Richard Sweetman and the Hydraulic Press for Three-Dimensional Jewelry
When Richard Sweetman’s hydraulic press tutorials became available, our friend and contributor Lexi Erickson was the natural choice to introduce them. Lexi was lucky enough to study with and learn from Richard for two years. Read on to see what a hydraulic press can do for you and all the fun things you can learn from Richard. You can quickly and easily make dimensional metal components for jewelry by die forming with a vise or a hydraulic press. You can even learn how to cut and prepare your own dies! —Tammy
Meet Richard Sweetman and the Hydraulic Press
By Lexi Erickson
Henry Moore once stated, “The most powerful artworks are the largest and the smallest.” That certainly fits popular Denver artist and teacher, Richard Sweetman, who has been my friend for a number of years. I already had a Masters Degree in Jewelry Design and Fabrication and had been teaching college jewelry for about 15 years when I decided to join Richard’s evening class at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, Colorado. I was in need of some inspiration myself! And as I have said in the past, “Sometimes the teacher needs a teacher.” Lucky for me I joined his class!
In the two years I spent with Richard, I believe I learned more from him than I did in my Masters program. He echoed that recently, when he told me that he felt he learned more about jewelry and techniques AFTER he graduated with his degree in jewelry. After “retiring” from college teaching, Richard still teaches at his Zephyr Street Studio (zephyr-street-studio.com) in Denver.
Richard went to University of Oregon, but a very influential teacher in his life was Heikki Seppa, who taught him (along with Michael Good) the joys of moving metal at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine. Since then, the forming of metal has been a passion for Richard. And like I said, from the smallest to the largest, Richard is the go-to guy for many jewelers. Not only does he make these cute little “buggies” but he also overhauls hot rods–big buggies!! Yep! There is very little that Richard does not know about metal of all types, shapes and sizes, including how to shape it and how to teach it.
Developing a Hydraulic Press
Through the years, Richard developed the SharkBite hydraulic press, named for his love of diving and discovering underwater forms. I own the Tiger model, which is a 12-ton press made here in Denver that handles everything you would ever need. It covers doming with the SharkBite’s Plexiglas silhouette dies to cutting out production pieces using the popular dies made by Kevin Potter (PotterUSA.com). Though forming with a hydraulic press seems intimidating, it is absolutely pure fun, easy, and the results are mind blowing. The SharkBite will fit on any workbench and is easy to use. (Be sure to get your name on the list for one of the limited edition presses Richard will be making.)
The coolest thing is (cue the drumroll) that you, too, can learn, just as I did, to incorporate the hydraulic press techniques into your jewelry–but you can learn from the comfort of your own studio or living room. We are pleased to introduce Crushed Metal Cuff and Jewelry Basics for the Hydraulic Press, your own personal hydraulic press for jewelry making class with Richard. It’s two complete videos–hydraulic press basics and the popular crushed metal cuff tutorial.
(Editor’s Note: More good news: If you prefer an interactive learning environment, you can learn these same lessons in Richard’s online courses, based on the videos. Crushed Metal Cuff and Jewelry Basics for the Hydraulic Press.)
Want to make your own tiny bugs to sit on your shoulder? You can do it with the press. Want to make the popular “crush” bracelets? Richard will show you how in the video tutorial. Want to make production pieces but not cut out 100 little cowboy boots? You can do it with the press and Kevin Potter’s dies. Want to make patterned metal? You can do that, too. The hydraulic press can be one of the most versatile tools in your shop. I’m telling you, if you don’t know how to use a press, you need to learn, because this can be one of the most useful tools in your studio.
Learn Like Lexi Did
Working with the hydraulic press is HOT! The time is now! You cannot get a better teacher than learning from the man who actually makes the presses, Richard Sweetman. You can join the ranks of whom Henry Moore spoke and make the smallest to the largest of artworks. But you will need a really large press for the re-making of a hot rod, like Richard does!
Updated March 14, 2019.