Talking with Arthur Hash

Episode #180

Today I talk with Arthur Hash.

Arthur is a metal artist as well as the Instructional Support Technician, for the Metal Program State University of New York, New Paltz, New York.

Interesting title for a fascinating job, plus Arthur is incredibly generous sharing his knowledge.

Plus a creative new App I got for my iPad.

I love Grace Mclean’s music and you get to hear her new song; Cabbie Landlord

Use the link to buy her album.

Arthur Hash Interview Transcription

Alison Lee: Well you are going to be thrilled hearing who I'm going to be talking to today. It's always exciting to talk to interesting, fascinating people. Today's guest is Arthur Hash Hash. I’m holding his new book he just curated called "Push Jewelry: 30 Artists Explore the Boundaries of Jewelry" It's totally fabulous. And he currently manages both the metal studio and the digital fabrication lab, I love that title, for the finer performing arts department at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Arthur thank you so much for coming on.

Arthur: Oh you're welcome. Thank you so much for having me.

Alison: Now, let’s just fill everyone in a little bit of your background so they know how you got at least to this place.

Arthur: Sure. I can start at the beginning. I have my BFA in crafts, materials studies from Virginia Commonwealth University and then my MSA in metalsmithing and jewelry design from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. And then from there, kinda had a bunch of random jobs within the field and kinda eventually landed here at New Paltz in the metals department.

Alison: Random jobs usually are the ones that are most telling about people. Because you are usually learning something fabulous from it. What was your most random job?

Alison: My most random job? I was the night auditor at a hotel. for a summer where I worked from midnight till 7:00 am which was pretty intense. I mean for the most part, the odd people that would come in it was kind of interesting job to have for my age at the time.

Alison: And are you someone that always been making things. Is that you?

Arthur: I think so. I mean I do have a fond memory of my parents dropping us off at my grandmother's house. We had kind of like a craft day. I think it was her attempt to occupy time so we weren’t sitting in front of the television the whole time and we'd make Christmas ornaments and random things. I'd like to think that sort of inspired me maybe to continue making with my hands.

Alison: So you liked it when you did that? I tried to get my son to do that with me. It didn’t go well at all. He was not interested. Did you like the whole process?

Arthur: Yes, it was great. You know she'd let us watch TV as well but she definitely had an allocated time for us to do this creative thing. And of course, there was everything else involved. Like you know we'd go outside and play as well. As time went on, I found myself kind of lest interested in kind of normal academic pursuits and then kind of found out about going to art school for college. And it kind of opened up all new doors and avenues to go down and it was just pretty exciting. It seemed like a perfect fit for me.

Alison: And was it the process or the finished result that interested you?

Arthur: I think initially it was probably the process. Like when you are younger or a young artist especially kind of in your foundation years in art school, college, you are like a sponge. Absorbing this and this is great. Now I want to do this. You know. So I don’t know if I gravitated towards metal because of its an errand of preciousness or maybe more so towards jewelry because you get to wear art. You get to keep it with you and walk around with it and it's just a great thing to have and hold. Difficult to wear a large painting. So I think that's probably why I went in that direction.

Alison: And you knew you were hooked right? You knew you were in the right place right away.

Arthur: Oh yes. Absolutely. It was an interesting way to get there but I think everyone depending on what university you go to whether or not they have a metals department or a jewelry department or even like crafts as whole. I think people just gravitate towards what they feel that their successful in and what they are interested in.

Alison: Yeah. I loved art school. What did you stay up all night doing? I can see you like you were up somewhere.

Arthur: I stayed up all night in my beginning years of metal, I stayed up all night doing metalsmithing. So a lot of raising. And I think it was mostly because I was excited but also because like I think people got really annoyed with me because it's very loud plus lots of hammering. And so they kind of liked it that I was doing it in the middle of the night. Because they didn’t have to hear it during the day. And no one was there and I got the whole studio to myself so it was wonderful.

Alison: Do you still do that ever? I sort of longingly think back of like staying up all night was the darkroom. I was in school for photography. Yes. That all-night doing feeling. I wonder if that only happens in college?

Arthur: You know I thought about that. I think now that I am older it still happens but it doesn’t happen as much. I'll find some process or project or peace that I really will be excited about and I really am into it and then all of a sudden I look at the clock and its 4 am. It does happen still but not as much. I just don’t have maybe the stamina to do it every night.

Alison: Right. I think that's what it is too. I always know it’s bad when you see 2 am. If you [inaudible] to 2 am it's not going to go well for the rest of the night. You might as well give up at that point.

Arthur: Yeah. Now that you are older, you are smart enough to know that if things are not working at 4 or 2am it's time to stop.

