By the Bay Gallery in Morro Bay, California
By the Bay Gallery is open daily and featuring American crafts and fine jewelry since 1988
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Patrick Murphy Designs: Patrick Murphy

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Rarer than diamonds but scorned as second-class citizens: agatized fossils, script stone, tourmalinated quartz, rhyolite, and Chinese writing stone are just a few of the orphans and outcasts of the fine jewelry world, the B Chart gems that I love. Many people have never heard of these gemstones, let alone seen them. The Gemological Institute of America used to send students to my show booth to see them. Because I have not been able to find cutters producing the shapes I’m looking for in many of these materials, the art of lapidary has become a necessary adjunct to the production of Murphy Design jewelry. More familiar are the tourmalines, quartzes, and boulder opals that I use in colorful combinations. When I’m designing, I prefer clean lines with a minimum of embellishment. For my furniture, give me Stickley or Shaker, for architecture I’ll take Craftsman, and if it’s art, how about deco rather than nouveau? Spare, clean, and simple appeal to me, as does asymmetry. In keeping with these preferences, I choose to set most gems in bezels. Bezel setting is more time consuming but also more secure than other types of settings, and I like the way it makes a clean frame around the stone. Most of my work is fabricated by hand; it’s a slow and exacting means of production, but well worth the effort for the crispness that it imparts to the jewelry. When I began making jewelry more than 30 years ago, it was initially a vehicle that allowed me to move from the city into the country. I wanted to be more in touch with the natural world, and I needed a way to support myself. I bought 128 acres of wooded land in the Coulee region of Western Wisconsin, where I set up three tents and a small travel trailer and started my business. I didn’t need to commute, nor did I have to work for anyone else. UPS came to my front door, actually a tent flap, at the end of a mile-long driveway. The refrigerator stood next to a tree, the telephone was in one of the tents, and I hauled water from town in a 50-gallon trashcan. Since I’ve always been interested in the natural world, the jewelry quickly headed in that direction. To begin with, I fabricated sterling silver, but I was soon drawn to the stunning colors, myriad patterns, and crystalline forms of rocks and minerals. Gemstones became a central part of my work. In the early 1980s I made my first pilgrimage to the fabled Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, Mecca of gem lovers everywhere. My eyes were opened to countless new gem varieties as well as new types of gem cutting that were being pioneered by designer cutters like Bernd Munsteiner, with his abstract “fantasy cuts.” I designed quite a few pieces around Munsteiner stones, but it was Doug Kline’s high-domed cabochons—the “bullets” and “tongues”—that became my signature stones. Because I was one of the first jewelers to use these cuts, and because I used them so extensively, JCK Magazine called me the “bullet king” in 1989. By then I had moved back into the city, and I’ve lived in Minneapolis ever since. Recently, I’ve been working on “Fossil Dreams,” a collection of pieces using materials that I find amazing. These gems were once living beings: corals, dinosaurs, trees, ferns. They died millions of years ago and gradually turned into stone. We are resurrecting these creatures and unlocking their beauty once again. Over the years, I have taken a number of design and jewelry courses from the Revere Academy, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and the University of Minnesota, but my greatest debt is to the talented people who have collaborated with me to create the Murphy Design look.

895 Embarcadero, Morro Bay, CA 93442 | Toll free 888-771-5563 or 805-772-5563 | info@bythebaygallery.com
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