Intrigued by the lyrical symmetry of mathematical forms like the Realeaux triangle, challenged by the demands of function and captivated by the infinite possibilities of design solutions, Taplin has found her artistic niche as a metals artisan. Currently Taplin's time is spent on commissions and her own creations, but there is a constant interplay between the two.
"For me ideas evolve as I am working," she says. "As I'm playing around with a piece for one client, I'll see something and think, 'that's not what I need right now, but it's interesting,' and I'll take a digital picture for later," Taplin says of her ever evolving collection of ideas.
The union of two aesthetics isn't always an obvious one. But like all artists who work largely on commission, Taplin finds a strong sense of success when a commissioned piece resonates with her client.
"A client will come in with a specific need, and then I'll start playing with ideas in my head," she says. "It's nice when I have a piece that I like and then when the client sees it, they say, 'yes! That's just what I wanted.' It's great when I can make myself and the client happy at the same time."
Though Taplin's work has evolved to fit a unique style one that marries the formal elements of medieval art with the clean and simple Arts and Crafts lines of Frank Lloyd Wright she adds organic elements, too: a slumped glass shade atop a hard-angled metal base yields a inimitable, but balanced piece. The sculptural element of the slumped glass creates a technical puzzle she is eager to solve.
"I then have to figure out how to put the two pieces together. There are other challenges, too. There are a lot of small, unique spaces in homes around here, so I may have to make a pot rack to fit a weird space I love it!"
Not all the challenges are project related. As a working mother with a 20-month old and a four-year old, sometimes Taplin has to steal the night hours to complete her projects. But the lure of her artwork is something that has nagged her since her teen years. In high school Taplin's art professor also was a metalworker, and he helped her develop her interest in jewelry. Once in college at the Center for Creative Design in Detroit, Mich., the limitations of jewelry making combined with the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive small motor work moved Taplin to seek out other mediums. When a course in glass fabrication forced her to create steel forms for slumping the glass, her introduction to metals led to a love affair that has only grown.
She first set up shop in Detroit and then later in Chicago, where her pieces were chosen for the Merchandise Mart and the prestigious, cutting-edge Sculptural Objects and Functional Art show. When a boyfriend lured her to make a move to the mountains, she found Telluride irresistible. The boyfriend is long gone but Taplin, who now has a home, husband, children and a metals studio in Placerville, is well rooted in the soils of San Miguel County.
Looking back she thinks that the years have softened her style from a spate of hard lines to a mixture of more organic forms. And over the years many pieces have found their way into her home where they are put to the test.
"When something goes in the house, we use it, and I am always asking, how could this be better?" she says. "Many of my pieces evolve this way."
Future evolutions, Taplin says, include, among other things, creating a full-sized grandfather clock that is modeled from her successful cathedral mantle clock.
"I like to stretch the boundaries," she says. "I'm always up for a challenge."
See more of Taplin's work at www.joannetaplin.com. She can be reached at 970.729.0818.