Alison: Right. Exactly. It's time to lie down for a while. Well now in your current job, I love that the title official is "The Metal Studio" and I love this part "the digital fabrication lab". Is this an accurate sort of take? I look and I see now sort of with great longing I would jump back to college in a second, but I see how now the metals program you really have to be into your, which I am, computer skills and the whole digital part to really be part of the metals program. Is that correct?

Arthur: I wouldn’t say that it's accurate. Well, again it's one avenue to pursue. I think here at New Paltz and most universities we try to give everything to our students like every opportunity and it's becoming the digital fabrication or digital tools are becoming more and more something that they need to know when they get out of school. So I think we are doing our duty to expose them to other ways of making. And we give them a choice, it’s not a necessary thing or a requirement. They can come through the metals program and still stay completely traditional and never touch a computer except for email. But it is an option. It's something. The digital lab isn’t a department in the university but it is a place to go to, to experiment with certain techniques and equipment that they wouldn’t have normal access too.

Alison: Right. And do you find that an exciting area to work in?

Arthur: Yeah. Well you know initially I think when I finished, I started dabbling in grad school and I think once I got out of grad school I took the path that everyone else does or traveled the same task in the sense that you know you get out of school and you are like "Well I got to find a job. I don’t have any money. I don’t have a studio!" I had a computer. So it gave me the opportunity to still make but using a computer. You know the [] print thing and all of the laser cutting and all of the things I learned and did was just a product of my circumstance [] you know. And it became like a real part of my work and develop alongside other traditional skills that I learned through going to school for metals.

Alison: Can you just explain to us. I mean I was reading on your blog you just got back from visiting Norway and you were talking about their school there and I was just looking at the list of some of their things and I believe you have a lot of them too at your school there but it said there were five 3D printers, two laser cuts, a waterjet, a CSC I have no idea what that is and two 3D skinners. It was like a partridge in a pear tree. I don’t even know like, can you just like give us the overview of what for, you know the simple breakdown definition of what all those things are and what you can do with them.

Arthur: Of course. I mean maybe what I'll do is tell you what we have here because it’s pretty much the same but just paired down. So I'll start with the 3D printer which is becoming very popular these days with a lot of metals because the 3D printers normally are an additive process where it actually generates an object using either a powder or a plastic extrusion and the print that we have actually prints an object layer by layer. So if you can envision almost like how a spiral hand is made up of layers of hand to make like the whole hand, it's very similar to that. So there are layers of plastic layered on top each other to make an object. But metals people there are other 3D printers that actually print the same way but in wax. And so you can go directly from wax. So it's another reason why a lot of metals people like the digital stuff.

Alison: So you can work in a digital program like CAT or something and then you print it out as a wax and then you can go have it as lost wax

Arthur: Exactly. Or if its prints in another material like plastic, you can make a rubber mold from it and then go on from there. Another machine that we use very often. It's kind of our workhorse, our laser cutter engraver.

Alison: And that does what?

Arthur: That's a very power laser. It's almost maybe 100 times the power of like a laser pointer and it actually will cut to engrave material. So you can do things like, I don’t know. Some of the things we use it for in the metals program is cutting Plexiglas for doing hydraulic press. Or some of the things I have been experimenting with is actually using the laser to engrave []. So the laser will burn or fire at about 2100 degrees Fahrenheit. Enamel normally burns or fires on a [], that 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. So the 2100 degrees actually selectively over fires the enamel. So it becomes almost a new way of mark-making on enamel. But you know we use it for packaging design, you can cut cardboard, you can do dye cutting, you can cut fabric. So it's a pretty versatile machine.

Alison: And it can cut very fine line correct?

Arthur: Oh very fine. [] the thickness of a human hair. But our laser cutter is not powerful enough to cut metal. So the students in the metals program are challenged kind of to use this equipment creatively or [] laser cutter creatively to get to their final product. But other programs or majors such as painting or textiles or fashion design or graphic design will use it all day long for other kinds of things. So it's pretty exciting. Every day a student will come and they'll bring something and say "I'm going to cut this and make this crazy thing!" and it’s pretty exciting to be part of that.

Alison: I've seen the garments and the material that's done with laser cutting and its incredible looking.

Arthur: Yeah. it’s a pretty amazing thing. I kind of wish that I had my own. One day I'll have.

Alison: Your own laser cutter?

Arthur: They can be quite expensive but another machine that we have that you mentioned is the CNC.

Alison: What's that?

Arthur: CNC stands for Computer Numerical Controlled. So it pretty much means that the machine [] you run by computer. Our machine is a CNC router so if you can imagine like a router, like a wood router attached to your gantry system that moves x, y, and z and you would again model something in CAD and place a block of material on the bed of the router and router will count and actually 3D cut that object out of your block of wood. So the 3D printer would be the additive process and the CNC would be a subtractive process.

Alison: Got it. Interesting. Oh Yes.

