LILLA CORY WARREN

March 2018
California
Website

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Tell us a little about yourself.

I am really passionate about improving the connection between humans and our Earth, through food, through commerce, and even through the way we interact with each other. I am currently, and eagerly, learning about organic farming because I feel that our culture has moved too far from our connection to the earth we come from, and one way to get back into balance is to understand where our sustenance really comes from. I will always make jewelry, I’m sure, because for me, it has always been about creating objects in which to place important beliefs, as symbols to help us move smoothly through life with our favorite, most beautiful reminders of what we believe in, on our fingers and around our necks. 

The piece I currently wear every day for this purpose is about balance. It is like a triple Yin yang, three aspects in perfect harmonious balance with one another. I seek to work in the most harmonious way possible, making my studio practice greener in every way.

What is your favorite tool and why?

My planishing hammer! Its just an aesthetically beautiful tool that I have found joy in learning to use it as an extension of my body to deliver more pressure to the metal I am working, to create form and texture, and to smooth it. In that sense, I equally appreciate my needle nose pliers; I have spent so much time with a pair of those in my hand that it takes almost no effort to integrate their movements with my own.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

I most enjoy working with recycled or repurposed materials. There is already so much material to work with on the planet, and why not keep it in cycle? Outdated jewelry with stones becomes something fresh and new when the silver is recycled and the stones re-used.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

My work comes from a strong blend of natural phenomena and spiritual traditions from all around the world. Jewelry has long been connected to more spiritual aspects of life. Sometimes jewelry ideas come to me in dreams, and I happen to believe all true inspiration comes from somewhere ethereal that we all tap into!

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

I started making beaded jewelry as a kid and worked in a really fantastic bead store called Beadniks in Massachusetts where I first saw some truly unique, handmade silver jewelry and met a co-worker who was taking jewelry classes in art school. I hadn’t realized that jewelry could be an art form like that! I had been told I was an artist from early childhood, and I took that seriously! So I was really into painting and drawing and photography by the time high school was over. I went to the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, and when I took a beginning jewelry class I was instantly hooked on working with metal after just filing and sawing. I knew I would do this the rest of my life. It was just too satisfying to be able to make a ring from start to finish in less than a day.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Get really good at every technique that interests you, so that nothing holds you back when you’re creating something you have imagined! And, don’t try to live up to anything you have already seen; make what YOU think is beautiful or what will bring YOU joy! Those are the things that will ring with the most truth in the world because they are something only you, as an individual, could make, and that is the most interesting work anyone could hope to see. And this is a way of approaching artwork that I am still learning.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

I struggle with the business side of things. Both in production and in all the rest, like marketing. And I used to spend a lot of my studio time on custom pieces but I’m finally accepting that I don’t really want to do that anymore. I’m also currently shifting away from totally hand-fabricated and hollow formed pieces as my production line, toward cast pieces done off-site. I’ll save the hand fabrication for a few passion fueled art pieces and work to market my new cast line this year, so that I don’t spend all of the energy I have for the studio on things that don’t really light me up inside the way one of a kind pieces do.

I have also struggled with motivation at times. To be brutally honest, there would be days up until last year or so (and still, though rarely) that I would show up to my studio and just. not. want. to. work. So I started looking at the reasons why, and though I found none that were quite concrete, I knew that I needed to take better care of myself so that I could show up better for the thing I really wanted to be doing, which was creating beautiful, thoughtful, well-made jewelry. I share this because I think that it shouldn’t be shameful to admit that most of us struggle with enthusiasm for even the things we love, sometimes. So I have slowly cut out certain destructive behaviors, like drinking and smoking, and added things like meditation and better eating habits, and in general, I feel like a more present and capable human being, able to show up for myself on the days that I have time to spend in my studio.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

I love Hoover and Strong for their Harmony recycled metals!

https://www.hooverandstrong.com/

Instagram : @altar.jewelry

Sher Novak

December 2017
Albany, Ca
Website

  • Sher Novak
  • Sher Novak
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  • Sher Novak
  • Sher Novak
  • Sher Novak

Tell us a little about yourself.

I have a strong sense of belonging to a place. I grew up in an old house in a small town in Connecticut, surrounded by extended family. There were very few idle hands in my world. Quilts, clothes, sweaters, furniture, tin lamps, stone walls… we made things. I went to the woods for materials, or scavenged the trunks in the attic. My creativity has always been encouraged and supported.

I left home at 17 to attend Parsons School of Design. I took a semester off, and didn’t return. I was working for a designer in Tribeca, sewing her samples and managing the sample room. It was the 70’s; exciting times in Soho/Tribeca. I had intended to go back to school; but one way or another, life got in the way.

Interview

Fast forward a few decades, and I was a patternmaker in the Bay Area with years of experience in the garment industry. When my son was in high school, I decided it was time to get my degree. I graduated from California College of the Arts (CCA) in 2015, a month before my son graduated from UC Santa Barbara.

Being in school with kids my son’s age was challenging and often awkward. For the most part I got over it (I think the kids did too but you’d have to ask them!) I met so many wonderful, amazing, talented people at CCA; it was a terrific experience. My life has changed so much! Now I am navigating the waters of being an art jeweler, finding my path and my place in this new world.

What is your favorite tool and why?

Don’t get me started! I love tools. I’ve worked in other people’s shops with other people’s tools for as long as I can remember. Father, grandfather, father-in-law, husband, they all had, or have, a home workshop. My shop is a studio, and I am a woman and a full-time artist. Among all these men who were my mentors, I’ve integrated the group and excelled.

Many of my tools have special significance to me and at one time belonged to loved ones, mentors, or other artists. They bring the good creative energy that is within them into the studio.

That said, my favorite tool was bought brand new: a small Fretz PrecisionSmith narrow cross-peen hammer. It is very beautiful, and a delight to use for shaping and texture.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

I use silver, copper, and gold. Silver is a sensuous material and I love when it retains hammer marks from forming and folding. I often combine silver components with leather and thread, using knotting, lacing, and sewing techniques.

I patinate copper to make large, colorful, one-of-a-kind pieces. I like to do patinas, and copper takes to it so beautifully.

Recently I’ve been playing with adding gold to my silver pieces with wire, keumboo, and bimetal. Gold is such a miraculous and magical material, my heart flips when I work with it!

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I’m a “Country Mouse” and a “City Mouse,” in equal measure. My work is often inspired by memories of my childhood in Connecticut; its rural landscape, plants, and animals. Other work is more urban, referencing my city life in New York and San Francisco. For a long time I could not reconcile the two perspectives, but now I see both as reflections of visual environments; the settings in which my life plays out. I am inspired by structural organization in both natural and man-made places, and my work explores the concepts of rhythm, repetition, gradation, proportion, and order.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

I’ve been working in metals for seven years. I decided to return to school in 2007. It was a “bucket list” thing that was making so much noise in my head, I had to stop ignoring it. I started taking community college classes that I could transfer to a four year program.

I was not sure of a major, but I wanted the academics of a BFA and I wanted to study a traditional, skills-based discipline in the Fine Arts. In 2010 I took Jewelry I at City College in San Francisco with Suzanne Pugh and the rest is history.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Even after thousands of hours at the bench, I consider myself someone who is just starting out. I tell myself the same thing I would tell someone else. Be kind to yourself; be patient with the process. Do the best work you can with the skills you have, keep learning, and practice. There are so many techniques I want to master, pieces I want to make. All in good time…

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

My biggest challenge as an artist was allowing myself to be an artist, and acknowledging that I am an artist. For me it all got mixed up in feeling bad about myself for not finishing school. So I did the only thing that would take the bad feeling away. I finished school.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

http://www.design-dautore.com
http://www.thisiscolossal.com/
https://www.selvedge.org/blogs/selvedge
https://www.atlasobscura.com
http://www.forbidden-places.net/explo1.php
http://collections.vam.ac.uk
http://collections.madmuseum.org/search/jewelry/objects/images
https://rawvision.com
http://honestlywtf.com/category/art/
https://www.vogue.com
http://mariafernandacardoso.com
http://tomassaraceno.com
http://www.jonasees.com

Hap Sakwa

October 2017
Sebastopol, Ca
Website

  • Hap Sakwa
  • Hap Sakwa
  • Hap Sakwa
  • Hap Sakwa
  • Hap Sakwa
  • Hap Sakwa

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a 67-year-old reentry artist. What do I mean by that? For the last twenty-five years I’ve been known in the metals community as a photographer, but before that I was a working artist exhibiting mixed media sculpture in galleries and museums. Several years ago I decided to back away from the photography business; dusted off my old machines, oiled them up and got back to the work of making. For the last three years I’ve struggled to find a satisfying direction, until I went hiking in the desert. I was down in Joshua Tree and found my way into the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Museum.I spent hours walking through the sculpture park completely awed by the scale, quality, thoughtfulness and sheer number of pieces assembled on a harsh windy hill top baking in the desert sun. The mixed media assemblages of found and fabricated material inspired me to return to my own past as an assemblage artist. Soon I was busy haunting the local salvage yards and rifling through flea market junk searching out the materials that would soon become the palate for the work I was meant to do.

