Instructor Spotlight:

Q&A with Richard Salley

Stone on Stone Rings by Richard Salley
In less than 50 days, jewelry artists from all over the nation will flock to the history-rich city of Santa Fe for an experience that brings out the jewelry industry’s best. That’s right; all of your favorite instructors and exhibitors will be there! We’re talking about Bead Fest Santa Fe, of course, and among the impressive lineup of skilled instructors you will find Richard Salley.

The former school teacher has had a burning passion for making art with metal since the late ‘60s, and his days of leading grade school and high school classes has served him well as a jewelry art instructor.

Not long ago, we had the opportunity to speak with Richard on the phone and it became blatantly clear why empty chairs do not exist in his workshops. Not only does Richard know his stuff, but he also truly loves what he does. He wants to impart his decades worth of knowledge on jewelry artists of all skill levels, and that’s exactly what he will be doing at Bead Fest Santa Fe.

Ready to learn about Richard’s journey through the arts? Just keep reading!

Richard Salley at Bead Fest Santa Fe 2015

1. Bead Fest Santa Fe is just around the corner! What are you looking forward to at the event?
I love Santa Fe, and I lived there for five years. I have some great friends there. I think the whole ambiance of Santa Fe is conducive to the kind of jewelry work I do.

2. You’re teaching some beautiful workshops at Bead Fest Santa Fe. Which one are you most excited to teach?
There is one I’m doing called Ketoh Bracelet. It’s very reminiscent of jewelry made in the Southwest with the silver and turquoise. I think that class should be well received and I hope you come take it!

Ketoh Bracelet Workshop | Register Here

3. What are your greatest sources of inspiration?
The funny thing about inspiration is that you can’t always command it to appear. It’s a gift sometimes. It just happens and it evolves. I’m in tune with what other people are doing, but I always make things my own, and my own style begins to takeover. Inspiration can be mysterious sometimes.

4. What are your top tips for first-time Bead Fest attendees?
The weather in Santa Fe can be unpredictable in March, so I suggest you pack for some contingencies. In addition, I recommend that you bring as many tools as you possibly can—even if you have to wear the same clothes over and over. Tools are important.

While in Santa Fe, be sure to check out some of the local galleries and restaurants. I like a place called Jett Gallery—it’s mostly jewelry. There’s also Patina Gallery featuring a lot of jewelry. Those two galleries are at the top of the list. Restaurant wise, I have to say Coyote Café; I’ve never had a bad thing there, and Plaza Café is great for breakfast.

5. Do you remember the first piece of jewelry art you created?
I started off working as a metal sculptor many years ago, and I was an assistant to a metal sculptor in 1969. I worked on really large metal pieces and then I worked on metal off and on in addition to being a school teacher, which was my full-time job. I kept busy with metal on the side, and then I took a jewelry-making class with Keith Lo Bue in 2002. His approach to jewelry making was similar to some of the sculptural work I had done. The first piece we had to do was made with etched copper and cold connections—techniques I learned from him.

6. Do you participate in any art forms in addition to creating jewelry?
I’ve always been involved in the arts. I do all of the photography for the work I have online, and then over the last 5 years or so I’ve done a series of photographs that has turned into a large collection and it’s called the Shadow Cowboy. They are all pictures of my shadow with my cowboy hat on.

Shadow Cowboy by Richard Salley

7. What is the best piece of advice that another artist has shared with you?
One piece of advice I received that I thought was very helpful came from an art consultant, and she said one of the biggest things is just to get your work out there for people to see. After that, I joined a local art association. Having your work out there and having people react to it is a big opportunity for growth.

My advice would be to go ahead and put your work out there, and as you continue to do that over time, you’ll begin to see the growth. The opportunities now with Facebook and Instagram make it so easy. Just put it out there!

8. What are some of the mistakes you’ve made while creating jewelry and what have you learned from them?
I’ve made many mistakes and almost every piece of jewelry I make, there is some conflict between my vision and the execution of the piece. I can see it so clearly in my mind, and then the metal might not bend in that exact way. It might break or melt and then I have to compensate. Mistakes are a learning experience, and while it can be frustrating, you have to continue on. Sometimes I have to take things apart and redo them.

There’s a piece I made recently where I dropped a stone and it broke. I thought about gluing it back together but then I decided to work with that broken piece. There’s a song by Leonard Cohen that says there’s a crack in everything and that’s how the light gets in. I celebrate the idea that there is imperfection.

Richard Salley | Image Source

9. What are your favorite memories from Bead Fest 2016?
I would have to say being with the other artists, including Susan Lenart Kazmer and Anne Mitchell. It’s kind of like an extended family in a way, and I think the camaraderie there is really great. The Bead Fest staff always takes care of me and they make sure I have everything that I need. Just the people I get to work with are the highlight.

If you’ve been waiting for the opportunity to take one of Richard’s renowned workshops, you’re in luck! Bead Fest Santa Fe is happening March 23-26 at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, and Richard will be teaching a variety of metalworking and stone setting techniques. Grab your seat before it’s gone and indulge in the creative getaway you deserve!

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2 thoughts on “Q&A with Richard Salley

    1. Hi Arlene! Richard tends to book up very quickly in the fall. There’s a good chance he will be joining us this October! Keep checking back — we’ll be announcing our Tacoma lineup soon!!

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