Organized by the Museum voor Vlakglas-en Emaillekunst, Ravenstein, Holland
Colour is an important factor in the effect of a piece of jewelry. During thousands of years, precious stones have been used to add colour. Especially in the Jugendstil Period enamels were often used. In our time, however, it seems that there is little interest in enameled jewelry. One scarcely ever sees them in jewelers shop windows. Enameling is no longer taught at Academies… In galleries? I have never seen enameled jewelry there… So in my opinion the time had come to make a contemporary statement in enamel… Enamel will remain beautiful over the years. In 30, or maybe even in 300 years, it will be as beautiful as it is today, the colour will not fade, the surface will not show scratches, but plastic jewelry won’t have survived that long. Nowadays there is a trend to remove plastic from our immediate environment and many people do not want to wear it in the form of jewelry any longer.
On top of that, there is the advantage in enamels that they may cover the entire surface of our jewelry and give expression to its shape, but the gold- or silversmith may also choose to cover one or more patches with this colorful medium, or use it in patterns… in each and every style.
Victoria van den Bergh
Enameling is still looked down upon, here in the Netherlands, by Art Galleries or Museums. Many years have passed since Art Academies and Vocational Training centers closed down their special enameling departments. With the constantly decreasing possibilities to learn how to enamel, many artists began to loose interest as well.
Yet there were always at least SOME artists who persevered in trying to lift the art of enameling and to put this wonderful art in the spotlights again. About 25 years ago a small group of enamelers came together, organized their first exhibition, and set up a Society of Dutch Enamelers. Now, slowly, interest is returning. Workshops and private tuition have taken the place of the Art Academies, and enamelers teach one another, thus learning from each other and creating a quiet story of success. Still, when Victoria van den Bergh, a Dutch teacher at the Vocational ‘Vakschool’ for silversmiths and an enameler herself, came up with the idea of organizing an exhibition of enameled jewelry, few people will have thought that this exhibition would come off the ground. It was the Curator of the small Museum at Ravenstein. Jan Klink, who took up the challenge and who made this exhibition possible.
In October 2007, the Museum voor Vlakglas en Emaillekunst (established in 2005) opened its doors for an international exhibition housing the works of 42 exhibitors, who – together- showed about 200 pieces of jewelry, ranging from traditional works in various techniques to trendy necklaces and fashionable contemporary works. This was Enamel Galore… pure enjoyment to walk along the show cases.
Naturally, some pieces were more attractive than others, but it is fortunate that people have different tastes and when you read this review, please realize that if you, too, had work on show here but are not mentioned in the text, it does not mean that your work was not good enough, It merely depends on my personal preferences. Many other people might have chosen other works to show or discuss.
The main pleasure of this show was the constant shock of seeing yet another style, another rendering of feelings, so many variations in techniques, so much devotion to and love of the materials.
I’d like to illustrate this remark by a few words about the variations in necklaces of which there were many on show. Vladimir Malkin, born in Russia but living in the USA, showed beautiful necklaces and earrings, which combine graceful designs in silver with stunning enamels on copper, Edmund Massow (Germany) shows his skills through enameled beads and hollow forms. And even in the two necklaces he sent in there is an enormous difference. One shows a combination of round cloisonné beads and other silver shapes, enameled in various colors, the other consists of shapes in black, matted cloisonné.
Continuing my rounds amongst the glass show cases, I come to Barbara Baumrukova’s necklace with its pendant made of enameled steel. This is an impressive example of how ‘less can become more’: her necklace looks very simple, yet it shows an infinite beauty which is almost breathtaking. Ralph Bakker’s necklace ‘Florale’ in matted gold, silver and blue enamel is its opposite as in this case ‘more is beautiful’: this necklace looks very intricate and I stood wondering how it was constructed, at the same time admiring its form, colour and design. And then, still thinking about the necklaces I had seen and admired, I stood before a showcase with the work of Ruud Caluwe and I found myself smiling at a beautiful, very humorous, cloisonné pendant which simply radiated the pleasure with which it had been made.
But there was still more to admire: Leen Loffeld showed silver necklaces and pendants made in the traditional email fenêtre technique which is – as we all know one – one of the most difficult techniques to master, while Yolanda Nieuwboer’s round cloisonné pendants in which enamels are combined with amethysts and other colorful stones were one of the highlights of this show.
Naturally, jewelry also comprises brooches, ear rings, bracelets… and these, too, were present in abundance. One of the highlights amongst the brooches is a small group of brooches by Glenice Lesley Matthews. These at first made me wonder how on earth she had managed to put granulated silver and enamel on polished stones. As I stood wondering, I suddenly realized that these were not stones but formed shapes in which oxides, granulation and enamel fought for attention.
How very different these fine shapes were from the exuberant, exiting works by Rita Franze. Rita’s jewelry is inspiring and it made me think of old story tellers travelling through the forests from settlement to settlement to tell their tales. The special copper bracelets, made by Anna Taverne, enameled inside as well outside, were, for me, equally inspiring.
Two brooches made by Tabea Reulecke in which she combined images of animals, are impressive contemporary statements. In this time in which we are all worried about our environment and in which many animal species are under threat of extinction, these perfectly enameled images show us the polar bear, perhaps dreaming of former times, and two kissing elephants which stole our hearts. The use of blue craquelé enamel in the background of the two elephants increase the intensity of the tender image.
Finally I wish to ask the readers’ attention for the works by Jan Matthesius and Pauline Barendse who enamel on titanium. They worked together in developing the enameling technique on this material which is not often used for enameling. at least not here in the Netherlands. The designs are contemporary and crisp and show excellent craftsmanship. This work seems to me to be trend-setting. (Other enamelers who are interested in enameling on titanium, may consult the Thompson Enamel Workbook, under ‘Metals suitable for enameling’, page 15. )