This article showcases various exhibitions published in the 1994 Exhibition issue of the Metalsmith Magazine. This features Claire Sanford, Wright Deter, Carolynn Desch and more!
New Bedford, Massachusetts
This body of work builds from simple tapered vessel forms, adding thin birdlike necks and spouts and the gestural movement of the spiral handle. Influences include the animation of human or bird forms and details are drawn from Greco-Roman vases or, more correctly, the memory of these vases. As with earlier pieces, I’m concerned with interpreting an old and fragmented quality in the work through the coloration and pieced-together surface.
My construction method is very direct and is a close translation of the taped, stapled and glued paper models these pieces are from. The choice of thin gauge copper for the vessels allows for a greater spontaneity in the fabrication as well as giving the pieces a delicate shell-like quality.
I see these pieces in pairs or groups rather than singularly so that the gestures or colors of individual vessels can play off of one another emphasizing their animated quality. At the same time, the fact that they are patinated metal gives them a quality of being frozen in time like that of an abandoned shell where, the animal has long since moved on to a new home.
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
There is a grand tradition of functional objects cast in bronze. It is both the beauty of such work-specifically Chinese bronzes and the fascination with the process of casting bronze which inspire me to create in this medium.
I employ the traditional lost wax method to cast my work. However, I construct my prototypes from various materials such as wood and foam rather than model or carve them from wax. This approach allows me a greater flexibility and immediacy of design which I could not achieve with modeling or carving.
Much of the work produced in the contemporary crafts movement today has a precious and fragile quality which eliminates the function both in fact and in the minds of collectors. I strive in my work to combine stability longevity and beauty. I design my work to be viewed and used as much outdoors as indoors.
St. Charles, Illinois
The Garden Project is an installation of seven works. My thoughts, when developing this piece, were centered around issues of family and childhood, loss, aging, and memory. The house, Recourse; garden, Past Time and, river/path, Horizontal Approach are the central works of the installation. The door, As Far As One Knows; stones, Between Past and Present; watering cans, Blackbirds and silver service, Service for Six extend the primary ideas in several directions.
Pod, leaf and petal forms are used as metaphors in my work. Petals and leaves are inconsequentially small; they come and go each season and embody the persistent cycle of life and death. I have taken the natural forms and transformed them materially. Because I made them, they are a tamed nature which address the issues that effect my own interior experience. The forms of the river/path and garden represent the idea of the interior planted in nature. Little losses can grow into a river with a strong current. Struggles with aging can also be associated with a prelapsarian Garden of Eden with no time and no aging.
Ordering speaks to an experience many women share; a need to be fastidious about the details of life, family and home. Fastidiousness equates with mastery; mastery for mastery’s sake. Mastery of the tedious gives women status among themselves. Rather than mastery of the grand and heroic, women master the seemingly inconsequential. The results of this mastery can be astonishing, for example: Renaissance needlework, lace making, and 20th century quilting. Women seem historically responsible for the smallest details of life. However, it is possible for attention to this kind of detail to become obsessive and self absorbed. It can be an escape or a trap. I believe that there is surrender in ones decision to agree to perform the tedious. There is little in the actual work that is gratifying, only the end result. I am familiar with this behavior and see it’s shadow in the ordering and configuration of my work. There is a tolerance for the tedious in the processes I use.
New Bedford, Massachusetts
My objective with this group of work is to begin to develop greater familiarity with representational language. In learning to gauge the associative value of objects within imagery, my approach explores symbolic connections which are both obvious and obscure. In this way I hope to discover expressive affinities between objects which operate through both likely and unlikely logic, and which may provoke a quiet sense of uncertainty or uneasy resolve.
I believe the utilization of imagery engages the mind more fully, especially when inciting the rich realm of the imagination. By employing that which is imagined this implies a conceivable construction, yet one not necessarily plausible or rational. The scenarios which I depict in miniature scale often work through the suggestion of containment, confinement and some manner of symbolic release. While striving to make pieces which are lyrical or even nostalgic in nature. ultimately my efforts toward expression seek some means of reclamation, the sense of that which has been lost, and is now redeemed.
