Unleashing Creativity at Idyllwild Arts: A Masterclass in Inlay with Richard Tsosie

Unleashing Creativity at Idyllwild Arts: A Masterclass in Inlay with Richard Tsosie

I had the incredible opportunity to visit Idyllwild Arts in Southern California's San Jacinto Mountains, just a 1.5-hour drive from Palm Springs. Accompanied by my friend and fellow jeweler, Jody Lyle of Moving Metals, we arrived on a Sunday evening to the enchanting scent of a forest that smelled like baking cookies! Fun fact: Ponderosa Pines can emit aromas reminiscent of butterscotch, vanilla, and sometimes even cinnamon.

I had eagerly anticipated and planned for this trip for nearly a year, ready to delve into five days of learning new inlay techniques for jewelry making. If you're interested, you can read my previous blog about my five-day experience at the William Holland School of Lapidary Arts, where I first discovered the captivating world of inlay.

Idyllwild Arts Academy is one of just three major residential arts high schools in the United States. The campus boasts dormitories, a cafeteria, and numerous hiking trails. During the summer, their Native American Arts program attracts esteemed artists from various disciplines. The summer programs provide housing options and a meal plan. On Monday evening, the on-site museum hosted a reception showcasing the instructors' work, offering attendees the opportunity to view and purchase pieces while interacting with the instructors. At the end of the week, there was a show-and-tell event on Friday afternoon, where participants from all classes could admire each other's creations.

Richard Tsosie, a master of inlay, is renowned for his extraordinary skill in this technique. Inlay work involves setting small, precisely cut stones into a larger piece of jewelry, resulting in intricate and visually stunning designs. Richard is one of the finest Navajo jewelers in the country, and he has been teaching at Idyllwild for an impressive 20 years and honing his craft for over 40 years.

His remarkable creations have been exhibited in prestigious museums and galleries worldwide, including the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. Richard actively participates in the Santa Fe Indian Market, one of the largest and most renowned Native American art markets globally. His exceptional jewelry has earned him recognition and awards at this annual event.

During the class, I had engaging conversations with fellow students, some of whom return each year for Richard's classes. Since the school provided all-inclusive accommodations, it was common for us to return to our studios to continue working after dinner, granting us 12 hours of dedicated studio time on three of the five days. As always, I set ambitious goals for myself, and I'm pleased to say that I walked away with new skills, several pages of technique notes, and a heart full of gratitude and inspiration.

Stay tuned to see how I incorporate my newfound skills into my jewelry line. In the meantime, feel free to explore my current collections, such as the Kintsugi Collection or Inlay Collection, which already showcase some of these captivating techniques.

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