Jason York, better known as "The York", is a metalsmith living and working in Smithville, Tennessee in his third and final year as a resident artist at the Appalachian Center for Craft. He received his BFA from Iowa State University and his MFA from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. York was a 2011 NICHE award recipient. He has experience working for other artists, teaching, and with commissions.
Please give a short bio of the path you have taken to your current state in life through education, employment, residencies, and other artistic ventures.
I went to Iowa State University thinking I wanted to be a graphic designer. That is just the way kids are pushed if they like art. It is art related and you can actually get a real job in it. After working my ass off the first year preparing to apply to the program with a decent portfolio and resume I was one of the 50% of the applicants who were accepted. I had never worked in graphic design and soon found out what a mistake I had made. After one year of hating my life I decided it simply wasn't for me. Down in the dumps and lost as ever I went into the design building's art gallery, saw a wall sconce by Stephanie Ellis and said to myself "that looks cool, maybe I'll try that". The next year I did. I took Intro to Metals with Joe Muench and loved it.
During my last year of school I got a part time job working for Riddles Jewelry in the local mall. I more or less applied with a teapot I had made in Joe's class as a testament to my level of craft and they hired me. They sent me to Sioux Falls for a week of training and the next thing I knew I was a bench jeweler. I had to quit after a year though because the store wasn't big enough for two jewelers. They offered me a job at a different store, but I said no thanks as I had schoolwork to finish.
After graduation, I found a wholesale repair jeweler in Des Moines, IA. Again, the tea set came in handy as a third resume. I worked at Iowa Jewelers Supply for six months and then received an out of the blue phone call from J. Cotter Studio in Vail, Colorado. He had ties to Iowa State and was looking for another jeweler. Although, I wasn't looking for a job it just seemed too good an opportunity to pass. So, I packed my life into my 1990 Dodge Daytona and headed for the mountains. This was a short-lived endeavor as extenuating circumstances forced me into quitting and moving on. I went to nearby Eagle, Colorado to work at a place called Iron Images. We made simple fireplace gates, railings, and wall sculptures. I worked there for a year and then had a falling out over artist’s ownership rights and such. The owner and I agreed it was time for me to move on, so I went back and worked for Jim Cotter again. I am really glad I did. Had a great time the second time around and learned a lot. Jim is an artist/jeweler specializing in odd materials and non-typical stones.
After my second year in Colorado I decided I wanted to teach so I attended Southern Illinois University. I dabbled in blacksmithing for a while before going back the world of tiny and shiny things. I just can't work efficiently on a large scale as I am too precise and can't let little details go on a larger scale. The smaller I work, the better.
After graduation I was offered the residency position here at the Appalachian Center for Craft. August will mark the end of my second year and I plan on staying for my third and final year.
Cause and Effect. 3”x2”x3”. argentium sterling, stainless tea spoon, coffee, sugar, creamer, formed, fabricated. 2010.
How where you financially able to make things work during your journey to where you are now? (teaching, unrelated jobs, selling of your work, financial support from a partner or family, loans…. please be as general or specific as you are comfortable with)
In undergrad I worked summers as a roofer. This paid for the bulk of my non-school related expenses. My parents paid half of my rent in undergrad. In graduate school I was awarded a full tuition waiver and had either a quarter or half time assistantship. I currently teach one section of Introduction to Metals each semester and work security at the Craft Center 1-3 days a week. I do sell my own work, but that has been irregular so I don't depend on it. It serves more as a bonus here and there.
Cause and Effect.
Please estimate the break down of the percentage of your time (in a week or month) spent in your studio, at related jobs, unrelated jobs, marketing, working with galleries, craft fairs, time with family and friends, or other relevant categories.
20hrs working as studio tech for ACC
10hrs working security
10-30 hrs working on my own work or commissions
10 hrs a week teaching during school year
The rest of my time is for fun and sleeping.
Looking back at the opportunities you have had which do you feel have directed or benefited your current path the most? Are there things you would have done differently, opportunities you would not have taken, bigger risks you would have made, etc?
I nearly went into sports journalism. Had I not gotten into graphic design, I would have gone into writing. I still wish I had done that instead of going into art.
Cockroach Coffin. 3.5”x3”x2.5." sterling silver, copper, steel, concrete, cockroach, fabricated with cast concrete. 2010.
Where do you hope your career will be in five years? (Especially in relationship to the breakdown of your time spent in the studio, at related jobs, unrelated jobs, teaching, with family. Are there galleries you hope to be in? Have a solo exhibition? Have studio employees, bookkeeper, etc?)
This is an excellent question that I struggle with almost daily. What do I want to do and what steps do I have to take to make it happen? I still haven't been able to answer the first part.
In what ways has your current residency affected your work?
Having a residency has affected my work in a number of ways. Unlike graduate school where I had an assistantship and some loans now I have to find creative ways to make money. Because of that I find myself seeking commission work more aggressively. It is not always the most exciting, but I will usually take anything I can get because it sure beats nailing shingles to someone's house. I end up making a lot of engagement rings and wedding bands. I am currently working on making some very large plant stands out of iron.
In terms of my personal work, the residency has affected it as well. I just recently put up a show called The Pearl Relocation Program (http://www.jasontheyork.com/the-pearl-relocation-program.html). This is in the same vein as what I really enjoy making, but with a more "retail" twist. I enjoy making boxes designed around existing objects. Normally these objects are from some part of my life or me. With the PRP I catered a bit to what the masses stereotypically enjoy, pearls and shiny objects. The idea behind this show was to strike a balance with what I enjoy making, and what (hopefully) would have a better chance selling. I did find that this didn't entirely work though. I certainly did not enjoy making these as much as my regular works because it was so much less personal. I really do enjoy they way they turned out and I am glad I went through the painful experience of constructing (backless) 3-dimensional forms out of granulation, but I am ready to go back to my regular work.
Pearl Box (Large Sphere), silver, pearl, granulation, formed, fabricated, 1-5/8" Round. 2011.
What type of opportunities/benefits have you had from being apart of a longer term (2-3yr) residency program?
The biggest benefit for me would probably be the time itself. I have found that I have a hard time acclimating to new places. And until you are comfortable, how can you make your best work? It took me the better part of a year to really feel anchored here. Now that I am, I have been making better work and have been more productive. I don't think I could go into a one-year program and really be as prolific as I'd like to be. It is nice to not feel stressed about finding a new job right away, but I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. At least I can concentrate on my work and not worry until year three which I will begin in August.
It is also nice to get to know the faculty and students here. It takes a while for people to warm up to me and for me to warm up to them. I don't think I give the most personable first impression, so it is nice to have time to build relationships with the people around here.
Other advantages include being involved with students longer to see them progress and being involved with the summer workshop program. I am also really glad that I have had the time to explore the area. It is absolutely beautiful here and there are lots of outdoor activities locally if you look for them.
Would you pursue other residencies in the future?
Absolutely! Why would anyone want to join the rigors of real life when you can delay it and make art that you want to make?
Be sure to view more of Jason's work on his website at http://www.jasontheyork.com/index.html.