Jon Route has been a metalsmith working commercially, academically and independently, for over 30 years. Born in 1954, he received a BS in Art from the University of Wisconsin-Stout and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Married in 1974, he has two children with his wife, Deborah.
Jon worked in an architectural metals firm and as a jeweler before striking out on his own as an independent craft-artist. He has been invited twice to teach at the
U-W-Stout, Menomonie, Wisconsin as an adjunct professor for sabbatical replacements and has given many workshops throughout his career on the technical aspects of his craft. He has exhibited his hand constructed vessel forms, teapots and wall pieces at some of the best art/craft festival events in the United States including the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the American Craft Expo in Evanston, the Philadelphia Craft Show, and the Smithsonian Craft Show. He is a 1998 recipient of a Wisconsin Individual Artist Fellowship and his pewter teapots were featured in Metalsmith Magazine’s 2001 “Exhibition in Print”.
Route’s work was chosen in 2001 to be included at the American Craft Museum in New York in an exhibition entitled “Objects for Use: Handmade By Design”, and the accompanying book published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Paul Smith, Director Emeritus, American Craft Museum, and General Editor. In 2006, Jon was invited to participate in an exhibition honoring the 28 year teaching collaboration between Fred Fenster and Eleanor Moty in the University of Wisconsin, Madison Art Metals program, organized by the Chazen Museum of Art, U-W Madison, Wisconsin, and at an exhibition at the West Bend Art Museum entitled “Time For A Nice Cuppa: Wisconsin Teapots”, in West Bend, Wisconsin. In 2009 Jon was invited by the Charles Allis Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to exhibit a retrospective of his work in his first solo museum show entitled, “For the Love of metal”. Route’s work was commissioned by the Wisconsin Foundation for the Arts to create the 2010 Governor’s Awards in Support of the Arts.
Jon has served as a Juror and Advisor to several fairs and festivals and two years as a Director on the board of the National Association of Independent Artists. He is a founding and current board member of Frederic Arts, Inc. and maintains his studio in the rural countryside near Frederic, in northwestern Wisconsin.
Process: A Colorful Future
Jon Michael Route, long time art/craft fair exhibitor and well known for his pewter boxes, vessels and teapots, has a new-found direction for his metalworking skills. “It began when I allowed myself to play with filling a specific space on a wall in our kitchen with copper and brass metalwork and use some new patina solutions I had found on the web.”
“Experimentation is integral to your development as an artist and real change requires a commitment to a new direction or purpose” Route explained, “but lately, experimentation in my work had just meant variations on a theme. It is so easy to get into a rut and it is so hard to leave the security of things as they are… what already works. Looking back, it was very un-nerving to try and take on a new identity that could prove be detrimental to my income and risk what I had worked 20 years to build.”
But Jon said he knew the first time he tried the hot patina process that he had found a basis for a new direction. “There is something about that process of discovery that is very exciting. It wasn’t exactly serendipity because you have to work at it and allow yourself to make plenty of mistakes. But ultimately it is very pleasing aesthetically and immensely gratifying for your artistic sole to create a new path that you can believe in.” Jon said it didn’t happen overnight. “I knew I had to transition into this until I could work through some technical issues and also gage reception from the public. The wall pieces began appearing in my booth some five years ago and the new hot patina colors about three years ago and now they comprise the majority of my presentation.”
“Color is a very exciting and different path for me because for more than twenty years I built my business and reputation on pewter, a very gray metal. Patina solutions come in a variety of forms and mixtures now and they are more available than the hard to find individual chemicals, which made up ancient and elusive recipes. There is a cold patina process that takes hours or even days to work but I very much enjoy the directness of the hot process because you are seeing what you get as you work. The trick is that the metal has to be with-in a window of temperature for the patina to work. Too cold and it won’t take well, too hot and it sputters off like water on a hot grill. A large torch with a bushy flame in one hand and a sponge or a brush in the other means I have to pay close attention to the metal temperature in the area where I’m working. I use different base metals that compliment different colors, mostly copper, brass, bronze, pewter and aluminum. Color can be layered on color to get a very rich and timeless quality especially when combined with surface textures.”
The artist’s “bird and branch” work on the wall has a serene and peaceful quality that has appealed to designers in the healthcare industry and the evidence-based design movement. His work recently appeared on the cover of Healthcare Design Magazine and he is enjoying the prospect of a whole new avenue for marketing his work. Jon’s wall pieces range from layered geometric flat panels on a plywood base, to all metal soldered and welded three-dimensional sculptural pieces that allow elements of soft curves, branches and leaves.