Robert Mac Eustace Jones is a Native American Metal Smith from Zuni and Cochiti Pueblo. In this video meet Robert, learn about how he is, some of his inspirations and experience some of his styles. Robert is passionate about pushing himself to his limits to continually better himself at what he does.Robert is a very articulate artist and a great teacher, we were privileged to do this interview with him.
My name is Robert Mac Eustace Jones I’m from Zuni and Cochiti Pueblo. I’ve been making jewelry since I was about 10. I actually consider myself a metal smith rather than a silversmith because I use some many metals it may work. I also use a lot of different stones, I don’t limit myself to my artwork.
I started when I was 10 years old but there are photos of me sitting on my fathers lap as a baby as he was soldering and making jewelry so technically I guess you could say I started as an infant but not until I was 10 seriously. I remember the first pieces I made, my parents taught me how to use the pliers and hammer. The hammer technique was the first technique I ever learned. It is basically using a ball pin hammer and hammering. It’s still a technique I use today because it is one of my favorite effects to give silver a lot of movement. So I still incorporate that technique in my work. But it was also fun, it was a way of getting me interested in making jewelry at a young age. Making jewelry can actually be very difficult but if you give a 10 your old a ball pin hammer and say “hammer”, that’s fun. So it really introduced me to making jewelry in a positive way.
After that I started experimenting with some different ideas and different concepts. I remember distinctly my mom telling me that some of the designs I came out with that I was not going to be able to make it, that it was going to be too complicated for me. So behind her back, when I wasn’t suppose to be in the workshop, I would go in there and work. I would show up with a piece s say “look mom, look what I made” . After she reprimanded me she would be like “I cant believe you actually made that, it’s amazing because I didn’t thing it was actually going to work”.
So my mom was the one who actually taught me. She was brilliant, the lessons that she taught me are amazing, I think back all the time of how smart she was and how much knowledge she gave to me. At the time I didn’t even realize she was giving me this knowledge. She would come up with these really amazing designs. Her thing was to work smarter, not harder. She would come up with these designs that ere super simple and elegant and beautiful and people would just fall in love with them. The problem was, because they were simple, it was easy for other people to actually steal those designs. It was difficult for her, she was always having to recreate herself, reinvent herself and coming up with new ideas, new concepts and new designs.
I think it is important to hold on to a style and get well known for that style. This is a problem that I face. I cant do the same stuff over again, Once I get bored of it, something in my body, in my soul, in my mind says I’m done with this. So Ill be in the middle in a project, stop and be done with it. Ill just move it off the board and start a new project. It’s not forced what so ever, it comes really naturally. The way my mind work, ill have five or six ideas in my head and ill be making sketches.
The think with making jewelry to has an engineering aspect to it. Just because you come up with a really cool design, doesn’t mean that you can just sit down and make it. Part of that is a process that you work up here (points to head) as much as you work with your hands. Sometimes Ill come up with an idea, and I wont work for two or three days because I am thinking about how I’m going to make it work, How am I going to do it. Ill assemble the piece again and again in my mind before I actually come in the work room so I can think through all the problems that I might have as I work on it. Sure enough as I work on it those problems some up and I have to think about how I figured I was going to do it. Ill look for the right tool to solve the problem. I don’t always use tools In the way that were meant to be used, I use them in creative ways. The whole process I never know If I’m going to actually finish the piece because it might collapse and fall apart. At the final stage you might have 100 hours invested in something and then it falls apart. The last three or four steps I’m praying “ahh man, I hope this stays together!” More often than not these days Ill actually finish it. Ill then take the experience I had from making the piece and say “this is nice, but how can it be better.” So you learn from that process and the next piece with be approached with new better information. And ill do this until I get to a point where I get bored, and then ill start a new project. And that’s kind of the way I do things. This started ever since I was a kid. Always trying to push myself to do something I have never done before, always pushing my limitations. I am very aware of that.
One of my favorite pieces was imagine landscapes. Something that I am trying to play around with are the techniques use in Native American Jewelry. You have the filing, stamping, sawing, there is basically a mechanical toolbox that a lot of Native people will use for their artwork. I am trying to think outside of that box. What I have been trying to play with and do is sort of a geological technique. What I am doing inside that technique is just like in geology. I am applying a lot of heat and a lot or pressure. I am letting the silver work more organically. Silver is a natural mineral, so when you add heat and pressure it does some really interesting things and it turns into a geological landscape. That is something I have really been invested in a lot. Then I’m using the result of that to set my stones in a new way too. Rather than doing the traditional type of inlay, with these landscape bracelets after the landscape is created, I’m finding the natural places that the stones fit. Then I’m inlaying the stones into these crevices. So again those are natural resources. So you can have a vein of turquoise or sugulite or any stone inlayed in natural crevices that the bracelet creates. In my knowledge, I have never seen anything done like this before. This is uniquely my idea, that I am still working with. So this landscape series I am working with right now is super exciting.