“What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been” with Wayne Werner

by Metalwerx on December 2, 2014

Talk to Wayne Werner long enough and the word “trip” comes to mind. He worked at The Psychedelic Shop in San Francisco, made tiger pins as gifts for a Jerry Garcia tour, and has traveled the planet to study the world of metals. From humble huts in Egypt and Sumatra to the esteemed halls of the Pforzheim goldsmithing school, like an Alan Lomax of metallurgy, Wayne took notes and shot videos and cultivated a philosophy of metalsmithing as a religious thing.

Wayne Werner Niche Magazine Cover

Platinum rings by Wayne Werner commissioned for Blues Traveler.

Associations with rock ‘n’ roll royalty, such as the Ramones, Blues Traveler, and Jack Bruce of Cream,  and crossing precipitous canyons via rope bridge may be miles and years away from his Maryland studio. But he is happy enough these days to be sharing with students what he learned on a dirt floor from an Indonesia metalworker, or making custom jewelry and doing “the tool thing.” He is a representative and tool tester for the Foredom Electric Company and has a couple of products named after him.

“Become one with (your) materials,” Wayne has said about his teaching philosophy. “Understand what you’re trying to do with what you’ve got.” A request to elucidate will take the listener into the quantum world of metallurgy, the realm of vacancies and dislocations where metal becomes a magical medium–like the mutable path of departure of a Shelley poem,  but unlike glass blowing or ceramic art–or as Wayne puts it for the less romantically inclined, “God’s cosmic crystalline Play-Doh.”


Wayne Werner Artemis Cuff and Spinning Ring

Jewelry by Wayne Werner.

Upon returning to the U.S., he began to work national craft shows and rack up awards for his art, including the World Gold Council’s Gold Distinction award and the MJSA Vision award for Mokume Gane.  He is adjunct faculty at the Maryland Institute College of Art, a cosmic raspberry from one who said goodbye to academia to attend the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts.  Wayne comes to Metalwerx March 27-29, 2015 to teach “Flush and Pave Setting,” in which participants will learn to capture stones in flat metal via burs, burnishers, gravers and beading tools.

He considers himself a maker first, but continues to teach. “It gives me the chance to explore avenues of my energy. I get as much out of it as do the students,” he says.  Flush setting approaches to be covered in the workshop include flaring out, key-holing in, and setting from behind. Pavé setting demonstrations include star cut, inside out, and cluster setting. Funky music and dancing will be offered at the end of each day, “weather permitting.” Keep in mind the instructor is allergic to fragrance, so refrain from using perfume, oils or scented hand cream to class.


Wayne Werher Isis Vessel

Brooch by Wayne Werner.

“Places like Metalwerx are so insanely important, they give access to learning through people who are practicing the craft, not professional academics. Walls are down, everyone’s welcome. It’s real fertile ground for an instructor,” he said. “It’s old school.” It’s also the kind of place that would be ideal to host “The Alchemist Picnic,” he said, a weekend gathering he created and hosts at Touchstone Center for Crafts, in which metalsmithing masters and budding jewelers convene to discuss their creative journeys.

There has been one meeting of The Picnic, a concept he hopes to expand and feature at many locations. It is meant to build community, to network and to explore creativity. “It is also to help young people find a way to profit from their passion,” he said. He believes all artists could benefit from experiences such as he’s had and does not hesitate to use his global contacts to help budding artists. He has helped a Dutch silversmith, Joust Durring, settle in New England and another young student, Meredith Tibjash, secure housing in England while she pursues a metal arts residency.

As if alchemy and metal diplomacy were not enough, Wayne, who has been described as a “visionary goldsmith” with an ebullient personality, still finds time to perform along the northeast coast with Baltimore Red. His passions include the lap steel guitar, blues harp, restoring a motorcycle or two, and helping the youth of today to advance their artistic opportunities.

Wayne Werner Alchemical Keys

The Seven Alchemical Keys by Wayne Werner.

Wayne’s workshop will focus on creating samples for practice and future reference. It is not a “make-and-take” class and all levels are welcome, but students must feel comfortable using a flexshaft and annealing metal.  Be prepared to have some fun while learning to overcome the more challenging side of stone setting. While there, be sure to ask him about the Puzzle of the Seven Alchemical Keys, and a possible nasty brush with the NSA.  Or about the time he developed arsenic poisoning from a cut to the thumb while attempting to balance a Javanese kris blade.  Or about the gold-plated cat poo.

In addition to expert instruction, there will be stories and laughs galore with the man whose origins are with “the American psychedelic family, the Floyd, and Carlos.”  To register for the class, click here or call 781-891-3854.

Wayne Werner with Baltimore Red

Wayne Werner and Baltimore Red.

–by Yleana Martinez

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