Sum & Substance: Hilary Sanders

Sum & Substance: Hilary Sanders

Hilary Sanders Creature Brush

Creature/Brush, 2012, 2mm graphite pencil leads, heatshrink tubing, cotton yarn, nickel silver, 5 x 10 x 5 in.; Photo: Hilary Sanders

“Hilary Sanders created a body of work using graphite to make tactile, organic forms combined with metal, which can be used as drawing implements when worn,” Marilyn da Silva explains. Sanders loves the feel of graphite – even as she laments its fragility and impermanence.

Her training: I received a BFA in jewelry and metal arts from California College of the Arts. I’ve also spent the years since school working for a number of jewelers, and I think of that as another kind of training.

What makes her work unique: Many of my pieces are not quite wearable in the traditional sense (or even beyond the traditional sense), but I feel like they should be considered jewelry, because of the way they were made, the way the materials are treated, and how they are meant to be used. While they are capable of just being small sculptures, their tactility and relationship to the body are some of their most interesting and exciting features.

Why she makes jewelry: Jewelry making is a very natural place of art creation for me. Its size and intimacy is suited to my quiet personality. The conventional tools and processes speak to the part of me that likes to engineer things.

Her biggest challenge: Making pieces that are durable enough to draw with. When the pieces are exhibited, viewers cannot help but try drawing with them when no one is looking. I love that people want to touch them, but I always fear something will break. I know that dissolution of the graphite is inevitable, Hilary Sanders Epiphanies but the pieces were treated so preciously in their making, I haven’t gotten to the point of letting go.

Her biggest reward: The epiphany moments, in which material, design, process, and an idea come together at the same time. My process is nonlinear, and these elements bounce around in my head separately for the longest time, which can be frustrating. When they come together, it’s almost with a sense of relief that I can say to myself, “This is going to work.”

What she’s working on now: Developing more traditional and wearable production lines of jewelry. Also, I’m working up the guts to make larger graphite-based work that I’ve been thinking about for ages.