2014: Joshua Kosker

We are proud to present to you the 2014 Emerging Artist
Joshua Kosker.

The annual Ethical Metalsmiths Emerging Artist Award is chosen from the applicants to the So Fresh + So Clean student exhibition.  

This year’s jurors were the founding members of the EM Students, and the first Virginia Commonwealth University Chapter: Lucy Louise Derickson, Kelley Morrison, Jane Barton, and Brian Fleetwood. 


Artist Bio:

I am an artist, designer and metalsmith from Western Pennsylvania.  I received my BFA in Studio Art from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2011 with concentrations in Jewelry/Metals and Painting. 

My work has been exhibited both regionally and nationally.  Most recently, I was named recipient of the Society for Midwest Metalsmiths 2014 Merit Scholarship.  I am currently completing my MFA in Jewelry Design and Metalsmithing (May 2015) at Bowling Green State University where I am Instructor of Record for the First Year Program 3D Workshop.


Artist Statement:

My studio practice is not unlike my ability to overcome personal addiction – I take it one day at a time. Even if I don’t accomplish anything aside from sweeping the floor today, at least I have a clean basis to start from tomorrow.  I am much more interested in the physical worth of a material and how it relates to applications within my work as opposed to projected extrinsic value. Metal carries a certain amount of history where scratches, dents and dings are scars and signs of use (oftentimes misuse), and polished fragile surfaces become witnesses to change and reformation. These are the foundations for my studio practice and the undertones that define my work.

In my recent work, I aim to distort the preconceptions of form and function in the conventional sense, both to subvert utility and construct new meaning. I think and communicate through creative visual understanding of structures and symbols from a playful sensibility of material and meaning making.  Built on satirical, somewhat absurd notions of what craft is and what it means, the work becomes a visual conversation that questions validity and intent.

In my most recent series of brooches, I combine memory foam with repurposed silver-plated brass holloware. I am interested in the symbolic (associative and suggestive) nature of hollowware and its ability to both reveal and conceal, while giving structure to the shapeless. The salver, historically a symbol of dignity and high society, is dismantled and then reconstructed with familiar elements and forms to create new narratives of personal value and self-worth through body adornment. By salvaging and encasing the memories of the past between layers of metaphorical cultural consumption, I am laying those former abusive practices to rest while simultaneously breathing new life into wearable objects.


Spotlight Interview: 
We followed up with Joshua 6 months later.

What was the catalyst to your decision to become a metalsmith?

I took an intro metalsmithing class during my sophomore year at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and immediately expressed an affinity for working with metal – it felt really intuitive. I initially responded to the malleability of the material, however, my ability to control the material in new ways is an ongoing dialogue that fuels my desire to continue exploring the field.

What is the tool you love the most? If you could have one tool, that you don’t have already, what would it be?

That is a tough question to answer. I like torches. Hammers, saws and drills are great, too. But, I love my hands. Since I currently don’t own a torch, I’m looking to purchase a Swiss torch in the near future. It’s a versatile tool that can accommodate a lot of applications, including my precision and interest in both large scale and small scale soldering.

After receiving the EM award, how have you considered ethical practice?

I try to recycle and preserve the everyday, both in my studio practice and the time spent in between. I am mindful of the expressive potentials for materials that I encounter through my day-to-day routines beyond the studio setting. I don’t discount the communicative abilities of any material, especially byproducts of daily consumption – organic and artificial. I am intent on creating a globally resonant vocabulary by preserving and re-presenting more widespread ephemeral matters in my studio work.

What is the significance of wearables in your work?

I am interested in ideas of transition in relation to the utility and lifecycle of wear-ables. The body is important in my work, both as a vehicle for altering the material and as a site for display. Initially transformed through daily use, the materials I am currently exploring convey a physical, intimate relationship between owner and object. By reinterpreting the work as jewelry, the materials lose their original function, but not the associations made manifest in their transformed wear-able state. For the wearer, I hope to re-embody a sensual experience, a recollection, about everyday moments often overlooked.

How do you select your materials?

I often select materials while in the shower or walking around in obscure places. At the moment, however, I am contemplating the possibilities of an orange peel … from the tangelo I just ate. I collect materials that break down, wear out, and are otherwise discarded – often in the form of detritus encountered and manipulated in everyday activities. Soap, worn shoe soles, the peels – these materials are naturally evocative, and embody suggestive visual and tactile information. I often pause to study these things for their de-formal qualities, surfaces and textures. I scatter this stuff throughout my studio – rearranging piles of materials and playing around with compositions. Sometimes all it takes, however, is a bit of de-composition to make a finished piece or a new discovery.

What’s next for Joshua Kosker?

I am applying for several residencies, fellowships and teaching positions in the coming months, while developing my graduate thesis exhibition and instructing ART 1120 – Media Studio: Space and Time. Following commencement in May, I want to continue to make my work in whatever capacity possible. A goal is to hold a professor position at an academic institution while continuing to develop and exhibit my work. At the end of the day, I want to fix up a house in the mountains, build a personal studio, and write music on the side.

What do you listen to while you work?

I prefer listening to music … preferably loud. Right now I’m listening to M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. The sound of a rainstorm now and again would be nice, though.

What are you reading right now?

The Poetics of Space and Thinking Through Craft

Favorite movie?

Shawshank Redemption

Dream job?


Preferred pet?

I don’t usually like cats, but if I had to pick any animal to have as a pet, I would want my brother’s cat, Pickle.