THE MAN BEHIND THE RING: MAKER & SMITH'S BRETT FOX
Each year, the Luck Reunion leaves participating performers with a commemorative ring – a token of our appreciation for joining us on our rogue musical pilgrimage – bearing what has become the official “Luck Family” crest. The thrill of seeing artists we love wearing our ring far outside of Luck, on stage or in a coffee shop, will never fade. With the Reunion around the corner there is no better time to share some background on the tradition, and the artist behind it.
It wasn't long before our 2016 Reunion that we decided to bringing this Family Ring idea to life. We needed to act fast but, more importantly, knew we had to be as discerning as our style-savvy artists would be when selecting the perfect accessory. So we tapped the incredible Brett Fox of Maker And Smith, who miraculously agreed to create our signature ring. Below, Fox takes us inside his process, inspiration, and the road to Luck.
Luck: Where did this all start for you? Were you always interested in this craft?
Fox: Well, ring making started later in life for me. I've always been into art. Didn't like to study as a school kid but loved drawing, painting, and sculpture. So I got through high school turning in drawings for homework. Teachers never really understood why I did poorly on tests. I attended the Heron School of Art in Indianapolis for 2 years before I dropped out and started working as a carpenter. My father and grandfather were both carpenters and I'd worked alongside them at a very early age. I always admired my grandfather's Masonic ring. I can still see it - worn edges, thinning band, repaired compass. It had been through a lifetime of driving nails, holding my grandmother's hand at lunch...it was powerful. I never studied jewelry making, but had worked at a small art bronze facility as a second job in the early 90's as I wanted to start casting some figure sculptures. I also got into shaping sheet metal and welding...so, in a way, I was gathering skill sets that would apply to ring making later.
I wanted a Keith Richards skull ring, and didn't know where to buy one; so I got a piece of wax from my sister-in-law, found a drill bit that was my ring size, and carved my first skull ring with carpenter tools.
Luck: Your designs have a distinctive style, and a lot of your work seems to draw on American iconography. Did you start with a specific vision or theme in mind? What are the biggest inspirations behind the brand?
Fox: I always have more ideas than I have time to execute. The early rings I carved were rings I wanted to wear myself. All of my rings are handcrafted, and there is an energy that goes into each one: carving, casting, finishing. I want the wearer to know that I care about what I am doing and that it is made by hand. I am proud of those tool marks. The rings should have character, something that will look better worn over time.
Most of my rings start with a quick sketch. However, some rings I just start carving and they reveal themselves along the way.
Music is the biggest inspiration behind the brand, along with making my family proud. I want my kids to see that you can put food on the table with something your passionate about. You have to work for it.
Luck: Maker And Smith is a favorite among musicians in the Americana world and beyond. How did you get involved in the music scene? Do you remember the first artist who caught on to your brand?
Fox: Music has always been a big part of my life: from hearing my dad sing Buddy Holly in the shower as a kid, to listening to the 8-track in my mom's Mustang (I'm dating myself). I went to bed listening to the radio. I drew listening to vinyl. In high school, my friends and I would head up to Market Square Arena and catch as many live performances as we could. All my after school work money went to buying vinyl and concert tickets.
Nikki Lane was the first to have me make merch for her brand, and is probably the reason I am making Luck Rings. Jenny Lewis had me make her band a LOVE's WAY ring - that was pretty cool. Tim Showalter from Strand of Oaks, Israel Nash, Hugh Masterson and Clint Culberson of MODOC have all had an impact on my brand. It's a thrill for me to have anyone understand my style and dig it enough to rock it.
Five minutes into Americana Fest in Nashville at the American Legion, you'll see an artist with a Luck ring on. That's the reward: artists digging artists.
Luck: When we started discussing a Luck Family ring, did you have a vision in mind off the bat? What about the Luck brand inspired the look and feel of the design?
Fox: Well, there wasn't a lot of time...haha. Matt Bizer had told me what you all were thinking about doing for the artists playing Luck 2016. I believe his exact words where “how CRAZY would it be if we had you make a bunch of rings for our artists at this year's Reunion?”. I sent a few rounds of sketches over and we finalized the design on the 24th of February - the event was on March 15th. I really liked the Luck logo and thought “well, if you're in Texas at Willie's ranch, you ARE a star.” So I added a star above the type. Yeah...it was crazy fun, and I am blessed.
Luck: Lukas Nelson is famously missing his ring (Luke, man, we need your ring size!). So once you get that one out of the way...who is the #1 artist you would love to wear your designs? Any bucket list customers?
Fox: Man, Luck has given me the opportunity to make rings for some beautifully talented people already. I am truly honored to have anyone wear a ring of mine and have made rings for some very talented musicians that I'm into. That's the best feeling, when an artist you really like really likes your work.
Bucket List: well, a special LUCK Godfather ring for Willie would be at the top of the list.
I just want to make cool rings for cool people - they all count for me.
But if Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Ryan Adams, Nathaniel Rateliff, or Dave Grohl wanted a ring by me... that would be crazy cool.
Luck: What's next for Maker And Smith? Any special projects or collaborations coming up?
Fox: I have a really cool collaboration at Luck this year with two other makers that I am really stoked about. They are crazy talented makers. Not sure I can reveal anything about that yet...
Beyond that, I would like to collaborate with more artists - add some Maker and Smith merchandise into their pre-sale game. I stay pretty busy with custom work and our website orders...growing the band.
Now, fans can have their own "Luck Square Ring", designed and handmade by Fox exclusively for the Luck Reunion. Maker And Smith has announced the Luck pre-sale, so head to www.makerandsmith.com/luck-reunion-1 for a chance to get yours. Those who order before Friday, March 2 will be able to pick up their ring at Luck Reunion on March 15.