By Becky Jane Newbold Ripples of the river inspire artist Dotti Feinstein. From her boathouse on the Tennessee River, copper and steel take shape, bending under the tap of her hammer.
Like the current of the deep, the journey has had its share of adversities and challenges, meandering through a broken marriage and a failing job market in America. A collector of hammers for the interesting patterns they add to the copper, Dotti finds the strength in surrounding herself with the elements. “My brother Stephen — he is so my hero — said to me, ‘You need to come south, there are way more artists, more artist guilds.’” Leaving Brentwood behind, Dotti began to shed baggage. “I got rid of the trappings of the ladder-climbing atmosphere. I wanted to know real people. Cars, labels on clothing, it all looked ugly to me,” she explained. Before coming south, Dotti’s life had progressed from a childhood of artistic expression to a need for cash. Working long hours took a toll on her children and she soon realized she needed to be at home. “The school system was failing them. I was working 60 hours a week and my world was crumbling,” she explained. She left the corporate world to homeschool her kids, cashing out a 401k to pay off debt. “By that time, my family was destroyed.” “I didn’t realize my life was going to end; who I thought I was,” she said. “Art is such a healing thing,” Dotti said with satisfaction. “When I started listening, the healing began.” Stephen, a blacksmith, taught her the skills needed to create art with metals. “He won’t do it for me.” Working at top speed, Stephen talks Dotti through a new process in less than 30 minutes. An artist himself, Stephen does help out with tools she needs, gifting a drill press and a buffing wheel between his own creations. “He breathes it, he loves it. [His art] all comes out of his head. That’s the love for it that Stephen taught me. I would not have been able to make the move to metal I wanted without his knowledge, his hands-on. I admire his work so much,” she said with enthusiasm. “I changed my gratitude level and found health and peace.” Trusting, Dotti added a display of her jewelry at Wild Duck Soup Emporium in Centerville where in a year and a half not a month has gone by without a sale. “Stephen gave me that confidence in myself. He likes my work, my style. To have someone you respect think so highly of your art…yeah,” and a smile spread across her face. “I make what I would want to wear. If I can walk into my studio on any given day and want to wear anything, I’m happy,” she commented. “I am such a kid about this stuff. I still have ‘that’ moment when I am amazed something as plain as a smooth piece of copper can become this,” she held a intricately designed cuff into the light. The rich copper, with blackened tones echoed nature, bringing it back to the earth. Every hit of the hammer against the copper hardens. Dotti continues to search for what satisfies. But no longer does a frantic, chaotic pace dominate. Now, True Self Studios is ever evolving to encompass the spirit of the moment. As I leave the river, a blue flash flows from her torch, and I know authenticity will be beaten into that next piece. Metal work satisfies. True Self Studio will display at the Arts & Ag Harvest Market October 19, 2013 at Grinder’s Switch Winery. Find her online at www.trueselfstudio.com or on Facebook.