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.

August 2020

 

  • Harold O'Connor
  • Harold O'Connor
  • Harold O'Connor
  • Harold O'Connor
  • Harold O'Connor
  • Harold O'Connor
  • Harold O'Connor

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

 

Harold O’Connor

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

Instagram: harold.oconnor

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