Interview by Juanita Canzoneri
I interviewed Frank and Ginny Maiolo, our March Artists of the Month, in their home studio.
Frank and Ginny named their studio Monument Moon because they live in Monument, Colorado and Ginny has been enamored by the moon all her life.
Frank and Jenny are jewelers. They design and create jewelry from silver or copper with gemstones and precious semi-precious stones. They make rings, earrings, bracelets, pendants, sometimes dog tags.
Most of their work is done with hot connections using solder and flux. They use an acetylene air torch for silver soldering. They have been rock hounds their entire lives and have a large collection of stones in their studio.
Ginny and Frank retired from corporate America seven years ago and decided to have fun with the rest of their lives. They had both been managers for software development groups at FedEx. One of the women worked for Ginny made jewelry and Ginny asked if this woman would give her a class.
She came home from the class and left all of her class instructions on the table and went shopping. When she came back home Frank had already made two pair of earrings.
They had no idea they wanted to work in metal. Frank read through the instructions Ginny had left behind and decided it looked like fun. Being a little more familiar with tools he helped with those. “I was afraid of the torch,” Ginny confessed. “it was a little still a little unnerving at times, but Frank is really good with the torch.”
I asked the question I typically ask silversmiths: how many hammers do you have? They start counting and come up with 17. They’d have more but the hammers they like are really expensive. Then I point out a large hammer under the table, giving a final count of 18.
They use a rolling mill as much as hammers for texture and have another tool with a texture attachment.
I asked Frank how he came to start his line of Camino jewelry. In 2015 they decided to would do the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain, a 500-mile-walk through Spain on the Santiago de Compostela.
After they got home, they realized most of the commemorative jewelry they had seen on the trip was made in China. So, Frank came up with a couple designs for pendants, rings, earrings, and bracelets and has been selling those now for a couple of years through our Monument Moon site, Etsy, and Amazon handmade. The pieces can also be found in Camino Marketplace on Facebook.
Frank and Ginny started their business while in their sixties and it's flourishing. “So often we think it's too late. I'm retired and there’s nothing more I can do,” Ginny says. “But it's never too late! When I retired Frank got me this card and I framed it and put it in my studio. ‘There will come a time when you think everything is finished, but that will be the beginning.’ And it's so true. this has changed our entire life.”
They’ve always been interested in art. Ginny paints and they've always been an advocate of the Arts. They travel the world going to Art Museums and so it's always been an interest. “I thought I would stick with painting,” Ginny says, “but I wasn't that good at it. I enjoy it, and it's fun, and I still do it. But jewelry just resonated with both of us it was just so completely us, using the things that we've always loved. Having been in the corporate world all of our professional careers this was something where we just reinvented ourselves.”
Frank has an MBA project management, undergraduate business information. Ginny has an undergrad in psychology which has helped her deal with group dynamics. She taught in the corporate world as well as managed and comments, “you'd be surprised how often we use that in the world of artists. Group dynamics are pretty similar no matter what group you're in.”
But Commonwheel has been a freeing experience for them both. They had rigid corporate standards in software development, which is something that really turns software developers off because they want to have their own thing. Now they can do anything they want and can experiment, and play, and don't have to worry about it.
For the newly retired or those who want to expand their creative life the recommend taking classes anywhere you can find them.
“Explore,” says Ginny “I never thought I would get into jewelry making. I enjoyed it, I love buying it, but I would always look at it and think well I could make that. And then I started making jewelry and it's a lot harder than I thought. Explore. Play. Don’t be too ready to say you can't do something.”
Whatever you learn will often carry over into other areas. Looking at the different types of art that Commonwheel carries and that they do you will find they all draw on the same art concepts: the rule of threes, asymmetry, and so on. Everyone has creativity whether it's in music, writing, art, even thinking—which basically starts at all.
Ginny and Frank have two completely different design methods. Ginny has a basket of ideas in her space. When there were wildfires near their home a few years ago, this basket is one of the things their daughter took to keep safe. The basket contains her ideas, drawings, names, etc. “I keep it by me at night when Frank's watching TV and jot down ideas. I have a basketful of paper and pencils and I'm designing,” Ginny says.
Frank says he designs at the bench. He doesn't do any drawings. He just sits down with his raw materials and it grows. Usually he's picked a stone out of their collection first and does a lot of designing in his head.
Franks calls is designs simplistic elegance and Ginny says she gets way too into a piece and has to figure out where to stop. So, she ends up with some designs that she can't finish without showing it to Frank and say “now what do I do?”
