by ALLISON DALEY, Cascade A&E Editorial Intern
Active. Artsy. Authentic. These words describe Bend’s community, but they also perfectly fit Bronwen Jewelry. This local business handcrafts feminine but sturdy jewelry, inspired by a life lived in motion. Bronwen pieces are versatile and can be worn anywhere: to the beach, yoga or a nice evening in town.
Bronwen Lodato, the owner and designer, has been making jewelry for as long as she can remember, describing herself as a “hobbyist-turned-professional.” Aside from serving as an assistant silversmith, Lodato is “almost exclusively self-trained...I learned everything by doing,” she said.
After living in several states in the Pacific Northwest, she decided Bend, Oregon was the right fit for her family and the business. With her husband of 14 years as her full-time business partner and about 10 other employees, Lodato works out of a beautiful studio in the heart of downtown. While some parts of the manufacturing process are outsourced to other local, talented craftsmen, all Bronwen pieces are handmade in Bend.
The concept of active jewelry came naturally to Lodato, initially coming into fruition as she led backcountry expeditions for Outward Bound in her 20s. “At basecamp I would be making jewelry as a hobby,” she said. Soon, other women were asking for pieces.
“You’re out there for a long time, you’re dirty and not feeling so pretty...but we needed jewelry that would hold up.”
This was when the important features of versatility and durability became ingrained into her jewelry designs. “Our pieces have a strong function component; sweat in it, shower in it, swim in it, leave it on...we have a lifetime warranty,” Lodato said.
From that point, Lodato continued to make and sell her pieces as a hobby. Over time, she recognized this niche in the jewelry business was going unfilled and that she could turn her passion into a serious business endeavor. Lodato launched her brand in 2008 at the Outdoor Retailer show, where she landed some of her biggest accounts including Athleta and Sundance Catalog. Today, Bronwen Jewelry is in hundreds of retail stores across the U.S. and she’s now selling internationally to stores in Japan.
Looking forward, Lodato’s goal is to remain small and profitable. “I want to always stay handcrafted in the States,” she commented. She also wants to position her brand as the industry leader in active, lifestyle jewelry. “The [active] category is growing huge...so we want to stake our claim. We’ve been doing this for a long time,” Lodato explained.
Lodato leads an active lifestyle herself, staying busy with her three-year-old daughter and enjoying the wonderful outdoors of Central Oregon. Her creativity is fueled by adventure, travel and color.
“Color is probably my biggest source of inspiration in life...if I’m traveling or sitting in my own house, color is imprinting on me,” she explained.
Lodato and her husband Michael have sailed all over the world, which has inspired her collections. “Travel has been a gigantic part of my life. I’m a total wanderlust.”
And after seeing many beautiful places, Lodato decided Bend was the right one to make home.
Signs are something we see every day, but we rarely think about the creative mind behind them. Barton Stubblefield is one such creative mind, and has been a professional in the sign and design industry for over 40 years. Recently moved from Madison, Wisconsin, he is transitioning from the signage business to selling his artwork. “I wanted to move to a different area that would expand my creativity,” Stubblefield said. After visiting Bend, he liked the climate, the people and the bustling art community.
At a young age, Stubblefield learned to use many hands-on tools while working with his father, a finish carpenter. “I was always interested in drawings, graphics...and larger signage,” he said. Leaving home at 13, he started lettering trucks and windows and painting signs in his small farming community. By 20, he was a master hand letterer and had started making electrical, metal and wood signs.
Stubblefield is primarily self-taught. He begins his projects with hand-drawn designs and continues through with the engineering and installation process. “You have to be able to design, engineer, sell...be a welder, an electrician; you have to do it all,” he explained. Stubblefield creates signs for offices, businesses and homes, and can work with almost any material: steel, aluminum, glass, reclaimed woods, gold leaf and others. Depending on the project, a piece can take anywhere from three hours to a week to complete, with some of his largest projects including the Memphis Redbirds scoreboard and a LED sign for the Atlanta Braves.
He continues to make signs, but is now focused on his artwork. In June, Stubblefield had his first showcase at Bend Furniture and Design. Owner, Heather Cashman, said, “Barton’s Word Project is what captivated us. Almost everyone has a word that resonates with them. Barton’s clever way of creating a dimensional piece using mixed mediums is a totally unique approach, like nothing we have seen before.”
