He was soon hooked. While they were living in New Mexico, he attended a craft session at the Ghost Ranch, an educational retreat operated by the Presbyterian Church in the northern part of the state. During the summer, courses are offered in art, writing, spirituality, health and the environment. Jerry signed up for a silversmithing course which was taught by an instructor from the Denver area. From that instructor, Jerry learned several techniques including the art of lost wax casting. With lost wax casting, anything that can be modelled in wax can be replicated in metal.
That's the only formal schooling Jerry has ever had, but with an innate ability to build and repair just about anything, that's all he needed to start engraving, stamping and hammering flat pieces of metal into distinctive jewelry.
His wife Nancy brags that during their 49 years of marriage, she's never had to call a plumber, electrician or appliance repairman. Jerry can tackle any job around the house, but his fingers prove to be amazingly dexterous when handling the fine wire, clasps, chains, and findings involved in jewelry making.
When Jerry first started silverwork - as a hobby - the Holmes were living in Santa Fe. "Every time someone would come to visit, we'd go down to the Governor's Mansion where all the Native Americans had their wares spread out. Our guests always bought some silver."
About the same time, he ran into a woman who was getting $100 for her handcrafted silver hair combs, which she said were very easy to make.
"That helped me get a little more involved," Jerry said. After years of just giving away bracelets, button covers, and belt buckles, he decided to create his own cottage industry.
A short time later, Jerry and Nancy became the managers of a dude ranch in Arizona. In his spare time, Jerry incorporated the ranch's "Circle Z" logo into silver earrings, bolos and belt buckles which became very popular mementoes for the ranch's guests.
During his lifetime, Jerry has been involved in the aerospace industry, appliance repair, boat sales, oil and gas development, computers and the securities business. He says they'd still be at the dude ranch if it wasn't for his health. An allergic reaction to mesquite and cottonwood forced him and Nancy to re-evaluate their options. They retired, bought a motorhome and began traveling across the country. They were very familiar with the Delta-Montrose area and decided to purchase a small home in Montrose to serve as "home base" as they traveled the U.S. When they went back to Montrose to work on their home, they felt hemmed in by the six-foot fences bisecting the neighborhood. They sold their motorhome and began looking for a home in a more rural area. They found what they were looking for in a subdivision on Ash Mesa just a few miles outside of Delta. A small shed, equipped with a heater for the winter and a small air conditioner for the summer, serves as Jerry's workshop.
Inspired by the natural beauty that surrounds him, Jerry designs jewelry which incorporates aspen leaves, elk, mountains, horses, and other motifs which reflect Delta's western atmosphere. He also does custom work, similar in fashion to the Circle Z line, for ranches and gift shops.
The name of his business is Hi Ho Silversmith. His official "mark" is a turtle with a JH in the center. Why a turtle, you ask? "Because I'm so cotton pickin' slow," Jerry says.
Winter months are dedicated to design and production; the summer finds him on the road to the Aspen Saturday Market every week. Vendors must apply for a spot at the outdoor market, which originally featured fresh produce but has since expanded to include a variety of art. According to the Aspen Times, the market draws between 2,000 and 2,500 visitors every Saturday.
At his display table, Jerry lays out a dazzling assortment of bracelets, necklaces, earrings, money clips, bolos, cufflinks and rings. Some necklaces feature a single stone; others incorporate beads. Those are made by Nancy, who uses her eye for color and contrast to create beautiful pieces.
The "latest thing," Jerry says, are dog collars with the dog's name in silver. At $125 each, they've proven very popular. Aspen, Jerry says, is the "dog capital of the world."
Despite the economy, sales this year are better than 2008 - perhaps because he's starting to build a repeat clientele. He jokes that he loves the folks in Aspen - they typically hand over their credit card without asking the price of an item.
You can check out Jerry's line of handcrafted jewelry at www.hihosilversmith.com and save yourself a drive to Aspen.blog comments powered by Disqus