November 2020

Cyd Rowley

Websites: cydrowley.com

Instagram: cydrowleyjewelry

  • Cyd Rowley
  • Cyd Rowley
  • Cyd Rowley
  • Cyd Rowley

Tell us a little about yourself.

I live just outside Washington DC, I am married, with twin daughters who are now in their late twenties and two cats – Isha and Ferg.  I’m happiest working in my studio experimenting with jewelry techniques and continually combining the new things I’m learning.  I also love traveling.  I lived in London during the ‘80s and ‘90s and England is a second home for me.  Prior to Covid I traveled to the UK at least twice a year where my stepson and grandson live, so I miss not being able to get back there.

What is your favorite tool and why?

I love my Bonny Doon hydraulic press.  It gives me a great way to quickly achieve depth and volume in my work which is very sculptural.  Pressing a pillow form with a silhouette or conforming die is a jumping off point for developing a piece further- either by creating a hollow form with two halves, using miniature stakes to modify the form, creating surface textures and patterns, or combining it with other forms and techniques.  There are so many ways to use the Bonny Doon that you could spend decades and never exhaust what it can do for you.

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

I create my pieces from sterling silver and lately I’ve been using gold leaf and sterling leaf from Japan that comes with a marbled color.  

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I make small vessels and I’m fascinated by anything worn on the body or found in nature that is used to contain something.  There are many historical examples such as perfume vials, pomanders, needle cases, lockets, or reliquaries. I also find great ideas in natural pod forms.  I find that I can lose myself for hours in my own library of books or on Pinterest finding wonderful images of containers.

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

About 18 years ago I was finishing a program at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in architectural design / space planning when I took my final elective in jewelry fabrication.  It was like a light went off in my brain and everything fell into place.  I spent the next five years taking every jewelry class offered at MICA and then I set up my own studio, with two other jewelers and never looked back.

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

Create your own jewelry community – get to know other jewelers by joining guilds like this one, going to conferences (pre and post Covid), taking classes.  Jewelers tend to be very generous with their knowledge and time and will offer you help when you are stuck. It can be challenging when you are new at this and things go sideways at the soldering bench (literally and figuratively) so being able to reach out is important.  Also, do not give up. You’ll make a lot of mistakes and melt a lot of metal along the way but that’s an important part of the journey.

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?

Because I love learning new skills and techniques, I run the risk of becoming spread too thin.  I try hard to make conscious decisions about what areas of fabrication to forego so that I can create a cohesive collection of pieces.  But I tend to want to chase the next shiny object!

Favorite resource/vendor or website

I learn so much from Instagram, FB groups and YouTube videos.  Foredom and Rio Grande for tools and supplies.

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October 2020

Manwell Gali

Websites: lacedupmetal.com

Instagram: lacedupmetal

    [caption id="attachment_6833" align="alignnone" width="683"]
  • Manwell Gali
  • Manwell Gali[/caption]

  • Manwell Gali
  • Manwell Gali
  • Manwell Gali

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in the Bay Area and currently live in Pleasant Hill.  I am a husband, and father to two daughters. I am a freelance metal artist, creating everything from metal wall art, to abstract pieces to most recently a large outdoor art installation at a Veterans Housing community. My passion for working in metal began about 9 years ago out of a very small home shop in Oakland, CA. But prior to that, I dabbled in T shirt design, graphic design and even started an online decal company, Laced Up Decals, which is still going strong today.

What is your favorite tool and why?

Computer and CNC plasma cutter.  It allows me to bring the things I conceptualize/design in the digital world, into reality.

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

Steel.  It is so versatile.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I draw my inspiration from things I see and trying to blur the lines between the digital world and the real world via graphic design and fabrication.

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

I have been working with metals for about 8 years.  I was drawn to them because I have always enjoyed making things and with metalwork and fabrication the possibilities are endless of what you can create.

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

Just start making stuff.  Make mistakes.  Create all you can. Try new things and processes.

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?

Commission pieces.  In the beginning I really had no way of conveying my ideas of what  I was going to do. Learning 3d modeling software really helped me convey my ideas.

Favorite resource/vendor or website

Linked in Learning and Youtube.  Between those two you can learn how to do anything.

The latest project photos:

The project was to encase a 30’ elevator shaft at Rocky Hill Veterans Housing Project which is a 39-unit affordable rental community for Veteran families and formerly homeless Veterans in Vacaville CA.

Design concept:

The purpose of this piece is to welcome veterans and their families to their new home while showing the transformation each veteran experiences, and the strength required to do so. The main background of the piece is the American flag, a staple in showing the patriotism and heroism all veterans embody.  The man holding up the child represents family and the sacrifice and service our veteran’s families have also given to this country. The child with outstretched arms like wings begins the symbolization of transformation and growth, which is carried out through the rest of the details in the piece. Veterans, after years of service, are faced with having to transform into a new life, a new community, and a new routine. The various birds, starting at the feet of the veteran and rising up to the top of the piece, are depicting this very transformation and growth our veterans go through. We start with crows rising from behind him, to eagles rising up above, to the final transformation into the Phoenix. The Phoenix mimics the journey of the downtrodden veteran; the man or woman who has risen from the ashes of homelessness to a new life, a family, and a community. In mythological symbolism, the Phoenix is associated with the sun and it obtains new life by rising from the ashes of its predecessor. Much like the Phoenix, many of our veterans have had to pull themselves out of a dark and desolate place, shedding the lives and pasts of their predecessor self. The hope with this piece is that our veterans, and their families, will see that like the Phoenix, they are strong, that they have the power to transform, and they will rise above with new wings.

