In the fall of 2012, with encouragement by some TCAA members and friends, my wife and I headed to Oklahoma City to attend Cowboy Crossings. We weren’t really sure what we would see, what to expect, or even have a great understanding about the organization and its members. We were very impressed with everything we saw, attended, and witnessed that year. The quality of work was outstanding, and we met many of the members there for the first time. They were very friendly and welcoming. On the long drive home, we discussed what we had seen, set my sights on improving my work, and thus began my 5 year journey towards becoming the newest member of the TCAA.
Just a few months later, I entered and attended the Emerging Artist Competition held at the High Noon show in Mesa, AZ. I didn’t win. I took the best work that I was capable of at the time, but it wasn’t good enough. I took the opportunity to talk with the judges, and took their criticism and suggestions to heart, and went home working to implement them. The time there with the other makers was also valuable, but I knew that I had to make changes to take the next step in my growth as a silversmith.
In 2015, I was awarded the TCAA Fellowship. I was so fortunate to receive this scholarship which alotted $12000 towards travel and tuition and gave me the opportunity to work with both Scott Hardy and Mark Drain several times. This was a life and business-changing opportunity which I took seriously. Each visit, I had specific things I wanted to work on and improve. We focused on design, fabrication, engraving fundamentals, business practices, and attitude. Each visit was like a stair-step where I built upon the last and propelled me forward in the discipline. I am very grateful to the TCAA and to Scott and Mark for all they’ve done to help further my journey.
That same year, there was another emerging artist competition. I entered and took the very best work I was capable of at the time. I didn’t win. Again, it was a great opportunity to get to talk to the other makers and TCAA members. I’m a competitive person and not winning for a second time made me go home and work even harder. Even though I didn’t win, some great opportunities came from that experience.
That same year, I decided to apply for TCAA membership. For the first step in the process, I submitted my application and attended the Spring Meeting in San Diego, CA. I spent time there getting to know the members better, and made it through the first step of the process. Then, I was required to make three pieces and attend the Cowboy Crossings show. I took the best work I was capable of at the time, was interviewed, my work was critiqued, and finally voted on. I didn’t get in. However, it was the nicest disappointment I’d ever received. The members gave me a lot of encouragement to come back and apply again and gave critiques on the work I submitted. Upon reflection, those critiques were valid. Of course, rejection is never fun, especially considering the time and effort I put into my application pieces, but I knew immediately that I would be back. Even though I had a few disappointments, it made me want it even more. There was no time to sulk, I went home and got to work.
After attending Cowboy Crossings for 5 years, the Spring Meeting once, Fellowship, and the Emerging Artist Competition twice, I found myself applying for the TCAA in 2016 for the second time. I took the three best pieces of work I was capable of at the time. I got in. It was a very fun, exciting, and humbling weekend. That may sound like an ending, but to me it is just a start of the next chapter. The learning and education of your craft never stops. Now, I am excited to help pass on the knowledge I have acquired the last five years. If you are a young aspiring craftsman, I encourage you to take advantage of every opportunity.