Winston Mason didn’t always want to make jewelry. In fact, at first he longed to be a painter. Then he became a police officer for eighteen years. But his talent couldn’t remain hidden forever.
Mason has been making handcrafted Native American jewelry since 1963. His interest was first piqued when he attended the American Indian Institute of Arts in Santa Fe, NM. He was quite an accomplished painter, and was studying watercolor and acrylic painting when he became intrigued by a jewelry making class.
As Mason developed his new love for silversmithing, he also fell in love with his wife. She was developing a great talent for pottery at the Art Institute, and they both graduated with a two-year degree. Later, Mason’s wife had a desire to further in her education and so they moved their family to Provo, UT where she went to BYU. Some of her pottery has since been displayed in the Smithsonian Museum of Art in Washington, D.C.
“You could say that jewelry making has been a lifelong pursuit,” Mason said. “I have always had the tools and opportunities, and while I was working other jobs, I would make it on weekends and nights.”
Mason developed the skills and taste necessary to become a successful jewelry maker. He typically creates pieces that have a Native American style by using turquoise, silver, and colored stones. “It does well for me,” Mason said.
Lately, Mason has been going to rock shows and collecting jasper, different types of seashells, and mother-of-pearl. “I just find what I think is attractive and then I set it into a metal set,” Mason said in describing how he designs jewelry. “I go to bed with designs in my head, and I wake up anxious to get to the studio.”
Mason collected his own clientele over the years, and he developed his own line of jewelry—Winston Mason Design. He also recently created a website but says that most of his customers come from word-of-mouth advertising. Mason has had a slew of famous clients like Robert Redford, Charlie Daniels (country music icon) and Richard Daley, the original mayor of Chicago.
Now that Mason is retired he is happy to be able to devote all his time to creating beautiful pieces of jewelry. “I’m at a place that I don’t have to create to live,” Mason said. “Now I live to create. I can make it the way I want, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes.”
Mason’s studio is located in the front of the Black Sheep Cafe that his daughters opened a few weeks ago. He plans to offer silversmith lessons when the Cafe has its official opening on March 10. “I want to teach one-on-one lessons on jewelry making and silversmith work,” Mason said. “I have done group lessons, but I like being able to focus more on the person.” Mason has also taught lessons in the past at the University of Utah for the Adult Ongoing Education program.
Jewelry making along with other forms of artwork has its challenges as well. “The hardest part about jewelry making is trying to outdo yourself every time you do a piece,” Mason said. “Almost daily you learn something new about how metal reacts or what you can do with it, different styles. I learn something daily.”
Beginning March 10, 2012
Black Sheep Cafe
19 N. University Ave., Provo
$100 for an 8 hr lesson
Materials are provided, but cost extra
By Faith Heaton
Photography: Greg Benson