Part 1 – Golden Jubilee
It has been 50 years since I made my first piece of jewelry in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Over the next few weeks I am going to post some key images taken along the way, so that you can see where my path has taken me.
Here I am in 1970 after my first day in the jewelry studio, proudly wearing my landmark paisley pendant (which I still have). I was elated at my achievement, but beyond that I was simply gobsmacked, electrified and ecstatic. I had found my medium, and the door to my creativity was about to burst open. I was totally focused as I peered over the edge into my future.
Part 2 – Everyone Begins at the Beginning
In June of 1969, I graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in psychology and sculpture. I spent the summer driving a taxi in New York and saving up for law school in the fall. However, in between the two terms, and two schools, I attended a generational toggle switch called the Woodstock Festival. Camped out on a hillside with 450,000 of my closest friends, I was totally in tune while having a life-changing experience.
After "3 Days of Peace and Music," everything looked different. And some things were very clear. Law school was totally out of the picture. I wanted to make art, be an artist and live off my work. So, without hesitation, I made a huge shift to follow my dream, something I have done several times in my life. The next thing I did was to buy a VW camper and head south. I crossed the border into Mexico where I enrolled in graduate school at the Instituto Allende. I was aiming for a Master of Fine Arts degree in sculpture.
For two idyllic years I attended a beautiful school in one of Mexico's most beautiful cities where, in between siestas, I took classes in drawing, sculpture, ceramics, batik, Spanish and weaving. My introduction to jewelry was with Maestro Enrique Lopez, who is still teaching to this day!
From the first moment I stepped into the jewelry studio, I was transfixed and transported. It was as if a magnet were attached to my core, and it kept pulling me in closer. As a sculptor, I was captivated by the vast possibilities of working with metal. All I wanted to do was make more jewelry. I was hooked on all the tools and techniques and the rich history that I was discovering.
In the beginning I focused on building my skills, learning the basics in order to express myself in metal. I tried everything I could find in Philip Morton's seminal book, Contemporary Jewelry. I studied casting on my own because there wasn't a class on it.
To put things into perspective, at the time, silver was trading at $1.73 per ounce, which seemed expensive. Gold had just climbed to an all-time high of $36.50 per ounce and local jewelers were convinced that nobody would buy their products at those metal prices!
During my stay in San Miguel, I made over 150 pieces of original jewelry: necklaces, rings, pendants, belt buckles, earrings, bracelets, anklets and stomachers in silver and gold. Each item was unique and each one provided me with an opportunity to learn and practice my growing set of skills. I documented everything that I made in a little black book (that I still have) with sketches, notes and details. I sold all but a few pieces, which I archived and also still own.
Here I am at my first bench in my home studio with all of my tools: 5 pairs of pliers, 2 hammers, and an adjustable wrench which was also a clamp.
And this is one of my first pairs of earrings in silver, cinnabar, and coral. The design had lots of movement. It was modeled by Chipper Roth, who will undoubtedly get a kick out of seeing this photo from 48 years ago.
Part 3 – Sculpture in Every Medium
In 1970 I enrolled in the master’s program at the Instituto Allende in Mexico. My mother and her father were both talented artists, so I also placed a high value on art. I was driven to pursue my interest in sculpture while searching for my voice as an artist. I explored several different media including wood, stone, clay, leather, batik, clothing, drawing, footwear, paint, plaster, plastic, papier mâché and jewelry metals.
I have always seen jewelry as small sculpture. The hands-on experience I gained using different materials in a range of sizes enabled me to explore and develop as an artist. I found myself most interested in form and material, which remain as my focus to this day.
Madonna with a Sliding Pucker was carved using a hammer and chisels on a local volcanic material called cantera stone. This 18" pink portrait sits in my garden today. And here's a snap of the young artist working on a suspension sculpture in papier mâché. I have used the skills I developed in stone and paper ever since.
Part 4 – My First Teaching Job
While working toward my Master of Fine Arts degree at the Instituto Allende in Mexico, I researched and began casting precious metals on my own using a friend's centrifuge. With gold priced at $40 per ounce, I began casting both sterling silver and 14 k gold from the start. Casting Precious Metals became the subject of my master's thesis.
