ROACH 2


a   l o v e   s t o r y

by  Marbeth Schon

"In 1959, I was going to the University of Northern Iowa and working part time in a little jewelry store on College Hill.  One day a book came in the store mail.  It was Jewelry Making for Schools, Tradesmen and Craftsmen by Murray Bovin.  The jewelry I liked best in it was by Ruth Roach and to my surprise, she lived in the little town of Plainfield, Iowa, not far away.  I knew I had to meet her and see her work.  At that time I belonged to the Sports Car Club of America and had a little white Porsche.  I found out that Ruth's son Bill was also a member so I made sure I met him at a meeting and got invited home with him.  What an evening of great jewelry and conversation!  We talked with Bill's parents for hours. We went out every single night until we got married three months later. I was married to Bill until his death in 1996."

Patsy Roach, conversation, March, 2002

 


The story of Roach 2 is a love story. Not only about the indivisible personal relationship of two people who managed to defeat the odds by making their living as studio jewelers while raising two children and "eating blueberries and living off the land" (as Patsy put it), but about a sincere, lifelong dedication to designing and creating unique, superbly handcrafted jewelry which began with the legacy left by Bill's mother, Ruth Roach.

Patsy was born Patricia Ann Shuster in Waterloo Iowa. She began making jewelry in 1959 after her marriage to Bill Roach and was guided by her mother-in-law Ruth Roach and her friend Christian Schmidt.


"Cross Section of an Orange"
sterling silver

 

 In 1961, Patsy exhibited alongside her mother-in-law at the 13th Annual Iowa Artists Exhibition at the Des Moines Art Center in Des Moines, Iowa. She entered two pieces, one a handsome hinged bangle bracelet and the other an intricate handmade sterling silver necklace titled "Cross Section of an Orange."  

The bangle bracelet sold, but  "Cross Section of an Orange." was not for sale. Patsy was very pleased with her sale and Ruth very proud of her daughter-in-law, though she did mention that at the price of $10.00 the sale was not surprising!


Bill Roach was born William F. Roach in Waverly, Iowa. In the early days of Bill and Patsy's marriage, Bill worked with his brothers in his father's grain elevator business, but there were some difficulties at that time and Patsy and Bill decided it was time to start a life of their own.  They wanted to make their living making jewelry. 

I asked Patsy if Ruth was encouraging to them,  "Not really.  She told us outright that we could never make a living that way. She cared about us and thought it was too hard.  Ruth could do it because she didn't have to worry about selling things.  She never had to make a living with her jewelry sales so was free to experiment."

Bill, Patsy, and son Clayton at Brower Inn,
 Itasca State Park

 

 


In 1974 and 1975, Bill and Patsy were living in Minnesota and were the artists in residence at Itasca State Park at a place called  Brower Inn.  There were only enough funds for one honorarium so they got both Bill and Patsy for the price of one, but Patsy remembers it as a very enjoyable experience.

 

Also in 1974, Bill entered the Minnesota state fair jewelry competition and won first place with a spectacular handcrafted sterling pendant called "The Jockey."  The button in the center was from an early chewing gum package.  

"The Jockey"
pendant, sterling silver

Pendant
sterling silver

Bill and Patsy purchased a resort on a lake in Northern Minnesota near Akeley.  It was called Crow Wing Crest Resort and gallery.  Besides continuing to create jewelry, they managed to offer guests a full range of activities including outdoor barbeques, sing-a-longs by the campfire together with wiener roasting, pot-luck dinners, bingo, and games for children. 

Part of the charm of Roach 2 designs from this period is their spontaneity.   Living in the north woods, Bill and Patsy were set apart from other jewelers working at the time.  They freely created fresh unique designs taking, perhaps, more influence from their natural surroundings than from outside influences.

 


Barrette
sterling silver, 14k yellow gold, garnet


In 1971 Bill and Patsy sold their resort and built a home at Lake George, Minnesota. The location was closer to school for their two boys, Clayton and Christopher. They built a studio back of the house and devoted themselves to making jewelry full time.  In the early part of their career, Bill would make something and Patsy would make something and together they made some, but their later pieces were all collaboration. Team work was the secret of their success. Both had jobs.  Patsy made the mountings, sawed out all the pieces, and mounted the stones. Bill did the soldering and polishing. Both were very good at their particular tasks and that way neither had to do it all. 

Bill working on a piece titled "Circles and Stones" at the studio in Lake George

Pendant
14k gold, turquoise, tourmaline

They worked exclusively in sterling and 14 karat gold.  They purchased gems all over the world--wherever they went they looked for stones to use in their designs.

They did a series of striking men's pins, each made to be worn in place of a bow tie.

Tie pin
14k gold, chrysoprase, opal

Tie pin
14k yellow gold, antique cameo, carved coral and Carico Lake turquoise


Bill and Patsy also worked with diamonds and other precious stones. Some of these pieces were commissioned and some given to special friends.


Bill, who had been fascinated with airplanes since childhood, became a pilot and, together with Patsy, he flew a plane around the country. This was also a team effort because, though Patsy was not a licensed pilot, she took enough flying lessons to safely take over the plane in case of an emergency.

