Welcome to Movers & Shakers; a series where we look deep into PNW life for people who are making moves, doing big things, and who are just - in general - being rad. Seattle is full of multi-talented and multi-faceted people, many at the intersection of technology and the arts. How do they find the time? What's their secret? Well friends, we're here to find out. Meet Movers & Shakers; aka Seattle Refined attempting to capture the not-so-secret lives of impressive locals. Have a recommendation for us? Email email@example.com.
Seattle artist Catherine Grisez of CG Sculpture & Jewelry makes sculpture and jewelry, mainly using precious, semi-precious and non-ferrous metals and gemstones. Her latest creation, the Landscape Collection of miniature bowls, was born from a 900-mile backpacking adventure through the Appalachian Trail — during the height of the pandemic, no less.
"Inspiration for my work comes in many forms," Grisez says, "primarily sourced from experiences while hiking and backpacking, and the feelings and emotions they bring up. I use elements in nature as a metaphor for life’s lessons."
Grisez explains that being an artist has been ingrained from an early age. "I took my first art class (clay) when I was five years old and was hooked," she said. "I’ve continued learning and expanding my skills ever since. "
She got her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design with a focus in jewelry and light metals. Since moving to Seattle in 1998 , she's been working as a full-time artist, first focused on one-of-a-kind sculptures and eventually adding jewelry back into her practice.
"I continue to use the same drawing and painting skills I learned in my youth, metalsmithing techniques I learned in college and welding and fabrication I’ve learned in Seattle," Grisez comments. "I regularly grow and evolve my aesthetic voice, as well by pushing the concepts and boundaries of what I make."
So what brought about a life-changing, 900-mile backpacking journey? Shortly after the pandemic began, and three days after moving in with her, Grisez's partner got laid off from his job . They decided to fulfill his longtime dream and take advantage of the time off. (Grisez, who loves to hike and backpack, was quick to agree.)
She ended up backpacking from Mt Katahdin in Maine, to Bear Mountain in New York, taking a break to visit with friends and family and later rejoining her partner in Virginia. She summarizes the trek as a huge test of physical abilities, their relationship (due to vastly different paces and goals) and mental capacity.
"In the end, " she says, "after about four months primarily in mountains and forests, I learned a ton, got hugely inspired to create new art and saw more beautiful bits of nature than I can count."
While the Saddleback Mountain Range in Maine, adorable wild ponies at Grayson Highlands in Virginia and sunrise at McAfee Knob were trip highlights, Grisez names the Mahoosuc Notch as the most memorable spot, otherwise known as "the slowest mile on the trail."
Grisez finds it hard to choose her favorite creation to date, yet she's especially fond of her new Rock Jewelry Collection inspired by experiences on the Appalachian Trail (including her first rock climbing-induced panic attack and consequential turning images of rocks into symbols of strength). "I thought about the designs for months," she says, "so finally seeing these pieces come to life is thrilling. I love to make work that can be totems — reminding people of important accomplishments and people in their lives."
The reversible Rock Necklace, for example, is intended to do just that ; one side is a rock to symbolize strength and one's ability to get through hard times, while the other side is a flower (with or without diamonds) that represents "your inner beauty and talents that keep life juicy."
For the Landscape Bowl Collection, also inspired by Grisez's time on the AT, pieces are made by hammering copper into bowls, coating them with glass enamel and hand drawing/painting patterns that get fused between the layers of glass (resulting in colorful functional art).
"I was struck by patterns that repeated on a micro and macro scale on the trail (a mushroom-covered log with flowing curves that mimicked the grand rolling mountain horizon line, for example)," she explains. "To me, the macro represented a connection to something bigger, while the micro showed our complex inner worlds. Together, the infinitesimal details and broad overall expanse remind us that small thoughts and actions can lead to big impact."
Grisez's second panic attack of the trip also led to her biggest takeaway: "The realization that I can change my thinking to overcome challenges." While struggling with a fear of heights and slippery rocks, Grisez had to embrace a ‘fake it till you make it’ mentality by repeatedly chanting "I am strong, I do not fall, and I can do it," until she could be present in the moment and find joy in the difficulties.
What's next for Grisez? Since she continues to draw inspiration from hiking, she has a backpacking adventure planned for this summer through Section J of the PCT with girlfriends.
"But mostly," she says, "I’ve been enjoying being back in the studio and will be continuing to roll out jewelry and bowl designs inspired by the concepts I mentioned. I have also been ruminating on new sculpture ideas that I hope to make soon, intended to balance raw decay with colorful new growth."