Interview

What is your favorite tool and why?

I don’t suppose I have a favorite tool, although, I’m keen on the Foredom hand piece that hangs like a one armed alien from a beam over my workbench. It’s the most versatile tool in my shop: cut, grind, carve, drill, sand. I couldn’t live without one. The band saw is also a tool I could not live without. All the forms used in creating my sculpture are first roughed out to size on the band saw.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

Most of my pieces begin with a wood core of some sort. And then I apply a variety of metal objects and found sheet metal to the surface. I think of my current work as a kind of tin can anthropology. 25 years ago I assembled objects in a similar collage style using found ceramic plates, coffee mugs, ashtrays and an assortment of cultural kitsch as source materials. Now I am in love with patinaed metal and vintage advertising tins revealing the time worn surface of age and use. My attraction is the variety of textures (patinas), the imagery, colors, graphics and cultural connectivity that binds us to materials and symbols.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I draw inspiration from everywhere. I am a big consumer of eye candy out in the world, looking at how industrial systems connect or how fields weave together seen from the window of a plane; museums, galleries, books, magazines and online. The current body of work draws from many artists and art styles, among them would be pop, folk, steampunk, architecture, post modern design and collage; artist would include Noah Purifoy, Tony Berlant, Kurt Scwitters, Ettore Sottsass, Peter Shire and Morgan Brig among the many artists that inspire me.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

I am an accidental metals artist. And I should mention that I’m not trained in any art form or craft. Learning as I go, I consider myself a kind of privateer, owing no devotion to material, technique or style. The finished product is all that matters.

For several years since retiring as a full time photographer I spent countless hours in my shop working through ideas trying to find a voice. About two years ago I began work on a series of pop-art heart totems reacting to the negative social climate preceding the election in 2016. “Fighting hate one piece of art at a time,” was my mantra. The totems are a kinda sorta steampunk assemblage style topped with decorated carved wood hearts. I made a base for one using some metal scrap material I had laying around the shop and the proverbial light went on above my head. The pieces have grown in dimension and evolved in complexity, focused now on the teapot form, as a human figure proxy.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

The advice I would share with anyone wishing to be an artist - know that you don’t live in a vacuum. You do not stand alone. You are part of something much bigger that has evolved and been a rich unifying part of social networks since the first images were scratched on cave walls. Look at everything and all art in every medium and from every time period; these are the masters and they have a lot to teach us. All art and craft is appropriated either directly or indirectly from some source; borrow, don’t copy. Do not restrict yourself to your peer group; craft media tend to be very incestuous. You are alive now and it’s your job (responsibility) to leave a valuable artifact for the future. And if you are not obsessed and committed to your art and craft, don’t do it.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

The biggest challenge for all artists is finding an audience and a venue for sharing their creativity, whether you’re a jeweler, a sculptor, a dancer, a musician, all artists struggle to be seen. Self-promotion and marketing in the 21st Century is a daunting task. There are few brick and mortar outlets and craftshows are competitive and demanding. But, you have no choice. You will not be discovered in your basement or garage workspace. Since becoming a reentry artist I have participated in the local open studios, been rejected by dozens of galleries and exhibited sculpture at local art events. Recently I have found an online gallery that exhibits my work on their website and at art fairs, like SOFA and Art Palm Springs. So, I’m getting there.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

My favorite resource is the flea market; a wholesale cultural anthropology of all the tools, machines, clothing, music, food, art and artifacts that define our society gathered together on acres of asphalt every Sunday.

And there is nothing like walking through museums – the warehouse of all things art and culture. Soaking up the energy of all the art, tribal to modern and reading about the artists, their lives, their motivation, their world and being intensely aware, I’m walking in their footsteps.

Curtis H. Arima

September, 2017
Emeryville, Ca
Website

  • Curtis H. Arima
  • Curtis H. Arima
  • Curtis H. Arima
  • Curtis H. Arima
  • Curtis H. Arima
  • Curtis H. Arima

Tell us a little about yourself.

My mother is a master seamstress, and my father was a mechanical engineer and inventor. My works, their conception, and the way I move through the world reflect their influences.

My mother has a passion to make clothes for people to help them feel comfortable in their own skins, and feel special for any occasion.

Growing up I loved seeing my mother take bolts of fabric and turn it into wedding dresses for to be brides, and watching clients’ faces light up seeing clothes that complimented the lines of their body the first time.

She guides her clients through the process of customizing clothes, helping thems understand aesthetic and the best choices for the project.

I carry her knowledge with me when I do custom work.

Listen carefully to my clients, decipher what they want, use expertise to help guide them through their best options, and create a piece that makes them feel special.

Interview

I grew up in Santa Clara, California while Silicon Valley was on the rise. My Father was enamored by the ever changing technology. He enjoyed latest tech (before it was even called tech). In the 80’s he bought a video camera that needed a portable VCR to record, a huge 40” projector TV that distorted the view unless you watched it from head on, and a laser-disk player when the disks were bigger than vinyl records. This equipment seems antiquated now, but are examples of how technology is ever changing. With change there is an opportunity to learn.

Through my parents influences I have gained an interest dedication and transformation:

  • I enjoy constantly moving through challenges to achieve steady progress.
  • I enjoy things that develop more fully through practice, repetition, and innovation.
  • I am thrilled by taking basic things and transforming them into something that holds meaning, emotion, and/or experience.
  • This is why I am drawn things in my life that I can be never fully master. Metalsmithing, teaching, practicing Ashtanga Yoga, making my own body and hair products, brewing beer, baking bread, cooking time consuming meals, gardening, and sewing.What is your favorite tool and why?

    A particular forging hammer would me my favorite tool. Gary Griffin a master metalsmith, and my graduate instructor gave me it to me at a going away party after completing my MFA at Cranbrook Academy. I use it often and when I do I think of him and the life changing, exciting, challenging, and productive time I had in the Detroit Metropolitan Area and Cranbrook Community.

    Where do you draw your inspiration from?

    Inspiration is everywhere and anywhere if you are open to identifying it, absorbing it, then recalling it when needed.

    I try to be mindful about the way I move through the world...it does not always work….but I try to observe rather than just look.

    When observing, if my heart/mind jumps at something I try to capture it, take a image, save it on a file, or write it down. I analyze why am I attracted to it…. its shape, form, emotional connection, intellectual food? Usually don’t have a plan for it, I store it away in my artistic arsenal, for use later.

    Here are some things that I go to regularly to be inspired:

    Travel - Helps me see other worlds, ways of being, eating, observing. It broadens my aesthetic possibilities

    Our garden - Beautiful and ever evolving, a reminder of our impermanence and the changes in life cycles

    Psychology and Science - Connects us or disconnects us to ourselves, each-other, and the universe. My dream life is active, and I lucid dream often (long story for another time). I often pull a dreamlike feeling into my work.

    Art of any kind - At a museum, in a gallery, online, outside, in a book.

    Making a new body of work or major piece, takes recalling the inspiration, then translating that through intellect and physicality. These are the three main ways I develop work. Sure sometimes I have an idea fully formed in my head, but that is very very rare.

    Technique/Process
    I try to add a new technique to my artwork every few years. It started with stone setting, then engraving, casting, working with a lathe, and enameling. Now I am at the baby step stage experimenting with CAD and 3D printing. This has been the most difficult, as it is the least hands on.

    Learning something new does not take the mystery of it, it opens new pathways of curiosity, and the more you learn about something the more you realize the depths of knowledge to be learned.

    If I am fascinated by a technique or way of working I make samples. It is fun to see what is possible and my physical or emotional limits with the technique. I often don’t have major plan, but loose ideas. Through lots trial and error, making progressively more challenging samples, patterns and concepts will emerge. Then I can move forward in a more direct way.

    Concept
    Sometimes I will have an idea I want to communicate. I research the topic in books, online, anyplace I can gather information. Then it is a matter of going through my inspirations to see how that can be communicated. Doing sketches, paintings, sample pieces, paper models, and photographing things that are related to the idea.

    Image/Form
    Other times I will have an image or form that I am attracted to. I do iterations. I will make several variations of that form, some quick jewelry, paper models, more complex works. I research what forms are related it and the possible meanings they could have, then more iterations. Sometimes they develop into something substantial, other times they stay samples and quick jewelry.

