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Heavy metal

Stanley S. Madeja brings his 50-year retrospective to Steamboat

Silver necklace by metalsmith Stanley S. Madeja, Ph.D. A retrospective of his 50 years of work is on display at the Depot Art Center.
Courtesy Photo

— For 50 years, metalsmith Stanley S. Madeja, Ph.D., has been skiing in Steamboat Springs and making jewelry.

Now based outside of Chicago, Madeja returned to Steamboat to show a retrospective of his work at the Depot Art Center and collaborate on community economic development ideas.

“I’m hoping to continue to work in Steamboat on the whole notion of bringing arts into community development,” he said. “Part of it involves cooperative efforts between the business community, (another part requires) the arts community and the city or public enterprises to come together on projects that have all of their best interests in mind.”



The other motivation for Madeja to have a show in Steamboat was to start creating new work again.

“I’ve had somewhat of a dual career,” he said. “I’ve always been a teacher, as well as a metalsmith or artist.



Madeja is a professor emeritus of art education at the University of Northern Illinois and a former dean at the school. He is the author or co-author of 87 books.

“Early on, I think I made more money making wedding and engagement rings than teaching. That’s how poorly (teachers) were paid at the time,” he said.

Madeja primarily works with silver, gold, brass and sometimes wood. Throughout the past 50 years, he has seen major advancements in the production methods of his craft.

“The technology over the years has improved so much, and the new materials and new ideas of constructing, and the casting of metal have changed,” Madeja said. “As technological advances were made, a lot of techniques changed.”

Some metal methods and tools are timeless.

“Wax goes back 10,000 years or so, and the ‘lost wax processes’ as they call it – pioneered by the Chinese – were probably doing it 11,000 to 12,000 years ago,” Madeja said. “Methodology is traditional, but technology keeps changing over time.”

After World War II, the metalsmithing community embraced Styrofoam.

“We started using it for models and combined it with wax later on,” Madeja said. “The Styrofoam surface created different visual effects in the metal and indentation.”

Now computers can read a design and create the mold for the metalsmith, but computers cannot recreate the passion and inspiration the artist adds to it.

“It’s a form of expressing yourself visually. Just the pride of making things is very important to me, to create things and make objects and also introduce an aesthetic quality to them,” Madeja said. “I hope they are beautiful objects that make the body and person look better.”


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