In the summer of 1975 I took a 2 week “Basic Jewelry” class at Peter’s Valley. It was a birthday gift from my parents. My teachers (Jonathan Bonner & Jacqui Ott) were fabulous and the environment was ripe with creativity.
It changed my life.
Now I find myself teaching as well as working at my bench - 2 things I love and hardly consider “work”.
Being a self employed artist/craftsman requires a balancing act with time management and structure. Studio work and business matters are equally important to my survival. Each day shines a new light on what is possible and that’s what keeps me going.
I will never be bored, that’s for sure!
This field is so vast that it offers a constant supply of techniques and materials to learn and explore. The different avenues of making a living are equally broad.
The studio work is comprised of many facets: Instruction at various locations, Custom commissions, Limited edition jewelry line, Repairs & Restorations. My pieces range in size and function, from jewelry to tabletop to functional items, etc.
The concept of function is an integral starting point for my work. I like to add special features that make the item work differently from the norm while maintaining elegance in design and a high level of craftsmanship. The ability to play with ideas of construction and function means engineering becomes a challenge, and I savor it.
I work back and forth a lot while creating a piece. I don’t have things completely designed before I begin, but instead start with a concept of the item and rough sketches; then move into making a model out of cardboard, clay and armature wire. I am very hands-on so CAD is not for me! Sometimes as I work unexpected things happen. I lay the pieces down and a totally new idea comes to mind. Often these enlightened moments produce my most successful designs.
Currently my greatest pride comes from working with individual clients, taking their vision and making it a reality. The excitement from concept to creation is rewarding for both of us, and it seems custom work of this nature is hard to find. I find it challenging in all the best of ways and love the intimate individuality of the process.
Raychel began silversmithing at Peters Valley when she was 15 and furthered her knowledge by apprenticing in NYC with leading contemporary jewelers. She studied Fine Art at Queens College, then transferred to SUNY New Paltz where she received a BFA in Gold & Silversmithing under the guidance of Kurt Matzdorf and Bob Ebendorf.
After graduating she opened “S/W Metalsmiths”, a wholesale jewelry and giftware business selling to over 100 accounts in the US and abroad while doubling the annual gross income for five consecutive years. She began teaching in order to train potential employees and found another career. She has been teaching ever since. She conducts classes at a variety of locations in NY, NJ & CT and resides in Saugerties, NY while maintaining her studio work with commissions, repairs, restorations, limited edition and one-of-a-kind pieces.
She has taught at: The Woodstock Guild, Mill Street Loft, Dutchess, Westchester and Ulster County Community Colleges in New York; Silvermine School of Art, Brookfield Craft Center, Wesleyan Potters, Farmington Valley Arts Center, The Connecticut School of Jewelry Arts and Southern Connecticut State University in Connecticut; Fletcher Farm in Vermont; Pennsylvania Society of Goldsmiths in Pennsylvania, Peters Valley and the Art School at Old Church in New Jersey.
Her work has been exhibited nationally since 1982 in juried and invitational shows, receiving awards, and has been auctioned at Christie's in NYC.
She received grants from ESCA in 1995 and NYFA in 2001.
Her work appears in “The Penland Book of Jewelry”.
She has completed commissions for Oprah, LJ duPont and the Bob Hope “Humana Award”, among others.