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September 2020

Camille Torres

Websites: camilletorresdesigns.com

Instagram: camilletorresdesigns

  • Camille Torres
  • Camille Torres
  • Camille Torres
  • Camille Torres
  • Camille Torres
  • Camille Torres

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a Cali girl through and through. Born in Oakland, raised in Sonoma County, then back to the East Bay as an adult. I actually accidentally purchased a house, where I live now, about a block away from the first house I lived in as an infant. Strange, but kind of perfect. I lived in NYC for a while, as a young adult and part of me still misses it every day, but I know that I am where I belong. 

I have always been a creative type. My grandmother taught me to embroider when I was about 5 or 6 and the rest is history. I was always one of those kids that was more interested in drawing in some corner, rather than playing outside, though my mother made sure I got plenty of sunshine. I started beading when I was 10 and even sold some of my work alongside one of my best friends. I guess one could say that deep down I have always been an entrepreneur. 

As a young girl, I became an actress and studied fervently for about ten years. Although I was 13 when it all began, I took my “career” very seriously and that was how I found myself at an academy in New York after graduating high school. However, I never stopped making jewelry. It was not until my late 20’s that I realized my true love was in metal. It took another couple of years before I went back to school at California College of the Arts, where I formally studied metal arts. I graduated with honors in 2015 and began Camille Torres Designs (CTD) the following year. 

CTD is currently represented in multiple galleries and boutiques nationwide. I have just released a new line called the Arachne Collection, which is a gem-forward line featuring one of a kind pieces. This work, in particular, is about interconnectedness amidst isolation. Two juxtaposing forces, which I have been exploring during COVID. 

Currently, I am preparing for my submission in a group show called Tranquility at 4th Street Fine Art in Berkeley. Due to social distancing ordinances, the gallery will not be hosting an opening, but the show will be available for viewing beginning September 3.

What is your favorite tool and why?

My favorite tool is my torch, hands down. Basic, I know, but I think that it is the elemental quality that draws me to creating with metal. I am a fabricator at heart. I have always loved the process of building things with my hands, and jewelry is no different. There is a geeky part of me that feels like a wizard when I solder, and I love the challenge of how unforgiving metal is as a material.

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

My go-to material is sterling silver and I think the predominant reason for my attraction to it is because I like to work in large scales. It is too impractical to make statement pieces from gold, and I try to stay clear from using brass or copper when there is contact with the skin. Aside from that, I love the color of silver. It is like the perfect blank slate, and there is a softness to the tone that I do not find as much in white gold or platinum.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Most of my inspiration is drawn from nature. I have a love affair with insects and just earned an entomology certificate over the last couple of months. I find that it is easier for me to create something when I understand how it works, so learning insect anatomy has been a great boon for my creative process.

However, I find that even more than just the natural world, I am inspired by how industry overlaps with nature. The dandelion that pushes through cracks in a sidewalk. The rotting, abandoned dock, poking through the waves on the shore of the bay. I love watching nature reclaim places and things, the promise that life will always prevail. Perhaps it gives me hope.

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

I have been working with metal for about seven years. The story of how I was brought into this field is a long one, but jewelry has just always been there for me. When I was a kid, my best friend’s mom was a jeweler, who worked from home. One of my first real memories of jewelry was through one of her pieces. I remember feeling an endorphin rush as I tried on her bracelet. It was a transpersonal experience for me, and I believe it was the moment that tied me to metal forever. 

I have always been interested in creating functional art. Textiles, pottery, and before I learned to solder, I was really into beading. Jewelry has always been the thing that keeps me up at night, though. I love the process. How hideous it is until you reach the final moments of completion when its true beauty is revealed. I love how it looks great on everyone, regardless of body type, and how it lasts forever. How metal is simultaneously unforgiving and malleable. I just love it.

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

Stay away from the haters and learn how to become your own best friend. Whenever I get down on myself about my art or otherwise, I put my best friend in whatever scenario I’m obsessing over and ask myself “How would I feel about it if this were her situation?” “What advice would I give her?” It sounds silly, but it works. I am usually harsher on myself than I am on the people I love. 

Also, watch this:
https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius?language=en

I watch this TED talk at least once a year when I need a boost. If I am struggling or having a hard day in the studio, sometimes I’ll put it on and just listen while I work. It has helped me with my creative process time and time again over the last 5 years or so. I still cry every time. ~Good tears. Anyway, I think all artists should see it at least once. I really cannot stress how incredible this TED talk is.

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 greatest challenge as a metal artist has been finding my place in the artistic world. When founding Camille Torres Designs, my goal was to work in production, but I am discovering that my biggest hurdle is marketing. As many others have, I have also been doing a lot of soul searching since COVID began, and I think it’s time for me to transition back to one-of-a-kind work. Designing has always been my favorite phase of the creative process so this move will allow me to use my imagination more actively in this way. I love the challenge and frustration of bringing an idea into fruition.

Favorite resource/vendor or website

Oddly, one of my favorite resources is Etsy. It surprises me how often I can find components when the more commonly used, larger resources do not have exactly what I want.

 

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August 2020

Harold O’Connor

Websites: haroldoconnor.com ;
klimt02.net/jewellers/harold-oconnor

Instagram: harold.oconnor

  • Harold O'Connor
  • Harold O'Connor
  • Harold O'Connor
  • Harold O'Connor
  • Harold O'Connor
  • Harold O'Connor
  • [caption id="attachment_6680" align="alignnone" width="1024"]
  • Harold O'Connor
  • Harold O’Connor, “Timeless Watch: Conference Time” donated to the Metal Arts Guild permanent collection in 1991 by the maker.[/caption]

Harold O’Connor, “Timeless Watch: Conference Time” donated to the Metal Arts Guild permanent collection in 1991 by the maker.

