Mokume gane, 14K & 18K gold, sterling silver and sapphire pendant

John Sartin’s intricate, finely formed pieces are wearable art inspired by nature. I love the detail and thought that goes into each and every one of his designs. He’s a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico (Rio’s beloved hometown) and recently answered a few of my questions about his work, his inspiration, and his new book, The Complete Photo Guide to Making Metal Jewelry.

Heather Apodaca: How did you get started as a jeweler?

John Sartin: I started working with my hands at a young age by working on cars and eventually joined the Navy as a jet mechanic. During college, I enrolled in Metals 101 taught by Julie Jerman-Melka, an amazing metalsmith, and I knew I had finally found what I had been looking for.

By then I was frustrated and tired of school. So I walked away from formal training and started to learn things on my own through books and trial and error. In 2002 I quit my job and moved back to Albuquerque. In 2004 I started a new life as an artist and gypsy of the show circuits.

HA: How would you describe your work?

JS: Unique heirloom quality designs expressed through traditional techniques.

HA: Where do you look for inspiration in creating new work?

Mokume gane, sterling silver, fine silver, and spinel pendant

JS: Nature is a big inspiration in my work, as well as using traditional techniques in unexpected ways. I love to make designs that challenge people’s perceptions. For example torch firing enamels to make something resembling old ivory.

HA: Do you have a favorite material to work with?

JS: At one time I would have said fine silver or high karat gold but I have recently developed a love affair with mokumé gane, not only the metal but the entire process from scratch.

HA: How about a favorite tool?

JS: That’s hard, kind of like choosing a favorite child. I will give you my top 3: My granulation cutter, my hammers and most recently my Fretz stake set.

HA: What is currently on your bench?

JS: It’s mostly cluttered with an inventory of current series in various forms of completion for upcoming shows, but in the corner under the sketch book is the beginnings of a new line in progress.

Sterling silver, 14K gold and pink star sapphire pendant


HA: You wrote a book. Congratulations! Can you tell us a little about it and how it came to be?

JS: This project came to me a year ago through a recommendation from Lexi Erickson who is a contributing editor for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist (thanks again, Lexi).

The book is titled The Complete Photo Guide to Making Metal Jewelry and will hit bookstore shelves in April. It is comprised of step-by-step, up-close photographs and concise instruction that will not overwhelm the beginner with technical terms and concepts. It is focused at anyone who wants to learn how to make handcrafted jewelry with minimal tools or may just want to learn a new technique.

Although there are many, many more advanced techniques that are not covered in this book, those that are covered will give the reader a good foundation to build on. There are 10 projects included (ring, pendants, pins, necklace) that all use the techniques presented in the book, as well as an inspirational gallery of some of the top metalsmiths in the field.

Make sure you check out John’s Bamboo series and Erosion series, on his website,