Randy Stromsoe's work was featured at a number of exhibitions and shows last year. The Sausalito Art Show, the California Crafts Museum and the Oakland Museum were a few of the California venues exhibiting his art.
His work is in the permanent collections of Colonial Williamsburg, the Santa Anita Racetrack and The Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Stromsoe was the last apprentice to Master Silversmith Porter Blanchard, and served as the Design/Superintendent to Porter Blanchard Silversmiths in Calabasas California from 1975 to 1979.
I have a strong respect for good hammer work - a skill that takes many years to perfect. This labor-intensive skill is not cost effective enough to motivate many craftspeople to pursue it to any high level. I consider it one of my strengths from which I receive a great deal of personal enjoyment.
This bowl was raised and sunk from a 17ga. disc of sterling silver. It took 100,000 hammer blows to transform the silver disc into a 3-tier flowing form. The stand was created to perfectly cradle the sterling bowl. It was fabricated from 18 spun (or turned) components: constructed, welded, soldered and finally gold leaf applied.
Ask the Artist
Where do you get the ideas for your work?
- There are two distinct ways in which my designs develop:
1) By noticing shapes and forms in objects completely unrelated to tableware or jewelry. A train, automobile, camping tent, basketball hoop, wave or sand dune for example are all comprised of angles, curves and shadows. Observing these forms and making mental notes increases my vocabulary of shapes.
2) I have boxes of spouts, handles, cylinders, balls...various parts that I've made over the years. Sometimes I'll find myself building and playing (like with Tinker Toys) and one idea leads to another. Eventually it becomes refined enough to sketch or many times I'll just start making the piece and see what happens.
Do you work alone on your craft, or with others?
- These days I prefer to work alone.
Do you ever teach, or take on apprentices?
- I've put in years of training apprentices. It's very rewarding if you can find someone who will stick with it. Not many do. Out of necessity, people want to learn how to make money - not how to learn skills that they will refine over the years. Not many apprentices actually aspire to be a respected artist - in the back of their mind they are always trying to figure out how to do something quicker or different so they can develop a product to make money. The money issue is something I too have to struggle with. It takes years for an apprentice to be skilled enough to be worth their wage. Between that and the cost of employing a worker in California I simply can't affort to train somone at this point in my life. I work with my wife, Lisa, in the studio. She takes care of every aspect of our business except physically making the work. We have a great time discussing designs and ideas.
Training an apprentice is vastly different from teaching. I love to teach specific workshops. Besides being paid to teach (it helps me with my studio overhead), it is a relatively short committment for both student and instructor and also you can watch a student make great progress by the end of a workshop. I currently teach about 6 classes per year at the Revere Academy in San Francisco. They offer excellent jewelry instruction and several metalsmithing classes as well. I teach flatware forging, pewter Holloware construction, and smithing and metalsmithing.
What's the most exciting part of creating your works?
- I enjoy every aspect of my work. I feel extremely fortunate to have a skill that allows me to have personal freedom, creative satisfaction and a modest income.
What's the most difficult part of creating your works?
- Sometimes I over commit and physically exhaust myself to meet deadlines. It's difficult to find the perfect balance.
What sort of technology do you use in your work? Has the technology of your craft changed dramatically over the past 100 years?
- The techniques and tools needed to handcraft fine holloware and flatware have virtually remained the same over the last 100 years.
Do you have any advice for somebody just starting out?
- Be patient, maintain high standards and try to have "a back up" source of income.
Can you share a "secret of the trade" with us--something nobody else knows or that you found out only after years of experience? Put another way--what do you wish somebody had told you when you were just starting out that might have saved you hours of wasted effort?
- Learn to hammer both right handed and left handed. I now have chronic tendonitis in my forging arm and have spent months retraining myself to work with my left hand so I can switch back and forth.
What are we missing by experiencing your work through the Internet and not seeing/hearing/feeling/smelling/touching it in person?
- The beauty of the material is in its shine, it's crispness...the way light plays off the hammered texture. There is a wonderful illusion created as you look into a shiny bowl or look at a shiny sphere. Your surroundings are reflected in the metal, including your face in it's altered state. Metal is cold to the touch yet it instantly warms with that same touch. It's wonderful.