 

 

Tell us a little about yourself.

Harold O’Connor was born in upstate New York in Utica in l941; Graduated from high school in Rochester, NY and went west to Gunnison, CO to study psychology and Sociology. Through influence of a Professor,Harold got transferred to Univ. of New Mexico to study anthropology. 

In his last year at UNM he dropped all clauses and just took all the classes he could in jewelry/metalworking. (I got tired of academics and wanted to use both my hands and head together). This was the point where he decided that he wanted to spend the rest of his life in metalworking.  

From the influence of his artist mother, he was always good at constructing things and working with various materials.  He sought out some of the outstanding schools in Europe for protecting his design and fabrication skills.  Enameling art the national school of arts and crafts in Copenhagen, Denmark;  design and metalsmithing at the national arts school  in Helsinki, Finland;  and his most valuable experience at the Kunst und Werk Schule in Pforzheim, Germany studying design under Prof. Reinhold Reiling. 

School hours were intense with 46 per week in classes of stone cutting, stone setting, engraving, repose, and gold fabrication. (some years later he was to have Alan Revere as his first private student at Instituto Allende Mexico).  

After returning to the US with brief time at Penland School in NC as their first resident metal craftsman he settled in Crested Butte, CO and set up studio in the ski town.  In 1970 he went to San Miguel de Allende to get a MFA so the he could teach colleges in Canada in Calgary at the Alberta College of Art.  Several years later he returned to Crested Butte again, then to Denver for 8 years. From Denver to Taos, NM for another 6 years, He has resided in Salida, CO for 27 years.   

Harold has been a producing metalsmith /teacher/author for 58 years.  He authored 5 books including ‘The Jewelers Bench Reference- still going after 43 years: The flexible shaft machine-jewelry techniques.  His works are in 23 museums worldwide, conducted nearly 300 workshops in some 20 countries and is represented in galleries in Taos, NM; Santa Fe and Cambridge, MA.

What is your favorite tool and why?

My favorite tool is the flex shaft machine and micro motor.  I use the flex shaft so much; I wrote a book on its use (1983).  As I have always worked alone and had to learn to be efficient and develop methods, which make my work easier. “It’s not how many tools you have but having the RIGHT tools that make the difference”. Along with the flex shaft, my hands are my  best tools– You have to know how to use them well.

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

During my 58 years in metalsmithing, I have worked with various materials.  My most favorite are silver and gold; One can do more with gold than any other metal (however, with the price being what it is today one would use it sparingly). I usually combine silver and gold in a piece accenting each metal. I worked with titanium when it first came out in the 80’s but dropped it when it became ‘cheap’ in its use.  I like natural materials and their combination with metals.  I have used plastics/resins but not too keen on them. For working with gold, I do my own alloying to get the kart and color I want.  The only material stock I buy is silver sheet and reticulation silver sheet (It is not worth making these).

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

My inspiration for design comes from many sources: man-made environment, nature, interaction with society and my travels to foreign places.  Anything I look at can be inspiring to create metal images.  I approach my jewelry as fine art.  I am not interested in the intrinsic value of the materials- I am more interested in creating small objects with just so happen can be worn.   My influence also come from sculptors: Caro, David Smith, Noguchi, Chillida.  I admire people who do 2-D works, but I work in a 3-D format.

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

I have been working with metals for 58 years now.  My mother was an artist and when I was small, I used to make small constructions and worked with ‘crafts’.  I have always been at ease pithing with my hands, building things (made a wooden dingy boat in 8th grade). I Wanted to become a foreign car mechanic, but my parents wanted me to go to college. I took art classes all the way through school. Started out making $l,00 ear rings out of wood-l962, also enameled copper tie tacks.  

I have learned number of different techniques along the way, most notably is granulation and reticulation of silver– I am probably most know for these techniques – I never invented a technique but have made them work for me. My work can be found in Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC; Smithson Institution, Washington; Boston Museum of Art, Boston, Racine Art Museum, Racine, WI National Museum of Switzerland, Zurich.

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

“Do what you love, and the money will come. Get good design and technical skill. Develop a unique style and NEVER GIVE UP” (Source: Interweave, Aug 19, 2019)

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?

“Biggest hurdle for any artists is “getting your name out there”. This can be done by entering competitions, doing festivals/shows, writing articles, creating distinctive style, getting work in galleries, and today having a website and selling online” (Source: Interweave, Aug 19, 2019)

Favorite resource/vendor or website

Among many books that Harold authored during his 56 years, is The Jeweler’s Bench Reference that has been sold over 45,000 copies worldwide. 

https://amzn.to/2TprWP4

 

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July 2020

Francesca MacKie

Websites: francescamackie.com; francescamackie.weebly.com
Instagram: fmackiejewelry

  • Francesca MacKie
  • Francesca MacKie
  • Francesca MacKie
  • Francesca MacKie
  • Francesca MacKie

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a jewelry designer and instructor, a traveler, a life-long artist and probably a life-long student. My artwork is motivated by a love of material exploration and is largely inspired by architectural landscapes. I grew up in San Francisco and was lucky to have incredibly supportive art teachers and family who encouraged me to pursue my interests. I got my undergraduate degree from NYU and lived in New York for about six years, working for a sculptor, Will Ryman, and a jewelry designer, Lisa K. I moved briefly to Hawaii for fun and sunshine and took two jewelry design classes at the Academy of Art in Honolulu that inspired me to go back to school and focus on metal work. I returned home to attend Academy of Art University in San Francisco and earned my MFA in Sculpture in 2012. I started working in the Jewelry and Metal Arts Department the same year and now I teach two classes in mixed media jewelry and textile techniques with metal. I also work with students to encourage them to enter exhibitions and competitions around the world. I recently joined the board of the Metal Arts Guild where I hope to help the larger community of Bay Area artists.

