Heather: What's something that you've learned from one of your students?
Joe: I think primarily the thing that I learn from students on a regular basis is open-mindedness. Not a lot of technical information I would say, I'm sure students have taught me technical things over the years but not that I can think of. The students are often coming from a very innocent place as far as working that they don't necessarily know what the rules are so they think out of the box in creative ways often. That's really informative for me because once you learn the rules of how to do things, it's easy to get trapped in that box and think that there is only one way of doings things. The students really come up with creative ideas as far as design or function of pieces or things that are way outside the norm as far as technique and that's really cool. Some of those things are very useful. One of the things about jewelry making and silversmithing is there is more than one way to get to an end result. Sometimes there's better or worse ways of doing things and sometimes there are just many things that are personal preference as far as ways people like working and that's important to remember also. When I teach I try to teach the most efficient and effective way that I'm aware of to the students but it's also important to be open minded as far as different input from them and different ways of doing things.
Heather: Why do you think people like to wear jewelry? And why do you think people love to make jewelry?
Joe: There are a variety of answers to that. There are a lot of things jewelry can be. It can be a sign of prestige and wealth, it can be a display of our personal artistic preferences, and it can be personal adornment and decoration. As far as what I do, in the realm of more art jewelry, I think that the personal nature is really unique in the art world. If you think about sculpture or painting, these are things that we have in our home that are personal but not necessarily something we are wearing on our person. Jewelry is unique that it somehow reflects the wearer and has a relationship with the wearer that is different than is a piece in someone's home. That's really neat and that's the desire to decorate ourselves. It's something that's been for thousands of years. It's the desire to add to our own personal beauty as human beings. I think that's often many of the reasons people wear jewelry. Now why people make jewelry? It's such an interesting question and for me and it's important to look at "why do I make art, specifically jewelry?" Jewelry is neat because it's at a crossroads between science and art on some level. Similar to architecture in that there is a strong point or there can be a strong point of creative expression and beauty and creating a new thing in the world but there is also a strong craft part as well of making something. I see people in classes a lot that come from engineering and computer backgrounds; left brain people. I think jewelry is great for those people because the process is very architectural and scientific in some ways. Some people love to learn about the melting points and the hardness of stones and all the different technical information and there is a lot of that in jewelry making but there is also a lot of creative expression and design so it's neat in the sense that it has both of those things.
Heather: That's great. So you've been active in the Metalsmithing community serving as president of the Colorado Metalsmithing Association. How long have you been involved? How long have you been president? And what kind of experience has this been for you and how has it affected your craft?
Joe: We're very blessed in Colorado to have an exceptional membership of people that live in Colorado doing very high level art jewelry. There are a number of people that are very well known nationally and there are many people making high level work. Our field in Colorado is exceptionally good and talented and we're very fortunate to have that. I've been on the board for 5 years. I was on the board for 3 years and I came to Florida for a residency at an art center for a year so I wasn't on the board. Then I came back to Colorado last year and I started the term that year as president. So that's a 2 year term 2013 and 2014. It's an amazing group of people. We have a conference in Salida Colorado every year for I think 18 and 19 years now. That really has become one of the top couple art jewelry conferences in the US. We get absolutely the best people in the United States and in the world to come and talk about their work and do workshops. We have had many very well known people, Berndt Munsteiner, Mary Lee Hu, Michael Zoble, Michael Good, Albert Paley along with other extremely talented and well known people. For one, just being a part of that organization, not even on the board but just as a member going to conferences where people of that level are presenting, is extremely beneficial. I'm a strong believer the more good work you are exposed to, will raise the level of your own work. That certainly has been true for me. Seeing the absolute best work that is being made has really pushed me to take my own work to a higher level, so that's been great. Being on the board, I've gotten to know many of these people on the personal level which has been an amazing opportunity to become friends these people and to give back to the organization. Professionally it helps me immeasurably that the contacts and things that I've learned from people in the organization has been great. It's given me an opportunity to give back. I went to the conference and was a member for the last 8 or 9 years so there were a couple years where I was just being a member and reaping the benefits of that. Then I was asked to be on the board and I felt it was my responsibility to put in some work. It's very time consuming, it's a big commitment but it's certainly been well worth the effort I've put in for myself and for the organization. I'm happy to have the opportunity to be of service.
Heather: That's good to hear. Thank you so much Joe! Thank you for taking the time and allowing me to pick your brain a little bit and give our listeners a better feel for you. Joe will be teaching with us this year at the JOGS show. He will be having a 2-day Silversmithing class along with some other classes available so hopefully everybody can come take a class and have the opportunity to learn from you!
Joe: Thanks! Looking forward to seeing you all in Tucson!