Bill Seeley a Journal
So, where do I start this? My thinking is that most people who would look in here are interested in the recent past. The metal stuff. Thus I will save the baby pictures for later and make an effort to put my story together in reverse.
I’ll start with metals, more precisely jewelry, which came to the forefront on a trip to Pagosa Springs, Colorado circa 1974. The friends I went to see were settled in an old log cabin down a muddy track not far from town. They and their friends, were all making, more or less, “Indian jewelry”. Cutting stones, working silver, making a living. I looked over shoulders for a few days and started thinking. By the time I got home to Wichita, KS, I had decided “I can do that”.
I purchased a book, it may have been called Indian Jewelry Making or the like. From a local supplier I purchased a few tools, a propane torch, built a buffer from an old washing machine motor and sat down to teach myself to metalsmith.
For the next couple of years it was my late night hobby. I was a working member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, a stagehand.(That story will come later.) It came to pass that I just got used up. I worked rock & roll, opera, circus, broadway shows, concerts, ballet and folks that spoke in tongues. In other words everything, every day/night for some weeks with weeks of bookings in my future. I was done. I retired from the union and theater.
It came to mind that I had some G.I. benefits still available from my Uncle Sam.(Again, another story.) Up the road from Wichita was the University of Kansas in Lawrence which has the oldest Masters Program in Metal Smithing in the country. Who would have guessed?!
I took some pieces of my work and some slides for a little show and tell. I already had a BA in Theater from Michigan State University so there was a chance. I was accepted into the program with only a couple of academic got-to-do’s. I settled in to KU to explore and that I did. I went off and played in
ceramics, blew a little glass, assisted teaching Color Theory and took the summers off to explore the southwest… it was an amazing time. In the midst of all this fun was an introduction to the engineering side of metals. Yes, I once could read a phase diagram and I thankfully picked up vocabulary that would be of value soon.
Eventually the Art & Design Department reeled me in and set me back on course to finish my metals MFA. That put me in a quandary about specializing. The solution appeared right on time in the form of The American Society of Goldsmiths (SNAG) and their annual conference held at KU that year. It was there I saw my first Titanium jewelry piece. It piqued my curiosity. A lot! And so the road was set for the next years research and eventual thesis, orals, show and Master of Fine Art Degree.
Next, two things happened more or less simultaneously, I found I had a great connection with a techie in Electrical Engineering, and people
kept asking me how to do it. Anodizing that is. So, while developing a bench anodizer I began to teach workshops. It was immediately apparent that a small, electrical power supply and metal were needed. Metal was the big problem! There really was no place you could purchase Titanium in sizes and quantities that would make sense to a metalsmith. If you wanted to build an F16 you could get Titanium, but if you wanted to make a pair of earrings there was just no source. I needed to get inside the industry.
The break came at Tico Titanium with Dave Robertson and his staff. Through them I began to meet and have a feel for who was who and what could and could not be done. The realization came that this was not a few ounces of precious metal, this was a 4,000+ lb ingot broken down to sheet and fine wire. A staggering amount of processing, processing, processing!
In that moment, Reactive Metals Studio, Inc. was founded. With the help and encouragement of some great friends I set in motion the task of building a demand for Titanium through lecturing, teaching, and writing. Next was filling the needs of that emerging market. G&S Titanium was the first to make a product specifically for my application. Grade #1, annealed .032” wire. This is the gauge most commonly used for earwires. That’s 635ft/lb, a minimum order of 30lbs or 19,050ft. That is a lot of earwires! It was 1980 and I had a market to build.* RMS is now in the capable hands of my long term employees and is still supplying a range of exotic materials in a narrow niche, to a world wide market.
There I finally I found an end! It is too long, too short, so much missing… Ahhh, but there will be prequels. There will be half a life of theater and associated arts. There will be a slightly amusing story of a disk jockey in Vietnam.(No, not THAT story.) More side roads, the continued wonders of serendipity and a good life I hope to share.
Thanks for hanging in here, Bill
PS For more, the story of Hot Spinning Titanium in “How It’s Done” will fill in some gaps.
*Just GOOGLED - ”Titanium Earwires” - 312,000 hits.