I’ve been working with metal on and off since machine shop and welding classes I took in college in the early 90’s. These classes taught me how to run a lathe and mill, basic shop safety and oxy-acetylene, MIG and TIG welding of mild steel, aluminum and stainless steel. It was fascinating to use these processes to fabricate precision parts by hand (CAM wasn’t widely prevalent back then), and I especially fell in love with welding, where I could build structures out of steel by using fire or electricity. However, as commonly happens, I changed majors,got away from working with my hands and instead ended up in a career of software engineering.
Software engineering ended up being a fantastic discipline for me, as I have always had strong critical, logical and abstract thinking skills. While I took a couple of basic programming courses in college, I wasn’t a CS major and was largely self-taught before I had a great opportunity to join a software company as an entry level programming support engineer. I was so extremely lucky to have joined a team with some very generous senior engineers who mentored me and helped me hone my skills further, eventually leading to my rise to software engineer which paved the way to an 18 year career, the capstone of which was a 6 and a ½ year stint at Apple as a Software Engineering Manager from 2009-2015. However, the one aspect that was missing through all that time was the joy that I had found before in working with my hands to create tangible things out of metal.
In an attempt to get back to that satisfaction of creating, I tried my hand at building steel bicycle frames by taking a 2 week course at the United Bicycle Institute in Oregon; there each student used hand tools (hacksaws, files, and precision measuring equipment) and an oxy-acetylene torch to silver braze steel tubes together to make a functional bicycle frame. However, while this was an amazing experience, it was not a great candidate for a life-long hobby, because it just took too much physical space for me to do easily at home. While living in Portland, though, a fellow bicycle enthusiast I knew had taken jewelry fabrication classes many years previously, and had a jewelry bench at home where he continued to dabble in making earrings and rings. That seemed like a great way get my metal fabrication fix, while being at a scale that was more easily manageable at home.
Though the seed of that thought was planted back in 2008, I wasn’t able to take courses in jewelry fabrication until much more recently. I took one course at the Crucible in Oakland in 2014 after I had moved to the SF Bay area, and loved it! I had heard from people that the place to go to get immersive training in jewelry fabrication was the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts, and I took my first class there in January of 2015. Taking that one 3-day class confirmed to me that the Revere Academy was a place where I could learn a lot from the instructors, the staff and from my fellow students. After a lot of soul searching, I decided that I wanted to pursue goldsmithing as a possible second career, as I was suffering from severe burn-out at work. Ultimately, after talking to a couple of Revere Academy graduates at length, I took the plunge and left my position at Apple in December of 2015 and enrolled in the next Jewelry Technician Intensive program in May of 2016. To bridge that time, I took 1/2 of the Graduate Jeweler program classes (those that had no prerequisites), some Masters Symposium classes and practiced long and hard in my home studio that I had started to set up after my first Crucible class. After the JTI, which was an amazing experience, I finished all of the GJ coursework by October. Since October, I have been building a cohesive collection of designs, finding my artistic style and learning the business side of being an independent goldsmith and jewelry designer.
People always ask an aspiring designer where they find their inspiration. My logical critical mind has always caused me to bristle at this question. I struggle with the idea that my response will sound cliche or trite. And then a fellow designer friend of mine was looking through my Pinterest boards recently and stumbled upon a board I have devoted to all manner of non-jewelry objects, including some art nouveau door handles. First she teased me a bit, and then she seemed to marvel at the way that she could actually see in them the source of my inspiration. It’s true that I am drawn to both the structure and flow of the Art Nouveau and Deco styles and yet am painfully, if sometimes frustratingly, aware that I am still in the infancy of my journey as a designer, trying to match what is in my mind to what my hands are capable of creating. It’s a humbling ongoing lesson that I humbly ongoingly must embrace.
I hope that in my work, you find something that speaks to you; some line, detail or even a small flaw that you find compelling in a way that holds your interest for even a moment. And even if you don’t, please check back later, as my collection will grow and evolve, perhaps to include something that does, truly, speak to you.