“Using primarily the anticlastic principle I try to investigate the most direct and economical forms a plane will assume when it’s edges are stretched and it’s center compressed. Depending on the initial shape of the plane, and the degree of expansion and compression imposed upon it, there appears to be a natural sequential development of form that finds a certain parallel in nature, and serves as a metaphor for movement on all levels both the physical and psychological.” -Michael Good
I have known Michael Good for over 25 years and still find him to be a fascinating person who believes his art and life should be as simple as possible and is passionate about whatever project or piece he is currently creating.
Michael is always taken aback when someone uses the term “art” or “artist” to describe his work or himself. He has never considered himself an artist. Instead he thinks of himself as a combination of all the people and events in his life … not just his ability to make jewelry.
“When I look at myself, I see all the people who have made me … me,” he says.
Though he has been making jewelry since the ‘70s, he feels he is still just learning and practicing. He doesn’t believe in a legacy or successes, but he does believe deeply that we should all give back generously. His life story so far is a reflection of these beliefs.
Micheal may not be striving for a legacy, be he has found one nonetheless. Along with Finnish metalsmith Heikki Seppa, he created the term and the technique of “anticlastic” raising.
“I came to jewelry when I was looking for something to do to pay the bills,” he says.” I was a social worker in New York City and met Karen. We started working together and six months later got married.”
After experimenting with basic jewelry techniques and materials, they partnered with another designer and created a line of jewelry to sell. When the partnership dissolved, Karen took the gold rings that were their part of the division and went to every well-known jewelry store in New York City trying to sell them. She got rejected everywhere. She finally went to Lord & Taylor and told the buyer she wouldn’t leave until the woman explained why the jewelry wasn’t a good match. Armed with this valuable knowledge, Karen came back to Michael and they decided to melt the gold rings, roll them into sheet and work with them in that form.
Michael cut the gold sheet into basic geometric shapes, textured them with a ball-peen hammer on a wooden block and then gave them a high-polish. These new pieces were good enough to get them into Lord & Taylor, and then into Barney’s, Macy’s and other national stores.
“But we still weren’t making a living because we were charging way too little for the work,” Michael says. It was at this time that they made a trip to Maine and fell in love with Washington County, at the far end of the state near the Canadian border. They found a little cabin they could live in during the winter at no cost but would have to leave when summer came. It was uninsulated, and frost formed on the inside walls. Michael made jewelry and worked in the clamming industry to make ends meet.
While living in Washington County, he was given an early draft of a book by Heikki Seppa, Form Emphasis for Metalsmiths, outlining the basic concepts of what would become known as anticlastic forming. This turned out to be a life-altering experience. Michael immediately understood what Heikki was saying and the concepts behind his work. Michael and Karen scrimped and gathered enough money to send him to a three-week class with Heikki at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. This led to a lifelong friendship, and the following year, he was given a scholarship for another three-week class. Then everything began to fall into place. Anticlastic raising was the result of those years of experimentation.
“Anticlastic raising is a technique of metal forming whereby sheet metal is formed directly with a hammer on a sinusoidal (snake-like) stake,” Michael explains. “A flat sheet of metal is shaped by stretching its edges and compressing the center so that the surface develops two curves at right angles to each other. The pattern of the sheet plays a major role in the form that will be achieved, however, many different forms can often be made from the same pattern.”
In 1979, Michael and Karen moved to the picturesque coastal town of Camden, Maine. Camden has always had a surprisingly large population of metalsmiths and jewelers. As Ettagale Blauer states, “Tucked away in beautiful and secluded pockets of the vast American landscape are goldsmiths whose work rivals the best the world has known. Pre-eminent among them is Michael Good, a goldsmith whose use of what he calls the anticlastic process has forced the commercial jewelry world to expand its definitions and ideas about how American jewelry should look and how it can be made.”
Michael and Karen ended up partnering with Etienne Perret (another independent designer in Maine) and their jewelry business skyrocketed. They had more orders than they could handle and the shop and staff grew exponentially.
Since the early ‘80s, Michael Good has been a well-known name in the jewelry world both nationally and internationally. He is also a teacher, passing on everything he has learned about metalsmithing. He feels that all aspects of life are gifts and messages. He advises jewelers to stop, listen and learn from the metals they work with and the designs they create. Then pick and choose what works best for them. He also encourages talking to everyone you encounter. You’ll learn more about yourself from the people you meet.
One of the founders of the American Jewelry Design Council and a member of the European design group ASPECTS, Michael is an award-winning designer and has sold to some of the most prestigious galleries and jewelry stores in the United States and around the world. His work is iconic. And yet he still finds time to volunteer at a local Puerto Rican Montessori school when he is at his home there.
Although Michael continues to make jewelry for selected stores and his own gallery in Rockland, Maine, he is currently having a wonderful time creating pieces of sculpture and experimenting with materials he has never worked with before.