Jewelry Artist Joe McFaul
Ask anyone how they manage stress and they'll gladly share their secret. Soak in a bubble bath.
Go for a long walk. Play with the dog.
Ask Cove Gallery Artist Joe McFaul, and you'll be in for a surprise. During a long and successful law career, Joe found Lapidary - the art of cutting and polishing semiprecious stones - to be an effective way to manage job-related stress. The methodical and exacting nature of cutting stones proved to be both enjoyable and relaxing. There was only one problem; upon retirement, Joe discovered he "had all these beautiful stones, but nothing to do with them". So, he enrolled in a jewelry class. Problem solved.
During his years as an attorney, Joe also became highly skilled in the area of problem solving - an ability that's also vital to mastering the engineering aspect of jewelry design. "The thought process in the same," admits Joe, "but, there's a critical difference between the two. If you mess up a piece of jewelry, nobody goes to jail."
Joe maintains a home-based studio in the Mission Viejo condo he shares with his wife, Cove Gallery Watercolor Artist Maribeth McFaul. Downsizing to smaller digs this past year proved beneficial, giving Joe the opportunity to set up a smaller workspace in a logical and organized fashion. His new space utilizes a corner arrangement where two primary pieces of equipment stand at the ready.
Joe devotes roughly 20 hours a week to artwork. Half of that time is spent on development; the other half is spent on workmanship. He finds jewelry making to be an interesting balance of science and art. His metals of choice include copper, brass and silver. All possess different characteristics which affect both application and use.
Copper's benefits include ease of use and the option of creating different "patinas", or surface colors. Joe often prototypes a new piece in copper first to determine if his design will succeed. Brass yields the same color as gold - with less expense. And silver, the heaviest of the three, can be polished to shine like a mirror - or be chemically treated to change its surface color. Joe is particularly fond of combining brass and silver elements together in a single piece. His designs may also include the use of metal tubes and wires in their construction (which he prefers to purchase rather than fabricate). He utilizes both "hot" and "cold" connections to join the components of his jewelry. Hot connections, as the name implies, involve soldering elements together. Cold connections, which do not include soldering, involve the use of rivets, wire staples and "other fun ways" to create a particular effect.
Joe crafts each piece individually, a practice which he believes differentiates "artistic jewelry" from "just Jewelry". Sometimes, a cut stone dictates the design of a new piece; in other situations, he creates the design first (which may or may not include a stone). In both circumstances, his process begins with a sketch. Anything beyond a basic piece of jewelry usually requires significant engineering and calculations (i.e., measurements and weights). His final sketch often doubles as a schematic from which Joe derives all measurements. Sometimes, the sketch itself becomes a template.
As an attorney, Joe's proactive nature has always kept him from overlooking anything of importance - a skill that followed him into the artist's studio. Throughout the finishing phase, he wears magnifying lenses to hunt down and identify any flaws or issues needing refinement. "If I can't spot a problem under magnification, chances are nobody will spot one with the naked eye."
Joe's work captivates jewelry lovers everywhere. In addition to selling his work at Cove Gallery, he's landed a fair amount of commission work from some rather unexpected buyers. Joe recently reconnected with several old Coast Guard buddies via social media, and - to Joe's surprise - many have expressed interest in purchasing his jewelry. In fact, an old engineering buddy commissioned Joe to make him a "Tree of Life" diffuser pendant. The buyer was so impressed with the finished piece, he showed it off to all his friends. Three additional commissions for "Tree of Life" pendants quickly followed.
Besides the support of old friends, Joe is grateful for the ongoing support of his artist wife Maribeth. According to Joe, sharing his life with another artist is a win-win situation. He assists Maribeth with her many nationwide exhibitions (which frequently include street art!), and Maribeth, a retired career art teacher, honors Joe with honest evaluation and constructive criticism of his work. Maribeth's expert knowledge of the principles and elements of art and design has been invaluable to Joe in his growth as an artist.