An Interview with Roger:
When did you start making jewelry?
I took my first jewelry design class in 1974 at Southwestern Community College. It was a year after I had returned from Viet Nam, and I found it a completely liberating experience. The art department was a comfortable place for me. The teachers, some of whom I am still friends with over 40 years later, were amazing. We were treated as serious artists, and we spent much of our time working independently in the lab that we were privileged to have keys for. We first had to make all the hand tools that we then used when making our free-form jewelry pieces. It was at the tail end of the 60s and 70s art movement, which meant we worked with lots of mixed media and non-traditional materials, like the piece I made using a rusty horseshoe nail in 14 carat gold. I used the designs in nature--rock formations, crystals, the ocean--for my free form pendants, rings, cuffs and bracelets.
Then in 1975 I went to San Miguel de Allende, where I studied silversmithing, art history and Spanish. It started my lifelong fondness for the Mexican people, their art and culture.
What was the first lesson you learned?
I learned to always finish the unseen surfaces of a piece as well as the visible surfaces. The first ring I ever made was a horrible silver thing that I didn't finish inside. I gave it to dear friend, an artist in her own right, who pointed out my carelessness to me. It haunted me forever, so I was glad to recently hear that it had been stolen. I learned from that ring that the unseen parts must be treated with equal reverence and are equally important in design as the surfaces we see.
What's your favorite thing to do at the bench?
I think I like wax carving the best. That and hammering metal. Both allow me to create flowing lines. I like to have a sense of the person as I work. I design individual pieces and then let people decide if the pieces work for them. I don't do many production pieces anymore. I should add that Mary is my favorite person to design for because she wears everything with such style.
In 1984 Mary and I went to the Tuscson Gem Show. We swore we would only look, but, no surprise, ended up spending hundreds of dollars. However, we told ourselves we couldn't afford a string of crystalline Afghani lapis lazuli beads. They were gem quality: incredibly deep natural lapis blue with a golden sparkle from the crystalline structure rarely found in lapis lazuli. The $600 price tag was steep for us at the time, and I've regretted not buying the beads for the last 35 years. In hindsight, it would have been worth eating ramen for a month or two.
What are you making now?
I'm playing with pieces that can be integrated into the world of fiber. Shawl pins, yarn clasps, orifice hooks for spinning wheels, and so on. I'm using silver, precious and semi-precious stones, tagua, amber.... It's all fun stuff.
Why didn't you ever open up a shop?
I chose never to have a shop because I always wanted to be able to come and go from my bench. It's impossible to have a shop and meet deadlines and still leave to go surfing for a month when the swell is good in southern Mexico. I always want my time at the bench to be play and not work.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that as I've gotten older I've learned that I only want to make pieces that speak to me. If they sell, great. If they don't, that's great too. It's all okay.
Shaping surfboards and carving waxes are very similar. They both require moving the material with carving tools, creating flow in the piece.
Handing off the finished surfboard in Oceanside. This was a great moment for me because I had taught this "boy" to surf over 40 years ago when he was only 15.
Wax carving--basically a miniature version of surfboard shaping.
At my 35-year old bench. This is me helping a young friend with her Senior Exit Project a few years ago.
Drilling a hole in a PMC pendant. Our young friend made a pendant and earrings out of precious metal clay. As her mentor, my task was to demonstrate the various techniques at each step of completion.
Buffing. Also called polishing....
So far, so good. This will be a hammered sterling silver hair clasp.
Dirty work, but somebody's got to do it.
These are the first two bracelets I made back in 1974. The one is made of individually carved wax links cast in sterling silver, then soldered to make a chain. The other is hand forged silver with malachite. It is my first bezel-set stone.
This is a closeup of a huge redwood trunk washed up on a beach in Mendocino...and....
...this is one of a series of lost wax cuffs where I tried to capture the movement of the redwood roots.
A stick pin playing with organic shapes and bi-metal colors (silver and gold). The stone is amethyst.
One in a series of free form pendants. It's sterling silver and malachite.
Another pendant in the same series. Sterling silver and amethyst.
Like the other pendants, this is also lost wax. The stone is a black druzy.
I started carving amber in Chiapas, Mexico, studying with a local artisan. I love the soft flowing feel carving amber gives me. I use red amber as much as possible as it has a bold richness that matches the cochineal reds Mary uses in her dyeing.
I enjoy mixing metals and stones, matching color and flow. Both pendants are silver and gold; the green stone is tsavorite.
I can use a production piece if I have a stone a client wants set quickly.
Three rings I've made for Mary over the years. On the left is a large bronze tourmaline flanked with yellow diamonds. On the right is a seafoam green tourmaline with blue and white diamonds. Her wedding band is carved wax, my signature organic design.
But as much as I love working at my bench, I love the water even more.
Surfing, free-diving, sailing, I love it all. And I love our Aussies. Here is Rumi, now gone on to bluer waters. He was my most ardent supporter and fellow waterman.
Trying out my new knee board. When you don't have waves, you improvise.
Roady is our newest water dog. Right now it's puddles, but the waves are calling.