Behind the Scenes: Getting to Know 3 Über-talented Park City Artisans
A third-generation Parkite, jewelry designer Ron Butkovich (RSB Designs, 1101 Park Ave, 435.649.4700) says his original work draws inspiration from nature and an appreciation for whimsy. “Mostly, I want to make it fun and see people smile,” he says. He’s a walking advertisement for his own wearable art, with stacks of bracelets and chunky rings on several fingers.
Of his most popular pieces, Butkovich says that he likes to combine precious and semiprecious stones with found objects, leather, and cast mixed-metal charms. Butkovich has recently started a series using aspen twigs and tiny sticks collected from his Park City garden re-cast in silver. For these pieces, he uses an ancient method known as lost-wax casting: a mold is created around a wax sculpture (or in this case, twigs), then the wax or organic interior of the mold is replaced by molten metal to create an exact replica of the original sculpture. He also enjoys commission work reconfiguring clients’ old jewelry with modern concepts, mixed metals, and lots of texture. “I love pearls,” says Butkovich of his current preferred medium. “They grow in this really ugly container but become this beautiful, unique thing with luster, depth, and character.”
His favorite moments? When a customer sees a huge statement ring or pendant that he predicted would push the “too over-the-top” envelope. Butkovich explains: “When they say ‘Oh. My. God. That’s HUGE! I have to have this.’ It’s just wild.” A perennial favorite at the Kimball Arts Festival, Butkovich’s work has been featured there 17 times, at last count.
All In The Family
Recently recognized on Summit County’s list of Top 100 entrepreneurs, the Reynolds family (parents Kevin and Kathryn, sons Ethan and Graham) started KGEK Design 12 years ago, when Ethan was 8 and Graham, 11. Initially, the boys made jewelry as a hobby, creating pieces for themselves, as gifts for family, and even for a sold-out show in their driveway. And then in 2006, the Reynolds family applied to the inaugural Park Silly Sunday Market, turning their hobby into a bona fide business. “We have very loyal customers from all over the country who have seen us grow up at the market; they come back every year,” says Ethan, now 20.
In addition to Graham and Ethan’s early affinity for design and artisanship, Ethan says that their strong work ethic was also grounded in economic necessity. “We started downhill mountain-bike racing and we needed to pay for our gear,” he says. And their profits have also gone back into the company to finance more jewelry-making equipment, higher-quality base metals, and more-expensive components like precious stones. It’s also funded their education. Graham is finishing his last year in the prestigious University of Cincinnati product design program and has completed design internships with Michael Kors and Crate & Barrel. Ethan studied in Europe and is currently a student in the University of Utah entrepreneurship program.
The family collaborates via video conference to work on design concepts and branding strategies, and they spend the boys’ summer and school breaks making jewelry. In addition to showing all summer at the Park Silly Sunday Market, you’ll find KGEK jewelry at Lund’s Fine Art Gallery (591 Main St, 435.655.4349) and Root’d (596 Main St, 435.214.7791). Bree Lindhardt, an interior designer at Root’d, which hosts KGEK trunk shows throughout the year, says the Reynolds’ pieces—especially the delicate bar necklaces set with semi-precious stones—are very popular. “They kill it,” she says.
Romancing The Stone
“My job is to figure out how best to showcase the stone,” says designer Michael McRae. “Nature has made this beautiful one-of-a-kind piece,” he explains, and he strives to complement statement stones with equally stunning metalwork. The resulting settings are both timeless and androgynous, with an elegant simplicity. Noting this clean aesthetic, it’s not surprising to find that in the first two decades of his professional life, McRae specialized in commercial art, fine art, and fashion photography. About seven years ago, he started making jewelry and accessories like belt buckles out of necessity: “My son started in fashion and clothing design, and he needed some accessory pieces for his photo shoots. So I made them,” which started him down the path of metalworking. He was immediately hooked. “Going from photography to working in three dimensions,” says McRae, “was a revelation.”
A recent newcomer to metalsmithing, McRae is equal parts thrilled and humbled by the immediate acclaim he’s received. In addition to spotting his work at prestigious juried art shows all over the western US, you can find McRae’s jewelry at Olive & Tweed (608 Main St, 435.649.9392) and at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts Store (410 Campus Center Dr, SLC, 801.581.7332). “I’m very honored to be there,” McRae says of his selection as a featured artist at the UMFA. “I’m in exceptional company.”