Photograph courtesy of the artist.
|O'Conner participated in creative activities in grade school and in high school,
including metals. He worked with clay, copper etching, aluminum, wood and other materials.
He was first introduced to metals by his mother. She was an artist most of her life.
O'Conner's father was a creative person as well; he did some woodworking, although he was
a medical doctor by occupation. O'Conner did not go directly into art school after high
school. At the time he had no support or encouragement to do so. He did, however, return
to art later in his life. It was during his final year at the University of New Mexico
when he took jewelry classes. That was it for O'Conner
he dropped his other classes
and majored in metals. However, O'Conner does hold a degree in Anthropology from the
University of New Mexico that he believes has influenced the way he approaches his work
throughout the years.
O'Conner is thankful for Professor Gardberg or the National Arts and Crafts School in
Helsinki, Finland for getting him to the right school for training as a goldsmith. While
under Professor Gardberg's tutelage, it was suggested that O'Conner study at the Kunst and
Werkschule in Pforzheim, Germany. O'Conner believes he would not have accomplished the
things he did if he was not directed to study abroad. O'Conner's first teacher at the
University of New Mexico was a guiding force for him and gave him a freedom to work
independently. Professor Reinhold Reiling of the Kunst and Werkschule in Pforzheim was his
instructor in goldsmithing and provided O'Conner a concrete base for his metalworking
skills. Professor Charles Lewton-Brain influenced O'Conner's use of certain techniques
such as double gold and form folding. O'Conner relates very strongly to the concepts of
design and use of traditional goldsmithing methods used in contemporary designs of
Professor Herman Junger of Pforzheim, Germany. Another mentor of O'Conner's has been
Professor Anton Cepka of the Republic of Slovakis for his approach to design and
meticulous working methods and his humbleness as a human being.
O'Conner's studies of the human sciences of psychology, sociology and philosophy gave him
a basic understanding of people and society. Studying anthropology provided him with a
worldly outlook and an interest in other cultures, countries and geographical locations.
He does not think his metalwork would be what it is today if he did not have the training
in anthropology. O'Conner also values his experiences in Europe. While studying in Europe
he learned discipline, respect for the history of craft and exposed him to a variety of
designs and work of ancient metalwork in museums.
Regarding his work O'Conner says,
"Each of my series of works consists usually of new designs and also some
technical processes I have not done. I usually design the series first and then find out
how to make it. I am interested in making small things and the methods of goldsmithing
have been of great appeal to me. I intend to study different methods of construction and
to hopefully evolve them more efficiently in my daily working."
As an educator O'Conner sees his role being to teach people advanced metalworking
techniques, efficient methods of working and respect for the history of craft. He feels
most fortunate to do what he does.
"The field has been very good to me and I enjoy passing my knowledge along to
younger smiths along the way."
During his career as a goldsmith, O'Conner authored numerous books on jewelry and
metalsmithing. These books include New Direction in Goldsmithing (1975), Procedures
and Formulas for Metal Craftsmen (1976), The Jewelers Bench Reference (1977), Creative
Jewelry Techniques (1978) and The Flexible Shaft Machine (1983).