What is your favorite tool and why?

I learned how to use a plasma cutter when I was about 14 years old and I am still in awe of that tool. It allows you to cut an organic line, edge or texture relatively gracefully in metal, and it’s fun to use if you enjoy watching sparks fly. In my studio I rely heavily on my jeweler’s saw and use it with a lot of different materials. I also love the texture created by a slightly flattened ballpeen hammer.

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

I am a mixed media artist and I enjoy experimenting with different materials, but metal has always held my interest. I work mostly with sterling silver, copper, bronze, stainless steel, aluminum and gold if it is part of a commission. I’m fascinated by metal in its different states, all the colors it takes on as it is heated and softened with a flame and the shimmer and movement of molten metal. My favorite part of the casting process is melting and pouring the metal, those few moments when you get to watch the metal dance and shine. Metal work is what drew me to jewelry design and I often incorporate other materials into my jewelry like stones, plastic, bone, rubber and leather. What I appreciate about mixed media jewelry are the endless possibilities and the mystery you can create by making a material look like something completely new.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I love to travel, and I am inspired by the landscapes I see. I’m curious about the different ways that societies of people have built themselves into their natural surroundings. I’m especially curious about the behavior of natural elements as they reclaim the space, like moss growing on stone walls, ivy taking over a wooden fence or tree roots busting through a concrete sidewalk. My thesis work, which won the Director’s Choice award at our annual Spring Show, came from a concern that humans are taking for granted our power to control nature and that our constructions are more vulnerable than we realize.

I draw a lot of inspiration from the learning process and the people who are part of it. My teachers, colleges, students, friends and family are amazingly creative and knowledgeable about endless tools, skills and new materials. The Bay Area has a wealth of artists and creative venues.

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

When I was a child, I made sculptures from aluminum foil, so I think I have been curious about the manipulation of metal for my whole life. I learned weaving and wire wrapping techniques and can remember making jewelry since elementary school and even selling some in middle school. I went to Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco where we had impressive wood, metal, glass and machine shops, as well as photography and fine art facilities. Between welding steel and soldering stained glass, I was hooked. I took jewelry making classes in and after college and assembled pieces for a designer in New York. I put up a website in 2008 and have been selling my work independently while attending grad school and becoming a jewelry instructor. Last year I gave a lecture and taught a few workshops at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Ningbo, China, and I hope to find more international opportunities related to metal work and jewelry design in the future.

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

I encourage my students to look for the limits of a material and push them, while being safe of course. Experimentation with materials often leads to something new and exciting that hasn’t been seen before. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You learn the properties of a material a lot more thoroughly through trial and error, figuring out what went wrong and why.

I also recommend joining a community like the Metal Arts Guild. We all need support, advice and feedback. Having other professional opinions about your work can help when you are stuck or frustrated. When I finished grad school, I joined a studio call ShopFloor Design and now I am part of a women’s collective called Artners in Grime with several fellow instructors. At the very least we offer each other encouragement, which is sometimes all you need, and if you need more you can find that too. As a professional artist, you’re not just a designer and a maker; you also have to be a photographer, a marketer, a salesperson and an accountant. It’s hard to be good at all those things, look for support from people who are experts at one of those things.

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 enjoy taking classes, doing workshops and constantly learning new skills. There are many upsides to this, but the challenge is keeping a cohesive line of work when I get excited about something new. I have also accumulated so many tools and materials that I am beginning to feel like a hoarder. I’m still working to overcome this by organizing and cleaning my studio, finding a place on my bench for every tool and a container for every material. When I learn a new skill, I think about how I can incorporate it with my other skills into my style. When there are so many directions to go, it can be hard to focus on one. I find To-Do lists helpful to stay on top of projects as well as setting goals and deadlines for each step.

Favorite resource/vendor or website

I prefer not to shop online or by catalogue if possible but supplies for small metals are limited in the Bay Area. RJ Leahy and Otto Frei have a lot to offer and TAP Plastics has become a favorite mixed media resource. I have been sourcing precious metals and jewelry tools online from Rio Grande for the last 10 years and they have been very consistent. My stones and beads come from all over the world. When I go on a trip, I often collect materials like dyed wooden beads from Costa Rica or geodes from Wyoming.

 

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June 2020

Michael Opipari

Website:  blackdogbrand.com
Instagram: baileyblackdog

  • Michael Opipari
  • Michael Opipari
  • Michael Opipari
  • Michael Opipari
  • Michael Opipari
  • Michael Opipari

Tell us a little about yourself.

I spent 20 years traveling the world as a freelance photographer for several national and international magazines. I decided to go back to school to begin a career in architecture and retail design. After almost 20 years of that, I left the design industry but still needed to be creative, so I started making jewelry. Simple at first, but as my experience grew, my work became more expressive and experimental.

What is your favorite tool and why?

My flex-shaft, because it is so versatile. I’m still learning all the things I can do with it.

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

After experimenting with several techniques, including electroforming, I learned about metal clay. It had a look I wanted and I can combine it with traditional metalsmithing. It can be a very expressive material.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I still don’t know. It comes to me as I work. Sometimes it comes from the materials I use. When I hold one of the stones, I think about its formation, over a billion years ago in the case of Michigan greenstone. I imagine the geological forces that went into creating the colors and patterns. The stones are a physical manifestation of time. I’m very respectful of that when working with them.

