(Artwork above: Owl Armor, courtesy of COMAG)
On a chilly April evening in 1998, seven bench jewelers met over pizza and beer at Stuft Pizza on Third Street in Bend to discuss what was to become the Central Oregon Metal Arts Guild (COMAG).
What started 20 years ago as an association of a handful of goldsmiths, both self-employed and working at various jewelry stores in Bend and Sisters. Early on, the group grew as the first blacksmiths, steel fabricators and even a bronze caster started to show up. Now it has grown into a group of creative metal artisans working in a variety of metal disciplines throughout Central Oregon.
Today, membership hovers around 60 members, with jewelers making up about half of that number. Meetings happen the first Tuesday of each month, with the location moving from one studio/workshop to another as different members host. Meetings usually consist of regular business that keeps the guild running, a demonstration sharing the expertise of artist with each other and plenty of quality social time.
Of the original seven members, four are still active in the group, have served as president at one time or another and are still working full-time in their craft. The first president, Steven Douglas and his wife Elyse, own The Sunstone Store in downtown Bend. John Paul runs John Paul Designs, also in downtown Bend. MaryJo Weiss is Josepha Weiss Designs at Torch Jewelry Collective and James Dixon is the lead goldsmith at Saxons. Also among the 20 year alumni Joe Elliot of Dry Canyon Forge, Goph Albitz of Goph Studios, Nina Hurst local artisan, Suzy Williamson also at Torch Jewelry Collective.
Since it’s second year, COMAG has sponsored a members show, the first one being held at John Paul Designs with members having one piece that was a collaboration with another member. The shows evolved to where each member had their own display at Art Central’s Mirror Pond Gallery. In between it grew to a show of each exhibitor having their own booth. First downstairs in the Oxford Hotel next to 10 Below and now at the old Liberty building on Wall Street known as At Liberty.
In the early years, the show had a collaboration theme, and to participate, any member had to collaborate with another on at least one project. This is no longer a requirement, but the shows always dazzle with an impressive array of local talent.
This year show is October 5 and 6 open Friday for Art Walk 1-9pm and Saturday 10am-6pm. The show has expanded diversity to include four local sculptors, three blacksmiths, two stone and gem collectors and a custom knife maker. All those attending can sign up for a drawing of two $100 gift certificates given the end of each day for towards an artist of your choice. Hope to see you there.