Michael Schwade was born in 1942 in Boston, Massachusetts. As a child, he drew, painted, and made model airplanes. As a teenager, he explored his fascination with the universe through a telescope, a microscope, and the chemistry lab. When Schwade learned that these fields involved mathematics, he became less interested in science but continued to express himself by exploring the arts.
In the early 1960s, Schwade studied art at Boston University's Liberal Arts College and the Vesper George School of Art. He spent a lot of time experimenting with various media in two- and three-dimensional forms – drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture – before settling on jewelry design as a form of sculpture. Primarily self-taught, Schwade has studied with Cuban sculptor Ernesto Gonzales in Key West and New York sculptor Hank Kaminsky. Others who have influenced Schwade include Alexander Calder, Karl Tasha, and Wolfgang Richter. He continues to evolve as an artist, always developing new designs in jewelry and sculpture.
I utilize an oxyacetylene torch to weld bronze alloys, and brass to sheet copper shapes in a thin but textured layer. Copper strips are formed around glass cabochons to make bezel settings. Often, contrasting metal wire forms and balls are fused with or embedded into the thin bronze or nickel silver layer. Pieces are finished by hand buffing to a bright, satin luster. Chemicals or heat are often used to patinate the surface, and raised surfaces are selectively polished to show the contrast between these areas. Finally, all pieces are signed by myself and lacquered with three coats to preserve the finish.
I have always admired the jewelry of ancient civilizations. The ornaments of Egyptian, pre-Columbian, African, and Celtic cultures have an almost magical power that taps into the archetypal energy underlying the mythical consciousness of modern humanity. My goal is to design jewelry that has the look and feel of ancient artifacts. I try to create pieces that add a touch of drama to a contemporary ensemble, bringing out the inner Cleopatra in every woman.