“I like having doors and locks and things that people have to open, and in the process of opening that door, there’s an explorative moment where they’re wondering what’s on the other side,” – Serene Silva
About a year and a half ago, local metal sculptor/jewelry maker Serene Silva had a brush with what John Lennon called “instant karma.” It began with her placing a call to the corporate headquarters of the webhosting service GoDaddy to leave a message of praise for an exceptionally helpful customer service representative. Soon after, she got a call back from the company, whose staff was interested in her story as an artist and entrepreneur.
“They came out [to my studio] and shot a commercial about my business,” she recalls. “We had a whole day of filming, where we had a film crew, makeup artists, lighting, still shots… It was so fun.” The resulting commercial can be seen at Silva’s website, metalmorphosisdesigns.com.
GoDaddy called Silva again last February with the news that the business was going public and would be selling on the New York Stock Exchange. The company flew her to New York City, where she had breakfast at the stock exchange as one of three entrepreneurs representing small business in America.
Silva, who grew up in the Bay Area, moved to Santa Cruz at age 18 to attend Cabrillo College, where she fell in love with metalwork. As someone who did not take naturally to drawing and painting at first, she was attracted to this medium as a “way that you can work with material and be an artist which is very different from two-dimensional canvas work.”
The sculptor says her skills as an artist have been hard-won. “I don’t feel like I was intrinsically talented,” she notes. “I’m definitely not a Picasso. I was never this child that would do something with my hands, and everyone was like, ‘Oh, my God! It’s amazing!’ But I do feel really determined, focused and driven to keep trying. I think some people are born with this innate talent, and most of the rest of us are kind of mediocrely talented, and then we spend a lot of time honing our craft, learning from our mistakes, figuring out what doesn’t work, and if we stick with it, we can become very talented.”
One of the things Silva loves most about metalwork is its process-oriented nature. “Every hole that you drill is permanent,” she states. “There’s no way to erase it. You either have to incorporate that hole into something else or you have to be really meticulous about where it’s placed. So it takes a lot of envisioning the final product and then working backwards to find your beginning point. It creates a sense of mindfulness, where you have to think before you act.”
This sense of mindfulness has been an asset to Silva her in both her creative process and her life in general. The process of learning to break a task down into smaller daily tasks while working to complete a work of art has helped her “to slow down and to break large decisions that I have in my life into smaller, more bite-sized pieces.”
Over time, Silva’s focus has shifted from jewelry-making to small-scale sculpting. “At first, I felt like [metal sculpture] was going to be a harder sell [to potential customers],” she says.
“It was more time-consuming, more expensive and less wearable, and so it was going to be harder for people to take it home with them.”
To her pleasant surprise, Silva’s sculptures sold well when she debuted as an Open Studios artist last year. “It goes to show that if you follow your intuition, follow your creative process and make the things that you want to make, those are the things that people want to have,” she observes.
At this year’s Open Studios, Silva will be showing her latest work at the new Santa Cruz home she just bought. Viewers can interact with her creations in a backyard space that the artist has transformed from a shed into a metalsmithing studio. “I feel like that, in and of itself, has been a work of art,” she enthuses.
The conversion of the shed is but one example of the core concept behind the name MetalMorphosis. Silva explains that she has always been drawn to the idea of transformation, adding that this principle can be seen in many of her sculptures. “I like having doors and locks and things that people have to open, and in the process of opening that door, there’s an explorative moment where they’re wondering what’s on the other side,” she offers.
Other recurring themes in Silva’s work include anatomical imagery, keys and keyholes (which she links to “the idea of opening and keeping things locked away”) and various kinds of maps. “I really like the idea of these roads that we all choose in our life,” she explains. “Highway 1 is not the map that I’m as interested in as the map of our lives.”
Asked about the future of her own life’s course, Silva says that in addition to creating many more of the “whimsical smaller artistic universes” for which she’s known, she hopes to begin making gates, railings and custom signs. Most of all, she will continue to hone her craft—or, as she puts it, to “keep going; keep expanding; keep trying.”