced it. Finding a voice, a new voice perhaps, with a whole new approach to the design process was intimidating in many of the same ways that learning a new language can be. It is difficult for someone that is very fluid in their native language to accept the fact that for some time during the process of adapting a new language that they will communicate like a 3 yr. old…at best! And I took a road that was, in its implementation, perhaps more difficult. There are many jewelry-specific design applications that make the design process easier but may ultimately make it harder to find a voice in that they compel one to use the same pre-forms in creating a design, the same algorithms that everyone else using that application is using. For the same reason that I refused to look in jewelry store windows when I began my design career, I chose a bare-bones design application, Rhinoceros, which allowed me to find my way without necessarily walking down a well-worn jewelry path!
I was lucky in that once I embrace the CAD process, I was able to integrate it into my design schedule a little at a time, using it first to make the simplest objects, ones that did not necessarily require much of a “voice”. A simple band, for example, with a phrase.
A signet ring, with an established design on one surface…
As time has progressed, with many more hours invested into the CAD experience I am extremely delighted to find that I am finding my voice within this new language of CAD!
I dreamed this design recently and executed the design immediately after waking. It is now available on my site and is called the “Inter-dimensional Portal Key”