When the director of the Instituto, Bill Brewer, heard about my new skills, he asked me to teach a casting class. But there was a catch. First, I had to drive 700 miles north to San Antonio, Texas, and buy casting equipment for the school, which I then snuck back across the border into Mexico.
So, in 1971, at the age of 24, I taught my first jewelry class on silver casting. Here I am with my notes on the wall, introducing a pair of newcomers to the casting process. I'm the one wearing shoes! I designed and had these 4-locker benches made at that time... and they are still in use!
This is my first fabricated Twist Ring alongside a cast ring with a bezel-set garnet cabochon. Both rings are in 14 k yellow gold.
Part 5 – 10,000 Miles from Mexico To Germany
During my 2 years in Mexico, from 1970 to 1972, I acquired the basics of jewelry fabrication and casting. I learned to speak Spanish. I made and sold over 150 original pieces. I taught my first class, and at the end I was awarded a Master of Fine Arts degree.
My studio (below) had expanded and now occupied the small room on the roof of my house, where they do the laundry in Mexico. What a view! Look at all those tools I had collected! You can see my first polishing motor, an electric drill strapped on its side to my bench. On the shelf is the collection jewelry, which I was assembling for my graduation exhibition.
I had found my passion and I wanted to learn everything there was about making jewelry. But I did not have a plan. I knew that I was far from ready to go out on my own, which was my goal. In my research, I had seen the exciting jewelry of two contemporary German masters, Klaus Ullrich and Reinhold Reiling, in Philip Morton's book, Contemporary Jewelry. Their work was so different, interesting and captivating that the images stuck in my mind.
While working on my MFA, I met Harold O'Connor, who came from Germany where he trained with the two men I idolized! His mission was to add an MFA to his credentials. When Harold opened his portfolio and showed me the work he made in Germany, I was absolutely blown away! It was so sophisticated, creative and artistic. It was real fine jewelry. And his craftsmanship was superb. After a few private lessons, the flame burned even brighter, and I knew that I had to go to the source. If Harold could do it, so could I! I set my sights on Europe.
Harold taught me how to make my first box ring, which I named Sunrise over Tulum (below). It is made of sterling silver with a 14k gold earring stud and a Mexican fire opal set in a gold bezel. Both float over the dark open recessed ring top.
I applied to the hundred-year-old Fachhochschule für Gestaltung (College of Design), in Pforzheim, West Germany. It was a world-renowned jewelry school located in the traditional center of European fine jewelry. I filled out the application in German, with a little help from a friend. When I received my acceptance letter, which my friend translated, I was overjoyed and immediately put my plan into action. I sold my VW bus and bought a ticket to West Germany.
A week later I was overjoyed to be standing in line on the first day of this amazing school. When I got to the front, a stern-looking woman seated at a desk looked up and asked me a question in German. But when I couldn't respond, she got upset. She did not expect this, and neither did I! "How can you take classes when you can't even speak the language?" was what I heard, as the student behind me translated into English. I had no idea that you had to speak German in order to go there. Nobody told me that, and it hadn't been a problem in Mexico. I was confident I would pick up German right away, since I was so motivated and had already learned French and Spanish. But the registrar was absolutely adamant, raising her voice further as she said something I could not understand and pointed toward the door.
Part 6 – Pforzheim College of Design
After traveling almost halfway around the world, I was about to be kicked out of the school of my dreams before the first day even began. I had been admitted to the premier German jewelry school, not knowing I had to speak German. And I was out of options.
Just at that moment, the fellow behind me stepped up and spoke to the registrar who was rejecting me. He said a few things, pointing to me, and then miraculously I was handed a schedule. Charon Kransen later told me that he said we were friends and we planned to take the same classes so he could translate for me until I learned the language. I am forever grateful to this kind multilingual Dutchman, now the world's premier jewelry book seller, who saved me from disaster and put my career back on course.
Pforzheim was a jeweler's paradise at that time. As the historical center of German jewelry, there were thousands of manufacturing companies, hundreds of gem dealers, a dozen refineries and as many tool suppliers, plus a jewelry trade school. And in the middle of it all was the world-class Fachhochschule für Gestaltung (College of Design), where professional jewelers from all over the world sent their sons and daughters. At that time there was one other American enrolled, among students from almost 50 countries.
