Jeweler-turned-artist happens upon Idyllwild

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Artist Jerry Baccaire was one of the 22 artists participating in the Deer Sightings Project sponsored by AAI. “Bella” is on display at La Casita Restaurant at 54650 N. Circle Drive.     Photo Courtesy of Jerry Baccaire

Artist Jerry Baccaire was one of the 22 artists participating in the Deer Sightings Project sponsored by AAI. “Bella” is on display at La Casita Restaurant at 54650 N. Circle Drive. Photo Courtesy of Jerry Baccaire

Had things happened a bit differently in Jerry Baccaire’s life, he may have been “Father” Baccaire or “Brother” Baccaire. Raised in the Federal Hill section of Providence, Rhode Island in an Italian neighborhood, Baccaire attended Catholic school for most of his young life. “They tried to get me into the priesthood and all of that, and I went down that road for a short bit. I looked into being a Franciscan brother,” Baccaire said.

Artist Jerry Baccaire loves Idyllwild because of “the sense of spirit, the people, the warmth I get from everyone; just being here.” Baccaire plans to spend the month of August enjoying Idyllwild and creating art. Photo courtesy Jerry Baccaire

Artist Jerry Baccaire loves Idyllwild because of “the sense of spirit, the people, the warmth I get from everyone; just being here.” Baccaire plans to spend the month of August enjoying Idyllwild and creating art.
Photo courtesy Jerry Baccaire

But public high school would change that. “In Catholic school everything was, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that,’ so I blossomed in high school. I went to the drama classes; I went to everything, everything you can think of,” Baccaire said, laughing. “I skipped school; I couldn’t do that in Catholic school. It was fun.”

Baccaire went on to earn a degree in business administration from Johnson and Wales College. An artist deep down inside, Baccaire began creating jewelry as a hobby. “I was designing some jewelry on my own for a hobby during that time to sell, so I did a few pieces and my father said to me, ‘Put a few pieces together and check with places around town’, because Providence was the costume jewelry capital of the world,” Baccaire said. “I put together this little portfolio of the things that I made and I applied to this one position, this was way back in 1980. I got the job just like that, as an assistant jewelry designer. By the time I left that place four years later I was head designer of the company.”

A company transfer to Los Angeles would provide Baccaire with a taste of the California lifestyle and also prove to be a wise career move. After a stint with the 1928 Jewelry Company in Burbank where he was a product engineer, Baccaire landed a job with Hummel, the world-famous figurine manufacturer, in Camarillo as plant operations manager. “[Our plant] did one-tenth of the design of a Hummel … it was all casted in brass, it was amazing and I had all of these Philippino ladies who sat there eight hours a day painting, hand painting each individual piece on that one-tenth casting,” Baccaire said. “Once that was finished, it would have to be shipped to Germany for approval; the nun was still living, Sister Hummel, and she would have to approve each and every one of them.”

After two years with the company, Baccaire was sent to Germany, “The Hummel factory was totally amazing. Everything was so self-contained there. It had its own grocery store, its own gym and its own tennis courts. It was massive; it was attached to the mansion of a German Nazi … I stayed in that mansion and it was kind of eerie,” Baccaire said. In 1999 the Camarillo operation closed and Baccaire returned home to Rhode Island and the home on 5 acres of land he purchased. “I was getting to a point in life where I wanted to be closer to family. Biggest mistake …” he said, laughing.

A two-week vacation in Palm Springs would be the inspiration Baccaire needed to move back to California. “I came to Palm Springs on vacation for two weeks, ended up staying three weeks, on the fourth week I rented an apartment; I went back home and put everything up for sale and moved back [to the desert] and that was the beginning of 2003.”

In Palm Springs, Baccaire worked for the Desert Aids Project, but after a back injury and surgery, he never returned to work. Unable to stay home and “do nothing,” Baccaire got creative. “I started creating these small little hinged boxes,” he said. “I was just painting as a little hobby with six or seven bottles of paint, that’s all. I started giving them out to friends and everyone would say ‘this is fantastic, you should do more; from that point on it grew. Now I have about 200 bottles of paint,” Baccaire said.

During a surfing expedition on the worldwide web, Baccaire found a link to the Art Alliance of Idyllwild and clicked on it. “I joined, and then there was a meeting for … the deer project. After I joined, online it said that they were accepting artist applications for deer sightings, so I sent in some of my artwork and my background to them.” Within about three to six weeks, Baccaire learned he had been selected to paint one of the deer. “I came to the meeting and Shanna [Robb, AAI Deer Sightings project coordinator] was there and she greeted me with open arms and when I saw her, I gave her a hug. I felt like I had known her for so long,” Baccaire said. “She’s really a wonderful, wonderful person … I thank her so much, I really do. Her husband is wonderful, too.” Baccaire’s deer, “Bella,” is located in front of La Casita Restaurant at 54650 North Circle Dr. In addition to “Bella,” Baccaire also won first place in the Eye of the Artist event held in March this year by creating “Topsy, Turvy,” a whimsical Alice in Wonderland-type table.

The Spruce Moose, located in The Fort, sells Baccaire’s artwork that also includes a unique collection of jewelry he calls “Bits and Pieces.” “What I did was I broke dishes, I broke them up into little pieces and I got these brass stampings, animal art and animal figures and I put them all together and I hand painted some of them and put pins on the back,” he explained.

Baccaire will spend the month of August in Idyllwild, partly to escape the desert heat and partly because he is at home here. “The sense of spirit, the people, the warmth I get from everyone; just being here. You know how Sedona has a vortex? That’s how I feel about [Idyllwild]. Before [Idyllwild], I’d always wanted to move to Sedona. As a matter of fact, in my will I want my ashes spread in Sedona and Oak Creek, but I think I’m changing my mind,” he laughs. “Basically, the people are the big part of Idyllwild for me. You are treated so differently here.”

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