Ethan Hansen

SECOND Place - 2019 Emerging JEWELRY Artist 18 Years of Age or Younger

Ethan Hansen has been hammering on metal since he could stand. When he enters college this August, he is going to be focusing mostly on knife- and blade-making.

Artist Interview:

What/who was your inspiration?
I’ve enjoyed making chains, and my mother has a TIG welder, which made it easier. I experimented creating chainmail bags and bracelets. I started with a box weave and then experimented with making flat bracelets four or five lengths wide. This necklace was a spur-of-the-moment decision by me because we received the postcard regarding the deadline for the Saul Bell Award competition, and my mother suggested that I enter.

How long did it take to make the piece?
A week of semi-steady work, approximately 16 hours.


What obstacles did you have to overcome in making this piece?
The main issue was getting the necklace to hang right. I initially used an armor weave, but it didn’t hang in a way that was very flattering,
so I ended up going with different sizes of links, which helped it hang well and not bunch up.

What do you plan to do with the piece?
It is a gift for my girlfriend. She has been given many things I have made.

What did you feel when you heard?
Surprised with the first email saying I was a finalist and then surprised again to get the email that I was second place in my category. The Saul Bell Design Award is so respected in the jewelry world with well-known judges and a distinguished company sponsoring it.

Who did you tell first about winning?
My mom was the first to know, and then I texted my girlfriend. I told her that the piece I made for her had won. My grandparents are both artists, but we decided we would wait till the awards ceremony to tell them.

Have you won other awards/honors?
Not for metals or jewelry. But I have been published in three youth poetry books.

Describe yourself.
Definitely the nerdy type. I enjoy discovering how something works. I have always enjoyed making things with my hands. I grew up in an art gallery, essentially. And I helped my parents build and refurbish three houses altogether.

Of all the arts and crafts, why did you choose jewelry?
It is probably not going to be jewelry, but blacksmithing and within that area, bladesmithing. I’m going to college to learn more about metalworking in general, but I aim to apply those new skills towards creating knives that are functional as well as interesting and innovative. To have a goal in mind such as honing my skills to be on par with someone like Jerry McClure is huge. He is definitely an example to follow.

What was the first thing you ever made?
One of the first things was definitely a tiny little sculptural book made out of copper. The title I carved into the cover was “But Book.” My mother still has it on a shelf in her studio.

Who do you think has been the strongest influence or inspiration on your work?
This is a challenging question because both of my parents have been influential and supportive in different ways. My mother is a silversmith and is much more involved with the jewelry I make. Whereas my dad, being a blacksmith, is my making-knives-technical-forging-person I go to with questions about processes and techniques.

Do you have any advice for those starting out in the jewelry world?
Just play! Put things together that you think will work and you will learn something even if it doesn’t work.

What do you want people to know about you and your art?
I make jewelry and blades because I enjoy it. It is not something I am focused on making loads of money off of right now. It is fun and stimulating. When I am able to give someone a piece/present, the reaction is always wonderful. Mostly I make gifts at this point.

What is going to be your training/academic background in metalsmithing?
This coming August I will be attending Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. They have a metals program that offers blacksmithing, which is what I am primarily interested in. I have mainly been focused on making blades. They have a full blacksmith shop and foundry as well as a standard jewelry program along with metals and other related programs.

What is your favorite tool?
The belt grinder. It is so versatile for what it can do: Shape, polish or change how something looks or feels. It is involved in so many different steps of the production.

Is the product or the process more important to you? Why?
I definitely feel it is both. With the process I get to learn. But with the product I get to see what I learned.

Describe your studio.
I use my parents’ studios. We are out in the industrial zone of Salida, which means we can make all the noise we want and not upset anyone.

What is your differentiator?
I have more experience than most people my age. I grew up in the jewelry/metals world. My grandfather on my mother’s side bounced around a lot in the jewelry industry. His insights from being a casting consultant and goldsmith have been particularly useful. My grandmother on my mother’s side was a jewelry designer and is now a painter and tango dancer. My father’s side is less artistic, but his father was a welder and his father’s father was a welder. I have an aunt who does demolition and an uncle who does woodworking. And with so many interesting people who know my family, it has given me the opportunity to learn and experiment more than anyone else I know.

What metals, gemstones or processes are most important to you?
Steel is definitely where I am at.

Interview by Marlene Richey