    How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

    I was first introduced to jewelry when I was about 12. I made origami brooches lacquered with nail polish for gifts. In a few years I had figured out a more advanced way of preserving the paper, and it turned into a small business I had with my mother. By the time I was 17 we were doing 8 craft shows a year, and I was in three stores in the Bay Area and LA.

    I started in 1994 at what was then named California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC now CCA) I loved throwing clay on a wheel, and liked painting/drawing. As an elective my second semester I took a Jewelry/Metal Arts class with Marilyn da Silva. She taught us how to raise a bowl. My mind was completely blown to see a seemingly solid sheet of metal transform into a three dimensional object with torches and hammers. It had the same excitement of seeing a bowl being thrown on a wheel for the first time. Bacis into extraordinary. I continued to be fascinated with metal and clay during my student years at CCAC.

    Now I am honored and privileged to be Co-chair with Marilyn da Silva in the Jewelry & Metal Arts program at California College of the Arts. The fantastic group of faculty teach students to be excited about the many different directions in metalsmithing and help them fund their passions.

    What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

    Learn the process of getting to know yourself. What makes your heart beat faster, what makes you cry? what captivates you so much, you lose time in it? What make you feel uncomfortable? These are your topics of research.

    Do some things that are challenging for you in your art and your life.

    Say yes to opportunities big and small.

    Do lots of “productive failure” and learn from mistakes. You won’t know what is successful if you don’t know what didn't work.

    Listen to your teachers about your work, but don’t always do what they say, prove them wrong in a big way if you really think you are right.

    Don’t just look at metalwork!

    Dedication and drive is way more important than natural talent. You can’t succeed on talent alone, but you can succeed if you have the motivation to accomplish your goals.

    What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

    Knowing what kind of work to focus on and Finishing work are my biggest challenges.

    I make work to make money, client based work, work to further my artistic growth, and work that a gallery wants to show.

    In the past it has been difficult to decipher what to focus on. If I dedicated time for client based work or production work to make money an inner voice would say “This work is not helping you progress as an artist” and vise a versa if I were to focus on the other. Now I understand that there is a natural rhythm and balance that happens (if I pay attention), all work helps each other, as long as I am finishing things.

    That brings us to the second issue….

    I love to start new project, finishing them although satisfying, is hard for me. I use to think once I had an idea of what the piece was going to look like I lost interest. I realize now, once the excitement of starting a piece is over, it gets harder to make. It is going to go through some challenging stages before it is done. To finish a piece means it is going out into the public eye have my own and others critical reaction or praise. This always a bit scary. When something is unfinished it has the potential to be something. When it is done the potential is depreciated greatly.

    Half of arts work’s purpose is to be seen by others, so I have to trick myself. I make deadlines and goals, or have exhibitions where work has to be done to be sent off. The work I make with clients is easier to finish. They have a deadline for me and a payment, which is a motivator.

    I try to remember If the piece is terrible, it is an opportunity for learning, it can be deconstructed, it can go in the recycle bag, or melted down to make something new. So I guess work always has potential.

    Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

    Foodwishes
    Art Jewelry Forum
    Hoover and Strong
    Otto Frei
    Instructables
    McMaster Carr
    You tube for anything

Holly J Carter

August 2017
Richmond, Ca
Website

  • Holly Carter
  • Holly Carter
  • Holly Carter
  • Holly Carter
  • Holly Carter
  • Holly Carter

Tell us a little about yourself.

Originally from Minnesota, my family moved to a small southwestern horse town in Arizona when I was in first grade, and then we moved to the ‘Big City’ of Phoenix when I was in high school. Making has always been in my blood as I come from a long line of custom cabinet makers. I loved to create with scraps of wood, paint, rocks, sewed Barbie clothes from fabric scraps, and created knotted embroidery thread jewelry. I used crocheting skills taught by my grandmother to make doll clothes and doilies. I even wrote poetry and had my first published poem in junior high. I was also quite the little entrepreneur, selling to my friends my hand and machine sewn scrunchies, and seed bead bracelets that I made on my bead loom.

Interview

My grandfather, who used to let me hang out in the cabinet shop and help a little as I got older, influenced my creative side with his own art. Before deciding to continue with the family business he dreamt of being a cartoonist with Disney. As a child, I would revel in his colored drawings and would try to draw like him. It was easy for me to copy the cartoon characters that I grown up seeing, but I always found my own original drawings to be of still life, landscapes, and architecture instead, even as young as six or seven. This is probably why I had planned to be an architect when I grew up. Ultimately, I decided to enter college for Interior Design, because I thought that I could express more creativity than I could as an architect. And then after many years of design school, I eventually changed to Fine Art metals and have been working and teaching as a metalsmith ever since.

In 2012, I moved to the Bay, and now reside in Richmond where I have become involved in creating art within the community. I am also now the president of the Northern California Enamel Guild.

What is your favorite tool and why?

Although it is hard to really choose one tool over another, I would probably say my torch, because what metalsmith doesn’t like flame! A torch is also a very versatile tool; it can melt, connect, create color changes, and make something malleable.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

I use silver, copper, and natural materials most. I love to work with silver because it is very versatile in fabrication, casting, and enameling, but I especially love how it looks and feels when it is freshly sanded and bright white right out of the pickle. Copper I love most for enameling, if you let it do what it wants it can surprise you with the beauty of colors and patterns it will achieve. I often cast natural materials into metal that I find interesting because of how it is constructed or just for its simple beauty. I believe in paying homage to its life by preserving it in metal. I also have affection for wood; I love to touch it and smell it, and find interesting textures and patterns in it. I especially like to recycle old wood into frames for my wall pieces.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I draw inspiration from the ‘architecture of natural forms’. I find myself inspecting how things are made and how natural animals and plants grow. Vertebrae, for instance, is an amazing structure that allows movement of life, every piece has its place and moves perfectly aligned. Plant forms and how they grow fascinate me. I find their natural structures and stages of growth to be perfectly engineered processes for creating life, one way or another, as many natural organisms have multiple ways of procreation in order to further their species.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

I have been working in metals for 14 years. After many years of working towards an interior design degree I began to realize an attraction to metal working. I began to teach myself rudimentary soldering so that I could build models for my design class projects. The more I did, the more I enjoyed it, and then I decided to look into the metals program where I was enrolled at the Arizona State University. When I realized that I could also learn jewelry making, I decided to change my major. As I learned metals fabrication, I found that I could also use some of my designs from interiors in my metal art. I believe learning about architects and designers such as Antoni Gaudi, Victor Horta, and Louis Comfort Tiffany influenced my switch to metals.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Learn everything you can from a good teacher about many techniques, even if you don’t end up using all of the skills you have learned, all of the time. It is good to have at least a basic knowledge to pull from when the need arises. But, do focus and perfect those processes that speak to you.

Most of all, find a good metals community wherever you are, it shouldn’t be hard! Because of my connections with the metals community, my move to the Bay was so much easier than it would have otherwise been. I moved a long distance from home, not knowing anyone, not having family nearby, and not knowing where life would bring me. I joined MAG and instantly found support and new lifelong friends.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

I find the constant struggle of time and finances to still be an issue. It takes a lot of time and/or finances to maintain a web presence and do marketing/advertising. But then, if I am not bringing in enough sales I add more teaching to my schedule and that just takes more time. I find that I end up with little time to focus in the studio or on the website. With teaching taking so much extra time outside of the classroom and classes not always filling, it has not been sustainable. I have come to the conclusion that a simple part time position may allow me to pay for someone else to maintain some of the business side of things, so that I can better enjoy and focus on my time in the studio when I am able to be there. The hope is that this may jump start the business and sales part of my art career so that eventually it will be more self sustaining. In addition, I hope this will allow me to focus on larger more fulfilling pieces, thus spending less time on smaller, less expensive ‘sellable’ work. I am currently working towards seeing if this configuration will be successful.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

Ganoksin is always a great resource for getting advice in new and old techniques. I also like to order my enamel supplies from Schlaifer’s Enameling Supplies. The late Joan Schlaifer was always so helpful and had a lot of information about the products that she sold.

Lexi Daly

July 2017
Sebastopol, Ca
Website

  • Lexi Daly
  • Lexi Daly
  • Lexi Daly
  • Lexi Daly
  • Lexi Daly
  • Lexi Daly

Tell us a little about yourself.

Growing up, travel was very important to my parents, they wanted my sisters and me to see the world, learn its history, and experience the beauty of nature as much as possible. I remember always being so fascinated by little intricate objects I found in nature while camping and traveling; seed pods, tiny wildflowers, seashells, and butterfly wings. When I was five, my grandmother gave me a huge box of beads that I obsessed over, and my fascination with tiny objects slowly developed into a love of jewelry making. I fell in love with small glass beads called seed beads and spent much of my childhood teaching myself different traditional bead weaving techniques from cultures all over the world that use them. I found the intricate patterns of seed beads woven together with thread fascinating, like so many throughout history have.

