‘I WAS HOOKED’

David An­der­son, liv­ing mas­ter of met­als

Tradiciones: Artes - - CONTENTS - BY SCOTT GERDES

Quin­tes­sen­tial Taos views sur­round the sprawl­ing An­der­son fam­ily cat­tle ranch in Ar­royo Seco. The proper home was once filled with im­pres­sive paint­ings, ta­pes­tries and sculp­tures. The mid­dle An­der­son, David, along with his older brother and younger sis­ter, were reg­u­larly taken to mu­se­ums and art shows. He remembers go­ing to lo­cal events with his par­ents, Chilton and Ju­dith, not­ing the adults all decked out in their finest at­tire with eye-catch­ing jew­elry drip­ping off their fin­gers, wrists, ears and necks. His well-known and re­spected grand­fa­ther, Claude An­der­son, built a ha­cienda in Taos, which was later do­nated by the fam­ily and be­came the site of the Mil­li­cent Rogers Mu­seum. His fa­ther started the Taos School of Mu­sic when An­der­son was 3 years old. Func­tions af­forded him the chance to be around some of Taos’ great­est artists such as An­drew Das­burg, Dorothy Brett and Ted Egri. (He is in­flu­enced by Egri — the man and his work — to this day.) Lit­tle did he know how those ex­pe­ri­ences and ob­ser­va­tions would one day mold him into a mas­ter gold­smith.

Look­ing back

It was a bro­ken sil­ver and turquoise bracelet that planted a seed.

“My best friend grow­ing up was Her­man Chavez, a Navajo, who was the same age. He lived across the field from my house with his un­cle, Lam­bert. We hung out a lot and did a lot of stupid things,” An­der­son re­called with an imp­ish grin. Two claws that held the turquoise stones in An­der­son’s fa­vorite bracelet had bro­ken. One day, he men­tioned it to Her­man. It sur­prised An­der­son to hear that Lam­bert used to make jew­elry.

“Her­man says, ‘Come on over and I’ll show you how to fix it.’ ” “I said, ‘You know how to do that?’ ” Her­man an­swered, “My un­cle is a sil­ver­smith.”

An­der­son took his bro­ken bracelet to Her­man’s house. Un­der Lam­bert’s watch­ful eye and spe­cific in­struc­tion, the ju­nior high-schooler be­gan his first jew­elry-re­pair les­son. Once, An­der­son ham­mered out a cop­per ash­tray with guid­ance from his fa­ther. He had a his­tory of tak­ing things apart to see how they worked. But he had never at­tempted any­thing that re­quired so much pre­ci­sion us­ing such for­eign tools. In­side the shop on the Chavez’s prop­erty, An­der­son re­moved the turquoise stones. He took the claws out. He took a piece of cloth to the sil­ver. “There was a teeny wire that went into the band and so I cleaned it up and sanded it down,” An­der­son re­called. “I got it smooth, got the ends put to­gether and then Lam­bert told me to put some plugs on it with some white slurry stuff.”

Then he sol­dered the piece back to­gether and quenched it, fol­low­ing ev­ery one of Lam­bert’s words to a T un­til the piece was com­pletely in­tact.

“So, then I had this bracelet back again, and it was years later when I re­al­ize that what he just showed me was re­ally dif­fi­cult,” An­der­son said. “For a begin­ner, be­ing my first project, I shouldn’t have even tried it. Lam­bert talked me through it, got me to do it and it was in­trigu­ing.”

Get­ting hooked

It wasn’t un­til 1981 when An­der­son took his first jew­elry-mak­ing class. He was a stu­dent at the Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico in Al­bu­querque and “had no clue” what ca­reer path he wanted to take. He had never for­got­ten fix­ing that old bracelet, so he took some jew­elry cour­ses and learned how truly dif­fi­cult it is to solder, es­pe­cially on a thin wire. “Do­ing that again made me so happy. I was hooked.” At the time, Ralph Lewis was the head of the de­part­ment at UNM. One day he came in to talk to the be­gin­ning jew­el­ers. An­der­son was work­ing on a belt buckle. “He gave this lit­tle lecture and I just fell in love with the guy. I said, ‘I’ve got to go up and talk to him.’ So I grabbed my belt buckle — it was half done — and walked up to him, in­tro­duced my­self and we started talk­ing,” he shared.

Lewis looked at An­der­son’s belt buckle, looked at An­der­son, looked again at the belt buckle and in­quired, “This is your first class?” “And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘Wow, do you have a ma­jor?’ I said, ‘No.’ He looked at the belt buckle again, looked me right in the eye and said, ‘I want you for a stu­dent.’ Some­where in the back of my mind I heard, ‘OK.’ I didn’t re­al­ize I had even said it out loud. And that was it.”

An­der­son im­mersed him­self in jew­elry, paint­ing and draw­ing cour­ses for the next six years, work­ing with Lewis for five of them. His met­al­work be­gan with sil­ver and some gems. The first piece he sold was at a small hol­i­day fair he hap­pened to join on a whim in Al­bu­querque. The de­sign for the shield-like pen­dant came to him in a dream. “It had this black agate stone with white stripes and I re­cessed it down into the bot­tom of a shell struc­ture with a flat back. It was al­most like the shape of a kite. It had some pierc­ings in it so you could look through the outer shell and see the stone un­der­neath.”

