I asked Mike, a client and someone I have been watching, if he would allow me to do an article on him. He has a genuine love for rocks, lapidary, and shows a real knack for putting his work into settings that are unique and creative. I think he will be someone to watch as his career takes off. Enjoy the article and the pictures of the beauty he creates (and go pick up some of his beautiful cabs on his etsy site).
My life with rocks
I’ve been asked by Szarka to write a short bio of my life in lapidary and jewelry.
I’ve always been intrigued by rocks and grew up in Wyoming hunting fossils, arrowheads and Sweetwater agates. We literally had cardboard boxes full of the agates. I still have some of arrowheads, but everything else got lost over the years.
During my early teens, I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah and then moved to Seattle, Washington where the rock hunting got put on hold for college (University of Washington, Washington State and Seattle University) and a career in teaching mathematics (Kent School District, department chair at West Seattle H.S. and Seattle Pacific University). Teaching mathematics, more school, marriage, skiing, music (guitar & singing), and back-packing did a good job keeping me busy.
There were a couple of exceptions though. I cut and polished blue tiger eye buttons on my Brer' Brian’s equipment for a suede leather coat I gave my wife for Christmas one year. I also did a little soap stone carving and, though I am a big time animal lover and didn’t even think about what I was doing, carved some ivory an art teacher had given me. Some of it was mastodon, but some was elephant ivory. That all occurred in the seventies.
I now consider myself semi-retired from mathematics. I have moved to the coast of Washington and live on the outskirts of a small (3000 +) town called Montesano. When I first moved here, I taught at Grays Harbor College, but now only pick up the occasional evening class.
Rocks and jewelry making are now a kind of obsession. I spend my summers in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and, of course, Washington collecting rough material. I love it. I have my trusty rock “hound”, Maggie (half yellow lab and half golden retriever) who comes with me. My garage no longer stores my car, but is full of rock and metal smithing equipment... 3 Genies, 2 expanding drum machines, polishing wheels, 3 saws, tumblers and a work station for soldering and casting.
I have attended a couple of silver smithing “boot camps” to learn the basics of metal work and supplant that with what I’ve learned from books and the internet. I’m big on experimenting and trying unusual things... some good and some not so good. I’ve screwed up quite a few times, but learn from the "screw-ups".
One of the things that I’ve done people seem to like is the backing of cut out silver coins (silver dollars, bullion, etc.) with disk of stone and mounting as you would a cabochon. I think this is original although everything has been tried before. A numismatist would probably hate me because I only do nice coins.
It’s time consuming, that’s for sure. My yard is a rockhound’s dream. When it rains, I often find myself picking through what I have and setting pieces aside to cut. I love what I call the “Wow” moment when a stone comes to life under the grinding and polishing wheels. I grew up reading fantasy and science fiction so I’m always looking for that one magical elfstone.
I’m partial to stones that have visual impact... picture jasper, opal, chatoyant stones, plume (a favorite), star garnets and sapphires, moonstone, etc. I have grown to like the faceted color stones too. My favorite is the Oregon sunstone with the schiller effect since I can find it myself. I have to have the stones faceted overseas since I don’t facet as yet... someday.
The mathematical left-brain is being phased out with the jewelry/lapidary right-brain activities. Instead of appreciative and successful students, I now have tangible pieces of jewelry that are being worn by people all over the world. Both are very rewarding.
I have this vision which occurs 20000 years in the future where an archeologist is digging up something with the name “Culver” stamped on the back.