Interview

My connection to nature and the way I was brought up instilled in me the importance of environmental consciousness, humanitarianism, and sustainability. While working towards a fine art degree I became aware of the huge negative effects the jewelry and fashion industry have on the environment and I considered not becoming a jeweler for those reasons. Then I realized I could be a voice of change, and my work could help others be a voice of change by wearing it. That is when I started working with objects I “save” from entering the landfill (AKA trash, old clothes, or disposable products). The jewelry I make today is a combination of bead weaving, disposable products, and recycled silver.

What is your favorite tool and why?

My mini drill press, it has been a life saver when drilling the hundreds of tiny holes I use to sew beads through.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

Since sustainability is so important to me I find it exciting to come up with unique ways to use things people have thrown away. We see these things in everyday life and most of us don’t think twice about using them once and throwing them away, and what happens to them afterwards. I find ways to transform them into something beautiful and valuable, while at the same time educating people on the negative impact of those disposable products. My hope is by doing so I can get people to think twice about using disposable products, and to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

I also love working with seed beads. They are so versatile in the way they can be used, and they add a complexity and intricacy to my jewelry pieces that I love. Lately I’ve switched to using vintage seed beads to make my work even more environmentally sustainable.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I get a lot of inspiration from playing with new “materials” and seeing what ways I can use them. I spend a lot of time in the studio cutting and drilling and shaping things like plastic bottles, stir sticks, and coffee cups to see how far I can take the material from its original form to transform it into something beautiful and dynamic. I had the most fun transforming old clothes into paper and using the paper in my jewelry. It completely changed the clothes and helped save the environment a little bit from the huge effects fast fashion has on the planet.

I’m also inspired by royal fashion from cultures all over the globe throughout history – the traditional neckpieces from ancient Egypt, lacework from the Ukraine, Native Ecuadorian collars, and European fashion, fairytales, and folklore.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

I’ve been working with metals since 2005 when I moved to Oakland and went to Art School to further my skills in jewelry making. The beadwork I did as a child had evolved into large intricate necklaces and collars. I wanted to learn metalwork to combine modern metal pieces with traditional beadwork. The juxtaposition of the two fascinated me at the time. You can see some of the pieces I created using that idea on my website.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Don’t risk getting hurt for a good grade or to complete a piece you’re really excited about quickly. Working with metal can be very hard on your body and it can take time to build strength and dexterity. Your body is your most important tool, listen to it. Take breaks all the time, set a timer to remind yourself to stand up, stretch, and look at something in the distance to protect your eyes from strain. If your teachers don’t show you, take the time to watch videos on the most ergonomic ways to work and discipline yourself in working in those ways. Invest in the best tools, its well worth the stress it takes off of your body, it could add years, even decades to your career.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

My physical injuries. In college I injured my ulnar nerves in both arms and that created tendonitis in my forearms and a lot of pain and weakness. Nerve damage takes a very long time to heal and it has really hindered my career. It has been 10 years and I’m just now feeling able to work full time again. It has been the biggest challenge of my life, not just my career. If I didn’t love making art so much I don’t think I would ever have had the determination to heal from the injuries I sustained in college.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

Nature. Getting out in nature helps me relax and I find my creativity flows more easily once I’m back in the studio.

There are so many great resources online for jewelers now its hard to choose, but for those just starting out there’s some great online courses on branding, marketing and photography on creativelive.com that I’ve found super helpful.

Kirk McGuire

June 2017
San Francisco, Ca
Website

  • Kirk McGuire
  • Kirk McGuire
  • Kirk McGuire
  • Kirk McGuire
  • Kirk McGuire
  • Kirk McGuire
  • Kirk McGuire

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was literally born an artist, and from the young age of only four I was noticeably artistic, I amazed my kindergarten teachers and friends with my 'born skills' for drawing. Or sculpting ceramic animals, and nature scenes. Born in raised in the Sierra Foothills in Placerville California. I grew up hiking almost daily in the forest near my home, studying any kind of nature and wildlife I could soak in, including, insects, birds, mammals and especially amphibians and reptiles.

Interview

As well, I grew up mesmerized by the strange and unusual creatures of the ocean. Watching every Jacques Cousteau television special I could, and reading old National Geographics by an oil lantern while away with family at my grandmother’s cabin, high in the Sierra. Strangely enough, I was not able to even see the ocean until I was around seventeen years old. Soon after finishing high school, I attended American River community college and was up for a Grant to attend the California arts & crafts college in Oakland. At the time my college art teacher advised me not to go to college and said I was a natural born artist, and that it would Mess me up!

I expanded my creative sculpting talents into learning the fine art of bronze sculpting/casting. In 1984 at age twenty-three I moved to Monterey Bay to get a job working at a bronze foundry because I wanted to do bronze instead of ceramics. There I was hired and I began a nine-year apprenticeship at the Monterey Sculpture Center where I learned and perfected my technique, ultimately becoming a master sculptor and mold maker, specializing in bronze marine life.

I have always used my imagination, and hands in a way that harmonized with my obsession with nature. I hope through my sculpture to bring an awareness of the land and sea around us and to the animals that live here. Every living thing has beauty and I try to show this. Please respect our planet, respect mother earth.

What is your favorite tool and why?

My favorite tool, or tools are handmade sculpting tools from bronze welding rod. Made by myself making them tailored to my specific needs, thus making them ‘favorites’.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

I used to sculpt with plastalina oil clay, then I switched to sculpting directly in foundry wax. My attraction is wax is sturdier and allows me to sculpt without the need for armatures.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I have always been obsessed with our Oceans and the variety of amazing wildlife. It is my inspiration! I’m fascinated in particular by the unusual and unique species. I am also inspired by the bronze age of man. I sculpt in a way that shows an emphasis on balance, harmony, movement and rhythm giving my creations an ‘organic’ feeling. Every living thing has beauty and I try to show this.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

I have been a bronze sculptor for over 32 years now. I had studied and worked in many mediums by the time I was twenty. Bronzes attracted me because they are here forever! Not that I want to be an immortal, but the idea of having my sculptures, possibly salvaged from the bottom of the ocean like an ancient artifact appealed to me. We have bronzes in art museums that were found and once cleaned of barnacles they are beautifully preserved, since bronze does not rust or corrode… It will be around far longer than all of us.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Safety first! Wear respirators, gloves and so on. ‘Hands on’ is better than any book! If you can self-teach, or get a job as an apprentice working in the field you are attracted to.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

I would say the biggest challenge for most is becoming a marketer, or salesman of your work. I have overcome it. I never had to do consignment in galleries. I was able to sell my work outright to art galleries plus they paid for the shipping of purchased bronzes. By doing the work myself, my quality standards were the best.

As well since I did most everything I was able to offer a very attractive wholesale price to these various galleries. Sadly, nowadays Galleries in my opinion are archaic. I stopped working with galleries years, ago. I now only make internet sales, or sales by social media and or commissioned work.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

There are many online websites I like for selling and, or showing my work. I would have to say Etsy is my favorite one.

Lucy Gamble

May 2017
San Francisco, Ca

  • Lucy Gamble
  • Lucy Gamble
  • Lucy Gamble
  • Lucy Gamble
  • Lucy Gamble

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in the woods of New Hampshire playing in rivers and driving down dirt roads. I’ve always enjoyed creating with my hands and went through various crafty phases as a child- pillow sewing, card making, beading. The glue gun and I got along very well and we ended up with an old sleeping bag covered in dried hot glue. Metal work has become the favorite creative outlet of mine over the last few years, but it has always been important for me to have a craft. Outside of metal, I work on a business operations team for a tech company named Okta. I am an avid music listener, explorer, a bit of a runner and an aspiring dog musher.

Interview

What is your favorite tool and why?

