Wubbers University Instructor Spotlight: John Sartin

Today I would like to introduce you to John Sartin.  John, an award winning artist, is a featured cover artist for multiple publications, and is published in a number of Lark publications.  He is a masterful teacher, and is a popular workshop teacher for Rio Grande.  Having spent years participating successfully in fine arts and crafts festivals, John wants to spend a few years concentrating on teaching.  I did that exact thing, too, and told John just how satisfying and validating it has been.

So if you want to learn from a top notch teacher, and the author of a new and very popular book, The Photo Guide to Making Metal Jewelry, please get to know one of the kindest and gentlest people I’ve ever met.  John has a number of beginning metalsmithing classes published on Wubbers U, and we are tremendously honored to have him as one of our Master Teachers.     –Lexi Erickson

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Lexi: How long have you been making jewelry? What inspired you to start making jewelry? 

John: I have been seriously making jewelry for 11 years although it doesn’t seem that long, prior to this I was an armature potter. The first time I formed metal with a hammer I was hooked, I couldn’t believe how fluid the medium was. After studying metalsmithing for awhile and being exposed to the plethora of techniques I knew this was what I need to be doing. I was inspired to make art jewelry by the fact that it is body adornment and everyone that the wearer comes into contact with will be affected, be it good or bad, by the piece that is worn. It stimulates conversation, it is attached to a memory, typically good, of maybe a vacation trip to Crested Butte,CO or to the local art festival or maybe a thirtieth anniversary, it has a deep personal attachment to the owner and like other art it is usually purchased by someone that understands the vision of the maker.

Tell us about your jewelry heroes, who do you admire and why do they inspire you?

I’m honestly inspired by anyone that crafts well made metal art but my “heroes” of metalsmithing include Harold O’Connor, Andy Cooperman, Steve Midget, Albion Smith, Ford Hallam… It would take many pages to list them all. Every time I participate in a show I find at least one more to add to the list.

Do you have a favorite artistic quote you can share with us?

I’m not quite sure where this came from but “A master is not someone that makes no mistakes; rather he knows how to fix the mistakes he makes”.

If you weren’t a jeweler, what would you be doing?

I can’t think of something that I would rather be doing.

Do you listen to music in the studio, and if so, what kind?

Yes, all the time. I have a very eclectic collection of music classic rock, country/western,  bluegrass, classical, new age, reggae, jazz… Whatever it is it has to be conducive to creating, death metal not so much.

What was your first piece?

My first piece of actual jewelry was a small pierced brooch with a turquoise stone set in the center. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but it had a simple, hand wrought feel. It was also the first piece of jewelry I sold.

Do you have a favorite tool or tools?

Hammers are my favorite tools in my studio. I was lucky enough to procure quite a few of the Fretz hammers last year and they are fantastic. The only trouble is they have made me more of a hammer junkie than I should be.

Can you share your favorite jewelry making tip with us?

Assemble the piece of jewelry only when all of the components have been made and you are happy with them.

Do you have one piece which is your favorite?   Why is it your favorite?  

I can’t pick just one as a favorite, each one has their own special place in my creative past.

What’s your favorite color palette?

Earth tones are my favorite they match the natural aesthetic of my work.

What do you do for relaxation?  Is it something which inspires you?

When I do have the chance to really relax I like to learn a new technique.  I know, studio geek.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received from your mentor? 

Never compromise yourself.  If you’re not happy with a piece, no one else will be happy with it either.

Is that the same advice you would pass on to your student?

Most definitely, as artists that make a living from their work it is quite easy to get caught up in trying to make things that will sell, and it is quite easy to compromise yourself in the process, this comes from experience.

What give you the greatest joy in making jewelry?

Taking a piece of metal sheet and wire and crafting a finished three dimensional object from a design that started as a thought and solving all the problems that arise during that process.

Throughout history, jewelry has been assigned a status, for example, it shows wealth, political power, employment, marriage status, spirituality power, etc.  Do you feel your jewelry has any type of symbolism?

I came to metalsmithing and making jewelry fairly late in life and it was the last thing that I would have thought I would be doing had you asked me twenty years ago.  At the time that I became interested the metal arts my life needed a change.  I needed to break out of an old shell and reveal what was inside so yes, I think there is some symbolism in my work. 

What’s in the future for you?  Would you mind sharing a few of your goals?  

New techniques, new designs and a teaching studio where classes and workshops will be held year around.


View The Complete Photo Guide to Making Metal Jewelry on Amazon

Enroll in John Sartin’s Wubbers U classes



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