Born into a family of artists in Denver, Colorado, it’s no surprise that Alex Boyd found himself on a creative path as a young teen. “My mom is a printmaker, but also just a maker in general. She put every possible material in my hands from an early age and encouraged me to just make things.” With a ceramicist for an aunt and a jeweler for an uncle, Alex dabbled in just about every art form before landing on glasswork in his early 20s.
“I started doing glasswork with a friend and got totally obsessed,” he says of his early career making and selling glass beads. But after a few years of dumping all of his time, energy and money into the bead business, Alex hit a ceiling where customers were unwilling to spend much more than $60 on a single bead. “Some of these beads were taking me hours to make and I was bankrupting myself,” Alex says. It was then that he came up with the economic solution to incorporate his beads into finished designs, and turned to his uncle, goldsmith and lapidary Michael Boyd, for help.
Starting out with the basics, Alex first learned how to make rings and end caps for his glass beads. From there, his uncle gifted him a jeweler’s saw, some files and some other basic equipment and Alex added a metals area to his glassblowing studio. Along with his uncle’s instruction, Alex relied heavily on Tim McCreight’s work “The Complete Metalsmith” to supplement his jeweler’s education. After about 6 months of working with metals, “I was totally done working with glass,” he says. “I loved that with metal, I could set it down. With hot glass, you really can’t set it down. So, I appreciated how I could work on a metal piece for a few days and really work up the detail on it.”
But even with his newfound passion and burgeoning skillset, Alex was still trying to fit his art in between his education at Metro State University of Denver and side jobs in landscaping, construction, and work as a barista. He knew he needed to find a way to make jewelry his main source of income. As luck would have it, a frequent customer at the coffee shop with whom Alex had shared his work had a friend in town who owned a silversmith shop, Gusterman Silversmiths. After being set up with the shop owner, Mary Eckles, Alex presented her with his copper and brass pieces. While impressed, Mary told Alex to return with work in precious metals for her consideration.
“Once a month I went back and showed her what I was working on. I started adding more silver to my pieces so she would appreciate it. And eventually she started me off in the shop cutting sprues off of castings and polishing pieces,” Alex says. After another few months, Alex’s coworker Jamie McLandsborough picked up on the young talent and started pushing Alex to take on more difficult jobs such as sizing rings and carving wax for custom pieces. “He would give me these jobs and I would screw up so badly and he would swoop in and fix all my mistakes,” Alex laughs. Eventually Mary caught on to Alex’s growing capabilities, cementing his position as a bench jeweler in the shop where he has been for the past 12 years. “I owe both Jamie and Mary my career in a big way,” Alex says, adding, “Jamie for giving me the security to fail at tough jobs without dire consequences, and Mary for paying me to learn my craft.”
More recently though, it’s Alex’s own work that is really carrying the weight. Working primarily with high karat gold and oxidized sterling silver, his unique pieces offer a bold color contrast that highlights gemstones he cuts himself. Inspired by the wrought aesthetic of blacksmithing and a childhood love for stories about the Lost City of Atlantis, Alex describes his work as appearing to be from an advanced civilization lost to history. “When I was first trying to figure out how to market myself, people kept telling me I needed to tell a story. But I thought my story was boring. Then I realized the story didn’t need to necessarily be true,” he says. Imbuing each of his pieces with a magic power, Alex taps into his love for myths and fables as well as his playful take on himself as an artist.
When he’s not behind the bench, Alex can be found hosting workshops all over the country. Deeming his jewelry-making to be a solo pursuit, he views education and teaching as the antidote, providing him with a larger sense of community. “I’m not someone who keeps secrets about my techniques. I’ll answer any question anyone has about how I made something. I like to help beginners because I know what that’s like,” he says. His most popular class to date is called “Gold On a Budget,” helping students to take small amounts of the precious metal and stretch them to create pieces with the maximum appearance of gold at a minimal price.
In looking to the future, Alex hopes to continue to combine teaching and creating with a dream of opening a large shared studio space in Durango, Colorado. “I want to help young people discover this thing that I love so much,” he says. “I want to show people that this is possible. You can make not only a living but a life being creative.”