I've spent all my adult years going to museums, and even some of my teenage years. I went to the Museum of Natural History, which has a fabulous African feather collection, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A museum is the first place I go when I visit a new city.

Before the pandemic, we were fortunate enough to sit down and interview metal artist and San Diego local, Arline Fisch. We chatted about Egyptian jewelry and jellyfish while planning for the metal knitting workshop she was scheduled to teach for us in March. While we patiently wait for the day we can safely host her for a class, this interview serves as a delightful look into her work and life as an artist and educator.

How did you know, you wanted to work with metal?

Trial and error. I like it because it doesn't change unless I do something. I found ceramics very challenging because you put your piece in the kiln and who knows what will happen. I didn't like that uncertainty. After receiving my Bachelor’s Degree in Art from Skidmore College, I attended the University of Illinois for graduate school where there was a very fine silversmith named Arthur Pulos, who became my mentor. Happily, I found metal work agreed with me.

Where do you get the ideas for your work?

In the beginning, I was inspired by Egyptian jewelry, because I lived in New York and spent a lot of time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met has a wonderful textile collection, and at that time they also had a whole room full of jewelry that was beautifully displayed. That doesn't exist anymore but it was very crucial to my appreciation of what jewelry could be.

Another time when I was at the National Gallery in London I came around a corner and found these medieval objects hanging on the wall. They were rectangular frames, not even boxes, and I thought, oh my goodness, I could do that! So I created frames and gold-leafed them for my series of angels. That experience was a happy discovery.

Do you often find inspiration at museums?

I've spent all my adult years going to museums, and even some of my teenage years. I went to the Museum of Natural History, which has a fabulous African feather collection, and to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A museum is the first place I go when I visit a new city.

When did you start weaving metal?

The thought crossed my mind when I saw a few pieces of pre-Columbian Peruvian textiles woven of gold. I was actually teaching jewelry making and weaving at the time and I thought to myself, I should try that. The first time I tried weaving and knitting with metal was in London. During that time, I was only able to go to the workshop during certain hours of the day and I needed something to keep me occupied when I wasn’t working. So, sitting in a little dining room in London, I thought, I'll try weaving and knitting something with metal. And, you know what, it worked!

You started the jewelry program at San Diego State University, was that a large feat?

The students were eager, but there was very little equipment. I thought I just needed to send over a list of the materials and it would be ordered, but that didn't happen. So, I asked around and there were people in town that were very generous and offered extra equipment which helped us get started. The program was warmly welcomed by students, staff and the public because San Diego was already aware and in touch with craft and the decorative arts.

What is your favorite thing about teaching?

I love teaching beginning students because they're adventurous. They’re adventurous because this is all new to them. I always enjoyed teaching beginning students, but I also liked teaching graduate students and being a mentor.

How do you encourage students to explore their own creativity?

I encourage them to look, just look. Every year I took a group to New York so the students could be exposed to more examples of decorative arts. I also encouraged them to not just look at jewelry, but other things like armor and objects made of metal and fabric. I think the more you look at things and the more curious you are, the more creative you will be.