Most of my school mates were already trained goldsmiths with certification papers, and several were even master goldsmiths who wanted to become designers too. They all seemed way, way ahead of me. I was given a bench test to construct a tube ring, in order to place me in the program. After completing it in 24 hours, I was admitted to the second year of the 5-year program, which lead to a credential in jewelry design.
Jumping ahead, here is an early earring design project in silver and ivory with lots of movement. We learned traditional watercolor rendering, which I used in this design for a gold necklace with lapis and diamonds. My German was improving every day and the fun was just beginning.
Part 7 – Learning German
The jewelry program at the Fachhochschule für Gestaltung in 1972 was rigorous and demanding. But my first challenge was just learning to say the name of the school!
Classes were held for 9 hours, 5 days per week. My schedule included 18 hours of goldsmithing and 18 hours of jewelry design, plus 9 hours of engraving, rendering, stone setting or production design. I idolized my professors. And I got the feeling that they saw something special in me. I heard the word “begabt,” which I later learned meant “talented”
The goldsmithing professor, Reinhold Bothner, was the "Obermeister," Head Master Goldsmith of the city, which was filled with goldsmiths and master goldsmiths. Most of what I know about making jewelry, including the projects in my books, I learned from Herr Bothner. I was mesmerized watching him at his bench, his hands moving smoothly and effortlessly as he created treasures in gold. He was my inspiration and my guru, and still is. From the very start, I heard him say one particular German word over and over, "genau," which means "exact." Genau became my mantra.
I studied jewelry design with Reinhold Reiling, who was widely respected for his sophisticated, cutting-edge art jewelry as well as his influence on the field. He and Klaus Ullrich were both superstars of contemporary jewelry, as well as the two design professors on the faculty.
We spent endless hours in design class learning about sketching, making models, refining our renderings and in discussion. The guiding principle was clear: All of the elements had to be essential and contribute to a greater whole, "Gestaltung," in a balance held together by some sort of rational logic. Form and function are intertwined as the influence of the Bauhaus is ever present.
In addition to class, I worked every available hour at one company or another in the evenings, on weekends and over vacations. I was logging 70 hours a week between the bench and class. I took in piecework, soldering a hundred pin backs each night, which was a great way to practice and perfect my torch skills! I carved wax models and finished castings for designers, all of which were practical exercises to complement my formal training at school.
Eventually, after asking at least 5 times, I was assigned a bench in Herr Professor Klaus Ullrich's beautiful private studio, where I joined a few senior students executing his artistic jewelry in silver and gold. By then my German was passable. I was learning more and more about making jewelry every day. I liked German cheeses and würste, and I was enjoying the company of my classmates from around the world, several of whom I am still in touch with.
Plastics were the rage.* Many cutting-edge European jewelry designers were experimenting with this colorful and carve-able new medium, and so was I. The German word for plastic, “Kunststoff,” can be translated literally as “art material," which was appropriate.
To the left is a professional image that appeared in Rock & Gem magazine in November 1979, of 4 pieces I created in design class, each utilizing plexiglass (an acrylic plastic). Top: Nimbus Tree Brooch – Gold-plated copper repoussé over laminated clear and blue plexiglass. Rings from left: Green Mercury Ring – 18k green gold with stainless steel and mercury that moves in a green plexiglass capsule. Blue Race Ring – A 24k gold inner band is burnished outward to hold two turned clear plexiglass washers. Together they form a ring with a channel for small lapis lazuli spheres that roll freely inside. Green Cylinder Ring – Rhodium-plated silver with green plexiglass, adjustable in size.
Part 8 – Working in the Trade
After 2 years studying goldsmithing and jewelry design at the Fachhochschule für Gestaltung in Germany, I was eager to put my training into practice. In the summer of 1974, I moved to California and began to look for work as a bench jeweler in the San Francisco Bay area.
I interviewed with a few jewelry manufacturers and trade shops. I brought along about 30 examples of my schoolwork, traditional projects like the ones in my books, and a few creative pieces as well. To my surprise, more than one of the people who interviewed me didn't believe that I had made them! It just didn't make sense to them. They thought I was showing them castings, not hand-fabricated jewelry. Nobody they knew had training like that, especially a 27-year-old. And no bench jeweler had a collection of their work or even any examples to show. I saw a gap between my formal training in Germany and the commercial jewelry industry in the U.S.
