1st Place - HOLLOWWARE
“Cheap Thrills is a fidget spinner. The first one I made was for a business class where I had to make a product, market it and sell it in a short time. The first one was copper and brass. And a lot of people liked how I was combining fine materials in a toy.” Jason Baide’s winning piece is, yes, a toy, but what a toy.
About the winning piece:
What materials did you use in the winning piece?
Cheap Thrills is fabricated out of sterling silver. I poured a billet and rolled out the sheet. The outside is polished silver and the inside is oxidized. The stones are set in 18K yellow gold. The four different colors of Montana sapphires make the piece special. My family specializes in mining and selling Montana Yogo sapphires.
What processes did you use?
Initially I used an acrylic sheet and cut out the outline of the whole piece. Then I used a hydraulic press to get the domed look. I was influenced by make-up compacts and cigarette packs from the ‘50s. They have a classic style.
How long did it take to make?
About a month working in the evenings and weekends. It is part of my thesis work. I am interested in highlighting the lack of quality and durability in everyday pieces by putting quality in unexpected places. I am using traditional techniques to make non-traditional pieces.
What did you learn from the piece?
I learned a lot of different things. I love traditional piercing work. It was fun to bring in things I have done in the past to work on a piece that I have never made before. I have primarily made only jewelry, and this was a departure.
Do you think this piece will influence your work going forward?
Yes. It certainly has. Not only for my BFA thesis, but also I hope to continue making a body of work around this piece. Pieces that people talk about that have a contemporary quality.
What do you like most about the piece?
It is just so much fun when it spins. I love the way the light hits it. It looks so good in your hands. Very tactile.
About the Artist:
Where do you live?
Did you study jewelry?
Yes. I am at Montana State University.
When did you discover you loved making jewelry?
I grew up in the jewelry business. I have fallen in love with making jewelry a couple different times in different ways. First of all hanging out in the studio with my dad as a kid. Later when I was in early high school and I had a studio to create for myself, I discovered I loved working on my own designs.
How long have you been making jewelry?
My first casting and soldering was in 6th grade.
Do any of your other passions influence your work?
Yes, I am a violinist and avid swing dancer. They both influence me a lot. Vintage styles derived from the swing dancing era really influence me, such as vintage cigarette cases. I wish I could enjoy the look without the health problems of smoking.
Who is your design/jewelry mentor?
My father has been a huge influence and the other goldsmiths at my father’s store. I didn’t have a sit-down education in traditional goldsmithing. I just asked the right questions. Two good teachers at school were also important, Stacey Smith in high school showed me how much fun jewelry making can be. Brian Peterson at MSU has allowed me to bend the rules as someone who has grown up in the industry.
When are you most creative?
It is not confined to one specific time. It comes in weird bursts. If I am not on a time crunch, I go hiking.
Do you have a jewelry design business?
I will be taking over my family business, The Gem Gallery. I took over as manager two years ago. And we recently bought the Yogo sapphire mine.
What is your artist statement/design philosophy?
We specialize in custom work and traditional craftsmanship. And bringing Montana Yogo sapphires into the mix.
What is your differentiator from other designers?
Sapphires are a big source of inspiration. Putting traditional craftsmanship with contemporary methods also makes my work different.
What do you love about making jewelry?
I love how hands-on it is. You spend all this time making a piece, and it can last for such a long time. You can show it to your friends and it is there.
Describe the first piece of jewelry you made? When was it?
It was a brass ring, and I was 6 years old. I sawed out a strip of brass and soldered it with gold solder. I still have it. The brass is all oxidized, but the gold is still bright.
Are you influenced by trends?
Only a little bit in the type of pieces I like. The fidget spinner was almost satirical. Overall, I think of myself as more classical.
What is the one thing you most love about your studio?
My studio is at the gallery, and I also work at the school campus on larger pieces.
They both have different feels. At the store, I do my precise pieces. At school, it is more open to trial and error, to experiment and play. Hammer on it until it is something fun or a piece of trash.
What is your favorite tool?
I love my saw a lot.
Do you listen to music when you work?
I listen to a lot of music. It is very important to me. A wide variety from jazz to soul to classical music. Louis Armstrong to Tchaikovsky to Nina Simone.
What one word of advice would you give beginning designers?
I would say learn hand engraving as well as the contemporary CAD design. Combining the old with the new. The more tools in your toolbox, the better your work. When I first made the spinner, I made it by drawing it in CAD, but then I constructed it using traditional metalsmithing techniques.
What work inspires you?
For books, Oscar Wilde! He is a huge inspiration. Addressing serious issues while maintaining humor and light-heartedness. He knows how to have fun but doesn’t steer away from the harder conversations.
Music wise, it is Bach today. He was able to be so systematic. You know what is coming next, but it is still so beautiful and yet unpredictable. There is a lot of room for that in jewelry. Dive into the details but keep the big idea in mind.
A visual artist is Barnet Newman. I take a lot of art history classes, but his pieces blow me away. He is able to use simple forms and yet make it an impactful experience.
What achievement in your jewelry life are you most proud of?
Saul Bell has been a defining moment in my life. One of the best. It is so amazing. I have met so many people through it.
What jeweler would you most like to have dinner with or visit their studio?
Todd Reed is fascinating in that he has built a whole business that is very interesting. And the aesthetics of his work are remarkable. And Adam Neeley. I love his designs; they are playful and elegant. You can tell by just looking at his work that it is his.
About the Saul Bell Design Award:
What did you feel when you found out you were a winner?
More surprised this year than ever before. I was out of the Emerging Artist category, and I was so over the moon when I found out. I had been pretty sick when I found out, and it made me feel so much better.
Have you entered before? When?
I have won two times as an Emerging Jewelry Artist.
Interview by Marlene Richey