Las Cruces, New Mexico
These carved, painted and gold leafed maple wood forms serve as containers for relics. These reliquaries house elements from the natural world: sand, earth pigments, bone and light.
The visual language is a repetition of geometric shapes, color, and light. Geometry is used as mandala or sacred diagram (a symbolic representation of the essential, ordered structure of the universe.) This geometry is echoed in the shapes of cut and polished gem stones (amethyst, sapphire, garnet, topaz).
The imperfect rawness of the natural world, the cracked, rough, handled surfaces covered with color and gold combine with the perfect light that seems to emanate from cut gems. The earthly reds of garnet and transcendent blues of sapphire and iolite resonate with the golden wood to create an enigmatic vibration that is the beauty of the physical object. The sublimation or conversion of a solid substance by heat (or light) into a vapor that cools and returns to solid form is an appropriate physical analogy for the hovering between the material and the immaterial created by this mandala jewelry.
Hollowware has been my daily practice for about twelve years now. During this time I have made about one hundred fifty vessels, most of which have been one of a kind. Out of this has developed an attitude that is more like that of a potter than that of a metalsmith. Over time the body of work has become much more important than any one piece. This removes some of the difficult creative barriers involved with one of a kind work in precious metals.
The forms I use are generated by a combination of spun and hand work. My strongest artistic references are animal and human gestures. These I employ to give life to the simple geometric forms. I am still amazed by the range of attitudes that can be conveyed by the tilt of a spout or the angle of a handle. Lately, I have become more aware of the lift a piece leads once outside, my hands. Maintainable finishes and durability have become much more important. The ability of the pieces to function was not, at first, my prime objective but as time has passed I’ve accepted more the role of being a silversmith end all that entails. Functionality at times has been an annoying challenge yet at the same time has opened up new avenues particularly in the presentation and display of tea services.
In this current group of bracelet and necklace forms I am exploring the ability of line and pattern to create structure, form, and motion. I am fascinated with how the smallest structures, the crystals of an element, or the cells of an organic object create form through repetition. This work is an expression of my environment, natural and constructed. The perfection of nature and its endless vocabulary of forms is a constant source of inspiration for me.
As a jeweler I work to create forms that are compatible with the wearer in a performance of natural and mechanical synthesis.
Heather M. White
Rosendale, New York
The phrase “wearing many hats” alludes to the notion of attaining our whims or desires. Hats are an integral part of the language of clothing. They indicate the spirit of the wearer, occupations, and group affiliations.
The headpieces created in a recent series are forms that are not commonly worn in this century. They purposely refer to headpieces prior to the 20th century with the intention of leaving an iconic residue.
These hats are symbolic (uni) forms. They are visual metonymies that reveal the ideal persona belonging to each form as recorded in history. The recognizable form of each piece in the series indicates the institution to which it subscribes: the crown to imperial sovereignty, the helmet to defense and warfare, the jester to amusement, the wide brimmed hat to feminine fashion and the top hat to masculine bourgeois attire.
The choice of materials and the craft techniques used rupture the meanings projected by the hat forms. Wide Brimmed Hat is imbued with the most latent quality of all the headpieces. It coexists with a physical image of itself laboriously made by stringing and tying 380 dried roses (or remnants of the past). In addition to the role of the materials, the notion of “women’s work” prevails along with the sweetly stale scent of the roses.
In particular, the hats tamper with the facades, personas, and alter egos people adapt. Anyone may be king for a day (crown) or be clouded with a halo of memories (rose hat). The works function as symbolic “accouterments that assist individuals in presenting their image and expression.”*
Collectively the works are an intersection of beauty, craft, cognition and enchantment. Through the transformation of garments these works spark reevaluations and discoveries within the common conventions of our culture.
*Mary Ellen Roach and Joanne Bubolz Eichter, Dress, Adornment, and the Social Order
There are a number of qualities of jewelry that compel me as a maker. I like the physical trauma, the tools, the hands, the scale, the power that is required, the conflicts that produce these subtle objects made by hands for hands; the strength required to make such intimate, fragile objects.
