In the Jewelry Studio with Metalsmithing Artist Thomas Mann

I first heard of Thomas Mann when he spoke to my metal clay guild in Louisiana several years ago. I’ve never attended a “lecture” with an artist that was so funny!

Thomas shared lots of great jewelry business tips and processes, and I was completely enamored with his jewelry designs. Prickly hearts with gemstones, riveted mermaids, bicycles and skulls and creatures with no name–his work is fanciful, imaginative, and inspiring. Let’s get to know him a little better in our first #StudioSunday feature!

JMD: I know New Orleans is home now. Where are you from originally?
Thomas: I was born in Northampton, PA, and grew up in Allentown.

JMD: What do you do besides designing and creating jewelry? (aka, what’s your day job?)
Thomas: My day job IS designing and making jewelry, which I have been doing professionally since 1970. I am also a sculptor and painter. Other than that, I cook intensely, as a hobby.

Thomas Mann in his sculpture studio.

Tom in the sculpture studio, putting the finishing touches on a batch of steel freehand sculptures.

JMD: How and when did you start working with jewelry?
Thomas: I learned jewelry making in a semester-long class in high school in 1963. Been making jewelry ever since.

JMD: Do you prefer to work from patterns or draft your own?
Thomas: I purely work from my original designs, from which I DO make patterns.

JMD: How would you describe your personal style?
Thomas: Techno-Romantic™

JMD: What other creative pursuits do you enjoy?
Thomas: Cooking . . . I was recently a competitor on Food Network’s All-Star Academy.

Thomas Mann with jewelry staff "Krewe" in the production jewelry studio

Tom with his “Krewe” of artisans in the production jewelry studio.

JMD: Tell us about your jewelry studio… what kind of space inspires you?
Thomas: I have five studios, soon to be six: jewelry production, studioFLUX teaching studio, private jewelry studio, drawing, woodwork, and painting studios.

JMD: What’s your creative and design secret weapon?
Thomas: A fabulous STAFF!

Thomas Mann work from San Francisco at Sarah Jane Hassler’s studio

Sometimes Tom’s bench is on the road or far away. Pictured in San Francisco at Sarah Jane Hassler’s studio (above) and works in progress across the world in Tasmania! (below)

Thomas Mann jewelry work on the road in Tasmania

JMD: How do you stay motivated on long projects?
Thomas: I think about the money!

JMD: What has been your favorite project recently?
Thomas: The creation and design of a retrospective sculpture exhibition for Gallery I/O. I designed and built the exhibition environment and installed the work. Opened October 2014.

JMD: What’s your favorite thing you’ve made for a client?
Thomas: Recently produced the award trophy for the Henry Butler WWOZ Piano Night Awards, and a Yad for a client’s bat mitzvah that had a very personal story behind it, that I was fortunate enough to be included in.

Thomas Mann in his jewelry studio

JMD: What would your dream jewelry studio look like?
Thomas: It looks like it already! (see above)

JMD: What’s your current jewelry studio soundtrack?
Thomas: Pandora – Ratatat

JMD: Anything else you’d like us to know?
Please check out my work at ThomasMann.com!

Thomas Mann rings in progress

That’s a great note to end on–do visit Tom’s website and enjoy his jewelry art! You can learn from him, too, in his best-selling book, Metal Artist’s Workbench: Demystifying the Jeweler’s Saw, which is as lively and entertaining as Tom himself, and just as full of expertise. If you prefer to learn via video, check out Metal Artist’s Workbench: Learn to Use the Jeweler’s Saw. Both the book and the video are five-star rated and include metal jewelry-making tips and instruction beyond using a jeweler’s saw.

–Tammy

 

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