Stubblefield primarily draws inspiration from the people he works with. “I mostly enjoy working with the client, because they help me create...they let me know what their purpose is behind the piece of art..and I can help them with that,” he said. Cashman commented, “His ability to connect with people allows his commissioned work to be completely personalized.”
by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor
“For me the artist’s journey is an internal one. And the internal spaces are vast – and as every bit as full of mystery and unexplored territories as the outer universes. Art in all its forms are attempts to map or gain insight on this internal universe, something as critical for our species to understand as our impact on the outer world.” -Mytchell Mead
Contemporary Fine Artist Mytchell Mead has found becoming fully immersed in the present opens oneself up to the serendipitous nature of life, and thus, art. Through his varied past and internal journeys traveling the world in the tech-industry, studying non-western esoteric cosmologies and traveling the country by bike, Mead’s sculptural pieces not only build on his experiences, but reflect his open-hearted approach to life, to adventure and to learning.
Mead is the featured artist for August at Paul Scott Gallery in downtown Bend, and will be present at their First Friday ArtWalk reception on August 1.
His journey to becoming a skilled sculptor began at an early age as Mead worked and learned alongside his father, a talented metal worker. After getting his MBA, he worked for a high-tech firm and traveled all over the world. “Trips to Japan gave me an appreciation for Eastern thought and art. Europe instilled a classical regiment and South America brought out the desire to draw in earth and craft elements,” he said.
Following those experiences, Mead rode his bike cross country only to find himself laid off of his job upon his return. He spent the next five years interning with a yogi, meditating, learning Sanskrit chant and exploring ancient texts. “The content of study helped to assimilate the experiences from the bike trip, and the artwork seemed to come next of its own accord,” Mead explained.
Mead’s flow lead him to open a bike shop in Seattle in the mid 1990s, conveniently located next to an artist-owned foundry. He soon found himself working in metal and within a year it became an impromptu gallery for his work. However, a pivotal moment in his artistic career came when he and his future wife set off for a bike trip across the country in 1999.
“We got to New Mexico, in the middle of nowhere in Santa Fe National Forest, to see this incredible house on the border of the park. Some millionaire built an earth ship that had been vacant for three years.”
Mead climbed up to the house to find the owner there for the first time in years, and the gentleman offered the couple the opportunity to house-sit for the next two years. The beautiful earth ship just happened to be perched above the little house of Alberto Jose Castagna, Argentinean sculpture and artist.
“I got to know Alberto and spent several hours a day there over the next two years,” Mead explained. “In true classic form, Alberto first taught me to ‘see.’ He claimed that our eye is calibrated from birth for dimension, proportion, balance and relation by the human form.”
His experience learning under Castagna lead to Mead’s philosophy: when the artist’s eye and skills are honed, all effort becomes a clear channel for the flow of creativity.
“[I found] if you just step off the cliff and let yourself fall, you will be caught. It’s pouring that into the artwork day, by day, by day,” Mead explained, “that’s always what I need to do, I don’t need to look too far, or plan; what happens will happen at the right time.”
Since that time in New Mexico, Mead and his family moved to John Day, Oregon and he has been working primarily with sculptural forms of metal and wood. He gravitates towards abstract forms in his work, stating, “When you take something that is outside of words, or abstract…it takes you outside the thinking mind. It forces you into a place of growth.
“Many of my works explore the horizon line – very common in abstract art – but for me it’s about the merging of the two. Often there is a space at the joining point, where the ethereal meets the manifest, and for me this is a place to reside. It is here that we can draw from imagination to create in the manifest. It is the seat of creativity.”
Mead is represented by Paul Scott Gallery in Bend and a variety of other galleries around the west. “I was drawn to the natural and historic elements of wood he uses in his work, and how he transforms the color and texture of the steel,” said Paul Scott Gallery Director Kim Matthews.
Mead’s creativity leads him to constantly explore, and to relish everything about the process; recently he has started working with color and encaustics. “I’m always working to increase my curiosity and being an artist is nothing else if it’s about opening up that can of curiosity and letting it pour.”
Have piles of jewelry sitting untouched at home? Wish you had one amazing piece you’d wear every day? Waylon Rhoads could be just what you’re looking for. Rhoads owns a local jewelry business in addition to being a young father and the vice president of Central Oregon Metal Arts Guild (COMAG). He describes himself as a classically trained goldsmith who is “expanding what is possible” in custom fine jewelry.
Rhoads has been involved in the arts his entire life, enjoying everything from drawing and painting to sculpting and wood carving. Currently in the 12th year of his career, he has extensive training including his study of fine arts at Iowa State University, followed by a goldsmith apprenticeship in Waterloo, Iowa. While initially trained in the technical side of jewelry, focusing on repairs and gem setting, he later learned custom manufacturing and design working for a high-end jeweler in Eugene, Oregon. There he learned techniques such as wax carving, casting silver and gold and laser welding, which he has now spent over 20,000 hours mastering.
