Featured Member

Each month a new Featured Member is chosen from the completed member profiles on our website. Their interview and work is highlighted on our blog and social media. Visit our archive of past Featured Members.

May 2020

 

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

Kent Raible

Our educational site: kentraible.com

The jewelry: goldenspherestudios.com

Our YouTube channel: KentRaible 

Instagram: kentraible

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.