From Metalsmith Magazine, Summer, 1990
Richard D. Austin, Treasurer of the Society of North American Goldsmiths, died suddenly of heart failure at the 1990 annual conference in San Francisco. In his 54 years, he accomplished more than three ordinary people might aspire to.
Dick came to metalworking the same way as the majority of SNAG members - not through the direct door of a degree in art and metals but through the circuitous one framed by the love of making beautiful and finely crafted things. He expanded his father's interest in lapidary to include metals. While it is unclear after so many years exactly when he began making jewelry, it is known that one of his first successful pieces was a ring he made for his mother when he was 16.
He received a BS degree in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1959, and then spent four years in the Air Force as a nuclear research officer with the 165th Technical Operations Squadron. In the years following, Dick worked with General Electric, The Ansul Company and A.O. Smith, primarily in new product development and management. This was followed by period of time working for Latham, Tyler & Jensen, a design consulting firm, which ultimately led to his becoming a principal partner in the Delta Planning Group, a firm specializing in industrial marketing research.
He worked closely with Kerr Manufacturing as a consultant, helping to develop many of their investment materials and modeling equipment and materials we all use today. He also gave frequent seminars on model making and investment casting procedures around the country.
In 1988 he sold his partnership and turned his efforts to the full time creation of jewelry. It was his plan to leave Chicago within the year and set up a studio in Glen Arbor, Michigan.
Dick was also an excellent and prolific writer. In 1977, he co-authored How to Destin Jewelry with Iva Geisinger. In 1978, he wrote Model Making for Investment Casting, a book that still sells several thousand copies a year. Dick is also credited with 84 technical articles for Gems and Mineral alone! He had served as technical editor of Metalsmith for the past several years.
Most of us, however, knew Dick from his involvement in SNAG since the early 1980s. Using his product development and marketing skills, he designed the first and only Metalsmith readership survey in 1985. The results of that survey told us much about ourselves as an organization, which was previously only a matter of speculation. He was elected treasurer in 1986 and began a long and difficult task of getting SNAG solidly into the financial black and operating with sound business procedures. He often fought hard for good business sense and reasonability during board meetings, but always while wearing his consultant cap and smiling expectantly. His work behind the scenes often went unnoticed, but that work made much of the difference in where SNAG is today financially. His annual presentations at the conference business meetings were a model of himself-clear, direct, good graphics and with a twinkle in his voice. His great sense of humor would often salvage any embarrassing lull in a meeting or conversation. He gave of himself untiringly and without complaint; he believed deeply in SNAG and its purpose.
He died among his friends, doing what he liked doing best. He will be dearly missed.
All images and text Copyright Dale Austin, 1962-2008