But they do definitely help each other with the design and with the technical aspects. “I'm so afraid I'm going to melt something” says Ginny about fusing. “I don't want it to melt and Frank is so totally comfortable with that torch. He knows it intimately.”
In addition to Commonwheel Artists Co-op and our Labor Day Festival the Maiolo’s sell at Front Range Open Studios. This will be their seventh year. There are currently 16 artists in Monument that are part of the weekend event in September.
Interview by Juanita Canzoneri. Photographs by Juanita Canzoneri and Teri Rowan.
Jon joined Commonwheel as a jeweler in 2018 and has made himself indispensable to our Jury/Display committee. I went to his home/studio to interview him for this article.
He is our Artist of the Month for February 2019. All his work is on sale at 10% off through the month.
So, what is it that you do?
I'm a silversmith.
And how did you get into that?
I've often admired I've long admired Southwestern jewelry and wanted to learn some of those basic techniques. But I didn't want to try and duplicate the designs that the Indians used, I wanted to do my own designs. So I took a couple classes of some of the basic techniques. That was about 25 years ago and I've been kind of self-taught since then.
What did you do before you took up silversmithing?
Lots—small animal veterinarian for 20 years, then my wife and I owned a bird feeding store which gradually transitioned into a bookstore.
Yeah, I’m a birder. We sold that and the next thing was a B&B with some rental cabins here in Manitou. I most recently we had the kitchen store then the economy changed, and we retired from that.
Now I have more time to spend on my silversmithing.
Where do you get your silver?
Most of it I get from Santa Fe jewelry supply. I get sheets and wire. They come in an incredible variety.
Speaking of working with a commodity, right now it's not too bad but the price has been pretty high in the past. While I've been working with it can remember $5 an ounce and as high as $40 an ounce. Right now it's at $15, so not bad.
What part of the country did you grow up in?
I was born in DC but grew up in Colorado in Wheat Ridge. Went to school in Boulder for a few years got a degree in Zoology, then 4 years in Fort Collins for veterinary medicine. Now I'm in a career that I never have to retire from and enjoy a lot.
So when you started silversmithing did you take classes from somebody locally?
Yeah Suzanne Lindquist was giving a 3-day class for kids at the Business of Art Center (now the Manitou Art Center). I called them up and asked if they would take an adult in that class and they said, I guess. Do you have anybody signed up yet? They said, no. What's the minimum number of people you need? 3. So I recruited a neighbor and somebody else to take it. We started by working on overlay, which is a technique that I still use and some basic forming.
And then the next year she was doing a class at the Pikes Peak Community College and I took a semester there, and then another one again the next year and learned more techniques. She was an instructor that really emphasized learning design as opposed to just techniques, so we got along really well. I learned a lot from her.
After that it's just looking at jewelry, and there's a lot to look at. Jerry Scavezze,a gallery owner in Salida, he just sold his store. I was talking to him when he closed, and he said there's so many techniques out there you can't learn them all. You have to pick one and just go with it. I said yeah, my techniques are hammering and sawing, very basic stuff. Kind of goes along with the really simple designs I do.
How many hammers do you have?
About a dozen, I suppose.
Only a dozen?
Maybe it's more than that. some of them I inherited from my grandfather and father. One was grandfather was a blacksmith and the other the mechanic and I was the only boy in the family, so I've got a garage full of tools that I've inherited. I modified some of these for forming or texturing or rounding.
It sounds like you've got metal in your history with your grandfather being a blacksmith.
And my dad was a mechanical engineer. he worked on cars a lot was a handy guy that did a lot of things.
So what types of silver work do you do?
I like texturing. You have to be in the zone to do it. You start making marks and you have to just start and be consistent. Ideally you hit every spot once and make it consistent because of the reflectivity of silver because of the reflectivity of silver reflective substance where is when it's all dimpled and shiny like that it just blames and sparkles.
I really like copper as well, but I have problems with the perceived value of copper. You can spend two hours on a copper piece, and the same on a silver piece, and there would be no comparison in what you could get for them. It also has to do with so many kinds and availability of silver you have sheets and wire and I'll get different thicknesses and shapes—square, round, half-round, flat. It's a head start on all of the shapes you trying to accomplish.
I work with an anvil on a stump--standard jewelry studio stuff. I do a lot of work on that. I have different anvils too. One is actually a part of a railroad my dad had, and what's cool about that is if you hammer a piece of metal on it gets a sandy texture.
Where are you selling other than Commonwheel?
Arati gallery, Green Horse Gallery. I was in Santa Fe for twenty-odd years.