2017 Emerging Jewelry Artist 22 Years of Age or Younger - First Place
In 2016, Jason Baide won a Saul Bell Design Award for his piece "A Gothic Melody." He is again a winner in the Emerging Artist division with his ring "Flexibility." He is finishing up his college degree at Montana State University. Last spring he had the opportunity to study in Italy, which has had a huge influence on his work, design philosophy and world view. His winning "Flexibility" shows a sophistication that is well beyond his years, and he gets to show off one of his favorite materials: Montana Yogo sapphires. Jason has officially “emerged.”
The Winning Piece:
14K yellow gold and Montana Yogo sapphires. These gemstones are near and dear to my heart. Their rich color is completely natural, never treated. These sapphires are primarily blue but range into purple. Plus they are found just a couple hours from my hometown. There is a good reason Montana is called the Treasure State.
The piece is completely hand-fabricated from wire and tubing. I use simple tools like wire cutters and a drill to create the form of each of the 42 links of the band. I then tube-set a sapphire for each link. Finally, I used a laser welder to join the settings to the links.
I have always been fascinated by flexible jewelry. I made a lot of chains and chainmail when I was younger. I first made this style of flexible ring several years ago and instantly wanted to incorporate stones in it somehow but I could never figure out how to add stones without hindering the smooth flexibility of the ring. Numerous attempts later I finally came up with a solution.
The majority of the time on this piece was problem-solving incorporating the setting. Once I figured out the mechanics I finished it within a month. I can make a plain flexible band in a single day but adding the stones takes much longer.
What did you learn from the piece?
This piece requires a lot of precision. The difference between smooth flexible movement and a solid ring is in the hundredths of millimeters. It took some practice with these rings to get them to where they are. I also improved in my stone-setting ability in this piece. Each setting had to be clean or it would stand out like a sore thumb.
Are you going to sell it?
I don’t think I’ll sell this one. I’ll certainly make more flexible rings in the future but the Yogos in this one make it so special to me.
Do you think this piece will influence your work going forward?
Yes, I think so. I am very interested in the flexibility in metalsmithing. It is challenging and some of my more artistic work will probably build off of this.
Does it reflect your current look/designs/brand?
I am still trying establishing what my aesthetic and style is, but this is certainly a favorite so far.
What do you like most about the piece?
I am split between the Montana sapphires and how the ring moves. It has a fluidity to it that I haven’t seen in a ring before. It’s kind of mesmerizing. I have an earlier version without stones that I wear regularly. I find myself playing with it all day long.
Did you try it on?
Of course! In fact I usually wear all the flexible rings that I make for a week or two. It takes that long for the links to settle into place. They usually expand about half a size during that time and then stay consistent. I consider that time part of the making process.
Where do you live?
I live in Bozeman, Montana, where I was born and raised.
Are you studying jewelry?
I am currently studying Studio Arts in Metalsmithing and Business at Montana State University.
Did you apprentice?
My father is a jeweler and started The Gem Gallery some 20 years ago. Like many family businesses, I started working at the store at an early age. In elementary school I would play in the wax carving room after school, doodling in wax with the flex shaft or what not. My dad showed me how to cast some of the better snowman landscape scenes I had carved and soon I was interested in jewelry making. I gradually learned a lot from my dad and the other goldsmiths at the store. I was also extremely fortunate to take several jewelry classes with an amazing teacher at my high school that gave me a more creative experience with jewelry than a goldsmith shop provided. I have also done several technique-specific workshops in CAD, stone setting, chasing and repoussé and makume gane, which have all greatly shaped my career so far.
When are you most creative?
One of my favorite times to work is my weekly volunteer monitor shift at my University’s jewelry studio. It’s a unique opportunity to work along side my peers without the formality of being in class. Everyone shares ideas and techniques and jams out to music. It is a time to try new things and not be pressured by class or client deadlines. Plus, our studio has a great view of the colorful Montana sunsets.
I am currently playing a larger role in my family’s business, which is a jewelry gallery.
Saul Bell Design Award:
What did you feel when you found out you were a winner?
Oh, I was so excited to hear I had won a second SBDA. Last year was such an experience. It was a great privilege to go to the Santa Fe Symposium. I met so many incredible people that I had seen their work and known their names most my life. To not only meet them but to have them enjoy my work, too, was beyond words. I sincerely look forward to going back and greeting them as friends this year.
What is your favorite material to work with?
I work mostly in gold now. I have dabbled in platinum and really like it. And again, I love the Montana Yogo sapphires.
Are you influenced by trends?
Not too much.
Studio and Surroundings:
What is your favorite tool?
It’s so hard to pick a single tool as a favorite. I love the way a hammer feels when shaping metal, and I have a few favorite hammers. But I also love the finesse yet sharpness of engravers. Pliers might have to be my favorite overall. I have a matching purple set of pliers that are named after dwarves from The Hobbit. I am beginning to appreciate the role of the pencil and paper more than I have in the past. It has helped me mature in my designs.
Do you listen to music, book on tape or watch tv when you work?
Music is an essential part of my studio. As a musician and a swing dancer, there is hardly a moment I’m not listening to music. It sets the mood in the studio and greatly influences what I make. I even pair my music to what I’m working on. If I know I’m doing a lot of hammering I like a nice heavy beat. Sawing reminds me of playing my violin so I tend to listen to classical music when piercing.
What work inspires you?
My travels in Italy last spring have left such a lingering impression. It wasn’t just the great sculptures and painting in museums that inspired me though. I think I have a much greater appreciation for decorative art in everyday items. From the faces on old rural mailboxes to doorknockers and street lamps, everywhere you look there is incredible metalsmithing. It is part of their history and culture. We don’t have that experience in the US.
Interview by Marlene Richey