After moving to Bend with his family, Rhoads worked as a retail goldsmith for several companies. In 2012, he opened his own shop in downtown Bend at 835 NW Bond St., Suite 200. Rhoads offers numerous jewelry services including repair and restoration, custom design, up-cycle services, hand engraving and gemstone and diamond identification. He also provides these services to other local jewelry store owners, which serves as the “backbone” of his own business.
Rhoads has a distinct approach, intentionally creating each piece with the specific customer in mind. “There is nothing to enjoy, nothing special about mass produced jewelry,” he commented. Because he makes each piece from start to finish, he can meet nearly any request. Rhoads encourages collaboration with his customers; involving them in the process allows him to turn their visions into reality.
“I was told I don’t have a ‘style’ and that’s ok...I want every piece to be unique,” he explained. Valuing quality over quantity, Rhoads will take as much time is needed, spending anywhere from 25-50 hours on a single piece. “It’s a part of my life that I’ve given to [an] object. That’s my way of immortalizing what I do...by making stuff that lasts longer,” he said.
While he’s the youngest fine jeweler in town, Rhoads hopes to “bring back [the] finer art” more commonly found centuries ago. He’s inspired by limestone carvings on Buddhist temples, Victorian era embellishments and gun engravings. There was “an unparalleled attention to detail [back then],” Rhoads said. He is deliberate in getting the details right, even using a microscope in his shop.
Although he’s now rooted in Bend, Rhoads has customers from all over the U.S. With a large Facebook following of over 9,000 likes, he is earning popularity and working to become a well-known name in the luxury jewelry industry. Rhoads hopes to grow his business to the point he’s manufacturing on a larger scale and sharing his passion with the next generation. So, if you find yourself tired of buying ordinary jewelry that clutters your closet, look into Waylon Rhoads and the possibility of creating a beautiful piece that will last forever.
by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor
The love of art, metal and fire has unified the members of the Central Oregon Metal Arts Guild (COMAG) for several decades; what started as a social club for those involved in the metal arts is refocusing on educational opportunities and fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in their members.
“COMAG President Kellen Bateham and I realized how valuable the concentration of talent and skill is in our members,” explained COMAG Vice President Waylon Rhoads. “We see how valuable these skills could be to the community. We would like to serve as an outlet for metal arts knowledge and education.”
The guild is 55 members strong and open to professionals, students and hobbyists. Many members are already involved in the community and regularly participate in activities like the fire pit competition at the Fall and Winter Festivals in Bend, and most recently live demonstrations at TEDx BEND.
“We want to allow for a bigger membership and offer a scholarship program too,” Rhodes said. “The scholarship will be a way for the group to be able to pay for certain workshops or classes for members. [The idea is] for them to learn a new skill or technique and bring it back to the group…Our members are a big library of knowledge, and it’s a good way for new people to meet those who have been doing it for over 40 years.”
Monthly meetings on the first Tuesday of the month are rotated among the members’ studios and workshops, and while a portion of the gatherings still involve sharing stories and networking, live demos and education are taking on increasing importance. “We are in a transitional time, and are trying to be more of a non-profit community group centered around metal arts education, and [supporting] members of the group in becoming entrepreneurs to serve the community with their skills.”
Many COMAG members are already entrenched in the local arts scene and regularly engage the public in demonstrations and live demos. “Our members are pretty active in the community,” Rhodes said. “It gets people excited about what we are doing, especially with blacksmithing - it has been a dying art, but we are seeing a resurrection.”
The guild is working to obtain non-profit status with the long-term goal of being able to raise funds to bring in national and international educators and artists to Central Oregon, and eventually establish a permanent education facility. “We want to make COMAG a premier metal arts guild in the nation,” he said.
Rhodes and the other board members have looked to successful groups like the Creative Metal Arts Guild in Portland (CMAG) and the Metal Arts Guild of San Francisco (MAG) for inspiration. “The one thing we are really trying to reach towards is establishing a place like the Metal Museum in Memphis, Tennessee,” he explained.
“They have in-house blacksmiths and jewelers year round, give live tours of the facilities and people can even sign up to become an apprentice. That’s what we want to do. Bend is such an artist-driven and entrepreneurial kind of town; getting a facility would be the best way to do [something similar].”
COMAG will have their first annual show on August 2-3 from 10am to 5pm at the Oxford Hotel in downtown Bend. Over 20 members will exhibit their work, and the group will focus on strategies of making a living in the metal arts. The entrepreneurial spirit is an important part of what the guild leadership hopes to foster in their members.
The Central Oregon Metal Arts Guild has already been an important part of the creative industry in the high desert for years, and their new focus is poised to create even more opportunities for metal arts professionals and hobbyists to elevate their craft.