The Queue: Jennifer Bower

The Queue: Jennifer Bower

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.

Published on Monday, July 26, 2021.
Blog post cover graphic for The Queue featuring Jennifer Bower

Welcome to the Flourish series of The Queue

A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, The Queue introduces you to the artists, curators, organizers, and more featured in the current issue of American Craft. We invite these inspiring individuals to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now.

Jennifer Bower. Portrait courtesy of the artist.

For Jennifer Bower, everyday objects—and moments—have the potential to flourish

Specializing in fine hand engraving, Michigan-based artist Jennifer Bower is featured in the Summer issue of American Craft in "The Art of the Flourish," a feature article exploring the gestures that "elevate craft from a matter of utility to an opportunity for delight and expression." @jbowerengraving

How do you describe your work or practice?
I am a hand engraver. Using a sharp graver tool, I remove slices and curls of metal, leaving behind permanently carved designs. When I engrave, I look at each piece of metal as a blank canvas, creating my designs to best fit that canvas. Something I enjoy engraving most are old hand tools and locks, which are made to be functional and stand the test of time—they don’t have to be beautiful or personal. I enjoy taking functional items and turning them into something very personal with my hand-engraved designs, which I hope will inspire their owners to use them even more.

Closeup of gold handplane with ornate floral engravings

Hand plane engraved by Jennifer Bower. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The past year has presented many challenges, from a global pandemic to renewed urgency around issues of racial equity and police brutality. As we slowly move into a post-pandemic world, how are you finding beauty and staying grounded?
During the pandemic, my daughter’s schooling was virtual. Her workspace was next to mine in my studio. As I looked over and saw her working, it was a reminder to me that she is the future. We were able to have discussions about social happenings, and she was able to watch me work and create in the midst of uncertain times. As we come out of the pandemic, it is also important to me to reconnect with my creative friends in person, which truly sparks my artistic energies.

The theme of the current issue of American Craft is "Flourish." Can you reflect on that theme as it relates to your work and practice?
In the most literal sense, there is flourish in many of my hand engravings, as most of my designs flow and intertwine. Going deeper than that, hand engraving has allowed me to flourish creatively as an artist. The more I create and engrave, the more I want to keep creating, pushing myself within the details of my designs and the choices of metals that I use as my canvases.

Metal artist using jewelers saw

Jennifer using a jeweler's saw for a hand piercing technique. Photo by Jerry Bernard.

What has been the biggest barrier you have had to break through to get to the place you’re at with your career?
The biggest barriers I’ve had to break through are my own. The barriers of fear and perfectionism seemed insurmountable at times. I have learned to push through fears of failure knowing that failure can lead to growth and further experimentation in my craft. I used to be terrified to hand engrave into anyone’s personal items in fear that I could ruin them. Facing that fear has allowed me to carve artwork into items that people cherish as memorials or look upon as heirlooms.

...hand engraving has allowed me to flourish creatively as an artist. The more I create and engrave, the more I want to keep creating, pushing myself within the details of my designs and the choices of metals that I use as my canvases.
Cover of Little and Often by Trent Preszler

What book should we be reading or paying attention to right now, and why?
A book I would highly recommend is Little and Often by Trent Preszler. Trent is a renowned woodworker specializing in handmade canoes, but his pathway to handcraft and woodworking was an unusual one. In his memoir, he shares his personal and creative journeys, showing how the two intertwined into a unique passion and helped him find healing from his past. I had the privilege of illustrating the cover page for Trent’s memoir. @preszlerwoodshop

If you could purchase any artists' work for your home or studio, whose would it be and why?
At some point, I would love to own something made by blacksmith and metal artist Seth Gould. Seth’s creations range from custom-made hand tools to intricate locks decorated with gold inlay. Not only are his pieces visually stunning, they are expertly crafted and functional as well. Some of his recent creations have included the patterned Japanese inlay technique of nunome zogan with mixed metals. @sethgould

Lock and key embellished with Japanese inlay technique

Indicator Lock by Seth Gould. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Cover of the Summer 2021 issue of American Craft

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