This year the Seattle Metals Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Roger Horner, in recognition of his many years of outstanding service to the metals community. The award will be presented at our upcoming General Meeting, on Friday, Feb 15th at 7pm at North Seattle Community College. Click here for more info about the meeting, and read on to learn why we love Roger!
Article by Sylvia Kantor.
At this point in his life, Roger Horner considers himself a silversmith. But he only came to this vocation after a long and distinguished military career that spanned service during the Vietnam War and included a win for the 101st Airborne Division in the All Army Boxing Match.
Born in Pasco, WA and raised in Central Washington, Roger is a product of the basalt-based landscape of the Columbia Basin. “When I was a little kid we used to find arrowheads along Crab Creek made out of flint- Ellensburg Blue, from Swauk Prairie. The whole landscape is chipped, broken up stone.” Roger learned flint knapping as a kid. He recalls that his father, a superintendent of schools and a woodworker, made sure he and his brother always had a hammer, an old railroad rail and some copper wire to play around with. His mother was a painter and a sculptor, and Roger enjoyed visiting museums at an early age.
Roger entered the military as an infantry officer in 1955 and would spend the next 25 years leading platoons, then companies, and ultimately, his own battalion. And while the service might seem an unlikely place for art and craft, it was here, via military hobby shops, that Roger’s penchant for shaping stones and forming metal began to really take root. He learned to cut and polish stone while stationed in Fairbanks, AK and discovered casting during a stint at Ford Ord in Monterey, CA. In 1965, Roger shippedout to Vietnam where he served as an advisor for calling in airstrikes (naval bombers) and medical evacuations.
In 1973, Roger went to Fort Campbell (KY & TN), home of the US Army 101st Airborne Division, with the goal of commanding his own battalion but since none were in need of a commander at the time, he opted instead for the role of recreational services officer. As such he oversaw operations for golf courses, sports arenas, gun clubs, stables, service clubs, libraries, bowling alleys, and of course, hobby shops. He had two golden glove winners on his gymnasium team, so he developed a boxing program. With the Screaming Eagles insignia of the 101st Airborne Division painted on the side of a Greyhound bus, he toured his boxing soldiers around to every prison within 400 miles and set up “no decision” boxing bouts. “In the end we won the All Army Boxing Match and that’s how I got a battalion.” In 1974, the commanding general gave him his pick of two battalions. Roger’s battalion consisted of five companies of about 250 each with supporting units attached (e.g. artillery, helicopter). As a battalion commander he had reached lt. colonel status. Roger retired as a full colonel in 1979.
As a new civilian, Roger perused a University of Washington course catalog where his eye was caught by classes in hollowware and enamel. So he placed a few pieces of jewelry he had made over the years (inspired by his wife, two daughters, and slew of female cousins and nieces) in a handkerchief and presented this ersatz portfolio to UW professor, John Marshall. This proved to be a pivotal encounter: Roger discovered a passion for hollowware, earned a BFA in 1983 and in 1986 graduated from the UW with an MFA in metal design in a class of two (along with Florence Baker-Wood). Roger went on to work in the UW metals program for 14 years keeping the facility, equipment, and tools in good shape. But the technical side of the metals studio was only part of the story. Roger enjoyed being around and mentoring many students who went through the metals program.
He put his silversmithing skills to work for several notable commissions including three seven-foot tall processional crosses: one for St. Margaret’s Church in Factoria Anne, one for Glendale Lutheran Church in Burien, and one for St. Mark’s in Medford, OR. Noted collector Seymour Rabinovitch commissioned Roger to make a gift for his grandson’s bar mitzvah based on a drawing produced by his grandson. The result was a fish slice with a merman as the handle, a stone set on the inside curl of the tail, and a sea serpent wrapped around the blade.
If you ask Roger what his favorite tool is, he will say the hammer. “Hammers are probably the first basic extension of our manipulation of the universe. It saves our fist.” Indeed, he has many, many hammers, dozens of which he has made. But hollowware and the lathe are also near and dear to his heart. He understands and appreciates the functional and formal aspect of containers. “I like the idea something really useful can be attractive.” His love affair with the lathe began upon discovering he could produce a compound curve from a flat sheet of metal. “I make silver containers. I’ve made my living various ways throughout my life. I’m retired and it’s what I like to do.”
Roger is humble, warm, and patient; qualities that lend themselves to his role as teacher and mentor. He teaches tool making, basic jewelry metalsmithing and the lathe and at Pratt Fine Arts Center. He teaches because he’s concerned that silversmithing is waning as a craft and he wants to ensure that it continues to thrive for generations to come. But mainly, Roger teaches because he likes people. With a lifetime of experience, knowledge and wisdom, Roger is poised to shape generations of silversmiths to come.
The Seattle metals community is blessed to have him.