A selection of Carroll County artists will open their studio doors to the public this December as part of the 11th annual Studio Arts Tour. To help commemorate the event, now entering its second decade, the Times is featuring profiles of participating artists biweekly in Life and Times.
Artist, sculptor and jeweler Max Groft started her college career studying art, but soon moved on from that dream when courses became too expensive, requiring students to purchase their own supplies. It wasn’t until she began working at a college campus, that her love of art reasserted itself.
An IT manager at McDaniel College, Groft was invited by a friend to take a course with fellow Studio Artist Tour member Linda Van Hart. There she learned about forging and hammering metalwork.
“We decided to take the class together,” Groft said. “And when I realized how much I loved it, I just never left. I stayed creating.”
Van Hart then said she helped Groft set up her studio Bent, Wrapped and Hammered, which produces jewelry and other metal and stone work. She said Groft is one of the most inspiring artists she knows.
“Max is a passionate person; when she falls in love, she falls in love hard,” Van Hart said. “When she fell in love with metal, she went all in.”
Groft said sculpture and three-dimensional work just seemed to fit her sensibilities perfectly. She said she had trouble working on paper, and she loved having a functional physical object at the end of the creation process.
Groft’s work takes inspiration from a number of sources, she said, from nature to science fiction and anime.
Some of her work is inspired directly by natural forms, with pieces based on cherry blossoms and ginkgo leaves, while others take the general gestures of plant life and turn it into something more abstract.
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“I once saw a Virginia creeper vine falling over a railing on a bridge,” Groft said. “I took that shape and articulated that in silver.”
While some ideas come to her in public, Groft said others strike her only in the middle of the night.
“Sometimes I just bolt upright and have to go downtown and make it,” Groft said. “I once dreamed how to make spiders with wire. I hate spiders, but I had to make it. It just comes from wherever it comes from.”
Groft said her work can take anywhere between one to 20 hours to complete. She said she loves the process, and forging metal is one of her favorite activities.
“It’s kind of zen,” Groft said. “There’s something pure about hammering a piece of metal until you get it to where it needs to be. The finished pieces are cool, too, but there are too many of them. Somebody’s got to buy them. I sell them to support my habit.”
Groft said she enjoys going out to art shows and other vendor opportunities to sell her work. She said often times wine and music festivals turn out a much more interesting clientele than the average art show. This is her second year participating in the Studio Artist Tour, where she’ll be on site with Van Hart and Joyce Schaum. Van Hart said she is constantly impressed by her former student.
“She has her own voice,” Van Hart said. “Her work, although it has a very refined sense of scale, there’s an inner strength to it. Because she is so careful, she is such a perfectionist, each piece is just as she wants it to be.”