Arthur: And of course there are a million little [] for all of those machines, different bits, different materials you can cut.

Alison: Oh I can see staying up very late with something like that. And then a 3D, go ahead.

Arthur: I was just saying metals people, I normally speaking to metals because that's like just what I know but they tend to be kind of these like tool nerds right? They kind of want to know every little detail of every little tool right? Yes. Exactly. Maybe hours spent tinkering with all of these tools you know.

Alison: But don’t you think you have to really know, really just play with a tool before you can start creating? I mean, I don’t know. That's sort of my approach. I would love getting to know my tool and feeling so comfortable that it's an extension of me and then I can start creating.

Arthur: Yeah. That's actually a good way to think about it. But you know truth be told, I kind of describe it before about how my circumstance about not having a studio and the computer allowing me to still create objects. There are dozens and dozens if not hundreds and thousands maybe companies that have 3D printers and laser cutters and I'll cut and print things for you. So you don’t necessarily have to have direct access. But it's still exciting to be there in front of the tool and you know I don’t think I would have been able to stumble upon or think about the enamel with the ways or without actually having a laser.

Alison: Right.
Arthur: So it is on one side it is great to have the tool at your fingertips buts that's kind of the bonus. I'm going to be the [] here and do a little promotion.

Alison: Go for it.

Arthur: But the bonus of being able to come to school at like a university like New Paltz because we have all of that stuff. So it's not just the recruitment thing, it becomes valuable because once they know how their tool will work they don’t necessarily have to [] and they know how to prep their file to send it off to another company, It's pretty exciting.

Alison: And how are, what's the thought process right now of students at the college-age going into something like that? What is the predominate style or thought at this time period on the planet right now? Is it about I'm going to work in the metalsmith area and it’s all about, I don’t know repurposing? or it’s all about being different than someone else? What's the leading dialogue that you hear right now for that age?

Arthur: Oh like kind of maybe like trends?

Alison: It's sort of a trend but you know. Their interest, you know?

Arthur: Now more than ever I think students are becoming more aware of the interaction with objects. You know it's a very exciting time and I want to wax poetic or whatever but there are all of these objects that are brought into our lives within the last 10 years. So it kind of revolutionized how we interact with objects. You know for instance like the iPhone. You know everyone like, Apple becomes the go-to for a lot of people for this but they really have done a good job doing that. The swipe, I have friends who have toddlers and they hand them the iPhone and they know how to navigate on the iPhone better than I do. These actions or how we interact with objects are becoming, they are transforming our lives in a way. And so I think the students are more away of that than I was. And so I think that informs a lot of their decisions as far as making. It's not like a. The best example and it's not a visual example but no one, there's no rewind noise anymore like an audiotape, right? You don’t turn back the record, right? There's no like bring, bring, bring! Answer the phone. That doesn’t exist anymore you know? And that's interesting how some of those things are appearing and they are being replaced with these other things but somehow whoever designed them, they became natural you know. Like that "Oh that makes sense." Swipe to the left. You go left. So I think the students see that and they adapt and they are making very exciting objects not only with the new digital equipment but just like in general to me. I mean it’s pretty exciting.

Alison: Oh I would think so. You know I was just having a flashback when you said that about those sounds remembering when you brought your renting videos from blockbuster and you had to pay extra if you didn’t rewind them.

Arthur: That's right. Exactly. That doesn’t exist for them. So it's like a whole different would and it's exciting, you know.

Alison: I would think so too. And is there something that worries them the most that are predominate in that age at the point or concerns? Not worry but let’s say concerns. I know awareness are a concern.

Arthur: There are major concerns with everybody and not just academia right, like the economy etc. And I think that maybe if I had to guess some other concerns would be choosing what to learn, you know.

Alison: Because it's overwhelming.

Arthur: Yes. There is so much. But to better serve them when they graduate to make themselves more valuable may be in a job market or more valuable in general. That might be a concern but I can only guess. I haven’t actually had. Actually I should probably sit down and ask them what their concerns are. But for the most part, I think that they understand the value of a handcrafted item versus kind of a fabricated item. And so having access to these machines and the tradition there is a difference. They know the difference. They see the difference. I just think that's priceless to me.

Alison: Yeah. That is great. It's interesting but it does need the contrast of both. I don’t think you can appreciate either without it.

Arthur: Right. I mean that's the thing. I think the most successful maybe when they combine both of them together and make this new exciting object that speaks on many different levels to many different people.

Alison: No. It gets me thinking that's all I can say. Well now on another note, let’s talk about your new book "Push Jewelry" that you curated. Now that's a big old project to take on. And did you have a good time doing it?

Arthur: It was quite a large project. I did have a great time doing it. It was a lot of work. You know the publisher did a large amount of the graphic design and then the editing and so they really deserve a lot of the credit. But I’m very happy about how the book came out. I mean it's just amazing.

