Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ring a Day Artist Interview: Thomasin Durgin (a.k.a. Metal Riot)

The Ring a Day Project has been a long journey for most of the artists involved. It is emotional, exhausting, compelling, invigorating, and just plain hard. There are about 20 metalsmiths who are still making their ring daily. Thomasin Durgin was kind enough to give us an interview.

Thomasin Durgin's "Crown of Thorns Cilice Ring" RAD 31

SW: Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background in metalsmithing.
TD: I have an MFA in Fiber Art and didn't begin working with metal until three years ago, I am a collector of mid-century modernist jewelry and was finally inspired to make my own pieces. I took a three-week Introduction to Jewelry Making class and have been teaching myself ever since. I am very much a beginner, I have lots of learning and many tools ahead of me.

SW: How did you hear about the EtsyMetal’s Ring a Day project initiated by Nina Dinoff?
TD: Nina is a friend, and we are both members of EtsyMetal. Nina presented her idea to the team and those interested took up the challenge.

SW: What compelled you to participate and persist in this endeavor?
TD: I have a notoriously hard time with daily discipline and maintaining a commitment to long-term projects. I have challenged myself to make something specific every day many times in the past, but never for longer than 31 consecutive days. I thought I'd give 365 a try.

SW: When did you start this project?
TD: On January 6, 2010. Victoria Takahashi talked me into, after 100 rings she dropped out and I still miss her. [Victoria has since rejoined the project].

SW: How many rings have you made to date?
TD: 229 [when this interview was submitted Thomasin's rings were up-to-date, she is now at 244]

Thomasin Durgin, "Ring for Haiti" RAD 13

SW. What is your favorite ring that you made and why?
TD: I don't have a single favorite, but I am really glad I made my Ring for Haiti on the day the terrible earthquake hit that country. That ring led to a fundraiser auction of other rings to benefit Haiti, and I made lots of great new metalsmith friends in the process. We raised $1780 in total and many of the rings auctioned were from the RAD project.

SW: What was your least favorite ring that you made and why?
TD: One day I was out of time, so I cut a ring from a piece of bamboo I had collected from the street while walking my dogs. That felt like a cop out. There are other rings that I made terrible mistakes on - broken stones, bezels that were too large or small, etc. - but they don't disappoint me because at least I tried to create something.

Thomasin Durgin, "RAD 153"

SW: How have you changed as an artist since you began this project?
TD: I've been working as an artist for a long time, this experience has not changed my process or how I approach my work, it's simply another avenue for me. I do think that some of my metal skills have improved since I took on the challenge, possibly more rapidly than they would have if I weren't doing RAD.

SW: Has your involvement in RAD affected your business?
TD: Yes - and not in a good way! I do not care to ever create the same thing twice, yet I have to make those "bread and butter" items to pay the bills. I'd much rather spend three hours on a conceptual piece for exhibition than on boring production work that I can actually sell, and I often do. It's quite a problem, actually.

Thomasin Durgin, "Bad Girl Button Ring" RAD 9

SW: What advice would you give to anyone who wanted to participate? TD: Run! Flee! Save yourself!

Just kidding. For myself, this project is about the long haul, a ring a day for a year, period. If someone takes the challenge that far they will find themselves in a very small and welcoming group of people who support each other on a daily basis. We all look at each other's rings and leave comments every day. Giving feedback and supporting the others has become just as important to me as making my rings, and without all of those special people I would not be able to keep going.

SW: Where can people buy your jewelry online?
TD: I mostly sell in galleries and at art festivals, but I do have an esty shop, and plans to add a shopping cart to my web site soon.

Thomasin Durgin, "RAD 151"

SW: What one idea or thing inspires you most in your work?
TD: I am most interested in making conceptual art, much of my work is political in nature and lately I have been focusing on the Deepwater Horizon spill and the torture at Abu Ghraib prison. I also make wearable jewelry that is firmly rooted in craft and I enjoy that as well, but I consider those pieces to be design and don't refer to them as art.

SW: Would you like to tell us anything else?
TD: Nope.

Thanks Tomi!!! You have been an inspiration to us all!

Thomasin Durgin, "RAD 208"


  1. Wonderful! I admire Tomi's dedication and her inspiring pieces. I love them all. Every single one of them, because of the honesty and passion she puts into them.

  2. Tomi is such a fabulous artist, I have enjoyed getting to know her and her warped sense of humor through this project!!

  3. Tomi is a great inspiration to all of us.

  4. Tomi is a fantastic artist and I have enjoyed looking at all her rings during this year.
    She is an inspiration !!