Norm Finfrock 2010
2010 Naja Gallery
Norm Finfrock, long time jewelry artist and teacher extraordinaire is this month’s featured artist. The Naja is proud to have worked with Norm while he taught in the Jefferson County School District and we’re finding he is as much fun to work with now that he is retired.
Norm grew up in Illinois and although both his parents worked in the family jewelry business Norm didn’t start his art career until late in high school. He was hired to paint the Watseka Warriors (his high school mascot) on the front of the school’s new snub nose bus, which kindled his artist spirit. Norm’s dad saw the artist in his son and had a painter friend, Charlie Hufford, work with Norm. One of the lessons that Charlie taught Norm was if you can correctly paint a peeled grape you can paint a human eye.
Norm attended the Eastern Illinois University for undergrad work having both a major and minor in Art Education and a Masters Degree in Art Education from the University of Northern Colorado.
For his first teaching job, Norm took a position at Mitchell Elementary in Golden, Colorado. At that time Jefferson County Schools were growing so fast that they were recruiting teachers from all over the U.S. Norm took the job site unseen during his last semester at Eastern Illinois. He taught at Mitchell for three years and then was fortunate enough to land a teaching job at Arvada High School in Jefferson County. Norm credits Jefferson County’s Art Coordinator, Larry Schultz, with a lion’s share of the success of the Jefferson County art program. In 1965 the Jefferson County Art Department was considered one of the most progressive art programs in the country.
Some of the main influences in Norm’s life are Chuck Lovett, a fellow teacher who taught with Norm at Arvada High School for five years. Another of Norm’s artist heros would include one of his instructors at Eastern Illinois, Garrett Deruiter. Norm also credits Billy Heyduck who he student taught under. During his post graduate work, Nelda Getty was a huge influence as she emphasized the importance of looking at a piece from all directions. Two of his biggest influences both in life and in art are his wife Linda, and his daughter Tammy. Having worked at the Naja in the past, Tammy is not afraid to share constructive criticism with her father.
Norm has many favorite aspects of the jewelry making process. One of them is the happy accident that makes a piece come alive. Another favorite is the “Wow!” moment when the piece is exactly where it should be. Norm believes that there is beauty in simplicity and loves the contrast between textures, such as the coldness of steel next to the warmth of gold. Nature also dictates many of the colors and forms in his work. Norm believes that it is important to push the media to its limits and that an artist needs to move out his comfort zone and explore new areas. Craftsmanship is also important to Norm as both an artist and teacher. A simple piece well crafted will outshine a great design sloppily executed every time.
2010 is a year that Norm plans on continuing to enjoy the freedom to do what he wants when he wants. His current jewelry work is showcasing some of his and wife Linda’a collection of sea shells. Norm likes to pick up broken shells and refashions them with the aid of his lapidary equipment into pieces that will incorporate silver, gold and semiprecious stones. He’ll work on this collection until he feels that he has exhausted most of his creative juices and then move on to new ideas. Never become complacent is his motto.
The Naja believes that the world needs more folks like Norm Finfrock, both as an artist and as a teacher.