On the morning that President Nixon resigned, I began a job with an Oakland jewelry trade shop, starting at $5.50 per hour. It was a busy little shop. Every day a courier delivered and picked up boxes with hundreds of job envelopes from dozens of jewelry stores in the region. In addition to the boss, there was a master bench jeweler and 3 journeymen plus a full-time polisher. I was seated at the bench next to the master, a white-haired European man with tools to die for. His bench was a museum, and I was an avid student just waiting to see how he used each one. However, I quickly learned that the master was not particularly friendly, at least to me. At some point mid-morning, I discreetly leaned over slightly to see what he was working on, but the master quickly moved his position to conceal it. A bit later, I very politely asked him a question to which he mumbled something I could not understand. My second question at the end of the day elicited what was clearly an incorrect and misleading answer. At the time, I had no idea what was going on.
The next day when I returned to work, I was stunned to see that the master had purchased a large sheet of plywood which he slipped between his bench and my bench, forming an impenetrable barrier. There was no chance of looking over his shoulder anymore, something I desperately wanted to do. It was a shocking experience and a bump in the road, but I later understood why. Despite his 50 years of experience, the man was afraid of me and protective of his knowledge and skills, which made no sense to me at the time. I could never compete with him. And if he loved his work, then why wasn’t he eager to share it? I am sure this was something he learned from goldsmiths before him. The answer is that goldsmithing (jewelry-making) is more than just a bunch of techniques. It is a way of life, full of history, mystery, knowledge and skills worth protecting. There is a deep culture of concealing information and trade secrets from other jewelers, and I ran into this a few times.
For my job, I was required to join the local branch of the International Jewelry Workers Union. I attended what might have been their last meeting in San Francisco before folding due to boredom. The meeting was a real snooze and I thought it was a waste of time. But in fact, I found something more valuable than diamonds or gold that night; I met Nancy Wintrup, and we have been friends and colleagues ever since. Nancy is a JA-certified Master Bench Jeweler and a gifted instructor who was my teaching partner at the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts, in San Francisco, for many years.
Despite a few bumps, I was in heaven. Working with my hands has always been grounding and satisfying for me and I savored the challenge of negotiating repairs. Fixing jewelry is a different animal than designing and making it from scratch, and my skills were improving every day. I was getting good at ring sizing, chain repair and prong setting ,plus I learned more sophisticated jewelry repairs and reconstruction from the boss, who was happy to teach me. I was working faster as well; I once sized 13 rings in an hour, leaving the finish for the polisher.
Benchwork is always demanding and fun. There was a camaraderie in the shop that I enjoyed. I looked forward to work in the morning. At that point, I distinctly remember feeling so satisfied with my job that I thought I didn’t want or need anything further, not even more pay! My hands were happy. The challenge of repairing and restoring jewelry was fulfilling. It is uniquely rewarding to save precious heirlooms from the crucible by restoring them for their owners and giving them new life.
Twenty years later I wrote a series of articles about jewelry repair for JCK magazine, based on what I learned in that trade shop. Two books followed: Ring Repair and Setting Repair, which capture dozens of actual jewelry repair jobs in photos and text. To my knowledge, they are the only books ever written on those subjects in any language.
My trade shop experience was the perfect complement to my training as an artist in college, my introduction to metalwork in Mexico and the academic approach to jewelry design, which I experienced in Europe. This practical on-the-job experience added to my understanding and control of metal. It was around that time that I passed the milestone 10,000-hour mark in my career, which is considered a point of mastery across many disciplines, including jewelry.
But repair was not my calling. I took pride in fixing other people's jewelry, but it was not as creative as making something artistic and original. I was just about to complete the year I had promised myself in that shop and my path was about to open up to extraordinary opportunities.
Above is a page from Setting Repair (2008) and the cover of Ring Repair (1999).
Part 9 – Teaching at CCAC
One year at the bench in a jewelry trade shop was sufficient. I loved the work and learned a lot but was ready to move on. My own jewelry was beginning to sell, and I wanted to see if I could find a market for it.
