John at his work bench
John at his work bench

How did you become interested in pursuing your  studies?

Well the answer is really a two part answer.

First, believe it or not, came from watching reality television shows like “American Chopper.” They would from episode to episode design and fabricate a different motorcycle. To me this seemed to be one of the best jobs anyone could ever have. This led me to search for a vocation where I could design and fabricate a product.

The second part came about by attending many art shows and fairs. Anyone attending an art show or fair can easily see that there can be money made in jewelry. I also noticed that a predominate number of jewelry artists were what I would call assemblers. What I mean by that is, that their main job is composition and assembly. Most if not all material they use is pre-fabricated. What I want to do is design and fabricate most if not all of the materials I would use in creating an item. This lead me to the study of silversmith/metalsmith. Another observation of mine was intarsia. This is the art of combining different woods or stones into a pattern or even a picture. While intarsia produces really beautiful pieces, I do not see much offered. There is one exception to this and that is the jewelry work of the Zuni, Native Americans. This led me to the study of lapidary, cabbing and faceting.

What I completely skipped was glass fussing. Glass fusing was the first field I started to study. One of the items at the art shows and fairs that peaked my interest was dichoric glass pendants, barrettes and bracelets. I asked the artists how they created these beautiful objects and found the art of glass fusing.

Where did you grow up and has it been an influence?

I grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania also known as Pennsylvania Dutch Country. While I was living in Lancaster County I took a lot for granted including the rich Pennsylvania Dutch art community. One of the best fairs to go to and see examples of this rich heritage is the Kutztown Folk Festival. Some of the arts include: Scherenschnitte – In Pennsylvania Dutch stands for “Scissor Cuts” and is a form of paper cutting. Fraktur – Is a form of Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Art of hand lettered and designed documents. Hex Signs – Another form of Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Art which adorn much of the Pennsylvania Dutch barns. I do plan on using this stylized designs in one fashion or another.

Is there any other culture or art been an influence?

Yes. I love the Southwest Native Americans – mainly the Zuni who make stone/silver jewelry. This group of artists provide the majority of stone intarsia jewelry that I have seen. Northwest Native Americans create very stylized totem poles and masks. I believe this style would translate beautifully into jewelry. There are strict laws protecting Native American Artists against others from misrepresenting their art as Native American. Any items I that I would design will have to been said in the style of and not by a Native American. The Huichol Natives of Mexico create amazing bead sculptures, bowls, masks and yarn paintings, but I do not think this type of art would translate into jewelry very well. I love the geometric designs of the Celts.

Do you have any family members that worked in the fields you are studying?

I do not know of any artists in my family by my Grandfather was a gunsmith. He designed an had a company in Austria manufacture his gun. Of course as a gunsmith you work with metal and use some of the same techniques used by a metalsmith. My Father was a tool and die maker. I have many of his tools and I am discovering what they are used for as I continue my metalsmith training.

Where do you see your studies taking you?

Well I am still just learning. I will probably be learning new things as long as I continue to work with metal and stones. My first thought was to combine micromosaics with jewelry and maybe I will still do that in some form or another. I definitly want to combine both metalsmith and lapidary into some form of jewelry. For right now I am just having fun learning and exploring.