Joy Raskin

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Jewelry and Light Metals ’90

Being deaf and legally blind has its challenges. The struggle to understand people takes a toll on me daily. Being able to create my own art, on my terms, in my own way, is how I function best. Metal is my life. I eat, breathe, live and think metal.

But metalsmithing is a noisy profession, and repeatedly pounding on metal with hammers caused additional hearing loss at a time when I was already struggling with a 95% hearing deficit. Eventually I had to have cochlear implants put in my head in order to hear after loosing most of my very limited hearing. One of my cochlear implants is so old, that I am now considered a pioneer in the cochlear implant field. I was lucky to have a professor in graduate school with a cochlear implant who shared his experience of the device with me. Being deaf also has advantages; I don’t have to listen to the hammering or the high-pitched whine of power tools, in my studio. I don’t regret being a metalsmith, it’s a solitary profession, and really it’s ideal for me.

Being legally blind creates challenges too. As I get older, my eyesight is declining and this makes it harder to read and see fine details. Also my ability to see at night is mostly gone. Of course I had to pick a profession that requires a great deal of precision work using microscopes, Optivisors and jeweler’s loupes.

Still, being deaf and legally blind has also made me more empathic as a teacher. I can take my metalsmithing and jewelry-making students’ limitations into consideration with greater understanding.

As I get older, I retreat more and more into my silent world and create very labor- intensive artwork. I can also spend hours or even days just hammering sheet metal into small bowls or utensils as lose myself in the rhythm my hammer creates. It’s my meditation.