2015 1st Place - Gold/Platinum & Hollowware
Kent Raible of Mossy Rock, Washington, a winner in the 2015 Saul Bell Design Award competition, broke ground when he received not one, but two 1st Place honors in a single year—an achievement never before realized in the competition. In the Gold/Platinum category, Kent won for his gorgeous necklace design, "From the Deep"; in the Hollowware/Art Object category, he won for his inspired sculpture, "The Pregnant Chalice." We wanted to find out a little bit about these imaginative and beautiful designs, so we went to talk to Kent about his work.
HOW DID YOU COME TO BE DESIGNING JEWELRY?
It was an accident, really. My girlfriend in high school was taking a jewelry class and that's how I was exposed to working with metal. I took classes myself after that and I just never stopped. Through three years of high school, then into college. It was such an opportunity to explore. And growing up in an artistic family, I was always encouraged. My dad even gave me my first set of jewelry tools—tools he used in his college years. I use the ring mandrel he gave me to this very day. Also a saw frame, pliers and a few others. It was the casting class that really got me excited; carving wax and the whole process. I still use the centrifugal casting machine I bought myself back then to do my production casting.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT DESIGNING THAT YOU ESPECIALLY LOVE?
I love challenges, doing things that inspire me to bend and stretch. I always like to incorporate something new so there's an evolution in my work as I'm going—it can be even the smallest thing. I just like figuring things out.
WHAT PART OF THE PROCESS DO YOU FIND DEMANDS THE MOST DISCIPLINE FROM YOU? AND WHAT PART DO YOU FIND COMES THE EASIEST TO YOU?
Discipline … hmm … patience. Sometimes, with a major piece, if I run into a block, I just have to wait until I feel like it's the right time to start it up again. I never feel like I have to make myself do anything. And, if there's a flow happening, I don't care how mundane the task is or how long it takes, it gets done, and I just kinda have the end view in mind, how it's going to look when it's all done and that spurs me on.
I like the whole process, but my favorite part is when it gets close to being finished and I can see the vision coming together. It either meets my vision or sometimes, if I'm lucky, it exceeds what I envisioned. That's the most exciting part for me…getting to the final stages.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TOOL? WHAT TOOL (IF ANY) DO YOU STRUGGLE WITH?
I have thousands of tools. The amazing thing about being a jewelry person is that you can have as many tools as you want, and you can still get more! I think my rolling mill is my favorite tool because it has given me an immense amount of freedom in the shop to build whatever I need when I need it. I alloy my own gold, and I need different thicknesses and cross sections of wire and sheet at any given moment. It's so satisfying to be able to create my own stock so quickly and consistently. I call it my 'freedom tool' because it gives me the ability to make whatever I want as a fabricator. It's the bedrock of my tool store.
If you're struggling with a tool, it just means you need to practice a bit more, or learn more about it. It's mostly a matter of figuring things out; when I find myself struggling, I stop and ask myself pertinent questions about how I can use it better, or why is this not working. Usually, it's a matter of support, of holding a piece properly if you're struggling with a tool. I find that the number one thing is holding the work secure.
WHERE DO YOU TURN TO FIND YOUR BEST OR MOST RELIABLE INSPIRATION?
You know, the inspiration has always been there; it comes at different times and in different ways. I guess it's being always open to the possibilities. I look at my stones and the ideas will come. Like the idea for "The Deep"—that took a couple of years to come. I had that amazing stone and wasn't willing to set it 'til I had something I knew was good. I'm always working on five to 15 projects at any given time; if something's not flowing with one, I'll put it aside and work on something else until BOOM the idea comes.
HOW DO YOU WORK THROUGH THE CHALLENGES THAT ARISE AS YOU ARE WORKING TO BRING A DESIGN TO LIFE?
I just ask the questions. How can I do this in a way that is not compromising the design and in a way that is functional and works with all the elements? I don't try to answer these questions right away; I simply ask them and wait for the answer to come … usually one comes. Sometimes instantly, sometimes days, weeks, months or years later. As I said, I just wait.
DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL WORK AREA. HOW CLOSE IS THAT IDEAL TO YOUR CURRENT REALITY?
I've been working in a 'temporary' situation for quite a while. I've been working on designing that ideal workshop. My perfect area now is changing because I want to start doing some small classes. The new workshop has to have six to eight stations and have the room to accommodate students. There'll be an area for smithing, a forging area with tools hanging handy from the ceiling, a casting area, wax-working area, a new lapidary area—even possibly a new blacksmithing area to do larger-scale work—and, of course, a cleaning area. It'll have a bank of windows facing north so we have good, long-term, but not direct, sunlight—diffused light coming from the north. They will face out on the view of Mount Rainier; I can just see it now…
IF YOU HAD IT TO DO OVER AGAIN, WHAT, IF ANYTHING, WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?
Sure, I would probably do things differently, but … actually, I think I did very well. I didn't know I was going to make jewelry for a living until my twenties. I had done a lot of work by then, and it wasn't until I won an award that I ever thought: 'I could make a living at this.' I don't think there's any other career I would choose or any other way I would've built my business. I've pretty much done the work I want to do all along.
ARE YOU WHERE YOU THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE (OR WANTED TO BE) WHEN YOU STARTED OUT AS A JEWELRY DESIGNER/MAKER?
I've achieved a lot of what I thought I would. I didn't really want to be a huge designer, have employees and stuff like that. As far as what I'm doing and the level of my work, I'm pretty satisfied, but I will still get better. There's still lots of inspiration these days … there's more to come.
WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR WORK IN THE OVERALL PATTERN OF YOUR LIFE, HOW DO YOU DEFINE THAT WORK IN YOUR OWN MIND?
Hmm … how do I put that into words? In a lot of ways, my work has been a real anchor for me over the years. I think one of the reasons I got into it was the way I could create a world all my own and not be bothered by anybody else or the world out there. It's my own world, so it's really been kind of a fun exploration of just being able to do my own thing. I feel very blessed to have these talents and have the faith to use them and develop them. It's been the base camp outside of my relationships and family, the one solid thing I've had my whole life, and it's always been something I could fall back on, not that I've needed to. It's been a source of continuing amazement. I still surprise myself; 'gosh, look what I just made!'
Find out more about Kent's work at www.kentraible.com.