Thursday, May 8, 2008

Rick Hamilton: Creating Timeless Beauty on Martha's Vineyard

Rick Hamilton and Shadow

Petrified Wood and Gold Ring

Peruvian Opal and Moonstone Earrings

Tourmaline Bracelet

I found Rick Hamilton's work while searching through metalcyberspace. His pieces struck me as simple and classic with a flair. I was interested to learn from his website that he works on Martha's Vineyard and for many years, was part of a group of jewelry designers who shared a studio. For so many artists, their work is done as a solitary endeavor so I asked about this unusual arrangement:

The studio environment lasted for 10 years. The advantages were numerous, shared rent and utilities except phone, people covering the studio.Lots of feedback and interaction over design and sharing of techniques. I still work with several of my former studio mates, I did the models for Beth McElhiney's line last year. One of her pieces won the silver division of the Saul Bell Award.

To work on Martha's Vineyard seems a bit like paradise on earth. Is that true? What inspiration do you draw from the area?

Wow, what a great question! I've lived here for almost 30 years, after 11 years in various cities. The Vineyard is a great community, and it really is inspiring. We have many fundraising events in the summer. The Possible Dreams Auction, where for years Art Buchwald was the auctioneer, included things like an afternoon sail with Walter Cronkite, or a song and sandwiches with Carly Simon (one year split between two couples who each paid $26,000). I've been a mentor to 3 kids in the community, the most recent one is designing a watch line as an avocation. At 20, he may be the world's youngest watch designer. The watches retail between $5000-7500.

What was your path to jewelry design/creation?

I was an engineering student at Ga Tech, and met up with a mentor who was a jeweler. I helped to start a crafts Cooperative in Atlanta in 1970. I later took a course at Ga State with Richard MaFong. I moved to Boston in 1971 and within a year was hired, along with my younger brother, to make models and design jewelry for a factory in Pawtucket, RI.

To me, your pieces have a sculptural quality. How would you describe your style?

I like to think of my work as classic- something that is timeless. My inspiration comes from several different areas- Streamline is one aspect. Asian art, especially Japanese metal work is another inspiration. Roman period jewelry has also played a part. When I was living in Boston, the area's museum's collections provided an influence as well.

What are you trying to achieve with each piece you design?

Frequently I am working by commission, I am designing within the framework that the client provides, so, ultimately I am trying to achieve customer satisfaction. It can be very difficult- sometimes finding out what the client wants is harder than designing and making the piece.

What advice do you have for fledgling jewelry designers?

Well, I have inspired a couple of my apprentices to become jewelers. My advice would be cross-pollination; study as many techniques with as many different metalsmiths as you can afford. Take workshops, buy the tools, practice, and always listen to your clients. You have to believe in yourself and your work.

Where can people see and find your work?

Right now, at Claudia, a jewelry store in Edgartown, MA and Skylight Jewelers in Boston. There are some other shops I do specialty work for as well. This summer I am part of a group show of men's jewelry that opens on the 5th of July and again on the 16th of August at Pik-Nik, a gallery in Oak Bluffs.

From my vantage point as I fight daily traffic in frantic Los Angeles, Rick's life making beautiful jewelry on Martha's Vineyard seems to be just about as perfect as it gets. I imagine it's not quite that fabulous, but it sure looks great from the outside looking in! It was a pleasure getting to know Rick!

Thanks for stopping by!

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