New Bedford, Massachusetts
This series of jewelry explores ideas, experiences and qualities which include ideas about what guides us and what keeps us plumb; experiences that show the importance of thick skin and invisible strengths; and qualities which are revealed through surface, details and refinement. I use forms that I find significant such as: the compass, the plumb bob, the shield and the cocoon.
An overriding language of protection and interaction is present. Through the use of successive layers, floral screens, windows and fragments there is concealment as well as an invitation to explore. The exploration of the layers and of viewer participation further the intimacy which is vital to the work.
It is important that the pendants are a size relative to the hand and that they feel comfortable when held. All of the pendants hang low on the body, just below the sternum. The physicality of the jewelry moving on the body reminds the wearer of its presence. In turn, this leads the mind to think about the ideas in the piece.
Myra Mimlitsch Gray
New Paltz, New York
My current hollowware examines the social function of traditional tableware and its role as portrait of status. The objects refer in form to packaging and mold-making: I am interested in establishing tension between the hand-made and the industrially produced object. The work has evolved from bisected vessels and flatware in Encasements, in which traditional silver tableware is confined within austere boxes. Once encased, the integral object is denied its image potential. Probing is required to verify the object’s completeness. These enclosed objects shift the aesthetic experience from the visual to the tactile, challenging the visual art hierarchy and questioning the functional aspects of luxury tableware.
When I was a little girl my Czechoslovakian parents and family lived in a basement apartment of a three story walk-up in Chicago. We’d enter the apartment on a rickety wooden bridge between two, dark, brick walls. There was the kitchen where my Mother would bake the bread, make the soup and sew all our clothes. The other room, used for everything else had a small window that was below street level and looked out at the concrete wall a few feet away. I do not remember seeing a tree or a blade of grass. The air hurt my lungs.
Little by little my Dad built a house in the suburbs for us as a surprise. One day he drove us there. I jumped out of the car, I could not believe how beautiful everything was. It was Spring and there was green everywhere, the air smelled so good and fresh. It was the first time that I had heard birds singing. I will never forget how happy I was. My life went from black and white and sad to beautiful and joyous.
When I began this series of pieces Lauren, my daughter, had what appeared to be a potentially serious medical problem. It was all I could think about. She means everything to me. The pieces unconsciously were very dark and many took on the shape of the scar Lauren had that refused to heal. I had often used that shape to represent a boat or a leaf shape, now it took on a whole new meaning. When I got the news that Lauren was fine, my work immediately changed from frightened and dark to bright and joyous. It was just like that day when I was a little girl and my life changed from dark and sad to beautiful and happy.
I have chosen to write about each piece in 4 x 4″ bright yellow, cloth bound books with black lettered titles. The titles of the pieces are the titles of the books. There is one black book with silver letters “Fragile Wings”. This book is about my tears and my sadness.
My work has always been affected by my life and my family. As I mature as an artist I find it gently unfolding the leaves that protect me. It creates that special miniature world I played in when I was a little girl.
La Mesa, California
My work is an arena where I examine personal concerns, commemorating the joyous revelations as well as the painful ones. The reference extends from the personal to draw parallels with the progress of the natural world. Observation of the inevitable change in the natural world makes me feel calmer about what is happening to me. Nature has always been greatly soothing for me, a great reliever of anxieties. It can weave its way through my defenses, purring things in perspective and bringing a degree of contentment and peace.
Patterns of growth and images I observed in nature have become metaphors for what concerns me on a personal level: the fragility of new growth displaying its resiliency and strength, existing beside fragments of nature past their prime, the perception of violence and beauty in the inevitable disintegration; the tenuous structure, the result of age and stress, tenaciously surviving despite the seeming withdrawal of nourishment.
In the last three years the symmetrical format has provided an element of stability for me, an instinctively understood point from which to start my journey. Double walled bowls examine the interaction between two layers, how much is hidden, how much is revealed, the state of suspension/tension between the walls. Recent work, influenced by my trip to Australia, is characterized by a softer, more sensuous form, stronger use of movement, gesture, and color which reflect a more optimistic and peaceful spirit.
