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About Patania Jewelry

Sam Patania

Sam Patania - Third Generation Artisan in Jewelry
Sam Patania, as the third generation of Patania artisans, has followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather before him. In 1969, at the age of ten, he began his apprenticeship at the Tucson Thunderbird Shop. For the next decade, his after-school training would be a major part of his daily routine. But Sam followed his own path, having sought instruction outside the traditions of the shop.

In his 1977-78 school year, Sam enrolled in a jewelry-making course at Catalina High School where he met his future wife Monica Borquez, and explored new approaches to his craft. In 1979, he became a full-time employee of the Thunderbird Shop. 

Times have changed since Frank Patania Sr. first started working, and those changes have led his grandson Sam to reexamine the methodology within the shop structure. He has seen the need to integrate production methods which in the past would have been unacceptable, such as the decision to cast. Previous to Sam’s tenure at the shop, this would have been considered “cheating,” but today, it is a necessary move to keep the shop viable financially. Sam pushes the traditional techniques he was taught and challenges the world of metalsmithing to come with him. In this way he honors his father and grandfather who were also innovators in jewelry, and other artisans as well, including well-known silver designer William Spratling.

Feeding his need for knowledge he would attend the University of Arizona in 1988-89, where he studied with jewelry instructor Michael Croft. “Michael got me to design wildly different work than at the shop,” Sam said, in reflecting on the influence that Croft had on him in the Tucson Museum of Arts exhibition catalogue 'The Patanias: Legacy in Silver and Gold'. The multifaceted work that Croft inspired in Sam included the techniques of lost wax casting, and the Japanese technique of monkume, (a fusion-layered patterned laminate).

FIGURE 28
Sam Patania Necklace, 1985 Fabricated sterling silver,  Blue Gem turquoise and coral

FIGURE 29
Sam Patania Bracelet, 1999 Fabricated platinum/iridiym 18k and 24k gold, pink and gold tourmaline

FIGURE 30
Sam Patania, 2000 Handcrafted 18k gold repousse bracelet trimmed with platinum

FIGURE 31
Sam Patania, Bracelet 1999 Fabricated 18k white gold, opposed bar cut green tourmaline

Precious and Semiprecious Stones
Sam’s love for precious and semiprecious stones can be found in his early years, as he was a regular at Tucson’s annual International Gem and Mineral Show.  He painstakingly chooses only the highest quality of each particular stone for use in his work, and keeps himself apprised of the fashion and jewelry trends of America and Europe so as to remain aware of his audience. Sam’s personal philosophy as a jewelry artist reflects this aesthetic: “A desire to learn drives my work,” he says. “New techniques, symmetry, asymmetry, materials—all are areas which continue to drive my designs.  Color captures my eye and the thought of the beautiful women who will wear my work keeps me inspired.” 

Sam’s talents shine like his one-of-a-kind creations, such as the 18K white gold and Jeff Graham cut tourmaline cuff bracelet which is in the permanent jewelry collection of the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.. And his work is also on display at the old Thunderbird Shop in the heart of the Tucson historic district. He calls his company “Patania Sterling Silver Originals,” to honor the creative spirit that has earmarked this family’s heritage for three generations. 

The strength and character of the Patania name and tradition show no sign of weakening—doubtlessly, this is a family whose standard of excellence will survive and thrive well into both the future and history alike. Article is a reprint and authered by Shari Watson BaDu - (Shari Watson Miller)

On Creativity and Passion
The "What If?" is what I live for, that is the kind of thing I like to provoke me."
Describing a certain piece of jewelry he wished to make in a way he had never tried before, Sam stated, "It scares me to think of doing it that way, so I probably will. Any mistake will be there FOREVER, no looking back - now I'll HAVE to make it like that." 

"I have never run across anyone else who is demonstrably as passionate about their jewelry. I get excited about this stuff. The processes, learning it, exploring it, getting bummed when it doesn't work; I'm a raw nerve. If I find someone who teaches something I want to learn, I can't get enough." Refs. Silver Huntress,silverhuntress.com

"I love working with expensive materials, I like the idea that there's intrinsic value in the pieces apart from my work." ref. Stephanie C. Foster, ganoskin.com

On Commission Work
"A lot of commission work are pieces that are either variations of or exact duplicate of the previous generations' work. Those are really interesting because in my grandfather's case I don't have anyone to talk to about it so I have to put myself in his shoes and try to think like he thought or how I think he thought. I get to use a lot of the same tools, and I've inherited a lot of materials."

"I often take on the challenges of commissions just to be able to learn things. People are very trusting and sometimes they just absolutely let me work. I have a good portfolio and they can see what I've done." refs. Marbeth Schon, modernsilver.com

On Artist vs Craftsman
"I don't want to be my grandfather or my dad in design, I want to push that. I think that is just the artistic bent, wanting to do new things. I think that is what distinguishes an artist and a craftsman."

"I have been looking at books about modernist jewellers, (Spratling) and a couple of months ago it occurred to me that those guys were not hung up on materials. It was completely design driven stuff and that is what prompted those bracelets. I really want to chase that for a while now."
refs. Marbeth Schon, modernsilver.com

On Function
"Wearability in my jewelry is very important. And that I think comes from the family business. I want people to be able to wear it and I want them to enjoy it. It has to feel good. It has to have a weight to it The edges can't be sharp. I like to fit bracelets to my clients. Because I just want the piece to be worn, that is why I made it."
ref. Marbeth Schon, modernsilver.com

On Large Sculptural Jewelry
"I love jewelry that you can't wear - I love that stuff - it pushes everything. Art or academia pushes everything. And that is fantastic - I love that. It is much more interesting to look at that than a trade catalog, - much more influential. Whether it is sculpture or jewelry, I don't care. I don't have a fight with it."
ref. Marbeth Schon, modernsilver.com

On Expanding the Family Tradition
"I think my grandfather just loved it. My dad loves it. I think about it all the time. I just love it. I sleep, eat, and breathe it."
ref. Marbeth Schon, modernsilver.com

"Almost all of their classic pieces are fashionable, up to date, and collectors have the same passionate connection to their jewelry as I do. They love it all."
ref. Stephanie C. Foster, ganoskin.com