3rd Place - Emerging Jewelry Artist
Jason Baide possesses metalsmithing and design skills that are well beyond his years. He was born into a family where making jewelry was a part of daily life. His father owns a jewelry gallery in Bozeman, Montana, where Jason quite literally learned at the feet of the master. His first ring required him to saw, file, hammer, form and even solder the piece—and he was just 6 years old. Jason is currently a student at Montana State University in Bozeman, where he is studying studio arts in metalsmithing and business.
MARLENE RICHEY: TELL US ABOUT YOUR AWARD-WINNING PIECE, "A GOTHIC MELODY."
Jason Baide: "A Gothic Melody" was inspired by the ornate architecture of Gothic cathedrals. Each of its parts is completely hand-fabricated. The hand-woven Roman chain represents the twisted columns of northern Gothic style. The chain transitions with a capital forged and twisted from hollow tubing into the blossoming wires, which curve and interweave like the intricate vaulting systems of the iconic Gothic period. The wires framing the pear-shaped topaz create a pointed Gothic arch similar to cathedral entryways. It is accented with bezel-set diamonds, which contrast with the strong lateral symmetry. Three bezels function as prongs to support the central topaz. This piece started as a metalsmithing class assignment at my university; we were assigned to take a historic style and remake it into a modern piece of jewelry. Gothic architecture has always stood out to me for its overwhelming grandeur paired with its focus on details.
MR: WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THE PIECE?
JB: This piece represents a coming together of all the skills I have been collecting so far in my short jewelry career. On top of general goldsmithing skills, it features chain-making techniques my father taught me in high school, inspiration from my art history classes, and my new abilities in stone-setting, which I just learned last summer. The whole thing felt like a fairly monumental moment in my career, even before I entered it in the Saul Bell competition.
MR: DO YOU THINK THIS PIECE WILL INFLUENCE YOUR WORK GOING FORWARD?
JB: I thoroughly enjoyed drawing from architectural themes and could see myself creating a body of work around it. As an emerging artist, I'm still defining my personal style, but I feel the general aesthetics and focus on sweeping lines will be a recurring theme.
MR: WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT THE PIECE?
JB: My favorite element to the necklace is the way the silver wires interweave as they meet around the center topaz. It's hard to see in photographs, but they stack and create a 3D space for the topaz to sit in.
MR: WHO IS YOUR DESIGN/JEWELRY MENTOR?
JB: My father is a jeweler and started The Gem Gallery some 20 years ago. Like many family businesses, I started working at the store at an early age. In elementary school I would play in the wax-carving room after school, doodling in wax with the flex shaft. My dad showed me how to cast some of the better snowman landscape scenes I had carved, and soon I was interested in jewelry making. I gradually learned a lot from my dad and the other goldsmith at the store. I was also extremely fortunate to have several jewelry classes at my high school and an amazing teacher who gave me a more creative experience with jewelry than a goldsmith shop provided. I have also done several technique-specific workshops in CAD, stone-setting, chasing and repoussé, and mokume gane, which have all greatly shaped my career so far.
MR: WHEN ARE YOU MOST CREATIVE?
JB: One of my favorite times to work is during my weekly volunteer monitor shift at my university's jewelry studio. It's a unique opportunity to work alongside my peers without the formality of being in class. Everyone shares ideas and techniques and jams out to music. It is a time to try new things and not be pressured by class or client deadlines. Plus our studio has a great view of the colorful Montana sunsets.
MR: WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER THAT YOU LOVED MAKING JEWELRY?
TF: Before college. I was in a high school in Connecticut that had an extensive art program. It was my junior year when I had taken everything in the art department except jewelry, so I tried it and loved it. It was a perfect fit. Jewelry allowed me to indulge my love of drawing and meticulous detail and was a vehicle to bring those drawings to life. The act of building in metal is fascinating to me, especially using the torch. Being able to marry all of those passions together was just what I was looking for.
MR: WHO IS YOUR DESIGN/JEWELRY MENTOR?
TF: Leonard Urso at RIT was a huge mentor in making sure my craftsmanship was held to a very high level, as well as Juan Carlos Caballero-Perez for influencing my early aesthetic. In terms of design, the 19th century English architect Owen Jones said "Decorate construction. Never construct decoration." An object needs to be well designed and harmonious first. No amount of embellishment will make up for weak design. Also, Donald Norman, the author of Emotional Design, has had a huge impact on the way I think about, design and create pieces.
MR: DO YOU HAVE A JEWELRY DESIGN BUSINESS?
TF: I make wedding and engagement rings, but the main thing I do is teach. I sell pieces and paintings on the side.
MR: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TOOL?
JB: It's so hard to pick a single tool as a favorite. I love the way a hammer feels when shaping metal, and I have a few favorite hammers. But I also love the finesse yet sharpness of engravers. Pliers might have to be my favorite overall. I have a set of matching purple pliers that are each named after dwarves from The Hobbit.
MR: DESCRIBE THE VERY FIRST PIECE OF JEWELRY THAT YOU MADE.
JB: It's hard to remember that first piece I made, since I grew up around jewelry, but the first ring I made when I was 6 years old. My dad was showing my older sister how to use a jeweler's saw, and I, being the curious younger brother, wanted to try too. I must have broken five blades sawing out a simple straight strip. My dad showed us how to file the edges, hammer it around a mandrel, and solder the seam. He guided our wrists as we held the torch. I still have that silly brass ring with its wobbly edges. The brass is all oxidized now, but the messy gold solder still shines.
MR: DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHEN YOU WORK?
JB: Music is an essential part of my studio. As a musician and a swing dancer, there is hardly a moment I'm not listening to music. It sets the mood in the studio and greatly influences what I make. I always pair my music to what I'll be working on. If I know I'm doing a lot of hammering, I like a nice heavy beat. Sawing reminds me of playing my violin, so I tend to listen to classical music when piercing.
MR: WHAT WORK INSPIRES YOU?
JB: I have a passion for quotes. I keep a quote list on my phone and am continually adding to it from books, movies, songs and people in my life. Many of my pieces are inspired by or greatly influenced by my quotes. Oscar Wilde is probably the greatest single source of quotes on my list.
Interview by Marlene Richey