We are loving the addition of Michael Stoffel's jewelry here at the gallery and would like to invite you to meet Michael in person on:
Saturday, December 12th from 2 to 5pm at Designer Gold.
The superior craftsmanship and attention to detail in Michael's work is best seen in person. We hope you can join us in raising a glass to Michael!
Please enjoy below the first of three installments of our recent interview with Michael Stoffel.
Part 1 -- Getting Started
What led you to goldsmithing?
As a young person, I was very focused and wanted to do something that required the ability to do minute things.
Initially I apprenticed as an offset print form manufacturer, but that profession was phasing out. As a print form manufacturer, the advertisements I was producing were not long lasting. It bothered me that what was made was then thrown out. I would rather work on something that lasts. Also, the field of jewelry has so many different aspects: gemology, design, marketing and taking photos.
Another option was to train as a watchmaker, but what appealed to me about goldsmithing was the addition of art and design. I was also always drawn to archaeology, because it is often jewelry that is dug up.
Tell us about your apprenticeship at Sévigné Jewelers.
I spent five and a half years in a dual jewelry program that included vocational classes and an apprenticeship at Sévigné Jewelers. The first three and a half years at Sévigné Jewelers I was an apprentice; then for two years I worked as a bachelor. Much of my time at the company was spent on repeating but complex tasks. For example, I made chain by hand, which taught me how to solder and shape metal. There was not a lot of time for experimentation, but I learned a lot and saw huge improvement in my technical skills.
The next stage was to take a two year master's program at the State Academy of Arts in Hanau. The vocational curriculum included a theoretical look into jewelry making as well as gemology, art history, jewelry specific techniques, tools and equipment. By the end of the program I was well prepared for the practical and technical aspects of jewelry making.
How does the jewelry industry differ in Germany from the US?
The Mall culture is much larger here in the United States than in Germany. In Germany, there aren't a great many malls and most of the towns and cities still have downtowns similar to Hanover and Burlington. Where there are malls, you won't find goldsmiths, artists who try to make a living with their craft. You will find jewelry stores, however, staffed by jewelers who are dealers buying ready-made pieces and reselling them.
What is the First piece of jewelry you made for your wife?
I attended an engravers class during my masters program in Hanau. During the class I engraved a Celtic dog onto large silver earrings that were really very beautiful. I put them in a large Easter egg for my wife for Easter. I gave her the egg in a train station, and she jokingly threw it back to me, not aware that there was jewelry inside. I then I threw it back to her. I am lucky it did not fall down on the train tracks.
To be continued next week...