Active and artistic: Draze’s jewelry to be featured at Kaleva Art Gallery

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KALEVA — Jim Draze has had his hand in a lot of positive change in Kaleva and surrounding Manistee County communities.

His handiwork in the world of art, however, will be featured from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Kaleva Art Gallery, located at 14449 Wuoksi Ave.

When he’s not devoting his time to a wide range of community-based endeavors, Draze dedicates himself to his craft, or what he refers to as “blacksmithing on a small scale.”

Saturday’s show will exhibit Draze’s custom jewelry — pendants, earrings, pins — some made with enamel on copper and others with stone and silver.

“I’ve always been interested in various forms of art,” he said, citing a love for photography since high school and a college background in metallurgy. “As I was getting near retirement — living in Kalamazoo — I decided to enroll at a metal arts shop.

“I went there once or twice a week after work, in an apprenticeship-type program, to study blacksmithing and metal arts,” he added. “I did that for about a year and a half, and got comfortable with hand working metal, forging blacksmith work, welding, creating designs, that sort of thing.”

After retirement, Draze and his wife, Deanna, moved to Kaleva full time in 2007. Draze further pursued his metalworking by creating a blacksmith shop in his backyard.

“It turned out to be kind of limiting,” he said, “doing that type of work outside in the heat of the summer and then it not practical in midwinter.”

Through his involvement in sponsoring and submitting work to the Arts and Culture Alliance’s “Green Art Fair” at Douglas Valley, Draze took a slightly different approach to his hobby.

“As I was folding up the blacksmith shop, I was trying to figure out how else I can work with metal,” Draze recalled. “The Green Art Fair gave me the idea of working with materials I could recycle and reuse, so I decided to work with copper.

“You can find scrap copper pipe at garage sales and yard sales at pretty cheap prices,” he added, “so I tracked down some resources for making copper jewelry and just started experimenting.”

Essentially, Draze will cut a copper pipe to length, cut it open, flatten it, shape it with a saw and hammer it flat before applying enamel — or finely ground and sifted glass — and firing the piece with a torch for the final effect.

The images depicted in Draze’s work follow a north woods theme, namely fish and birds.

“I started putting them in the local art gallery and found it had some popularity,” he said of his work. “Then in the last year or so, I decided to start working with silver as well.”

Draze creates more traditional designs in his work with silver, incorporating precious stones, such as Petoskey, in the pieces.

His work can be found at the Kaleva Art Gallery as well as at Mary’s Gift Gallery at the Oliver Art Center in Frankfort. At Saturday’s show, he expects to exhibit two to three dozen pieces along with some of the tools used to create his work.

Now, with a work space in his basement, Draze is devoting more time to making jewelry.

“If I can shut out all the extraneous things that pull on my time I might work three days a week,” he said. “If I’m really industrious, four days a week.”

In retirement, Draze’s time has been pulled in many places: The Vogue Theatre board, Bear Creek Watershed committee, and Kaleva’s village council, planning commission and historical society to name a few.

“As someone who has worked closely with him on several different committees, I can tell you he brings knowledge and work ethic, and he always followed though to get things done,” said Cindy Asiala, another active community member in the Kaleva area. “When they retired, Jim and Deanna, both, have really contributed a lot to the community.”

These days, Draze is looking to shift his focus, just slightly.

“We’ve been very active, but lately I’ve been kind of downsizing involvement to some extent, and trying to pursue artistic endeavors more often,” he said. “I find a lot of satisfaction in that.

“My view on community involvement, and particularly in political life, is it that it needs transition and turnover from time to time, so I thought it was time for me to do less and other folks to have an opportunity to do more,” he added. “Maybe it’s a little selfish, but I wanted a little more time to pursue some of the artistic endeavors that I really enjoy.”

Endeavors well deserved.

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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