September Visiting Artist: Keta Handmade

We are so excited to welcome the work of Keta Handmade to the shop for our September Visiting Artist Residency. Michelle, of Keta Handmade, is joining us for a very important month, as we celebrate Moon + Arrow's ten year anniversary we are honoring our past and looking towards the future with friends old and new.

We are so inspired by Michelle's work and words. We sat down with her to talk art, inspiration and jewelry making. 

Q: What is the meaning behind the name of your business?

Back in 2017, when I was looking to rebrand my self-titled business, Michelle Lattner Jewelry, I took to the internet to seek inspiration through words and imagery.  After weeks and weeks of researching, manipulating, and reconsidering every word I've ever known, I came across The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig.  It’s a project he started around 2006 as a website and YouTube channel that lists “fake” words that define very real emotions that are hard to describe yet are easy to relate to. 

In this long list of made-up words, I came across Keta.

/KAY-tah/ n. an image that inexplicably leaps back into your mind from the distant past.

This definition stopped me.  It made me think about how, as makers and humans, we are constantly influenced by forms and ideas we encounter.  When we consume art, architecture, or nature, consciously or subconsciously, we’re always absorbing what we see and experience. Sometimes it will influence us in direct ways, allowing us to make an informed connection to its source material. Other times, an idea will come out of nowhere and, perhaps without realizing it, it will be influenced by something from our past, personal or collective. I believe that no one creates in a vacuum; everything and everyone can be influenced and/or can be influential. I never think of this as a bad thing, per-se, but I try to be cognizant of this while creating new pieces. I try to be aware of my experiences that may influence what I make, constantly pushing myself further to create something truly original while acknowledging the past and what inspires me.

Q: Tell us the story of when you began making jewelry?

I’ve always enjoyed making things. For as long as I can remember, I’ve said I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I dabbled in many art forms throughout my childhood into adulthood, ranging from traditional painting to photography to pottery and printmaking.  In high school, I found some footing in my AP art classes, as I felt very attracted to and comfortable with the abstract forms and mixed media pieces that I was creating. Art has always been a mainstay in my life, but it took me a while to understand how I would make a career from any specific medium.

Though I encountered jewelry a few times in those high school art classes, I never really thought much of it until I was in college at Tyler School of Art at Temple University.  After a rigorous freshman foundation year followed by a sophomore year full of art electives that felt exciting and fulfilling, my anxiety grew over what to declare as a major.  I loved every class I was taking, filling my desires for abstract forms and intricate designs in printmaking, ceramics, and metals alike.  But I had to choose, so I mulled over the possibilities that each major could provide until the last possible second.

One evening after a long day in the studios, I saw the senior class from the metals department setting up for their show, and it was like I had an epiphany.  They were polishing the tops of their cases and carefully placing their work within.  The cases were thick, protective acrylic boxes, similar to something you would see at an art museum, showcasing their countless hours of labor and skill.  Each piece sparkled and told a story through its intricate design. At that moment, I thought, “I want to do that.”  I was in complete awe at the things that people could create, redefining what I thought “jewelry” was my entire life while simultaneously humbling me by how much there was to learn.  From that moment, I knew the Metals/Jewelry/CAD-CAM department was for me. Jewelry and metal-smithing offered me a path to create tangible works of art that could adorn the body, cross cultures, and become timeless heirlooms, and that intrigued me.

Q: What have been your biggest takeaways from starting this business so far? Triumphs and challenges.

I’ve always enjoyed making things.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve said I wanted to be an artist when I grew up.  Throughout my childhood into adulthood, I dabbled in many art forms ranging from traditional painting to photography to pottery and printmaking.  In high school, I found some footing in my AP art classes, as I felt very attracted to and comfortable with the abstract forms and mixed media pieces that I was creating. Art has always been a mainstay in my life, but it took me a while to understand how I would make a career from any specific medium. 

Though I encountered jewelry a few times in those high school art classes, I never really thought much of it until I was in college at Tyler School of Art at Temple University.  After a rigorous freshman foundation year followed by a sophomore year full of art electives that felt exciting and fulfilling, my anxiety grew over what to declare as a major.  I loved every class I was taking, filling my desires for abstract forms and intricate designs in printmaking, ceramics, and metals alike.  But I had to choose, so I mulled over the possibilities that each major could provide until the last possible second.

One evening after a long day in the studios, I saw the senior class from the metals department setting up for their show, and it was like I had an epiphany.  They were polishing the tops of their cases and carefully placing their work within.  The cases were thick, protective acrylic boxes, similar to something you would see at an art museum, showcasing their countless hours of labor and skill.  Each piece sparkled and told a story through its intricate design.  At that moment, I thought, “I want to do that.”  I was in complete awe at the things that people could create, redefining what I thought “jewelry” was my entire life, while simultaneously humbling me by how much there was to learn.  From that moment, I knew the Metals/Jewelry/CAD-CAM department was for me.  Jewelry and metal-smithing offered me a path to create tangible works of art that could adorn the body, cross cultures, and become timeless heirlooms, and that intrigued me.

I still find jewelry and metalwork a very exciting and rewarding form of art, but I’ve also been allowing myself time to experiment with different mediums, wholly aware that I am a better artist when I stay curious and challenge myself.

Q: We love your etched jewelry. Can you explain to us your process and how you create such unique pieces? 

The etching process is really fun!  It’s been a great way to meld my interests in abstract 2D design with wearable jewelry that has dimension and movement—they kind of turn into little works of art, each one-of-a-kind.

For etching onto base metals, the process is pretty simple. With a sheet of bronze as my blank canvas, I do my best to decide how I want the pieces to be, drawing out the initial shapes before adding more detailing and finer lines.  The ink I use on the metal acts as a resist to my etchant, ferric chloride, which etches away the metal that is left exposed. The inked sections will be the higher parts of my designs, while the un-inked sections get etched away, creating recesses in the surface.  After this texture is etched into the metal, I cut the pieces into the shapes I want, and I often use a patina to highlight the contrast on the surface.  Like a lot of my art, I create these etched designs intuitively, letting the shapes dictate what compositions I’ll put together.  I’m drawn to asymmetry, which lends itself well to this looser style of making.

Q: What is your driving force - your inspiration?

I am totally inspired by nature and this Earth that we live on. I am constantly in awe of its beauty and resilience while also heartbroken almost daily by the things it’s endured and witnessed.  

That being said, I work every day to try and make this world a better place, to try to keep that heartbreak at bay.  Whether it’s by offering little pieces of artwork or by using my business to support organizations that I believe in, I am inspired by giving back and leaving my best impression.  Especially considering my life as an adopted Asian American, I recognize that I am extremely lucky to be where I am, and I want to use whatever platform I have to restore some beauty while I coax the good out of the people around me.

Q: As Moon + Arrow turns 10 years old, we are curious to know where you see Keta in 10 years?

I see Keta morphing and growing with the years but staying committed to helping the world and my community with a focus on philanthropy in all forms.  I hope that my business grows into a space that can accommodate other like-minded people, ideally amplifying the lives of women and people of color.  I truly believe that so much can be achieved when people are inspired, so I am optimistic that Keta will continue to reach those in need of some inspiration and hope.

1 comment

I am so impressed by what you wrote and sad that I never asked those questions. I am so proud of you and all that you do to make this world a better place. You inspire me to do more for our society and for our area.

Julie lattner September 20, 2021

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