"Flight," brooch
sterling silver, 14k gold, boulder opal, diamond

 

Cuff
14k gold, lapis, diamonds


Bill and Patsy were not only creating jewelry, but also continually participating in shows all over the United States from which they received numerous Best of Show awards, Awards of Distinction, and Purchase Awards.  Their work was placed in the permanent collections of the Mitchell museum in Illinois, and the MacNider Museum in Mason City Iowa.  Their jewelry was also chosen to be in the National Bank of Waterloo's Artists of Iowa collection.

The cuff bracelet directly to the right is the one purchased by the Mitchell museum.  The overlapping layers of curved sterling silver were inspired by the view of the Iowa landscape from the air.

"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", double cuff
sterling silver, 14k gold, tourmalines

"Flying Cuff "  (purchased by the Mitchell museum)
sterling silver



Brooch
sterling silver and tiger's eye 

 

In 1982 Bill and Patsy opened a gallery in Park Rapids, Minnesota so they wouldn't have to be traveling constantly while their boys were growing up. They carried their own jewelry as well as contemporary art, pottery, and glass.  Patsy was able to bring nationally known artists and artisans from all parts of the country to exhibit at the gallery.




Patsy with her favorite customers 
at the gallery in Park Rapids, Minnesota

Cuff
Antique cameo, textured sterling silver 

Bill's grandfather had many interesting tools which Bill inherited. The fascinating textures, signature to Roach 2 jewelry, were made using those tools.

Cuff
opal, sterling silver

Earrings
textured sterling silver

In 1987 Roach 2 jewelry was a medal winner at Metro-Art USA, a major art exhibition in Los Angeles, California and was also featured in two publications, The Northwestern Jeweler, and The Goldsmith.

In 1990, Bill and Patsy were honored with  Purchase and Merit Awards at the Leesburg Fine Art and Craft Festival, Leesburg, Florida, First Place for Jewelry at the 23rd Annual Art In the Park, Jacksonville, Illinois, and Best of Show at the Summer Arts Festival Art Market, Charles H. MacNider Museum, Mason City, Iowa.

From 1991-1995, Roach 2 jewelry was winning Awards of Merit or Best of Show in almost every exhibit in which it was entered from Florida, to Iowa, to Indiana to Illinois.


 Satoir
sterling and 42 different gem stones
 each section has a gem on either side

.

In 1996 Bill and Patsy won Best of Show at the Cedarhurst Craft Fair, Mitchell Museum, Mt. Vernon, Illinois with a stunning satoir or long necklace with forty-two different gems.

Cuff 
sterling silver, 14k yellow gold, moss agate, cultured pearl, iolite

 

Cuff 
sterling silver, 14k yellow gold, opal


The circle became a beautiful, ubiquitous theme in Roach 2 jewelry. This theme, and  variations of it, was used in the design of a great number of their pieces in many different and appealing ways.

Wedding bands
14k gold with black oxidation

Brooch
sterling silver, amethyst, rutilated quartz

Ring
14k gold with black oxidation

Wedding bands
14k yellow gold with black oxidation.

Ring
14k yellow gold, moonstone

On October 12, 1996, Bill died suddenly of a heart attack.  Though Patsy was devastated, and the partnership that had been Roach 2 ,since 1959, ended, the legacy left by their love story continues to live on through the remarkable jewelry they created together.


Slide pendants
sterling silver, pearl, apatite, jade, moonstone

"The concept of these is that they are called slides and you can wear them either end up and they are very tactile.  They are an object to be caressed and they are better the more they are worn and you never clean them.  They are signed on the inside. We started making these when Bill died. I didn't do anything with the jewelry for many years because every time I took something out I started crying. If I a am still inclined I would finish the one that's half done."

Patsy Roach, conversation, March, 2002


Patsy continued to show Roach 2 jewelry in 1997 and 1998.  She has multiple sclerosis, but though it has affected her body, her spirit and wit are as bright as ever.

"I think the fact that I have a chronic illness has a great influence on everything I do.  It forces me to constantly change how I make jewelry as suddenly the familiar methods suddenly no longer work for me.  I have to constantly think up new ways to do things or change direction.  I hope I don't sound like a whiner because that isn't my intention.  I don't mind people knowing that I have MS.  It is just a fact of my life. I feel very lucky that I can still see well enough to devour a lot of books every year and glad I can still do my own shopping and cook.  A lot of people with MS aren't so fortunate.  I am one very lucky person."

Patsy Roach, email, Dec. 2002 

_______________________________________________________
email Patsy at patsyau@yahoo.com

__________________________________________
Marbeth Schon is the owner of M. Schon Modern at www.mschon.com
 
  She is Co-moderator of SilverForum
 
and Coeditor of MODERN SILVER magazine
 email: mschonmodern@gmail.com

__________________________________________

article by Marbeth Schon
photographs by Marbeth Schon and courtesy of Patricia Roach,
Web design by Marbeth Schon
 Copyright 2002 Modern Silver Magazine

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