Words with Hiram Mesa

Throughout November, the Post Art Library is showing Hiram Mesa’s The Magic Mirror, which is comprised of mixed-media artworks, screen prints, jewelry, and wonderfully cut cabochons. Earlier today, I had the opportunity to ask Hiram some questions about his art.

Jill’s questions/comments are in bold,
whereas Hiram’s are not.

You’re making a name for yourself cutting stones. Could you tell me about what drew you to pursue lapidary work?
I was traveling with some friends through Colorado and New Mexico and we stopped at a rock shop. I noticed a nice piece of turquoise jewelry on display and I thought maybe I could do something like that. So I bought a rough, unfinished stone and I started buying Rock & Gem magazine and set about teaching myself lapidary work. Eventually I joined a gem and mineral club in Joplin and started borrowing some of their equipment and cutting stones. That was about 12 years ago.

Although you do buy some stones, you prefer digging for them. Where have you dug for stones?
Colorado, mostly. I’ve been to Canada, some places in Arkansas, and New Mexico.

What’s it like to dig for stones?
It’s the most amazing thing EVER!!! When you pull something out of the ground and it’s been there forever and no one has ever seen it and the light is shining on it—it’s very, very cool… I’d rather be digging for stones than doing just about anything else.

But tell me about the process. What types of tools do you use?
It’s actually a lot of work. It’s funny, I work harder on my vacations than when I’m working. I use shovels, pry bars, picks, chisels, brushes, things like that.

How do you know where to go?
This is a tricky question. I’ve read a lot of books and field guides so I have a pretty good understanding of how to read the geology. You have to know how to read the rock itself, the geology. There’s a host rock that most of the stones form in, so you have to know how to read the host rock and it will tell you where you need to be digging. But a lot of it is intuition and luck.

Some of your mixed-media art incorporates specular hematite. Could you tell me about specular hematite and why you like to use it?
Specular hematite forms in large masses. I take two of the stones and rub them together over a piece of paper and collect the flakes to use in my art. I love stones, so I feel the need to apply stones to my art. I like specular hematite because I like the way it feels.

You’ve mentioned that you’d rather be digging for stones than anything else. So how do you turn your attention away from that to your other art forms, such as metal work, jewelry fabrication, and mixed media?
The abstract images that I envision are more easily conveyed through paper and paint. Besides, I really enjoy painting.

What are some of your favorite mediums to use in your mixed-media pieces?
Markers, watercolors, fingernail polish, and acrylics.

Aside from the art that you make, what are some of your favorite forms of art and who are some of your favorite artists?
I like photography, poetry, music, watercolor, ceramics, and most all forms of art. In regards to my favorite artists, that’s tough. I like so many art forms and artists that if I answer this question I’ll just be thinking of the most famous and that’s not fair.

Thanks, Hiram, for answering questions about your art. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Thanks, Jill.

Left: “Seascape” by Hiram Mesa
Right: “Waterfalls from the Heavens” by Hiram Mesa

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