I was fortunate enough to witness a day-long demonstration by Jerry Faires, a well known silversmith and musician from Santa Fe.
He came to my silversmithing class with a bag of sterling silver spoons, some tools, and his guitar. We had been told by our teacher, Greg Harris, that we wouldn't want to miss this day of class, and boy was he right.
I was intrigued from the moment he walked into the studio. He wore a plain gray tshirt and jeans with a hand-sewn back pocket. He was decorated with numerous turquoise necklaces, a concho belt buckle, and two GORGEOUS thick turquoise bracelets.
Jerry is what a silversmith would call a first phase smith, meaning he creates his jewelry pieces using the same techniques as silversmiths used in the early 1900s. Conchos were routinely used to adorn equine tack as well as belts and other jewelry. Here is an example of some conchos made by Jerry Faires:
As Jerry slipped on his blacksmith apron with brown leather with fringes, he told us he would be creating a bracelet. As he gathered his tools, he began to recite a poem- the first of many that day- describing old west trade, silversmithing, and love. Totally captivating.
Jerry began the process of creating the bracelet by melting his sterling silver spoons in a crucible, then pouring the molten silver into a mold. He ended up with a long rectangular band, which he hand-filed smooth and straight.
Using a large hammer and a chasing tool, he pushed the edges of the silver outward, creating high ridges on the outer edges of the band, as well as in the middle. Believe me when I say he made this laboring work look EASY.
- chasing tools
He then used a type of metal stamp to create a rope-like appearance to the raised ridges... he eyeballed the distance between stamping- I estimate each side (and the middle) required between 30-50 stamps...
He stamped to a "beat" with the rhythm of tap, WHAM... tap, WHAM. The stamp to silver like a knife in butter. Truly amazing to watch, and also perfectly spaced.
He used a chisel and large hammer to cut through the silver between the middle ridge and outer two ridges.
He then used a special tool to separate the bands, creating two open splits in the bracelet. The "silver separator" is a retired tool that orthopods formerly used to break apart plaster casts, how interesting!
When watching Jerry, one can tell that he obviously has a relationship with each of his tools. Most of the tools had been handmade either by Jerry or one of his close friends. Several of his tools were decorated pieces themselves, with coins and stones, and he had a story to tell about each one of them.
During our lunch break, well... We had a live music session... Jerry's music is just as well thought-out as his jewelry. I could tell that Jerry's musical inspiration had come from his own life events. What a great way to learn more about a person...
After lunch it was time to set the stone. Jerry created a silver backing for a large piece of Colorado turquoise (that he cut himself) from the end of a silver spoon. He annealed the spoon (heated it) and then rolled it flat with a rolling mill, creating a flat circle.
He then made his own bezel, the piece of silver that surrounds the stone, by rolling another piece of silver out long and flat, then cut it to size with leather shears.
His soldering capabilities were incredible- to say the least. From start to finish, this gorgeous piece of jewelry was created in 5 hours. AMAZING. And it looks like it stepped out of the beginning of the 20th century.
It gets better... Jerry gives lessons in his shop... bet you can guess what I'll be doing this fall!
Read more about Jerry Faires at http://www.JerryFaires.com
Jerry Faires singer-guitarist-storyteller of Santa Fe, New Mexico...
this poet and performer has created a portrait of the world and it's people with heart and humor, wit and wisdom. An artist in precious metal and beautiful stones as well as melody and words, Faires' long journey from South Texas, through Oklahoma coffeehouse days, inner-city St. Louis to Santa Fe's hippie honky-tonks has provided him with a rich and colorful pallette for a poet-singer