At the beginning of the Pandemic, I was struggling to find something that could serve as a creative outlet while being trapped at home and studying for STEP 1. I have made quite a bit of 2D and 3D pieces, but I had never tried my hand at building miniatures. I found a kit online and decided to take my time making each individual piece.
From a young age, I have enjoyed making decor for everyday use or holidays. My mom got me hooked on making holiday wreaths over 10 years ago when she asked me to help her refurbish one; I lost count of how many I have made since. My granny taught me how to sew when I decided that I wanted to make my own Halloween costume in 6th grade.
Food has always been a part of my social life: going out to eat at restaurants or grabbing drinks at a cocktail bar were activities that I enjoyed with my friends and they were ways to connect with people and catch up with those that I haven’t seen for a while. When we first went into quarantine, all of a sudden, I lost a big portion of my social life, and it was truly quite isolating in the first couple months.
Woodcarving was actually something I started to decompress from the stresses of my previous work (college professor) and the “hurry up and wait” of the application process of applying to medical school. I still use it that way – when I need a break from studying, need to think, or just want to sit outside for a bit I’ll go grab my tools and whittle away. I think its important to have a hobby like this – it isn’t demanding by any means, and I can devote a few minutes to a few hours any given day to it. Its easy to pick up and easy to put back down, so it fits in with the demands of a medical student’s life pretty well.
My name is Hannah Billings, I am a first-year medical student who runs a local cake pop business, Cake on a Stick LLC.
From hobby to business . . . Cake on a Stick began as a creative outlet, paired with a passion for baking. After trial and (many) errors, techniques were perfected, and delicious masterpieces were made. While the process of baking is enjoyable, the real fun was in sharing with family and friends. And thanks to the encouragement and supportiveness of the early taste-testers, Cake on a Stick was born and it’s poppin’!
I have always loved drawing upon nature for inspiration for my artwork, especially for my pieces in metalsmithing. The tension between the organic, pleomorphic elements found in nature and the rigid, unyielding structure of metal is an idea I like to explore in my work. This piece, titled “Enter the Kraken” (derived from Bruce Lee’s iconic movie “Enter the Dragon”), is a sequel to a vase I had made a semester prior, but this was an extra challenge to myself: to make a smaller, more lifelike version of an octopus that is free standing.
For me, cooking has always been a form of creative expression. It’s unique in that there are set guidelines that one can and should follow, but variation and combination of these guidelines allow for an almost infinite number of possibilities. As a skill, it provides people the opportunity to grow and create in a very forgiving and approachable way. Since my first year of undergrad, I have used cooking as a way to relieve stress. Alongside its practical function of producing food, I have found that cooking is an incredible way to learn more about culture and history all over the world. There is always some new technique to learn or some new recipe to perfect, and that process is something I really appreciate.
Having been a cross-disciplinary student studying both biology and visual arts, my undergraduate work sought to combine the two interests, which can be seemingly contradictory but also surprising similar. Most of my work is inspired by nature; the natural world around us is incredibly beautiful, with all the different forms and colors, and it is also scientifically fascinating because every element exists for a purpose and is a specific adaptation. This contrast and tension between rigidity and fluidity is an idea that underlies the pieces I make in the metalsmithing studio, in an effort to find a balance between the two.
“A Crowning Achievement” truly serves as a culmination of my undergraduate artistic career, twisting together realism and fantasy, and striking a balance between delicate and aggressive. It had always been a dream to make a headpiece and this piece specifically was inspired by the costuming and design of the Lord of the Rings series. The making of crown was a challenge to myself: to make something as flat and lifeless as metal sheets into something that was three-dimensional and organic. So, this crown is made almost entirely of thin copper sheets that has been hammered into hollow branch forms; these branches were soldered, hammered again, cleaned, electroformed, patina-ed, and finally gold-leafed.
“My project is exclusively made of stained plywood, glued on top of one another and then cut down into, and finally sanded to created the smooth valleys and plateaus. This really cut into the costs.
When I first started medical school, I found myself disappointed at the lack of creative outlets it offered me. We were constantly expected to absorb, absorb, absorb, and then regurgitate knowledge. We exclusively took in information, never creating anything for ourselves. I decided to find my outlet elsewhere, via smaller wood sculptures and projects.
Sculpting doesn’t apply directly to my future life as a physician, but instead balances it. In the world of medicine, I’m constantly compared and evaluated against a “standard” or a “correct answer” or even my fellow peers’ performance. In the world of sculpture it’s just whatever I want to do, complete freedom.”
“This was once a copy of The Wizard of Oz that I transformed into a dynamic multimedia piece of artwork. It contains countless drawings, prints, paintings, and even stitchwork on fabric. This altered art book took me a total of 5 years to complete. I began working on this project when I was a junior in high school, and I finished it as a junior in college. Inside this book I chose to catalog some of my thoughts, emotions, and passions at the time. I also dedicated several pages as tributes for family, for a friend that died young, and to document my growth as an individual. After completing this work, I had the opportunity to have it featured in an exhibition at the Topeka Public Library. Some people have expressed dissent and general disagreement at the thought of permanently defacing books, but I feel that books that have suffered damage or that have been forgotten can have new life breathed into them by transforming them into meaningful pieces of art.”