Arthur Hash

Arthur Hash

Arthur Hash is an Art Jeweler and an Assistant Professor at Rhode Island School of Design. He has an extensive background in studio safety. In this interview, Arthur discusses safety issues that are often overlooked in the Metals studio, and provides tips and resources for developing a safer workspace.

Missy Graff Ballone: Please tell me about your background. When did you become interested in making jewelry?

 

Arthur Hash: In 1995, I started my BFA in Interior Design at Virginia Commonwealth University. The degree required Craft/Material Studies studio electives. Most of the Interior Design students favored furniture design for obvious reasons, but I signed up for Metalsmithing and Jewelry. I quickly realized that it was important for me to actually make the work I was designing, so I switched majors.

Please tell me about your process.

 

Arthur Hash: Like many others, I find that starting something new is often the hardest part, but when it is easy, it is obvious. Sometimes inspiration can hit you like a bolt of lightning. When I feel compelled to make something, I try to give into that need and go straight to the studio. This kind of work has a 50/50 chance of actually making it out into the real world, but it doesn’t really matter because the journey always provides something for future work.

Over the years, I have recorded a list of ideas for pieces. The ideas come from random places, such as readings, looking at other work, and even movies. Everything goes on this “open in case of an emergency” list. Recently, my studio time has become so valuable. I no longer have the luxury of waiting for lightning to strike. When I get stuck but have to make something, it is easy for me to move down the list, quickly dismissing things until something sticks out.

What is your personal studio set-up like? What do you think makes it a “Mindful Space”?

 

Arthur Hash: Right now, I share my studio with my wife who makes her own work full-time. We have a small space that is filled with an assortment of typical small metals tools. We have two jeweler’s benches, a soldering station, flex shafts, an enameling kiln, two work tables, etc.

The walls of the studio are giant idea boards/mind maps. If you are trying to capture something in a piece, having a visual reminder right in front of you can make it easier to keep working. If you have to get up and go to the computer or look it up, it can interrupt the flow of the studio. I like collecting data, printing it on paper, adding to the print by sketching on top of it, and eventually pinning it up before I start a project.

I try to make the studio a safe, comfortable place to work. I like to take the time to dial in the space so there is not only an efficiency to it, but also a sensible flow that supports me when I am working.

I have a rolling table on wheels that serves as my layout table. This is where I set up pieces of jewelry before they get soldered together or enameled. Since it is on wheels, I can transport it over to the kiln or soldering station without disturbing the composition. It is almost like a surgeon’s table with instruments or a prep board for the mies-en-place.

I have had a few chairs over the years. Good back support when working long hours is essential. Also, I am a big dude, so I raised my bench six to eight inches higher than normal. This helps my back soooooo much.

You’ve worked at a few universities. In your opinion, what safety issues are most often overlooked in the metals studio?

 

Arthur Hash: Wow. There are so many safety issues. For me, ventilation is probably at the top of the list.

Not too long ago, I visited an artist and noticed that they had no ventilation. When I asked what they used for fumes, they pulled out a small oscillating table fan. I was horrified. What made things even worse was that all of their work was cast resin! I begged them to get a better system, but they denied anything was wrong. They never fixed the issue, so I never visited their studio again.

We have three ventilation stations in our studio. One is split between soldering and enameling, one is for the pickle pot, and the last is for the laser engraver. All of them are sealed and vent up and out of the apartment.

You only get one chance in this world. Do your research. Find something that goes beyond the minimum. We found inline fan motors that are for hydroponic growing. They have metal blades in a metal housing and have a speed control. They are mounted on the wall and vented using metal dryer tubing. I made an insert the goes into the top half of the window and everything gets sealed with metal tape.

What advice do you have for artists who are setting up a studio in their living space, house, garage, etc?

 

Arthur Hash: The best advice I can give is to separate it if you can. If you can’t split up the spaces, there are still little things you can do to make it safer. If you are soldering, find out what kind of gas you are allowed to have in your living space. Acetylene can be illegal to have in a rental. If your landlord will not allow it, I would look into a smaller alternative like a mini torch or even a hydro torch (of course there are safety issues with those as well). Not to put this image into your head, but think about what would happen if there were a fire in your apartment building, then think about how much damage a tank of gas could do. It may make you reconsider how you work.

Get good ventilation. Besides the hydroponics store, amazon has great deals on fans. I have even used an oven hood in a pinch. Habitat for humanity's RE-Store can be a great place to find used oven hoods, as well as tables and metal ductwork. If you are soldering, get a fireproof material to solder on. I have used 16” tile from lowes as a base and a ceramic kiln brick to solder on.

If you are using a second bedroom for a studio, put down a welcome mat in front of the door to prevent trailing metal and other debris out of the studio into your living space. Hanging some fabric in the doorway will keep dust at bay. Get a good shop-vac and periodically clean up the space.

Now that 3D printers are becoming more accessible, makers of all kinds can install them in their homes and studios. What precautions should someone interested in doing this keep in mind?

 

Arthur Hash: 3D printers should not be used in a closed environment. I do have one in my studio, but I keep it near a window with a fan going. While I don’t feel that they pose a real danger compared to the many other things that we expose ourselves to in our studios (flux, patina, paint, etc), it is good to be cautious. I would recommend separating it from your living space (ie garage, basement etc). Again, better safe than sorry.

I love having my printer in my studio. I use it a lot for small support objects such as jigs, containers, hooks, scoops, etc. It can be a powerful tool. However, I would not recommend the resin based printers anywhere near a living space. Resin is just way too transferable. A drop of it can quickly move through your home via doorknobs, faucets, and handles.

Do you have any resources that you would like to share with our readers?

 

Arthur Hash: Talk to your local university’s art studio technician. They can probably answer all of your questions. Also, they are most likely willing to share information about where they purchase items locally. Universities have to uphold certain safety standards, so it is a safe bet that the information you get will be up to state standards. Offer to buy them lunch or pay them a consulting fee, bring questions, get what you need.

Visit other artists’ studios. Find out what they do. Ask them. The more studios you visit, the more you will find out what is good and what is bad.

Craft centers are also a good resource. Places such as Penland School of Crafts and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts can provide a wealth of knowledge. Go on a studio tour or, even better, take a class!