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

I had two semesters of jewelry making in high school, so a lot of that came back to me when I picked it up again almost three years ago. During my travels as a photographer, I always brought jewelry home for family and friends and have been fascinated by cultures that emphasize self-adornment. I guess I felt I had something to contribute to the craft.

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

Experiment. Don’t be afraid to try different things. Not everything will be successful, but you will learn and gain experience.

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?

Staying out of my own way and allowing the work to form. I meditate before I begin to work. Anything you bring with you when you work will be reflected in the outcome.

Favorite resource/vendor or website

My local supplier, C.R. Hill, Co., metalclays.com and riogrande.com.

 

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May 2020

Kent Raible

Our educational site: kentraible.com

The jewelry: goldenspherestudios.com

Our YouTube channel: KentRaible 

Instagram: kentraible

  • Kent Raible
  • Kent Raible
  • Kent Raible
  • Kent Raible
  • Kent Raible

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in Marin county in a family of artist/bohemians. My parents met at CCAC in the 50’s, and were always supportive of any creative endeavors their children fancied. I picked up the guitar at age 11 (still love to play!), and got into jewelry not long after that. Dad got me into hiking the hills of Marin, and I always had a deep appreciation and love of the natural world, which I still nurture to this day. My wife Lynn and I now live on a fairly remote 20 acre property in SW Washington State. I guess you could say I’m just an old, back to the land hippie who happens to make really incredible jewelry.

What is your favorite tool and why?

The first thing that comes to mind is my propane blowpipe torch (although I am deeply bonded with my rolling mills, too). I discovered this type of torch in Germany in the 80’s, it was the cheap torch of choice for the students there. I loved the way I could control my flame as I worked, breathing into the work helped my focus as I watched the surface of the heating metal. It provides the perfect reducing flame for all soldering and annealing operations, not to mention granulation (the way I do it, anyway).

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

I enjoy working in any precious metal, even copper, but I have to say, I’m partial to gold. It’s easy to work with, alloys well in shop, recycles well, fuses and solders to other metals and alloys, has a beautiful color, and high perceived value. I could do the same work in silver, and get 1/4 the pay. And then, there’s gemstones. They also come with a high perceived value, which means better margins (but also a higher up-front cost) and the design possibilities are endless with the huge range of color and some of the excellent cuts that are available. I’m really drawn to what the mineral kingdom has to offer, the range of color and natural geometry is spectacular, and I rarely work with man-made stuff.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I think I was born with a brain that works differently than most, call it borderline autism or OCD, I don’t know, but I’m very observant and see beauty in even the most mundane things. My brain stores it all up and then puts it together in unusual ways. For instance, my piece called Cosmic Clam Ring was a concept piece for the AJDC (American Jewelry Design Council) which does a theme project every year. The theme, “Hidden Treasure” got me to thinking about pearls in oysters, and that led me to a memory of digging clams with my father and sister in Tomales Bay. I could see the zigzag patterns on the cockle shells in my mind, and feel the form of the shell in my hand. Then BAM! A ring within a clamshell ring presented itself in my mind, with granulation mimicking the patterns on the cockle shells. I knew the form of the clam so well from those years of digging, that I could carve the shell form from wax and place the hinge without a model. After 80 hours, a very successful piece emerged. So, inspiration can come from anywhere…….. even digging clams!

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

Back in the good ol’ days, jewelry classes were offered in High School, and in 1970, my sophomore year, my girlfriend pressured me into doing the class with her, even though I wasn’t particularly interested in jewelry. Interest in the girlfriend waned as quickly as my love of metalworking grew. My teacher at Drake High was a former student of my Dad’s (he was an art/painting teacher at CCAC, and then at College of Marin for 25 years) and we got along well (because I was a great student, probably) and I continued taking jewelry classes into my senior year, and was the lab assistant, working three hours a day through lunch, so I was having a pretty good time….. After that I went on to College of Marin, where I studied another three or four years doing special studies in forging, raising, granulation, etc, while putting together tools and my own shop space in Dad’s garage. I worked in that garage for 10 years!

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

It isn’t the 70’s any more, and gold isn’t $35 and ounce, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get skills and have a ton of fun. Put in as many hours as you can, skills don’t just happen – they come from building neural pathways through repeated action, like learning a language or musical instrument. Work in copper, work in silver, brass or pewter, or whatever, like I did, and hone your skills with inexpensive materials that have similar qualities to precious metals. Get to know the materials intimately, by melting them, soldering them to each other, hammer the crap out of them, find out their limits. Try different styles and techniques – I was into art nouveau, scandinavian simplicity, etc etc, but it took me 10 years (and probably 10,000 hours) to find my real calling. Take classes from people whose work speaks to you, (I took a class from William Clark in Emeryville after seeing his exhibition at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in 1973 – it was a game changer for me). And, lastly, get help when you need it, whether that’s a mentor, or a partner with complimentary skills and abilities to yours, or farming out work. It’s really hard to do a good business alone – to wear all the hats.

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?

No question – it was marketing – selling my work. I was a very shy young person, and I had invested my whole being into my work, took myself way too seriously, and had a very hard time putting it out there, so to speak. So, I had to make myself very uncomfortable, over, and over, and over again. I walked into stores, and was rejected, I did $0 shows, I did personal growth workshops, and I left home to study in Germany. Eventually, it all started to come together, I won awards, stores started buying and selling my work on consignment, I got some commissions, and my work kept getting better. In the mid 80’s, I met my future wife, Lynn, who was the Jewelry Buyer at the Phoenix Shop in Big Sur, and we hit it off big time. I made her my partner, both in business and in life. She had the complimentary skill set to mine, and was a natural marketer, with experience as a store manager in clothing and fashion. We built a business that supported our family (one son) and we had a pretty good time at it too. We also worked very diligently and consistently over many years. We are still reinventing and changing, now by doing online classes and in person classes in our incredible new workshop space. The best decision of my life, over 30 years ago now.