A woman ap­proached his ta­ble and was in­stantly taken with the chain-less pen­dant. She bought it for $35. “I was thrilled,” he said.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from UNM, An­der­son re­turned to Taos and took a cou­ple of classes with Phil Poirier at the Taos Art In­sti­tute who taught him how to work with gold.

“Gold, at that point in time, was ter­ror­iz­ing,” he con­fessed. “I was so scared be­cause of its cost.

Back then sil­ver was $4.80 an ounce and gold was $270 an ounce and that’s a big dif­fer­ence.”

Later, he got a job work­ing with Taos jew­eler Emily Benoist Ruf­fin who showed him how to work with plat­inum.

Evo­lu­tion

An­der­son looks at the world in shapes and struc­tures. He du­ti­fully stud­ies the qual­ity of a pen­cil line on a piece of pa­per — “the curved line can look re­ally ugly or it can look re­ally beau­ti­ful.” He views his job as a jew­eler as mak­ing stun­ning works of wear­able art. It’s about cre­at­ing pleas­ing shapes that peo­ple are drawn to. That was some­thing learned that came with time. “Af­ter mak­ing jew­elry for a while,” he ex­plained, “I got re­ally com­plex and tried to re­pro­duce leaf shapes and flow­ers and petals and make them struc­turally per­fect. I re­pro­duce na­ture pretty ac­cu­rately, but peo­ple didn’t want to pay the money for it. All of a sud­den I re­al­ized, ‘Oh my God, make it sim­ple.’ ” He turned 50 lines into six, which dra­mat­i­cally changed the struc­ture of the leaf. All of a sud­den, peo­ple liked it. That les­son took 10 years and hun­dreds of leaves. He gets a lot of in­spi­ra­tion from na­ture, but his fa­vorite pieces to make are rings born from a Ja­panese wood­grained me­tal tech­nique called Mokume Gane. “Ba­si­cally, it’s a se­ries of lam­i­nated met­als. When I carve into it, I ex­pose dif­fer­ent lay­ers and col­ors.”

Over the years, An­der­son’s work has gar­nered many awards in­clud­ing the “Liv­ing Mas­ters Ex­hi­bi­tion” at the 20072009 Taos Fall Arts Fes­ti­val and “Peo­ples Choice,” “Best of Jew­elry” and “Best of Show” hon­ors at the an­nual Mil­li­cent Rogers Mu­seum Minia­tures Show. An­der­son’s work can be found at Tresa Voren­berg Gold­smiths in Santa Fe and in Taos at the Mil­li­cent Rogers Mu­seum Gift Shop. An­der­son and his wife, jew­eler Gail Golden, also sell out of their home stu­dio by ap­point­ment and ac­cept com­mis­sion work. His pieces are for sale on­line at david­ban­der­songold­smith. com and etsy.com. Be­yond fab­ri­cat­ing orig­i­nal pieces, An­der­son is very adept at re­pair­ing any­thing from vin­tage to con­tem­po­rary jew­elry and is the of­fi­cial re­pair per­son for Mil­li­cent Rogers Mu­seum.

It’s all come full cir­cle from that first bro­ken bracelet.

Mor­gan Timms Mor­gan Timms

Gold­smith and jewelery-maker David An­der­son's first jew­elry in­struc­tor was Ralph Lewis at the Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico in OP­PO­SITE:Al­bu­querque. Be­fore tak­ing that class, An­der­son wasn't set­tled on a ca­reer path. When they first met, An­der­son showed Lewis a belt buckle he was work­ing on. He re­called the en­su­ing con­ver­sa­tion: “This is your first class?” “And I said, ‘Yeah.' And he said, ‘Wow, do you have a ma­jor?' I said, ‘No.' He looked at the belt buckle again, looked me right in the eye and said, ‘I want you for a stu­dent.' Some­where in the back of my mind I heard, ‘OK.' I didn't re­al­ize I had even said it out loud. And that was it.”An­der­son in­spects a ring he is re­pair­ing ABOVE: for a cus­tomer. He is very adept at re­pair­ing any­thing from vin­tage to con­tem­po­rary jew­elry and is the of­fi­cial re­pair per­son for Mil­li­cent Rogers Mu­seum.

Mor­gan Timms

An­der­son's steady hands and well-trained eyes fix a ruby and di­a­mond-en­crusted ring in his Ar­royo Seco work­shop. Over the years, his orig­i­nal cre­ations have gar­nered many awards and his re­pair work gets rave re­views.

Mor­gan Timms

Gold­smith and jewelery-maker David An­der­son sketches drafts of a ring he is re­design­ing for a cus­tomer in his Ar­royo Seco work­shop. He looks at the world in shapes and struc­tures, and du­ti­fully stud­ies the qual­ity of a pen­cil line on a piece of pa­per — “the curved line can look re­ally ugly or it can look re­ally beau­ti­ful.” An­der­son views his job as a jew­eler as mak­ing stun­ning works of wear­able art.

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