In addition to making things, I had always enjoyed teaching, and the idea of teaching jewelry was in my mind from the start. I even sketched the layout for a jewelry classroom while I was a student in Germany. Early on, I discovered that teaching came easy for me. As a young man I was certified by the Red Cross as a Water Safety Instructor. I was a lifeguard at a community pool during the summers, where I taught swimming and diving to the kids on the swim team. I knew how to swim all right, but I didn't really like to dive, nor did I know how. The amazing part was that I was able to teach it. I seemed to be good at explaining things. I saw and understood diving well enough to guide others to perform the feats they desired, which were all above my own skill level. I've heard it said that the mark of a successful teacher is when their student surpasses them.
At that time, CCAC, now CCA, was a highly respected private art school set on a beautiful little campus in Oakland, California. The glass department was world-class, as were the departments in ceramics, weaving and photography. But the jewelry department was stuck in the 1950s. The other instructors had been there since the end of World War II, seriously! I was half the age of the next-youngest teacher. With great respect for my sincere colleagues, I can say that none of them had received any kind of training, and their skills were hobby level. But the best part was that the school was just down the hill from where I lived!
Above is an image taken at the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1977. In it I am demonstrating stone setting as one of the students, Michael Endlich, looks over my shoulder and takes notes, very good notes! It was clear from the start that Michael was talented and determined. When the class ended, I helped him get an entry-level job with a local fine-jewelry manufacturer, who had also been one of my students. Now 45 years later, Michael is the proprietor of Pavé Fine Jewelry in Oakland, California, with a staff of 20. His designs have won 18 prestigious AGTA Spectrum Awards for the use of colored gemstones in original fine jewelry.
Bottom line: Take good notes; they are worth more than gold!
CCAC attracted talented and motivated students who performed well, which was very rewarding. The semester went smoothly, and my contract was extended. A few months later, I was asked to offer additional specialty classes in the evenings. At that time, CCAC's extension program was open to all. So, based on what I had learned in Germany, with my school samples and detailed bilingual notes in hand, I began teaching classes on stone setting, hand engraving, rendering and more. Nobody had been teaching these subjects, and word got out to the local jewelry community. My classes attracted professionals who worked in jewelry stores and small factories, as well as aspiring jewelers and designers from all over the Bay Area. The evening classes filled with waiting lists. Many of those students are now successful jewelry artists, designers, retail jewelers and more.
When another instructor decided to take one of my evening classes, I was told to treat her just like a regular student. But when she received a C for average work at the end of the semester, the department head called me into his office and told to revise the grade. Obviously, I didn't play politics well. That's never been my strong suit.
I wound up teaching at CCAC from 1975 to 1979. During that time, I worked in my own studio to develop a collection of original jewelry. It wasn't long before I added 3 more benches for the private students who were lining up; I also took on an apprentice to help make my designs. I had an exhibition of my work in the gallery at CCAC. The San Francisco Examiner printed a full-page review in the Scene/Arts section (below). This attracted a lot of attention and led to my first gallery shows. I applied for a booth at the upcoming new American Craft Council Fair in San Francisco. Opportunities were opening up.
Part 10 – Entering the Marketplace
After 4 years of college plus 3 days at Woodstock, followed by a year roaming in my VW camper, and then 2 years of graduate school studying crafts in Mexico, 2 years in a German jewelry school, 1 year in a California trade shop, and 2 years teaching while developing my own work, I was ready. I had invested well over 10,000 hours in my jewelry skills, and it was all about to be put to a test.
In 1977, the American Craft Council (ACC) brought the first national crafts fair to the West, calling it the Pacific States Craft Fair. I applied and was given a booth at this prestigious new show held on the picturesque piers of Fort Mason overlooking San Francisco Bay.
This was going to be my debut and I wanted to stand out from the crowd. I knew there would be established and talented jewelry makers from all over the country. Important wholesale buyers, curators, editors and serious retail customers would come, and I wanted to make a good impression. I have always felt that if something is worth doing, then I will put 110% into the effort. "You won't stand out by playing it small, Alan," are words that keep coming back to me.