Favorite resource/vendor or website

AJDC.org is the American Jewelry Design Council website. Some of the most successful and creative jewelry designers in the world are members, and have links to their sites, and you can see their theme projects, as well. I’m very honored to be a member.

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April 2020

Barbara M. Berk

Website: BarbaraBerkDesigns.com
Instagram: barbaramberk

  • Barbara M. Berk
  • Barbara M. Berk
  • Barbara M. Berk
  • Barbara M. Berk
  • Barbara M. Berk

Credit line for Portrait of Barbara in the studio:
Photograph courtesy of Irene Searles, PUNCH Magazine

Tell us a little about yourself.

I explore strength and beauty, transparency and movement through the interplay of metal with traditional fiber techniques and structures. Using Renaissance lace stitches, I play with line, plane and pattern. Using industrial wire, I play with texture, volume and scale.

Working directly with the metal, I make Bobbin Lace with stainless steel and phosphor bronze wire by hand, working flat and straight. I then curve, loop, twist, interweave, sew and weld my flat ribbons of lace into 3-dimensional forms.

Domestic/Industrial.  Soft/Hard. Solids/Voids.  Reflections/Shadows. Looking At/Looking Through.  Process/Material. Animated by these dualities and seeming contradictions, my handmade lace “fabric” becomes intriguing, mesmerizing pedestal-supported, wall-mounted and suspended sculpture.

What is your favorite tool and why?

My favorite tool is the one I need right now to accomplish a specific, immediate task:  

It could be a pair of Delrin jaw pliers, so I can shape my weavings and lace without marring the metal.

It could be an Orion pulse arc welder, so I can easily ball the ends of my stainless steel and bronze wires.

It could be my husband’s electric drill – which has taken up permanent residence in my studio – so I no longer have to twist 30ft lengths of wire with a hand drill.

But sometimes my favorite tool is a needle, because it is so much easier to sew metal elements together with a needle on a length of thin round wire.

I have the best of both worlds:  I can use both bench and textile skills and tools to accomplish the tasks necessary to create my sculptures.

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

I work with stainless steel and phosphor bronze.  These industrial metals are far less costly than precious metals, so I no longer worry about making mistakes, which is incredibly liberating.  And they are hard, so I can build larger scale pieces. I love what I can do with the industrial metals.

But my all-time favorite metal is Platinum.  I loooooove platinum:  the color, the density, the weight, the way it moves (it’s wonderful for weaving!), the way it work hardens, the way it looks once woven and the way it feels on the body.  The “finger feel” during the weaving process is not unlike that of sterling silver, but platinum doesn’t tarnish, it’s hypoallergenic and it holds its shape. Platinum is also a metal that my jewelry clients are familiar with and appreciate for its historical antecedents and intrinsic value.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I’m inspired by fluid lines and organic shapes:  the Art Deco ironwork of Edgar Brandt; Renaissance jewels; flowers; Indian paisleys; Paul Poiret’s opera coats; Japanese bamboo baskets; Paris’ Art Nouveau Metro entrances.

I love Alexander Calder’s stabiles and mobiles, and necklaces.  I’m in awe of Ruth Asawa’s creations.

And I’m inspired by and indebted to Arline Fisch and Mary Lee Hu who not only taught me to apply textile, rug-making and basketry techniques to metal, but encouraged me to play.

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

Mine has been a circuitous journey, encompassing a love of fabrics and sewing as a girl, a Master’s Degree in Russian and European History, and over 15 years in magazine publishing.  

I’ve been playing with metals since 1986, though I did make a copper wire link chain in summer camp decades before that. My career started with a chance encounter with period jewelry at an antique show:  images of Etruscan Revival bracelets and Edwardian lavaliere necklaces dancing in my head led to studies of jewelry history and styles, appraising and gemology. I learned to string beads and make chains.  But when I realized that I had lots of product knowledge, yet knew nothing about its manufacture, I enrolled in my first formal bench course at the Fashion Institute of Technology (NY). I learned that I could solder without burning up the bench and I could saw pierce without going through a gross of saw blades.  But it was the move from New York to California for my husband’s career, and the opportunity to study with Arline Fisch at San Diego State University, that brought everything into focus.

In my first semester with Arline, I learned that metal can be worked like fiber, that sheet and wire can be woven.  I made gobs of samples and a series of large woven and knitted brooches, discovering in the process that my true passion is working with the metal itself.  Most exciting was the realization that structurally sound 3-dimensional forms can be fashioned from the metal “fabric” I make. 

During that same semester, I earned my Graduate Gemologist (GIA) diploma, which enabled me two months later to attend the wholesale gem shows in Tucson, Arizona.  As I explored booth after booth of fabulous gemstones, the dealers asked about the brooches I wore. This was the first indication I had that there was interest in my work beyond the classroom.  Six months later (mid-1992) I founded Barbara Berk Designs to create sculptural jewels with my handwoven high karat gold and platinum. In 2013 I expanded into industrial metals, and now I create pedestal-supported, wall-mounted and suspended sculpture.

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

Define your focus:   Identify what you like most about metals, and figure out what you want your day to be like.  Then Network, Network, Network: while Who You Know is important, Who Knows You will be far more impactful.

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?

Very early I learned that it’s critical to understand the physical properties and working characteristics of the metal, so that I don’t have to fight with, but can take advantage of, those properties and characteristics.  I turn to my vendors for product knowledge about materials, recommendations for tools and equipment, and introductions to outside technical experts when needed.