I love sawing intricate patterns with a handsaw. My most ambitious pieces have been a tree with tiny branches and roots and a necklace of all the continents. I find the patience and persistence required of hand sawing soothing and I enjoy taking on ambitious challenges to get the finest detail out of the metal.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

I am in a bit of a transition from a materials perspective in that the materials I am used to being able to work with- copper, bronze, brass are at odds with the skill level and direction I want to be able to achieve. I have always dreamed of working with gold and it is something I look forward to working towards.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

My favorite place to draw inspiration is people watching. I have always been drawn to the harmony between individual and jewelry so I often pay close attention to different pieces I see on people throughout the city. My dream is to make pieces that fit the wearer like an extension of their body, style and personality. I continue to drive to create work with a finer finish that is both delicate and wearable.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

I’ve been working with metal for 5 years. I was introduced to metal working through an Art studio program in school. I did my first soldering and sawing and quickly made metal work a part of my curriculum. In college, I was living in the jewelry studio teaching, monitoring and creating. I love the intensity and dedication it demands to bring a project to completion and losing track of time in the studio. I love using fire to turn metal into liquid. Most recently, I have grown to love the beauty and stability of a carefully finished piece. I have been lucky to find the Metal Arts Guild community and Scintillant Studio here in the bay to keep my passion alive and take my craftwork to the next level.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

In many ways I am just starting out in metals and the most important thing has been to not get stuck. It is tough when you are gaining skills as an artist to be able to create something that turns out the way you want it to, but the stumbling blocks are necessary to move through to achieve that growth. It’s hard not to feel like a bit of an impostor when you see jewelers with skills that you want, but it is important to seek help and mentorship while maintaining patience. Usually, you are your toughest critic.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

My biggest challenge is having time to commit to advancing my skills. On top of my job, it can be difficult to have the energy to muscle through another lesson at the end of the day, but I have been nudging myself to remember how good it feels to create. Making time and energy in my day to prioritize metal has been a practice and a balance.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

Rio Grande has always been my go to, but my favorite resource in materials lately has been working with Adam of Scintillant studios to better understand stones and stone sourcing.

Olivia Shih

March 2017
Oakland, Ca
Website

  • Olivia Shih
  • Olivia Shih
  • Olivia Shih
  • Olivia Shih
  • Olivia Shih
  • Olivia Shih

Tell us a little about yourself.

Born in the US and raised in Taiwan, I’m an artist, jewelry designer, and writer currently based in Oakland, California. In my conceptual work, I explore the imprint of sexism on our daily habits, often through alternative materials paired with metal armature. Questioning the construction of gender and reinterpreting feminism are the driving forces behind my work.

I know some artists say they aren’t interested in political or confrontational issues, but identifying as an artist is a political act in itself. Instead of valuing the financial stability and familiarity of a 9-to-5 job, an artist might choose a part-time gig with little upward mobility in exchange for more creative running room. The artist values flexibility, creativity, and ultimately, freedom of expression, which is intrinsically political.

As Aristotle aptly puts it, humans, by nature, are political animals.

Interview

Your recent jewelry collections are a big departure from your conceptual artwork. What’s the story here?

At this point, I feel as if I’ve been in school for too long, and I want to explore the world outside of academia. My jewelry business is one of these ventures, and although there is no apparent link to feminism, the business is inspired by inquisitive women who speak their own minds. The carved acrylic collections, in particular, inject an undeniably bold presence into everyday life.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

With my conceptual work, I enameled white tiles and secure them to metal armatures with grout. Mass-produced tiles were the texture of my childhood in Taiwan, and I’m fascinated by its conflicting nature. Tiles were introduced to Taiwan as an implementation of modern hygiene; it is an uniform and easily cleaned surface–the visual equivalent to white noise. Due to humid weather and frequent earthquakes over the years, these tiles have peeled off or gently bulged out on walls, taking on almost human characteristics.

In my jewelry business, I utilized the belt sander in carving wax, moved onto carving wood, and ultimately, to acrylic. The more I work with acrylic, which is a type of plastic, the more attracted and repelled I become. Plastic has permeated every aspect of my life. This material is alluring in its shiny, bright newness, its ability to be molded into practically any object, but plastic also converges into floating islands in the middle of the ocean. How should we react to this addictive material?

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

After I got my bachelor’s in creative writing in New York, I realized that I never felt like I belonged in that city. So in 2012 I pivoted and headed to the west coast, where working in metals really grounded me. Making an object with my hands gave me focus, and the bay area gave me an open-minded and welcoming community. It surprises me to this day how supportive and sharing the people in the metals community are!

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Make mistakes! If you never melt a bezel or overfire enamel, you will never know what the limits and potential of these materials are. As my professor Deb Lozier says, if you can repeat a mistake to create a consistent result, the mistake becomes your technique.

My second piece of advice is to try everything. This means interning at a gallery, working as an artist’s assistant, volunteering at a conference, etc. Each opportunity is a chance to see what truly fits you. Think of it as trying on a ring. You won’t know if it feels right unless you try it on. Taking on different roles in the metals field will also give you a feel for how the industry works and where your niche is.

What are your plans for the future?

Right now I’m focusing on building my jewelry business and writing for Art Jewelry Forum, but I might consider grad school in a couple years. It would be incredible to return to an environment custom made for explosive creative growth!

Alexa

February 2017
San Francisco, Ca
Website

  • “Alexa”
  • “Alexa”
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  • “Alexa”
  • “Alexa”

Tell us a little about yourself.

My life experiences have been very diverse, and are all part of who I am as an artist. I speak many languages, have traveled around the world, and lived in Mexico and India. I have known the rhythm of life in villages with no electricity or running water. I have slept in a manger in the foothills of the Himalayas, lived in a temple compound in southern India, and participated in ritual dancing and visitations through the night disguised as a demon in a village in Mexico. These and so many other experiences have enriched my inner landscape. Although, I am not drawn to mimic ethnic styles, my work often has a textural feeling that is reminiscent of lives more connected to earth and nature and simple tools.

However, at the end of all travel there is an experience of coming home and reintegration into one's own sense of self. Ultimately, the effect of so much exposure to other cultures has been to clarify who I am as a person, a woman and an artist. It is mostly from the unique forms, textures and themes of the world in which I live that I draw inspiration. Although an element may appear in my work that has an ethnic feel, I am driven to frame it with a simple, sleek shape or surface that reflects a more modern sensibility. The best example of this juxtaposition is a series of cuffs that consist of fold-formed, oxidized copper attached to polished silver with silver rivets.

Interview

What is your favorite tool and why?

I would be hard pressed to choose between my biggest investment in a tool, my electric jeweler’s saw from Knew Concepts and my mini-drill press from Micro-Mark. According to the inventor, Lee Marshall, the design of the electric saw is based on the action of a sewing machine. It can quickly cut even the most intricate pattern in metal sheet with very minimal effort.  It was expensive, but well worth the investment to save wear and tear on the tendons and joints of my arms and hands, which had suffered years of abuse from carpentry long before I began making jewelry.

The mini-drill press drills holes at a precise right angle to the surface of the metal. However, the stem of any of my mini buffs, sanding discs, cut off discs, and burrs will also fit in the chuck allowing me to use both hands to hold and manipulate the piece I am working on. Micro-Mark is a great resource for inexpensive tools useful to a jeweler. I also have their mini combination metal shear/brake. I only use it for making crisp bends in sheet metal, now that I have a good quality shear from Rio Grande. Micro-Mark does sell a very inexpensive brake just for bending sheet metal.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

In the first few years my work was all highly polished Sterling silver.  However, I eventually gravitated toward less precise, less polished surfaces. At one point, I was cutting shapes out of sheet metal with a hammer and small chisel. In a later series of pieces I began incorporating acrylic as a way to bring color into my work, mostly my favorite color, red. Currently, I am working exclusively in bronze because it is so much richer and warmer than either silver or American gold. It reminds me more of the color of gold jewelry I bought in India. The challenge I have to work around with bronze is that the solder Rio Grande has developed is not a perfect match.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I design jewelry not only as body decoration, but as wearable art. My jewelry often expresses in visual language themes drawn from my musings about life.  An on-going direction in my work is a series of pendants and brooches that incorporate forms suggestive of cocoons or nests as visual metaphors for relationships. Each “cocoon” or “nest” is built-for-two (two pearls or semi-precious stones nestle inside), and is contained within the simple geometry of an outlined circle or square. The latter serves both as a counterpoint to the organic form and texture of the “cocoon”, but also as an abstract symbol representing qualities of relationships, like privacy, safety, and security, that support the potential of relationships to be containers for growth.  When I am working on these pieces, I have the sense of creating from a very primal place.

A series of pieces that I call “Geometrics” is influenced more by my experience working in graphic arts. This group of brooches and earrings are a playful exploration of altered circles, squares and triangles that have been bent, pierced and corrugated. The designs are driven by my love of simple geometric shapes.