So, I designed a different kind of booth than the other jewelry makers had. Instead of using conventional showcases with a counter, which I saw as a barrier, I placed my jewelry at eye level in shadow boxes recessed into the walls so people could get right up close. Some of the cases included battery-powered displays to show off the moving features of my kinetic jewelry. I spent an afternoon in a friend's wood shop, carving the pedestals out of his scrap pile. The 9 sections of walls were placed in a semicircular, museum-like configuration on a soft carpet. I painted the booth in 3 shades of peach, added a fabric ceiling, and won the show's first booth award!
The fair was a huge success for me, my work, and my booth, which attracted a lot of attention. At that time, I was showing a range of items: earrings, necklaces, rings and more. I was still feeling my way along, trying to find my voice and understand the marketplace. My display featured a collection of cast 14k gold rings inlaid with black jade, ivory or lapis lazuli, as well as other items. I met several buyers and took orders from 2 stores. I also sold directly to customers from all over the Bay Area, several of whom came back for years. My jewelry caught the eye of an art magazine editor and soon an image appeared on the front page with a review.
I continued to exhibit at ACC shows on both coasts for almost 20 years. The experience proved fruitful for building professional relationships with buyers and editors, as well as establishing lifelong friendships with other makers.
Preparation + opportunity = success.
On April 1, 1979, I moved across the Bay to the Phelan Building at 760 Market Street, in downtown San Francisco. The suite was 337 square feet on the ninth floor, enough for a small office and studio with 7 benches. Moving was hectic, and at some point, I looked down at the telephone sitting on the floor, which was left by the previous tenant. I almost fell over to see that the telephone number 415-391-4179 was the same as the date 4/1/79! This confirmed that I was in the right place at the right time, and I kept that number.
There were over 150 jewelry craftspeople in the building, including setters, engravers, lapidarists, gemologists, gem dealers, designers, casters, trade shops,
Part 11 – April 1, 1979
With both my jewelry business and private classes taking off, I needed space for a larger studio, somewhere more centrally located than my home in the Oakland Hills. The cozy upstairs studio felt crowded when there were 4 people and I wanted to hold larger classes.
manufacturers, tool suppliers, refiners, diamond cutters, electroplaters, finishers, antique jewelry dealers and more. Several floors, like ours, were virtually all jewelry related. Being part of an international community of jewelers has its advantages. There were skilled craftsmen and craftswomen from France, Holland, Mexico, Taiwan, Japan, England, Switzerland, Afghanistan, China and many other countries. All the goods and services a jeweler would ever need were available in the building. Jewelers would meet for lunch in the "Buffeteria" on the mezzanine level, where you could always catch the regulars in deep conversation about everything jewelry.
For over 100 years the Phelan Building was the center of northern California's jewelry industry. Completed two years after the earthquake that brought down the original building, this one was intended to house jewelers from the start. It was built by the mayor, and later U.S. Senator James D. Phelan, who was a patron of the arts and honorary president of the San Francisco Ornament Society. Each suite came with a safe and natural gas for jewelry torches. “For many decades, the Phelan Building was a de facto center for jewelry, hosting dozens of jewelers and a jewelry school.” – Wikipedia
As business and classes grew, and we needed more space, we just expanded into neighboring suites or moved to a larger spot on the floor. Eventually we took over the prime location of the entire building, Suite 900, on the "gore,” or prow, of the edifice. With great city views from every window, this space was large enough for two classrooms of 15, plus open areas, displays, offices, storage and more.
For the first few years, my manufacturing team made jewelry during the day, and we held classes in the evenings and on weekends. We spent over 30 years in that wonderful location, until a new landlord kicked out all the small tenants, including jewelers.
From the aerial perspective, my corner office is the second floor down from the top, where it is dark. You can also see that the rooms beyond my office to the left and right are lighted for an evening class. With a 270-degree view from my desk, I thought I was on top of the world.
Part 12 – Boomer's Boom
During the 1980s I was designing and manufacturing jewelry under my name, Alan Revere – Jewelry Design. I developed a team of bench jewelers, mostly from students, whom I trained to manufacture the jewelry I designed. We were making jewelry by day and holding classes in the evenings and on weekends in the same studio. The Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts was growing as well, and students began coming from far away, not just locals.
