Michael Hayman

Metal / Covington, LA / Master Craftsman

Artist Statement

Motivation and Inspiration:
I have always been fascinated by the myths and legends of the Celtic and Scandinavian Europe and even further back to their Neolithic roots in the Mediterranean. Tales of King Arthur, Cuchullen and the Morrigan, Scandinavian sagas, and the mists of Faerie permeate my creative energies. In this day of throwaway images and technology, the archetypal images I use, I feel help to ground us to our nearly lost mythic past. It is in reaction to the computer age that I am drawn to the “primitive” and archaic. The symbols have a variety of meanings, interpretive and personal, the richness of the symbols often cannot be reduced to words. Loosely taken animals can be totems, to protect us or aid us; spirals show the cycles of nature, and interlaced knotwork symbolizes the path of our life’s journey. I emphasize that these are not the only meanings, to try to pigeon home them thus would distort the wordless communication each evokes from us. I feel we should, like music, allow them to reach more deeply within for their full statement.
I am a preservationist, working with many of the tools, materials and techniques available to the medieval smith without resorting to photo-etching or computer aides. I spend many hours drawing and carving my designs by hand using what I learned from George Bain, whose book “Pictish Design, Its Method and Construction” unlocked the nearly forgotten methods of Celtic design which had hitherto been dismissed as “barbaric” by the British art community and thus largely ignored. I have visited the museums of Scotland and England to get first hand exposure to the antiquities that inspire me and I continue to do extensive historical research. My very first piece was derived from a panel on the Tara Brooch—my first step on a journey to equal the skills and creative ability of the unknown artist who made that thing of beauty some 1300 years ago. I still wear it to constantly remind myself of where I intend to go.

I create much of my work via lost wax casting from Sterling silver and 14k gold. Original designs are sketched,, sometimes to be transferred via tracing paper for gluing onto a wax blank, but often only referred to as a guideline when carving. Sharp hand tools, knives and styli (many of which I make myself) are used to carve the designs onto the wax. When the wax is finalized, it is immersed in investment plaster, baked in a kiln to burn out the wax and molten silver injected in the resulting cavity by either vacuum or centrifugal force. The new metal positive is then prepared for duplication by sandwiching in between layers of rubber, which is then vulcanized to create a mold. Waxes are then invested, burnt out and cast in the same fashion as the original.
Once castings are created, they are then cleaned, sanded, and polished, or sometimes soldered (hard soldering with propane and oxygen hoke torches) onto larger pieces attached to make more complex composite pieces. Findings and stones are set and the pieces receive final burnishing. Polishing is done by wheel, hand, and tumbling on a small scale.
I also create originals using cuttlebone casting and gravity pours directly into the cuttlebone mold. These are very organic looking but unable to accept more intricate designs. These originals then have findings attached or are used to accent other pieces.
I often hammer out work on a piece of railroad track for an anvil, using mallets and ball-peen hammers from stock wire and sheet sterling. Cast elements are sometimes then soldered onto the piece or I may add decorative planishing with hammers, soldered wirework, or chasing and repousee. I forged my chasing tools myself from stock tool steel rods. I make many of my mallets as well. Lately I have been working with curled wire to create very vinelike forms. The technical requirements of working with both sterling and gold in the same piece has been challenging but rewarding. I am currently studying enamel techniques.


Self-trained metalsmith, born 1963.