Vail character: Jordan Parker creates, refines fine things.
Vail, CO Colorado
Jordan Parker is a relatively new arrival to the Vail Valley, and he’s here to shine up jewelry in the area, as well as repair and create new jewelry. He returned to the United States just over a year ago, after becoming a master goldsmith and master of design for jewelry and objects at the world renowned school, Goldschmiedeschule Pforzheim, in Germany, he said. He was the first American ever to complete the program.
He arrived in Minturn in early July, bringing his traditional German skills with him, to work for Vail’s veteran jeweler, Jim Cotter, at J. Cotter studios.
Vail Daily: How long have you been working with jewelry?
Jordan Parker: I’ve been doing this since I was 17 … My dad made me take a jewelry course during my senior year in high school, and then two weeks later I knew what I wanted to do. It was just something about it. So I started getting work and doing repair jobs. … I got hooked up with this really well-known goldsmith whose name is Michael Good, and he kind of took me under his wing for a long time and taught me, and at the same time I started going to school.
VD: Where did you go to school?
Parker: I went to art school for a couple of years at the Maine College of Art, which wasn’t really my thing. … (Then) I applied to this school, which was called (Goldschmiedeschule) Pforzheim in Germany. I sent in a portfolio, it’s a juried type thing, and then they advised me to take a practical test and a theoretical test. … I got accepted, but I guess I signed up for the wrong class, I signed up for a first-year class. … After a month they were like, “You do not belong here,” and they moved me up to the master class.
I was the first American person to go over there and complete the program from start to finish, and I’m not going to say that I passed with flying colors, because a large part of it is also German law, accounting, and technical German. After two years of being thrown into the fire, it was definitely a challenge. I was studying for like eight hours a night for a long time. The practical stuff is what was kind of saving me, all of the actual technique and making and stone setting.
VD: So what are the basics for this craft?
Parker: The most basic stuff is learning how to saw and file. You learn what is called “working cold,” without heating anything up, just removing metal to get shapes and forms that you like. As you get better you incorporate soldering, which is combining two metals together with one like metal … and that’s when things start getting more complicated, because that’s when knowledge of metal and the material and what it can take starts to happen, stone setting and forming. Something that I specialized in was called anticlastic raising razing. It’s a way of hollow forming things, so that you can get forms that are really curvy and have a lot of movement in them but are hollow at the same time.
VD: What’s the name of the degree that you earned?
Parker: I’m a master goldsmith, and master of design for jewelry and objects. … (But) in my opinion Jim is a master. … I’ve been doing this for a little over a decade now, and I’m just starting to come into it. But the title is important. They talk to you differently over there (in Germany).
(Now) I can teach, I’ve had apprentices before. And that’s something that I really like, too, because it’s pretty awesome to help somebody get over a hump, or when you see somebody stuck with something, and you coax them along. … And that’s something that I’d like to get into around here, too.
VD: What kinds of tools do you use to make and repair jewelry?
Parker: Your fingers are the most important tools that you have, whether you are using another tool or not. Getting used to that touch, any profession has a touch. … It just takes time to get used to materials and what you can do with them.