In the beginning I tried making every type of jewelry possible: rings, necklaces, bracelets, pendants, etc. Once in the marketplace, I found that my earrings got the most attention and sales. Although I continued to offer rings and bracelets, earrings became my métier for a number of reasons. Earrings offer limitless sculptural possibilities, far more than other jewelry, which has to wrap around some part of the body. Most women acquire earrings on impulse, as opposed to rings, which take a lot of thought and fitting. Women usually own many earrings and always are on the lookout for more. And the best part? One size fits all.
Each piece of jewelry that came out of my studio was made completely by hand, as opposed to casting or by any other method. This was for a few reasons. It is a more traditional way to make jewelry. Each piece is individual. Fabrication is direct whereas casting is not. Casting is messy. I liked working in sheet and wire, as opposed to wax. And fabricated jewelry is a lot harder to copy than cast items, which can merely be molded and reproduced. This was also a way to protect my designs.
At this time, baby boomers like me, born between1946 and 1964, were reaching maturity and achieving financial success. As a rebellious generation, boomers rejected the norm and appreciated things that were unconventional and not commercial. We wanted handmade candles and soap, furniture and clothing, and everything else, not things that were machine-made. My contemporaries were looking for ways to spend their money meaningfully, to enhance their lives and buy more than another piece of plastic junk that would be worthless the next day. Artistic, handmade, designer jewelry fit the bill and I found my market among a wide range of women customers.
The American Craft Council Fairs were the right venue for me, offering a combination of retail and wholesale exposure in an upscale market that appreciated original fine crafts. These shows usually began with a couple of wholesale days when I would take orders from stores and then they would open to the public from Friday thru Sunday. Large crowds of eager customers filled the aisles as first-class makers from all over the U.S. found their ideal market. For years I traveled to places like Baltimore, Maryland; Rhinebeck, New York; and West Springfield, Massachusetts, where I set up my booth and sold jewelry. I was coming home with lots of orders, often pushing the limits of our production, and forcing us to grow. My work was winning awards and getting lots of exposure in the trade press. Because of ACC, I sold my jewelry through hundreds of jewelry stores and galleries for almost 20 years and developed a retail following as well.
Early production crew from left: Jon Dixon, Sabine Leteinturier, Irene Hogan, Alan, Dave Pettijon, and Yas Tanaka. Booth at the Baltimore ACC Crafts Fair around 1984. Three popular designs of that period; Zig Zag, Bound Square and Trapeze Pearl.
Part 13 – Gold Fever!
The first California Gold Rush began on January 24, 1848, when James Marshall found a gold nugget at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, just 2 hours east of San Francisco.
The dream of striking it rich brought 300,000 people to the region, which ultimately produced 5.8 million ounces of gold. It is estimated that only 20% of the gold has been removed and 80% remains.
On August 16, 1980, I led a group of modern gold-seekers on a hunt to find the rest. The first Revere Academy Gold Rush was composed of students, teachers, friends and colleagues. The group caravanned to Highway 49, the Gold Chain Highway, which stretches over 300 miles through towns with names like Angels Camp, Cool, Mokelumne Hill, Placerville and Nevada City.
We all stayed at the classic National Hotel, which was built in 1852, when we were in Jackson, California. Early the next morning we drove to the American River where we spent the day sunning, swimming and panning for gold. Most of us did find gold, although no one was able to retire on their findings. But the majority of us went home with some gold flakes and even a few tiny nuggets. What a thrill!
Despite our meager haul, it was magical for us to find the precious material that we loved so much, right there in the riverbed. I believe that most of us felt a direct connection with the earth and deep appreciation of its bounty that evening. As jewelers, each of us completed a circle by finding our most precious material in its natural state.
This photo was taken during a pause in the Revere Academy's first trip to Jackson, California. There were at least two more group trips to follow. From left: Chris Jeppesen, Rosewita Jeppesen, Marco Berg Duailibi, Jeff Sahadi, Frank Trozzo, Alan Revere, Ed Bienek, Captain Harold Boulton, Jane Boulton, Faith Spaulding, John Howell, Merry-Lee Rae, ?, ?, Martin Unversaw, Bonnie Auerbach, David Clay, Keith Bartel, and Armonita Yuen.