It was Jurgen Maerz, then Technical Director of the Platinum Guild International, USA, who opened the door first to Dr. Richard Lanam, then Director of Product Development at Engelhard-Clal, who helped me identify the proper platinum alloys for weaving, and then to BJ Williams and his magicians at Johnson Matthey who worked with me to determine the correct tempers for those alloys, and produce wire made to spec.

Similarly, it was Dr. Christopher Corti, then Managing Director, International Technology at the World Gold Council, who diagnosed the problem with the 22kt gold wire I was using, and the wizards at Stuller who worked with me to determine the correct combination of alloy and temper, and produce the appropriate round wire.

Currently, I’m looking into a stainless steel alloy that’s suitable for outdoor use.  The biggest challenge I expect will be finding a supplier with smaller minimums, as I cannot purchase 100 lbs of wire at a time.

Favorite resource/vendor or website

I am so fortunate to have the encouragement and technical support of these very special resources:

Myron Toback Inc

Otto Frei

Rio Grande

Stuller, Inc

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March 2020

Nyya Lark

Website: Nyyalarkjewelrydesigns.com
Instagram: nyyalarkjewelry

  • Nyya Lark
  • Nyya Lark
  • Nyya Lark
  • Nyya Lark
  • Nyya Lark

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a self-taught metalsmith artist who has been creating (and growing) in the medium of wearable art for the past 30 years. Imagination and creation has always been at the forefront of my life from early youth. I consider myself to be a research hound and lover of puzzles and details. Skill sets of which definitely offer great assistance in creating designs and reflecting on how what has been imagined can become reality.

What is your favorite tool and why?

I believe that you can never have too many tools, but if I must…My favorite tool is the jewelers saw. More specifically the Green Lion jewelers saw. The shape and design lends itself to a much more enjoyable experience in metal piercing. I’ve discovered that the different steps of the metalsmithing process may not appeal to everyone. Some may not be a fan of the metal sawing portion but enjoy the filing, but I find it rhythmically relaxing and allows for me to connect with the piece that I am working on with each stroke. It’s almost zen-like if you will.

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

I have adopted citrine as my signature stone for its color and connection to my logo (the sun) which represents creation. The materials that I primarily use are sterling/fine silver and semi-precious stones and occasionally other natural materials. I prefer sterling over gold because sterling provides such pure simplicity to my designs while allowing me to use and experiment various metalsmithing techniques. I am always seeking ways to take metal sheet and wire to different places and I’m usually on the hunt for unique cabochons and have had a few favorite go-to lapidary artists that I have used in my creations over the years. In the past few years I have moved more to confirming that all stones used in my work have been ethically resourced. It is also important that I learn about the area where the stones have been mined, and this information I pass on to my collectors and interested parties. I have found that the public has become more eco conscious and I am glad to be able to share the information.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Inspiration comes from various places, unexpected places at times. If I were to whittle it down to specifics – I would say that nature, as found in the types of stones that I discover provide great inspiration. At times they merely need a setting, a background to bring forth their unique beauty. The other is shape and form. A simple line, or curve can spark my imagination.

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

I’ve been working in metals for the past 20 years. I started out creating production pieces involving beading. But I was creating designs with metal parts from the outside, belonging to someone else’s idea. It became too limiting. The production designs were well received but I sought more freedom of expression and the inherent knowledge that research, experimentation and practice would provide.

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

I have given the following advice to my students over the years:

  • Don’t be afraid. It may feel foreign at first but ultimately you are in control. The tool is only as good as the one who holds it. And in time it should feel to be an extension of your hand.
  • It’s not a race, it’s a process, take your time and forgive your mistakes. The beauty is once you’ve erred you now know what doesn’t 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?

I am (as a good number of creative souls are) an introvert and tend to work in a vacuum. And periodically stepping outside of my cocoon is a work in progress in and of itself! I know the value of and importance of being in community with other artists. Being a part of MAG and taking occasional metalsmithing workshops on different techniques has gotten me away from the jeweler’s bench and out of the studio.

Favorite resource/vendor or website

Ganoksin.com

Riogrande.com

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February 2020

Sharon Zimmerman

Website: sharonzjewelry.com
Instagram: sharonzjewelry

  • Sharon Zimmerman
  • Sharon Zimmerman
  • Sharon Zimmerman
  • Sharon Zimmerman
  • Sharon Zimmerman

Tell us a little about yourself.

Being a business owner and a professional jeweler wasn’t part of my original path – I was going to be a musician and performer. Even after 17+ years in jewelry and metalsmithing, I feel like I come at it with an outsider and observer’s view. But being a performer, I think that’s where my deep desire to communicate stems from – wanting to understand my characters in acting isn’t that different than trying to understand people in a classroom. Interpreting their needs, motivations, and desires is like researching the character in a play. Understanding people is central to how I work and teach.

What is your favorite tool and why?

My favorite tool is one of my hammers. I bought it used online 8 years ago, refinished it and it is one of my most flexible and trusted tools. Using it to transform and strengthen metal is such a magical process for me, even after so many years of practicing it.

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

I use sterling, 14K and 18K gold as well as platinum. All have properties that I like to work with for different reasons. Silver allows me to be more avant garde and expressive, since the metal is both flexible and economical, 14 K gold is strong and beautiful, 18 Karat yellow gold is my favorite to work with for its density and flexibility and hello! to that gorgeous color. Platinum is so heavy and bright. I love polishing platinum and watching that glow reveal itself.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

 I draw my inspiration from all kinds of places. A lot of it comes from observing the world around me. Nature, sure, and architecture, and of course a reasonable dose of Sci-Fi movies. I love futuristic aesthetics — it feels optimistic.

