As most of you know, I spent the month of January in Dakar, Senegal training with a master goldsmith. It was an amazing experience for many reasons, not the least of which is that it's not a usual occurrence. If you followed me on social media, you know that I learned so much in that short time but that there was so much more to absorb. Many of you also rightly remarked on how blessed I was to have been afforded the opportunity. Well, the master goldsmith has invited me back to apprentice with him full-time for six months starting in June, 2018! Humbled and grateful can't describe what an honor and a privilege it is to be afforded this opportunity. Though they have a saying in Senegal that "women don't wield the hammer", the invitation to study full-time for six months is a dream come true in many ways.
In Senegal, women polish the metal and they sell finished jewelry/art but they don't become metalsmiths. In point of fact, I was/am amazingly fortunate that I found someone who is willing to train me in traditional methods. It got me thinking about how this vocation is really not open to women in many ways, in many cultures. The outgrowth of the opportunity is that I've begun working on a project that I'm calling "We Wield the Hammer". I'm looking at ways to bring this very same opportunity to women and girls, starting in my own community. I understand very clearly that self-sufficiency and autonomy start with self-assurance. It also starts with access. I am a self-taught metalsmith and I have now created an opportunity to be trained by a long time master. But other women and girls don't get that same opportunity; many don't even understand that it's a vocation that exists. The creativity is extraordinary and really buoys the spirit, but the possibilities are enormous for independent living and self-sufficiency. So my traditional training [which is significant because it relies on time-worn methods and equipment that is easily obtained everywhere] has afforded me the blessing of being able to "pass it on". In that vein, I'm incubating the project that I hope to begin work on at a non-profit in downtown Oakland at year's end.
I see my work as a metalsmith as threefold: to get as good as I can; to train other women and girls in this ancient and beautiful vocation; and to beautify the world with my works. My apprenticeship is OUR apprenticeship; my access is OUR access, my successes are OUR successes.
This fundraiser has been set to cover the cost of a roundtrip flight and tools/supplies for my time there. I genuinely and deeply appreciate your support.