Today we have the best of two worlds – jewelry and rocks!
I found Barney when I was still new to Etsy and was just browsing around.
I came across his jewelry first and was immediately smitten. Later I discovered there were “rock sellers” on Etsy and I eventually wandered into his other shop – although I didn’t know at the time that the two were connected I fell in love with his lapidary work as well.
Both shops offer some of the best on Etsy so be sure to visit them! (links at bottom)
Where are you located?
On the far left coast, Eugene, Oregon
Describe your studio/creative space:
Well, I have two spaces, My jewelry studio is a reworked bedroom, is quite homey and friendly, has two benches and being the tool collector I am fairly packed with a wide array of widgets and gadgets. My lapidary shop is attached to my converted garage that is also my machine shop. Its pretty packed with whatever rough stone wont fit in my garden shed and yard!
Which came first for you – lapidary or jewelry art?
I started collecting polished stones at the age of 6, so I suppose that was first.
I made a few pieces of jewelry prior to high school, but it was there that I got the first class on it. Oddly enough, it was my frustration with the way the class was run that spurred me on after school to pursue things I didnt get there.
Actual lapidary work I only brushed on here and there throughout my life. I never really had money or space for it. Though I always knew someday I would and thus always have collected rough.
Which do you spend more time on? And do you try to strike a balance or do you work as the inspiration strikes?
Great question! Ultimately, jewelry. But right now my time is a bit limited so I am kind of going with what is more popular sales wise, and that is my stonework.
My Jewelry tends to center on one of a kind, specifically inspired art pieces. And those dont move as much as commercially repeatable designs would.
My jewelry bench is a bit dusty right now, but its also covered in quite a few sketches. And I also get really amped from time to time to work on something that has really moved me on its concept– somethings just cant wait!
How did you learn your art?
Oddly enough, I am largely self taught. As I said the high school class just irritated me to no end. I knew there had to be more to it, and more satisfaction in doing adornment work. I started making a piece here and there for friends and what not, slowly gathering tools and materials. A few years out of School, I met some folks that ran an actual brick and mortar jewelry store. A father and son team.
I would hang out there after work and absorb from watching them.
Getting a taste of the real world of jewelry from two masters of the craft gave me a lot of incentive to create.
It was a great springboard to me, yet it was a very informal, mostly social interaction. I dont think they knew I was taking in as much as I was. Nor how important at the time they were to me.
If you could go back to the beginning and do one thing differently, what would it be?
Well that same Father Son team offered me an apprenticeship after seeing some of my work. But I worked in a large steel foundry at the time, had a fair amount of debt, and just didnt think I could handle it financially. And probably a fair amount of self esteem issues helped me to say no as well.
I would take that job in an instant if I was to repeat it all.
While I would have spent a lot of hours doing commercial work I didnt care for, I would be hundreds of times more productive today.
And thus many more of my thousands of sketches would be metal and stone.
How would you describe your style/work?
All over the map. Ha ha. I have been told by more than one gallery, that my lack of discernible style holds me back. Oh well. Then again, I have folks that have told me they could tell a Joyful Crow piece a mile away. Go figure!!
What makes your work unique?
As a continuation of the last question. I dont want a style. My work reflects the moods and emotions of life. The inspirations that come our way are rarely felt inside the same way twice.
Do you feel 15 anymore? Well not in the same way. We just chase that feelings memories. My work captures bits and pieces of those fleeting moments.
And yes they will all be different. I think that is a unique perspective to create jewelry from.
What are your favorite materials?
I like the precious metals, obviously. Silver, High karat Golds, Platinum, Palladium. But many other materials have their place as well, Copper, Brass, Mokume gane’.
It isnt the preciousness of the materials as much it is their properties.
In stones, I like the mineral gems in cabochon form quite a bit more than faceted colored stones. Though I do appreciate those as well, I just feel the mineral stones have such individual character.
Has the internet affected your work/business? If yes, how so?
Oh, very much so. Especially etsy. I tried tinkering with creating a website on my own, but it was just too involved for me to make any serious sort of entry. Etsy enabled me to put my work in front of so many more people that appreciate the handmade independent approach to adornment.
And its enabled my stonework to get in front of a much larger audience of stone using jewelers. While it isnt perfect Etsy is a very good augment to the limited amount of shows I am able to wrestle out of my schedule, and augments my web exposure very well.
How do you deal with periods of “creative block” or low creativity?
I leave it all sit for awhile. Do something that reconnects with the passion of the Earth itself. Nothing inspires or makes me balanced as being out in nature.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received related to your
Two little printed cards over the bench of a Mentor. “Crank it out, no prima donnas in this shop” and “No Bullshit Jewelry”
And the advice of one of the same Mentors to go into goldwork. He said folks wouldnt pay me for my silver work despite the dozens of hours I spent on a piece unless I had a name. But they would if it was gold. He was absolutely right. Only if it was to understand the need to sell some of the work to be able to afford to create more.
What’s the best advice you could give someone just starting out?
Maintain an attachment to your inspiration. Dont be afraid of mistakes. Learn as much as you can. Acquire tools and materials as you can afford to.
Sketch A LOT.
What are your thoughts on:
“inspiration, imitation, infringement – when similarities in work go too far”
While its somewhat true, there isnt anything new under the sun, I wouldnt spend a bunch of time looking at others work. Especially commercial work.
Look at work that is beyond your limits by light years. Study Etruscan and ancient works. Then look at your fancy tools and sigh.
Stay humble in the approach and you wont catch yourself copying.
Who are some of your favorite artists and crafters?
Well, I dont approach this from a commercial vantage. At this point in my life it isnt (jewelry) for income, so I tend to look at work beyond the realm of who created it and just that it IS created. I let the work stand alone in that, and see things as art pieces. I do have one absolute hero though.
And that would be John Paul Miller.
How do you deal with the business side of your art?
HA ha, Not nearly as well as I could! But I am getting better. And in that manner, Etsy has also helped a great deal. The business end of things would be better handled by someone else. Its a time vacuum.
What do you do when you aren’t working on jewelry ?
For my day job, I am a partner in a Soy Foods manufacturing business. We make Organic Tofu and Tempeh. Its rewarding being able to bring good Organic food to the community and to be able to provide employment for folks.
What would we be surprised to find out about you?
That despite not owning a TV, I have seen just about every Simpsons episode. More than once.
Define ‘success’ for us……..what does it mean to you?
Being able to do what you love for a living. And to remain passionate despite obstacles to that passion in the things you do.
Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?
I would love to be able to retire and spend a good solid twelve hours a day making my artwork and my stonework. While I love my job in the natural food business, it takes a lot to do it all, and I have more desire at this point in my life to work full time in metal and stone.
We shall see……..
Anything else you’d like to share?
Every 4.2 days there are another million people on earth.
Barney and some of his wonderful works of art
You can see more of Barney’s work here: