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Brian Mikeska · 7 ·750

Brian Mikeska · 7 · 750

Artwork of Brian Mikeska


” Whatever you are by nature, keep to it; never desert your line of talent. Be what nature intended you for and you will succeed. “

– Sydney Smith

Brian Mikeska says that he cannot recall a time when did not want to draw and make things. From his earliest years he possessed a sense of visual sophistication and what he calls “good hands.” Fortunately, his parents recognized his talent and encouraged him to cultivate it. By the age of five he was taking drawing and painting lessons from a neighbor who was a retired art school instructor. Outstanding art teachers in the schools of Longview, Texas further inspired his interest and helped him develop his skills.

After completing his Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in drawing at The University of Texas at Austin, Mikeska began the graduate program in three-dimensional design. He soon realized that his professional options were narrowing to teaching or the application of his talent in commercial enterprise. In 1971, with a investment and a lease for a walk-up location only a few blocks from the university, he opened Ollie Trout, a jewelry design and manufacturing studio.

The Austin of the early seventies was a much smaller and more casual place. It had a population of about 250,000 – less than a third of todays. The “youth culture” of the sixties was much in evidence, not surprising in a town that annually hosted more than 35,000 college students. Armadillo World Headquarters had recently opened its doors, showcasing musicians from Willie Nelson to Frank Zappa to Count Basie. It was a city more interested in music and politics – both electoral and academic – than business and society. It was also notably hospitable young to people with fresh ideas and obvious promise.

Mikeska had always been able to sell his work without much effort and he did well with his new venture from the beginning. He has observed that throughout his life, “Things seemed to happen when I was ready.” But he still recalls how thrilled he was the first month they grossed . Forty years later, Ollie Trout, is still thriving in its third location.


” My hand is the extension of the thinking process – the creative process. “

– Tadao Ando

Over the years, Mikeska has designed everything from simple wedding bands to elaborate pieces representing displays of highly individualized style. In every case, the client enjoys the same personal service and attention of the artist. At a first appointment, the client conveys a description of his or her ideas and reviews earlier work by Mikeska. During this first consultation or afterward, Mikeska sketches out his ideas, gets the client’s reactions, makes revisions as necessary and proceeds. Depending on the complexity of the project, models may be developed.

Once actual production begins, the tools and techniques that Mikeska uses are virtually the same as those used by artisans for hundreds of years. An electrical motor may augment a few pieces of equipment, but the process and most of the hand tools remain unchanged. As a goldsmith, for instance, he still uses a drawplate to make his own wire and a rolling mill to make sheet metal. The craft includes: designing, wax carving, forging, casting, fabricating, soldering, polishing, and setting. Mikeska says that after he opened Ollie Trout, it took about ten years to be able to do whatever he wanted to do.

Mikeska has been always eager to learn from craftspeople whose skills he admires – such as an elderly craftsman who taught him advanced techniques for setting stones. The older man was trained in the European tradition that compartmentalized every aspect of jewelry making. He and Mikeska would sit at adjacent workbenches as the younger man absorbed his older friend’s decades of experience.

And, Mikeska tries to help bring younger artist along. Every year, he funds the Ollie Trout Scholarships at The University of Texas at Austin. These scholarships provide silver and other materials for the awarded students.


” The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work. “

– Emile Zola

The pieces displayed on the following pages represent the talent and technique Brian Mikeska has developed over the last forty years. He has enjoyed the patronage of many longtime clients – including former Governor Ann W. Richards who wore a ring created by Mikeska in her official portrait and former First Lady Laura Bush who work a necklace created by Mikeska at her husband’s first presidential inaugural. Several of his clients have graciously agreed to have the pieces Mikeska made for them photographed for this retrospective. We are grateful for their cooperation and their support of a truly gifted artist.

And, Mikeska tries to help bring younger artist along. Every year, he funds the Ollie Trout Scholarships at The University of Texas at Austin. These scholarships provide silver and other materials for the awarded students.

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