An element that frequently shows up in these pieces is an undulating line that I call a “squiggle”. Its earliest appearances were when I was working in clay. I still have an example of it from that period on the wall of my jewelry studio.  You can see two large, glazed porcelain, black squiggles on the wall to the left of my main work area. A squiggle speaks to me of spontaneity, of playfulness, of movement and dance. It is the expressive gesture of a hand, the path of a bird in flight, the bounce of a ball. My squiggles are part of an ongoing conversation between elegance and whimsy, as exemplified in a piece I called “Whimsy Escapes”. The enameled strip along the top of this piece can be removed and replaced with a choice of three other colors, depending on ones mood.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

After earning a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from the University of California with a major in Ceramics, I spent several years creating and exhibiting both functional and sculptural work in clay. Following the hiatus that resulted from a major relocation, I found myself returning to an earlier love of working with metal. I realized that I prefer working with metal because it can hold crisp pattern and attenuated form, and it resists in a way that creates a dialogue between the material and artistic vision. So I abandoned clay, eventually began training as a bench jeweler, and have never looked back. I have been making jewelry for over 15 years.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

If you aspire to making work that is unique to who you are, learn to sketch your ideas. If want to make the most efficient use of your time and materials, learn to sketch so that you work out your ideas before picking up a hammer or saw. My other advice would be to participate in the MAG exhibits and challenge yourself to develop new work inspired by the theme of the show. Each year that I have done this, it has caused me to squirm and struggle with the theme, but each time that struggle has lead to a break through and to new inspiration and new work.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

One word: marketing. I spent years on the craft fair circuit when I was making ceramics. Been there, done that! So, I am having to figure out another way to market my jewelry. I have found even the higher-end online markets to be not very useful. In any event, I prefer to deal directly with the owners of brick-and-mortal galleries who know their clientele. I am currently putting together a new portfolio to show.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

I have already mentioned vendors I like. As for resources, I like to have as much exposure as possible to what other art jewelers are creating, so I have collected the whole 1000 series from Lark Books (1000 Rings, 1000 Necklaces, 1000 Bracelets, etc.). They contain only very high quality photographs and no text except the title, dimensions, and name of the artist.

I have researched both galleries and artists on the internet. If I see work I like in a book I go to the artist’s website, and from there I can go to the sites of the gallery or galleries where her or his work is sold. There I might find other artists I like, then go to their websites. This is a never ending source of inspiration that helps me to think outside the box when designing my own work.

I have also just recently discovered an online resource, thanks to an eMail invitation to do an online course taught by the inventor of Fold Forming, Charles Lewton-Brain. It is offered by Craftsy.com and it is excellent! A few years ago I took a week long course in fold-forming at the Mendocino Art Center from a very accomplished jeweler who had studied with Charles, but this online course from the master still blew me away. It is interactive, so you can post questions for Charles and the other students, as well as share your work.

Jenny Reeves

December 2016
San Francisco, Ca
Website

  • “Jenny
  • “Jenny
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  • “Jenny
  • “Jenny
  • “Jenny

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in Levittown, PA, a former steel town outside of Philadelphia. My grandma was an accomplished seamstress, needleworker and cook and she taught me many skills as a child. Thanks to her I learned to work with my hands at a young age while developing an eye for detail and fine craftsmanship.

Interview

What is your favorite tool and why?

Digital caliper. Precise measurements lead to consistent quality work, even if your aesthetic is organic.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

I use Argentium sterling silver, 18K and 23K gold. I love Argentium for it’s ability to fuse (joining metal using only heat,) which makes it perfect for granulation and creating the layered textures I use in my work. It also allows me to do a lot of fabrication without using solder and it’s tarnish-resistant, so bright-finish pieces stay bright longer.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

The Bay Area landscape. It’s such an interesting intersection of the man-made and natural worlds. There’s the wild, natural beauty of the windswept coast contrasted with ornate Victorian and sleek modern architecture, the cool color palette of blue skies and water and green hills contrasted with a dark, rocky coast and the bright orange engineering marvel of the Golden Gate Bridge. In my work I like juxtaposing earthy textures with geometric lines, mixing bright and oxidized silver with high karat gold for strong contrast, and use a lot of blue, green and orange/red stones. Maybe I like the Bay Area so much because I like those colors.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

I took my first Metal Arts class at CCSF in 2003. I was working as a bartender, wanted to do something creative and decided to take an art class. After six semesters at City College I decided to pursue a career in jewelry making, and enrolled at the Revere Academy in 2007 to learn a full vocabulary of skills.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Experiment, explore and learn what the material can do. And get lots of practice!

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

The biggest challenge has been developing a body of work that is both artistically satisfying and commercially viable. It’s an ongoing process of refinement that merges what you like to make with understanding who your customer is and what they’re willing to pay for your work. That said, challenge was a big motivator for pursuing this career because it offers so much opportunity for growth and great potential for satisfaction.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

I’m a big fan of Hoover and Strong. They were the first manufacturer to use 100% recycled metals, their refinery uses 80% less chemicals & produces zero-waste discharge (they’re a third-party certified Responsible Source manufacturer,) they also offer Fair-Mined metals, recycled and Canadian-mined diamonds and their website has a wealth of educational information.

Cynthia Clearwater

November 2016
Pleasant Hill, Ca

  • “Cynthia
  • “Cynthia
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  • “Cynthia
  • “Cynthia

Tell us a little about yourself.

I have always been creative and feel compelled to make things with my hands. Ceramics, fiber arts, and metalsmithing have all occupied my attention at various times in my life. I have a BA in Fine Arts from San Francisco State University and an MA in Museum Administration. I have also had hands-on instruction in various metals techniques from the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts. I count myself a hobbyist because I have never tried to make a living from my art. My professional career was at the University of California Berkeley as a college and museum administrator.

Interview

What is your favorite tool and why?

I love tools and have so many favorites. If I had to pick one, it would be the 90 and 45 degree jig. My design aesthetic is minimalist so any little deviation from true is noticeable in my work (at least to me). The jig will put a flat plane on the end of a wire or small piece of sheet or a 45-degree angle. This really helps with butting up a solder joint.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

As most metalsmiths do, I started out working in sterling silver and using cabochons. It finally dawned on me that the amount of time I put in a piece made out of sterling silver is equal to the time I could make that same piece in gold. However, the gold piece could sell for a lot more money. So I am now working mostly in 14 and 18 karat gold. Love 18K for its silky quality versus stubborn 14K. I have also fallen hard for faceted gems so most of my work includes gemstones.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I usually start with the stone(s) and work out from there in my designs.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

I started metalsmithing in the year 2000 while still working full time at UCB. However, I had worked with ceramics (my BA emphasis) for many years before I took up metal. I wanted the same sculptural qualities in my work but without all the large equipment and muddy mess necessary in a ceramics studio.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Join the Metal Arts Guild, naturally! You need to be with other people who share your passion for metals. You will learn so much and find great mentors in the guild. It can be very isolating working alone at your bench.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

I will never make the perfect piece. I do not make multiples of my work so each piece presents new challenges. I tell myself every time I start a piece to map it all out step-by-step before I start but I never do. So somewhere in the middle of the piece, I will run up against a roadblock. Creative solutions are usually found but just once it would feel so good if everything went right from start to finish. Sigh. I may never achieve practice making perfect.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

I am a fan of Otto Frei and Rio Grande for my tools and metal. I have purchased two beautifully cut gemstones from John Dyer.

Ed Lay

September 2016
El Cerrito, Ca

  • “Ed
  • “Ed
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  • “Ed
  • “Ed

Tell us a little about yourself.

I have a lifelong interest in education. For 30 years, I wrote programming languages for kids and teachers at the School of Education at UC Berkeley. Now I teach metalsmithing, stone setting and enameling at the Richmond Art Center in the East Bay.

Interview

What is your favorite tool and why?

The hammer. I find it the most expressive tool. I think of a lot of my work as a conversation with the metal and hammers are my voice. From rhythmic heavy forging to shape and form to the light caress as I refine an edge, the vocabulary of a hammer is enormous.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

I work mostly in copper and enamel. My initial attraction to both was that there seem to be so much to learn that I would never get to the end of it. Currently, I also like the interplay between the metal and the glass. The color of the glass can change depending on the condition of the metal and the color of the enamel. One particular advantage is that copper firescale can act as a pigment. This allows me to capture marks of the metalsmithing process in the glass.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Everywhere. Nature of course, but looking at nature, I try to discern underlying patterns and processes which might be appropriated into my work. There are patterns all around us, both natural and man made. I have (or will) made pieces inspired by sources like the changing moire patterns of chain link fences on a pedestrian overpass as I drive underneath it or the miniaturization of architectural metalwork. A wonderful book which captures this attitude is: “How to Use Your Eyes” by James Elkins

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

I have been working in metal for 16 years. I fell into it by accident. After years of taking by daughter to art classes and dropping her off, I thought I might take a class myself. The metal studio is next to the kids studio and the rest is history.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Patience. Take the time to master basic skills. It will be longer than you think because you are not just training the mind, but the eye and hand as well. Even if you intend to 3D print everything, hand fabrication will provide you with an intuition as to what is possible. Embrace mistakes, they appear at the edge of knowledge and show that you are learning. Over time, they can lead you to your own style. Never stop learning.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

Time. I addressed the issue in 2 ways. Many of my demos for my classes are dual use. With some extra finishing, many of them end up for sale at the gallery that carries my work.  Also, explicitly scheduling studio time is important.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

Favorite Vendor: McMaster-Karr – Great place for obscure needs like specialty steels.

