We Are SNAG: Contemporary Smiths

You know that's slightly chicken-y Akimbo ©2012 WTEK bronze, nickel, brass
Akimbo ©2012 WTEK bronze, nickel, brass

I am very honored to be representing the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) in this year’s online exhibition, We Are SNAG: Contemporary Smiths. Out of 700 entries my teapot, Akimbo, was one of only 27 pieces chosen for this exhibition. It even includes a piece by one of my metalsmithing heroes, David Huang!

From “blacksmith” to “goldsmith”, “silversmith” to “bladesmith”, the term “smith” denotes connotations of skill and mastery.  As makers, designers, craftspeople, artists, students, teachers, independent studio practitioners, gallerists, and hobbyists, WE ARE SNAG.  Juried by Sue Amendolara, Greg Gehner, and Tom Muir, this online exhibition embraces the work of contemporary smiths and highlight some of the extraordinary works created by members of SNAG using traditional or contemporary smithing processes including, but not limited to: vessels, objects, sculpture, jewelry, and architectural works. WE ARE SNAGContemporary Smiths is the second in a series of juried online WE ARE SNAG member exhibitions celebrating the breadth of our field and membership.


Jeweler-esque Jobs

auto body repair kit – do these tools look familiar?

Jewelry and metalsmithing might seem like they have nothing in common with other jobs. You might be surprised to learn some of the same techniques are used in seemingly unrelated industries.

The easiest comparison would be with farriers. These days most horseshoes are premade and just slightly altered to fit each horse’s hoof. But they still use hammers, anvils, and either a torch or miniforge to move the steel.

The techniques metalsmiths use to make hollowware (like my bowls or teapot) are the same that auto body repair shops use. They work on a grander scale and have some cool suction based tools for dents that my pieces are too small for, but the basic idea is the same. One of my online hammer sources is actually geared for body repair.

Behind the scenes at my dentist’s office. Looks amazingly like a jeweler’s work area…

Most surprising of all might be the connections between jewelers and dentists. Yes, you read that right. Dentistry uses similar tools and techniques for tooth repair that jewelers use to create work. A dentist drill is the same thing as my flex shaft (like a dremel tool.) It just uses much smaller bits. They use polishing wheels, molds, and other tools that are incredibly similar to those that jewelers who cast metal use. I’ve even heard of dentists who make jewelry as a sideline or hobby, even to put them through school.

So next time you get your teeth cleaned or head to Maaco, remember that they’re just jewelers on a different scale. It might feel less scary that way.

Society Loves a Good Anachronism

Anachronism (Photo credit: Matt Stratton)

Anachronism: anything that seems to be out of its proper time in history

What I do is somewhat anachronistic. Even the head of my metals program in college felt that way. Machines and computers are the modern tools for jewelry and hollowware. Who am I kidding, people don’t even use things made out of metal anymore – it’s all plastic. Even our troops wear body armor created through chemical science rather than smithed.

Shane Adams and Full-Contact Jousting. (2012). The History Channel website. Those helmets totally remind me of the Cybermen.

Even though that is true, society will always have misfits like me who love a good anachronism. Just look at TV. There’s not one, but TWO reality shows featuring the resurgence of full contact jousting. Typewriters are making a comeback. I even saw a “vintage” rotary phone on the Etsy front page the other day.

Humans will always have a need to use their hands. It’s what has helped us evolve. Yes we’ll also always try to find ways to do things easier, to have others (either robots or just other people) do the labor for us. But we’ll still have that urge to make something by hand. And that’s what I celebrate every time I let my hammer fall.