A Letter of Acknowledgment
It is not without a measure of shock and amazement that I realize that I have been practicing this ‘craft or sullen art’ for over 40 years. Even as a boy, I was a maker of objects, mostly wearable, out of whatever materials came to hand, rings tapped patiently from quarters on edge, filed and carved from random steel nuts, pendants of enameled copper, clay, bone, bits of machinery and glass, and of course the beloved stones and shells from my neighbor, the sea. Preciousness, like her sister, beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. For me it was all treasure, god masquerading as creation, part and parcel, an open invitation to play, to make, to design. It remains so to this day.
At 18, in the summer of 1967, I apprenticed in the studio of the master silver and goldsmith,
C. Leslie Smith, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. We made everything, from tea services to wedding rings, in silver, gold and platinum. It was here I learned the rudiments of precious metal fabrication and design. I learned how to make money by making ‘artful’ objects, $1.50 per hour. The long conversation between Caesar and God had begun. How is it done? The business of art making and selling. I am still learning to navigate the often turbulent confluence of spirit work and the market place. The gallery has been my school.
There have been many influences over these many years, teachers, students, colleagues, designers and metal smiths. Several have worked with me in my studio and in theirs, providing invaluable assistance in the creation of countless works which bare my mark and name only. Among these, and in no particular order are Brian Bishop, Jay McCamis, David Loving, Timothy Balfour, Harry Ednie, Michael Banzhaf, Simon van der Ven, Keith Belles and Mark Stuijfzand. I am sure there are others I am forgetting. Without the efforts and encouragement of all these souls and their ‘good hands’ I would not be sitting in this comfortable home, writing these words today.
Most notable among this host of collaborators has been and is to this day, Glade Sarbach Davis. Glade and I met through the crucian goldsmith, Brian Bishop on the island of St Croix during the winter of 1984. For two magical seasons, fleeing the wrath of other Maine winters, I had the pleasure of sharing studio space in Glade’s gallery, The Crystal Sea. Two minutes from the polishing room was the stunningly blue Caribbean. Our friendship grew. The trade winds blew through the shop as we worked on our various dreams and masterpieces. Life was good. In 1988 Glade and I began a more formal business relationship. I had found both a friend and a prodigious ally in the creation of much of the work upon which my reputation has come to depend. I have never known a more capable metal smith or carver. Again and again it has been his genius and ingenuity that has brought my dreams and ideas into the real world, into this gallery and into the lives of our many collectors. The times we have shared in the studio, his or my own, passing projects back and forth, guiding their emergence from concept toward material reality, have been among the most deeply satisfying experiences of my life. For this ongoing collaboration and friendship, I am most deeply grateful.
Beginning this year, our 21st together, Glade and I will be adding his makers mark, the ‘gladius’ or short sword, to our familiar nautilus stamp on the works for which we are jointly responsible. I wish we had done this long ago. Better late than never. Thank you Glade.
Within the gallery, my allies have been no less important. This host of angels includes Brigitte Ziebell, Thia Belajonas, Candace Martin, Michele Damian, Rose Willson, Alexandra Chambers, and my remarkably able assistant, Jenilyn Johnson. Without their patient support, organization and understanding, this enterprise would have ended years ago. They have all left their mark and helped in countless ways to shape and shelter and grow this ‘place of beauty’. I thank you all every day.
There is another group that bears the most significant responsibility for the survival and magnificent growth of this good place. You know who you are, our friends and collectors, individuals, families and corporations that have, over the past three decades, taken the work of our artists into their homes and lives, leaving behind their encouragement, their trust, and most importantly, their money. Caesar will have his due.
Finally, there is one other I need to acknowledge, the best friend and collaborator I ever had, my mother, Merle Marie Donovan. The first piece I ever made was for her, and many more thereafter. She taught me well the love of beauty and gave me, through the example of her courage, the passion and will required to create it. Merle died four years ago. I wish that she had been able to see the Muir Garden for Sculpture that now graces our rooftop, though the construction process would not have been easy on her.
She once said, years ago, that the only thing worse than a hopeless romantic was a hopeful one, and that was her first born son, me. By now I guess it has become clear. She was right.