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BIOGRAPHY:



portrait of Thomas

Richard Thomas



Thomas spent his formative years on a farm. He later went on to earn his Bachelor's Degree in Art Education at, what is now, Indiana University of Pennsylvania. After graduation he worked as a truck dispatcher in Washington D.C. He then went to Conoit, Ohio and worked as Supervisor of Art Education for five public schools. He also coached wrestling and football. Thomas was enlisted in the army and served as an Army Cavalryman for four and one half years. When he was released from service, Thomas continued his education with the help of the GI Bill. He went to Cranbrook Academy of art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Thomas took an interest in the metals shop at Cranbrook. He kept the shop open on an informal basis. After graduation he was offered a position to keep the shop open on a full-time basis and develop the graduate program in metals. In 1948 he taught his first group of graduate students. Thomas acquired as much technical information he could on his own. He is essentially self taught in metalsmithing, but read what he could find on the subject. He believes his background on the farm gives him a mechanical advantage that he applies to metalsmithing. Thomas experimented to achieve a mechanical advantage over metal. Thomas even made his own hammers and stakes. Through his experiments and experience with metal, Thomas solved some problems with firescale on sterling silver. He developed Prip's Flux that aids in the prevention of firescale.

Thomas created liturgical metalwork. Through the forties, fifties and sixties he observed a resurgence of religion. People were building new churches and commissioned craftspeople to make liturgical pieces. Thomas found it necessary to conduct research on religion so he would know what people would want and need. He would also know how the objects would be used. Thomas later became a consultant for several churches and architects. His liturgical wares tapered off in the early 1970's.

Thomas's work may be seen in churches across the country. He also created ceremonial pieces, such as the Cranbrook mace and punch bowl. He was asked to speak at liturgical conferences and served as a consultant on liturgical design for a Detroit area architectural firm. Many of Thomas's students are widely recognized as leaders in the metalsmithing field. Many of those individuals also hold teaching positions around the country. Thomas, at times, served as Interim Head of the Design Department, Dean of Students, Registrar and as Administrative Assistant to the President and Vice President of Academic Affairs for Cranbrook Academy of Art. He also wrote two books on metalsmithing: Metalsmithing for the Artist/Craftsman and Metalraising - A course of Study.

Thomas passed away in late the fall of 1988. Cranbrook Academy of Art paid tribute to Thomas by establishing a scholarship fund in his name.