Favorite Website: ganoksin.com and the Orchid mailing list is the largest most comprehensive jewelry resource on the internet.

Bo Li

August 2016
Millbrae, Ca
Website

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Tell us a little about yourself.

I had a Master’s degree in Veterinary Medicine and had worked in that field for several years. But I couldn't give up the dream of art from childhood and became a painter. In 2016, I graduated from Academy of Art University major in Jewelry and Metal Art with outstanding records.

I love literature, traditional culture, and nature. I am good at extracting those elements and combining them with enthusiasm to my jewelry. My understanding and passion for life and my love of nature are resources of my endless great ideas and designs. When I was making jewelry or painting, I devoted my whole heart and soul to pursue the pure beauty.

By calm, elegant, and abstract design, my jewelry expresses beauty, pure, peace, and goodness of life.

Interview

What is your favorite tool and why?

My favorite tool is 3D design and printing, because through 3D design and printing, I can make design that can’t made by hand, I can make almost any jewelry in my imagination. For example, my scrolls jewelry set is hollow and is almost impossible to make by hand, but is easily made by 3D design and printing.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

I use sterling silver the most. I love the color, brightness, patina of sterling silver, and it is easy to work with.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I was inspired by the beauty of nature, passion of life, legend and stories, I like to abstract them into smooth lines and 3 dimensional art works, to express the love and peace in my heart.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

I’ve been working in metals for three years. I had a Master’s degree in Veterinary Medicine and had worked in that field for several years. But I couldn’t give up the dream of art from my childhood and became a painter. I attended a few jewelry shows, and the amazing jewelry world attracted me deeply, so I studied Jewelry and Metal Art in Academy of Art University for three years. I love making jewelry, and I can combine my love of culture, nature, and life into my works.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Safety first, always follow those rules, and enjoy.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

I have a lot of ideas and imagination, but I was limited by the techniques sometimes, once I learnt 3D design and 3D printing, I was so happy that most of my imagination can become true. I still need to learn more about 3D software, so I can express my design even more freely.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

My inspiration comes from various fields, maybe from an ancient poem, a legend, a painting, etc., therefore, my favorite website is Google.

David Olson

July 2016
San Francisco, Ca

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Tell us a little about yourself.

I am an engineer by day. I grew up in San Francisco. After a stint as a Navy submariner, I lived Albuquerque and then Phoenix and have just moved back to San Francisco. I have two fantastic adult sons who were raised around all of the art, science and creativity I could cram into them.

Interview

What is your favorite tool and why?

I love my graver. I was reluctant for years to try something that was at once free-form and precise. Once I finally caved to the persistent pressure from a number of mentors, I have joined the converted. My graver is my friend.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

I work almost exclusively in sterling silver. It has nearly limitless possibilities for shaping, joining and surface finishes and the cost is manageable (cheaper than golf). I include natural stones in nearly all designs, but I rarely cut my own.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Inspiration for me runs the range from natural forms such as animals or flowers to geometrics like triangles, spirals or swirls and sometimes even everyday iconic items like a princess phone or a musical staff.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

I got my start in a high school jewelry class 30 years ago. At the first suggestion, I said I couldn’t do it – I couldn’t cut a straight line even in wood. The teacher said that kind of skill is learned and not instinctual and it was the most powerful piece of inspiration I’ve ever been given. I pass it on at every opportunity.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Complete a lot of pieces and give them away. Don’t get stuck on one skill or step or one troublesome piece. Make, make, make. If a piece comes out wonky, give it to your niece, get back to the bench and make the next one a little better. Don’t be too quick to expect to sell anything.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

I struggle with my skill level as a hobbyist. Fussing and doubting because my results are unpredictable, I melt a piece while soldering or snap off a prong while setting the last stone. I gain inspiration from full-time artists and professionals, but it is really my fellow hobbyists who keep my motivation up in the face of all the minor blunders along the way.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

Southwest Gems and Minerals in Albuquerque. They have great pricing and a phenomenal variety of stones, all on display and clearly marked and you can browse all day without pressure or get very knowledgeable advice at any time. Worth the trip down Route 66.

Carolyn Tillie

June 2016
Montara, Ca
Website

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Tell us a little about yourself.

Middle aged, I’ve been juggling jewelry work with culinary work for over thirty years. Much of my bachelor’s in metals was done at San Diego State University under Arline Fisch and Helen Shirk. I obtained an MFA in 1998 at Cal State Long Beach under the tutelage of Dieter Müller-Stach and Al Pine. I am also a Certified Master Chef and obtained advanced certification under the Wine Spirit Education Trust (one of those steps towards becoming a sommelier). In the beginning, the jewelry work started in my early twenties with dragons, faeries, and Celtic knotwork designs that I sold Renaissance and street fairs.

Privately, I create occult- and alchemical-themed regalia and jewelry for several fraternal organizations with my Master’s Thesis work all based on the Kabbalah, occult-based Judaic mysticism. The past decade has been spent combining my great love of food in several jewelry lines that utilize miniature plastic and polymer clay food. I have worked as a food-and-wine author, with my first published book coming out next year, “Oysters, A Global History.” I am currently working on developing a project that will research and present the history food and ingredients as art forms: www.foodasartbook.com.

Interview

What is your favorite tool and why?

I guess I like my flex-shaft. When I was in school – and struggling with hand filing and polishing a piece – I had a teacher who was emphatic with only using one’s hands and no electronic tools. In retrospect, I think it was very silly for the hours I wasted hand-sanding a piece with sandpaper when a few minutes with a flex-shaft would have done the trick.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

I have always been drawn to the concept of repurposing so while I am mostly known now for making “food jewelry” from Japanese gumball machine toys and miniature food from the dollhouse industry, I am currently developing new designs with repurposed antique Edwardian guilloche cufflinks and other vintage jewelry.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I go to a lot of art museums to soak in other visual stimuli. I am drawn to forms that utilize repetition but, conversely, I am also obsessed with vintage jewelry so I also peruse a lot of antique stores, eBay, and auction catalogues.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

Like many, I started making jewelry at a very young age – I remember wanting for Christmas a kit called “Rings and Things” when I was five or six years old. In my teens I bought beading kits until I was able to take my first jewelry class at a local junior college. I always had to work corporate jobs to survive, so getting a bachelor’s in Art took me twelve years since I could only ever take one or two classes a semester. During that time, a love of food and gastronomy also became a driving force in my life. I had the misguided belief that an MFA would provide a natural career path in the art industry and it was only during my last semester of working on my MFA that I realized the degree would not open any doors within the art or crafts world. Having a somewhat bitter taste towards the educational system, a week after graduation (in 1998), I enrolled in cooking school and all but walked away from doing any metalwork for several years.

Instead, I threw myself into the food-and-wine industry, working as a caterer, writing magazine articles about women in the wine industry, and ghostwriting and editing cookbooks. It was almost a decade later that I returned to jewelry when a friend returning from a Tokyo vacation brought me some “gashopon” (Japanese gumball machine toys) fashioned after sushi, that I actually set them as other jewelers would set gemstones. I submitted the first piece made and was accepted to Lark’s “500 Plastic Jewelry.” That encouraged me to throw myself back into jewelry production; working street fairs, craft shows, and the internet.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Learn and perfect as many techniques as possible. Like exercise (as though I’m one to talk), keep it up and stay in practice. Those long breaks in not working on the bench has taken its toll in that there are skills I acquired that I no longer have.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

Part of me greatly regrets the time spent in the university system for what are now useless degrees. I had good, classically-trained German-trained metalsmiths for instructors, but they knew little in the ways of formal bench work. With their emphasis on large-scale hollow-forms, I think they only showed bezel setting once and never any other form of stone-setting. The other challenge that came with the university system included the entire lack of any business preparation or professional development on any scale. There was NO guidance on self-promotion, accounting, exhibitions, gallery submissions, etc. Perhaps it is different now, but in 1998, it was very frustrating to be given a diploma, but be thrown to the wolves in trying to figure out how to make a living. How I overcame it was through organizations like the Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment and the Metal Arts Guild (at one point, several members and I started a business mentorship group to share our information and experience – I don’t know if that still exists).

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

eBay. I love sourcing the unexpected like the miniature food or someone else’s broken scrap. There is so much old broken jewelry available so inexpensively that can be redesigned into new and modern work.

Owen McInerney

May 2016
San Francisco, Ca
Website

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Tell us a little about yourself.