Alison: Well let me explain a little bit to everyone first of all.

Arthur: Yes, of course.

Alison: They have to go get it. First of all, it's interesting to hold because of its graphically appealing. It has that right shape and when you open it up it's a very sort of new fresh young layout and approach. And then how you curated and found such interesting pieces to show, what did you want to get across you know the feeling that people got when they look through this book in order to pick all these pieces?

Arthur: Well I try to pick pieces that were not something that a normal person would see at a jewelry store or a gallery, like production work. I just really wanted to expose kind of new things to an audience that may not see that. So a lot of the artists were from different aspects, different parts of the world at different levels in their career and then, of course, there is a time frame that passes from the initial choosing I guess or when I initial [] an artist. There is almost like a two-year period and so I guess if I were to do it again I'd pick all different people right. Because it's just all new and you know. So it was pretty exciting to do it and have kind of that time stamp on that period of those things. Not that there are out of date by any stretch of the imagination. I would want the book to be a thousand jewelers instead of just 30.

Alison: It is. It's a timestamp of that time period which is great. It's great for that. And what do you think? Because there are so many different materials used in this book. I mean it's just endless. I mean is there similar material that you tend to be more drawn to than others or are you just open to seeing new materials? Like how do you think?

Arthur: I just wanted to be, the publisher workbooks being very credible especially in contemporary crafts. My vision for the book was to make sure that people knew that it was all valuable. All material. And all languages and all techniques very much important and again the time stamp speaks to that our time currently. What people are making now. So I really tried to make a diverse selection I guess.

Alison: And you did. You did indeed. I'm looking at a piece right now, part of the Berlin Wall in a piece of jewelry here that spins []. It's fascinating. What I love about these kinds of books is it, as an artist myself it kind of makes you just sort of daydream and look through, let your brain wander a bit because you just see things that you might not have thought of before. So it's definitely lots of inspiration. And I'm sure you saw many more pieces that are in this book too because you had edited it obviously.

Arthur: Oh yeah. Of course. Ultimately some of the final decisions were made by the publisher but for each artist, I think I looked at probably 20 images give or take a few and then, of course, there are all of the questions alongside with the publisher to kind of get at the nitty-gritty of like their process or their inspiration. It was just a really exciting process for me because I never had an opportunity to either curate an exhibition or I don’t even know if curate is the right word or not but select artists and kind of group them together.

Alison: Well it looks pretty fabulous to me. Congratulations.

Arthur: Oh great. Oh, thanks so much.

Alison: I love one of these questions. When do you feel that your work is finished? That's always a good one. I'll never forget what an artist told me when I wrestled it to the ground and I know I won. It's like ok, it's done then. Or when it's the deadline is "It's one of those". I think it's one of those interesting questions for people. Well, it's really fascinating. Well just to finish up. Tell us what are you working on personally right now? Travel, speaking? Are you getting to make anything yourself?

Arthur: Yeah. I've got a lot of commitments to exhibitions that I'm trying to finish up pieces for. I'll be teaching a couple of workshops here in the summer which has been pretty exciting. I always love doing that and of course pieces, exhibitions will start happening. Our people will start gearing up for that soon and it will be exciting to see kind of the latest and greatest of metals people here at this university, what they come up with. I'm pretty excited.

Alison: What are you teaching next week? I can tell already. I can tell looking at your website and talking to you but I see you're teaching at Haystack and Penland next year correct?

Arthur: Yeah. Over the summer.

Alison: What will you be teaching there? So people will know.

Arthur: At Haystack they have a new digital facility that was semi-organized I think through MIT and I think we're hopefully going to use a part of that during the class. And then for both workshops, I'm probably going to develop a little bit of, doing some of the enameling. There's still a little bit of planning period now so but there's going to be some exciting things to go along with those places so. Two different workshops but very exciting.

Alison: Oh yes. Plus, you get to be at Haystack. I haven’t been to either but I've talked to people at both and I'm thinking of making it to Haystack this coming year. So maybe I'll see you there. It sounds like a great place. Well, thank you for taking some time out of the studio there and chatting with us. I know people loved hearing all that information and again your book "Push Jewelry: 30 Artists Explore the Boundaries of Jewelry". Great fun. So thank you very much Arthur Hash and I know you have your own website.

Arthur: theartescapeplan.

Alison: Sorry theartescapeplan. And you can come over to the craft cast website to get that link. So thank you very much.

Arthur: Oh thank you.

Episode Notes: 

Grace Mclean/Cabbie Landlord 

Shrink, Shrank, Shrunk by Kathy Sheldon

PUSH Jewelry: 30 Artists Explore the Boundaries of Jewelry by Marthe Le Van and Arthur Hash