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

I started in 2003 with my first metalsmithing class. A couple of years later I picked up and moved to San Francisco to live here, but also to attend the Revere Academy. I met other passionate and motivated jewelers there (some I am still friends with to this day). I had spent a lot of time working retail and customer service jobs – a must for anyone wanting to run their own business! You learn so much about how to work with people. But even before picking up metalsmithing I was always keeping my hands busy – sewing, crafts, beading – but I was searching for more. A guidance counselor heard me say that I really liked making jewelry as a hobby and told me about a local community college metals course. I took a class where I learned that I could make my own rings and I was hooked!

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

Try everything! Even if it frustrates you, even if you don’t think you’ll be totally into it, even if you think you won’t want to use a particular skill, try it and find out for sure. Also, try your hand at working in the jewelry industry. Nothing like having to do production work to find out if you want to keep doing it for decades. And working in the industry can teach you so much about how to work efficiently and consistently.

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?

Figuring out the intersection of what I like to make vs. what people will want. There is a big push/pull of making work that is expressive and represents my aesthetic ideals, while also making sure that it connects with an audience. I do in-person shows and events to find out how customers interact with the jewelry, and to hear how they respond to and describe my work. This has helped me to be better at designing with the customer in mind. After all, if I don’t connect with people, then I don’t get to keep doing what I love.

The other challenge is that a lot of old ways of thinking and working pervade the industry at the upper levels. When I started my business, finding enough companies that provide transparency of their sourcing was a challenge. Overall, the jewelry industry has been so slow to respond to demands for greater ethical accountability, and it has been slow to realize that it has lost the younger generation of consumers because it didn’t provide traceability and accountability. I am happy that a number of organizations like Ethical Metalsmiths and the CRJC are shifting the conversation and putting pressure on larger companies to change their models, but it’s deeply unfair that it is falling to us as individuals. There have been real positive changes – Fairmined certification, a push for Mercury-free mining, thriving partnerships with mining collectives that benefit source communities and a dedication to providing mine-to-market transparency to name just a few. I am excited to see where this will take the industry over the next decade. Joining these organizations and learning from their forums or attending conferences and meetings has helped me discover better resources and has helped with actions like becoming a Fairmined Licensee.

Favorite resource/vendor or website

Favorite resources! OK, so let me give a shout out and a follow to @metalsmithsociety on Instagram for creating an amazing and sharing community of jewelers and metalsmiths. So many good tips on there. For as long as I’ve been doing this, there is always something new that I can learn. Rio Grande is still my go to vendor for so many things, especially tools (their Rio Pro membership which is totally worth it!) and I love Hoover and Strong’s continued commitment to traceability for their raw materials. It’s where I get my Fairmined gold and silver from. Also my caster Jena Hounshell who has been an incredible resource for me over the years that I have worked with her. And her mold and sprue class last year was mind-expanding – I learned SO much. (PS – she’s teaching it again March 14th and 15th – https://www.sharonzjewelry.com/events/sprues-and-molds-with-jena-hounshell-n973z)

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January 2020

Jim B Herbert

Website: wavesofsteel.net
Instagram: waves_of_steel

  • Jim Herbert
  • Jim Herbert
  • Jim Herbert
  • Jim Herbert
  • Jim Herbert

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in San Francisco, CA, and later moved to Santa Cruz. I grew up during the 60’s, amongst a large family of 10 children and a single mom. Having no other choice but to be independent and self-sufficient, I started working at an early age, and eventually opened and operated my own auto collision repair and restoration business. 

In this business, I restored old classic cars: Porches, Alpha Romeos, Volkswagens, old trucks etc. Replacement parts for these old cars were sometimes impossible to find, so I used whatever metal was necessary to fabricate the vehicles. Then I’d measure, cut, shape, bend, pull, reform, weld and grind the metal to fit together to restore the car back to its original beauty. I learned metal work is hard work.

Now, in my retirement, I have moved away from cars, and have a whole new passion and desire to create art.  Instead of fabricating cars for others, I get to fabricate what is in my own imagination.

What is your favorite tool and why?

My welding gun is my favorite tool. I love playing with metal and fire. I like adding and subtracting. It is exciting, and almost seems a little dangerous. My welding gun is a like a magic paintbrush of fire. 

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

I create my sculptures using any kind of scrap metal. I will select the type of metal, or steel, or rod that will fit best with the image I have formed in my imagination to create. After selecting the metal, I begin cutting, grinding, shaping, forming, and welding the pieces of metal into the shape I want. Metal is a great medium to use because it enables me to try a piece here, move it around over there; each piece makes a contribution to the building of the sculpture.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

My art mostly revolves around the ocean.  Often, I see something in my environment that inspires me, and I want to turn it into a tangible sculpture. By creating and sharing my art sculptures, I am able to be part of the beauty of what I love and admire. My intention is to create an artistic experience that will inspire an emotion, recall a memory, ask a question, cause a smile, start a conversation, or replicate a sensation.  I love using my imagination, and I hope to inspire others to use theirs as well.

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

I’ve been working with metals since the age of 21. My career choice of auto collision and restoration is what originally brought me into this field.

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

Create what you are drawn to, and what inspires you. Go with your own mind. Go into the unknown and explore. Expect to work hard, be patient, be careful and never give up.

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 physical demands and risks of working with fire and metal is always challenging. It is dangerous. It is hard, very physical labor. It is demanding of my concentration. I have to be alert, and stay in the zone. Sparks are always flying, and grinders are always cutting. 

I think the more I do, the more I understand the precautions that need to be in place. I am always adjusting and growing and learning through my experiences.