I live in SF but grew up in Dublin, Ireland, where it rains all the time and the skies are always gray!  I love the warm weather here (for the most part!) and the blue skies.  I’ve had several careers on the way to being a full time metalworker but as they say, life is about the Journey…

Interview

What is your favorite tool and why?

Don’t really have a favorite but do love a few:  my miter cutting vice is a godsend! and I have a few tiny Riffler files that get me out of trouble!

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

Most of my work is in sterling silver but I love working with copper, especially when forging or forming.  Often I’ll make a design/idea in copper first to see if it’s even feasible and whether I like it or not.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

A lot from plants/gardening I must say- which I love and am always looking for new plants with unusual shapes, colors and textures. I also try to draw as much as possible to iron out any kinks before I make something new and then add measurements and notes so I’ll remember how to make another in the future. Then, as I’m making something often an idea or variation will pop into my head, which I also draw in my sketch book  – as these often lead to new designs. These drawings are a great resource at a later stage (when the inspirations juices are not flowing!) to look back over for ideas. I must say too though for me, it’s all about the metalwork, the technique. I’m actually not that interested in jewelry but jewelry sells well and I apply the current metal technique I’m working on to make jewelry.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

Well, full time as a jeweler I think its been 8 years. I took metalwork in High School where I learnt the basics and was making simple sterling jewelry back then too. Punk had just exploded in Dublin and my poor sister got to model my early creations  – like it or not! Think she got expelled from school at some stage for wearing an earring I made out of a dried half bird!  (bought from a fly-fishing supply store). I tried to get an apprenticeship at a silversmith but ended up doing an engineering degree.  Years later as a software engineer here in the Bay I convinced my company to let me attend SF State once a week where I took classes with the wonderful Julia Turner. More recently I’ve been a regular at Scintillant Studios and software is long gone!

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Let’s see, I suppose a few things. Stick with it for one. 10,000 hours of practice will really help! Try to do your own thing and find your own path and not be too influenced by what others are making. Keep taking classes and learning new techniques and don’t keep making the same thing or you’re get really bored (and so will your audience).

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

I suppose one of my biggest challenges is when switching from making multiples at the end of the year for holiday sales to creating new pieces in the new year. Every year I fear I won’t be able to come up with anything! – but I’ve learned that you just have to stay at your bench and play and experiment and look over past drawings of ideas for inspiration.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

Tend to use Rio Grande just as it’s so convenient but I have noticed large jumps in their pricing from year to year since Berkshire Hathaway took over.  So shop around especially on higher prices items.

Wei La Poh

April 2016
Oakland, Ca
Website

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Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Hong Kong, but raised with a multi-cultural state of mind. I have lived in Asia for sixteen years and moved abroad to finish her last two years of high school education in London. I then went to pursue the arts in Brooklyn, NY. I finally received her BFA in Jewelry/ Metal Arts with High Distinction at California College of the Arts in 2013. I then went to pursue my MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design in Jewelry + Metalsmithing. My current body of work is based on found enamelware. I am deeply fascinated with the history of enamelware and investigate this subject in the context of how it can be jewelry. It is an ongoing investigation on how these found objects can become adornments. This work can be found under the Handle series.

Interview

What is your favorite tool and why?

This is a tough one! I love my Fretz Goldsmithing hammer and the laser welder, but if I had to choose I’d say the laser welder because I don’t have that in my possession yet and would love to get my hands on one, one day! The usage of the laser welder has been a huge aspect of my current body of work and it works beautifully on steel.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

My current materials that I create most with are found enamelware and mild steel. I love found enamelware because of the history it brings to the table on the surface. You really have to be a keen observer and really follow where all the cracks and dents lead. I love mild steel simply for its vulnerability to rust. I live near the Bay and it rusts like crazy and I’m absolutely in love with it! Except it can get out of hand when it comes to my tools.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Found enamelware themselves and its relation to the body. There’s an unspoken dynamic between the two.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

Honestly, total accident. I took a Jewelry 1 intro class as an elective at CCA and got hooked! I have been studying metals since 2008.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Discover everything you need to know about your material through doing the Richard Serra Verb List.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

Before I had graduated from RISD, the challenge was surviving graduate school. Now that I am out in the “real” world, it has been a balancing act of finding time to make what I love, teaching what I love and finding a job to support what I am passionate about. There have been a few bumps in the road, but reminding myself to at the bigger picture is always important.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

My go to resource would be klimt02.net and vendor is the good old faithful, riogrande.com

Sam Woehrmann

March 2016
San Francisco, Ca
Website

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Tell us a little about yourself.

I am jewelry designer, gemologist, and custom goldsmith living and working out of my home studio in the Castro district of San Francisco. I am in my second year of doing both whole sale and retail trade shows and I work with a handful of galleries around the country that sell my work.

I came to San Francisco in 2001 to attend the Revere Academy. In 2004 I completed gemology training at GIA in Carlsbad California. I have been back in San Francisco since 2005 working as a bench jeweler for two different designers and developing my own line of jewelry.

Interview

What is your favorite tool and why?

One of my favorite tools is the chasing tool i use to put my signature notched texture on the edge of many of my designs. I like to find different uses for tools. For instance the most use i get out of the miter jig, normally used for filing metal stock flat, is to use it for holding tubing while stone setting.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

I work with a lot of stones, both precious and semi precious. I love finding unusual stones and rough material to work with. As for metal, I love working with high karat gold. The bright yellow color and way it works has always captivated me. I also like to use a mix of different metals in my work to get different color combinations between the metal and stones.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I draw inspiration both from the materials i work with, such as the cuts of stones or the natural crystal structure of minerals, and from living in an urban landscape which gives my work an industrial feel.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

My first experience with metal was in high school jewelry classes. I had a rock collection as a kid that alway fascinated me. Learning to work with metal and incorporate stones into jewelry is what got me into this field.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Advice i would give to anyone starting out in metals is don’t be afraid to experiment and push the limits of what you can do with metal. Don’t be afraid of the material either, if something doesn’t work out you haven’t lost any material. You might have to refine the material, but the value is still there.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

One of my biggest challenges as a metal artist is to figure out how to run a successful business and make a living doing this. That side of things does not come easy, you have to put a lot of work into this side of things too.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

I think the best resource is this great metals community. You can find a wealth of information from teachers, classmates, other artists, and metal friends. I have been fortunate to meet so many wonderful and sharing people in this community.

Oakley Parsons

February 2016
Concord, Ca
Website

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Tell us a little about yourself.

I moved to California a couple of years ago, from Africa. I’m originally from Canada but have lived in the US off and on for many years. I came to metalwork and jewelry quite recently, beginning just two years ago at the Revere Academy in San Francisco. After a long and varied career I’m finally doing what I love – working with my hands, being creative and being my own boss. I love working in my studio where I can spend all day with my two dogs who are the joy of my life!

Interview

What is your favorite tool and why?

I love my Meiji EMZ-5 microscope. It allows me to really see all the detail of the work I’m doing. It’s like seeing into a different world, I get totally absorbed and forget about everything else. I also love working with my gravers. Engraving lets me be very expressive. It’s like drawing – endless possibilities.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

Gold, diamonds and rubies. Gold is a beautiful, buttery metal; diamonds have an unmatched sparkle and the rubies have such a beautiful richness of color. For me it’s primarily the visual attraction.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I’m typically very inspired by the beauty in the natural world around me, in the forms, shapes and movements. Right now I’m working a lot with geometric shapes and patterns and I’m also gaining inspiration for this from man-made articles like fabrics and architecture.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

I’ve worked with metals for just 2 years. At college I studied fine art and over the years have enjoyed painting and drawing. When I lived in Colorado I had friends who were jewelers and always felt like I wanted to try it. When I moved to California in 2013 I bit the bullet and committed. It’s the best life choice I ever made!

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

Take the JTI Program at the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco. It’s how I started and it gave me good solid knowledge and skills base in many metalworking and jewelry techniques. The teachers are really good and learning in a group is a good way to build a network of friends and business resources.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

In terms of skills, soldering has been a big challenge for me. At the end of the day there is really no substitute for practice, though, and I am improving all the time. A jeweler friend recently taught me to use a German blowpipe that allows for really fine control and is massively improving my soldering capabilities and scope.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

Look for The Ganoksin Project online. They are an organization dedicated to the benefit of jewelers worldwide, free of charge! They host a wealth of information and inspiration in articles, videos, blogs, forums, technical papers and galleries. Check it out.

The Metal Arts Guild is truly a fantastic resource, especially for networking locally. I have made really good connections through MAG, both as friends and resources. This is especially important for me as I look for advice and guidance in turning my jewelry art into a business venture.

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