Interview with Anne Wolf 3/20/2021
Anne Wolf has been teaching jewelry/metalwork classes and creating custom mokume-gane wedding rings, jewelry and one-of-a-kind metal art objects since 1991. After receiving her MFA in Jewelry/Metals from San Diego State University in 1999, Anne Wolf taught at Southwestern College in Chula Vista CA, teaching jewelry/metals, art history and 3D design for 11 years.
Since 2007 she has focused on the traditional Japanese metalworking technique called mokume gane. Her work has been shown across the U.S. and in international venues such as the Deutsches Goldschmiedehaus in Hanau, Germany and the Tsubame Industrial Materials Museum in Tsubame, Japan.
Tell us about a project (or projects) you are working on.
The mokume gane work done in the Edo period of Japan was highly advanced – many patterning secrets have been lost. I have researched and rediscovered some of the ancient ways of patterning. My next big project is to recreate an Edo period tsuba (Japanese sword guard) by duplicating a pattern not done since the late 18th Century – cherry blossoms on water. This sort of precision in mokume gane patterning is almost unheard of these days, but I think I’ve figured it out. I’ve done smaller samples, just working on scaling up the process.
How has this ongoing pandemic affected your work/practice?
During lockdown I’ve had more time in my studio, but pandemic stress makes creativity difficult. I made one good art piece, a ring called “Uncertain Moorings”, that reflects the feeling of the time – it was accepted into an online exhibition and sold, so that felt good. I also started a lot of pieces, but found it difficult to finish and make good design decisions. My custom ring business has been going great – people are still getting married, and with no reception or honeymoon costs, couples have more of a budget for rings!
When did your journey as an art maker/administrator/etc. begin?
Honestly, I knew I would be an artist since I was 14, when I visited a ceramics studio where my babysitter was taking classes. I was instantly enthralled at how the clay could be molded, how the artist’s vision could become reality. I spent the next 10 years working in clay, only switching to metal in graduate school.
What/who are some of your greatest influences?
My greatest mentor is Helen Shirk, Jewelry/Metals professor at SDSU for 30 years. Her voice is always with me while I am at the bench, making sure every piece I make is the absolute best it can be.
I am also influenced by our earth and geologic processes. It is important to me to create my work with the traditional hand tools that allow me time to see the work as it progresses, to focus in on the small details. This process to me is a meditation, but also a form of connection to the planet, to nature, to time. Every shape I create, every hour I spend sanding or hammering the metal, is just a shadow, an imitation of what nature does every day. My humble imitation of nature is my way of paying tribute. The metal technique of mokume gane is especially meaningful in this regard – as I pattern the metal, my tools are imitating the geologic processes of our earth. My chisel is the river, carving through the rock. My hammer is metamorphosis, compressing and deforming. My stamp tool is uplift. My file is erosion, making the patterns visible like the layers of rock in the grand canyon.
Lastly, is there any advice or wisdom you’d like to provide to rising artists/arts leaders?
Slow down, focus in, work by hand so you can truly see and get to know the details of the work you make. Keep looking for the technique, subject or specialty that you love doing and are good at.