Erika Ayala Stefanutti
West Bloomfield, Michigan
I find that my community values mental labor over physical or manual labor. As part of my work, I find it necessary to reflect on the social influences on the ways in which I think about my self and my work, and the ways in which the community interprets my making activities in the studio and in the home. Both art-making work and homemaking work have similar physical-labor-intensive qualities that contribute to their marginalization within the dominant (dualist-based) tradition. Despite this similarity, I find that in art-making, labor and time investment (woman hours) are mythologized, while in home-making, labor is denied, or made to appear invisible. The objects I make, the ways in which I make them, and the ways in which they are presented, have to do with my efforts to negotiate the imposed fragmentation I feel towards my various making activities.
“We say there is no end to any act. The rock thrown in the water is followed by waves of water, and these waves of water make waves in the air, and these waves travel outward infinitely, setting particles in motion, leading to other motion and; motion upon motion endlessly. We say the water has noticed the stone falling and has not forgotten. And in every particle every act lives, and the stars do not frighten us, we say, starlight is familiar to us.”
Susan Griffin, Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her, 1978. New York, Harper & Row.
New Paltz, New York
The saying “Liberty, Harmony and Brotherly Love” expresses one of the ideals on which the United States was founded. We are told that it exists in American life today but it and many other such statements have been misconstrued or are applicable only if you meet certain qualifications. They have become American myths. I aim to challenge the existence or application of these “truths” by subverting the manner in which tin vessels work or function. By re-investing in the historical manufacture of tin objects I am attempting to create in my work the experience of irony and contradiction found in the reality of American life in comparison to its ideals. By critiquing the need these objects fill or did fill and decorating their surface with American “myths and slogans” I hope to transform these objects into another reality or layer a new contemporary meaning onto their already historical relevance.
The tin industry both references our past as well as represents a familiar modern day industry. It has produced everything from cookie cutters and pails to funnels and cake molds. Many of us are familiar with our parents or grandparents old cake molds or automotive funnels as well as colonial lanterns. The combination of historical reference and contemporary familiarity that tinware embodies has led me to focus on it particularly.
Historically the products of local tinsmiths aided directly the actual development of the colonist or pioneer and in turn the physical and intellectual establishment of the U.S.. Without tin lanterns the colonist could not see, without the tin coffee pot the pioneer could not have as easily settled the American frontier. This environment of necessity and directness of function in which American tin forms were developed not only reflected these needs but also the radical political ideas of the American revolution. “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” was one of the many slogans that were circulating at the rime of the Revolution and was carried with the pioneer, in their minds and sometimes on tinware, past the Appalachians.
It is my endeavor to re-contextualize these functions of early American tinware by altering or subverting their function with functions that convey my political agenda. In doing so it is my aim to create a “new reality” or understanding of these forms through an infusion of the ideas and ideals that were integral to their development with issues that are confronting our society today.
My energy and enthusiasm for making art begins outdoors as I travel gathering visual and physical elements of the environment. My observations and the found objects I collect provide a resource of information through which I can investigate ideas relating to my relationship with nature. The use of the found object serves as a metaphor for the cycle of erosion through which all life forms pass, including myself, the cycle of life to death to life.”
I am working with themes relevant to the intimate sphere of jewelry – such as figures from literature which embody archetypal human dynamics, stereotypes, or ideals and collages of ornamental elements symbolic of our modern human queries and presumptions.
In my search for jewelry forms to express these themes I have been exploring unconventional compositions and material combinations. The boxes made for each piece give me the opportunity to determine the presentation of the piece when it is not being worn and to extend the “surface” of the piece. They also make the ritual of storing and wearing the piece more conscious.
After experience in production work and working for traditional goldsmiths, I was interested in trying to create some jewelry disregarding the concerns of the market, but utilizing the qualities of the format that I find intriguing and meaningful — its human scale, its semi-specific site, its sensuality — jewelry’s potential as an object of personal meaning and communication in addition to its “function” as decoration and/or social symbol.
Alan Burton Thompson
North Dartmouth, Massachusetts
My current work deals with sentiment, emotion, and idealism as essential qualities of human experience. My brooches are meant to act as metaphors and reminders of the values and beliefs that sustain hope, strength, and perseverance.
I make brooches to express my ideas because of the potential jewelry has for interaction and intimacy with the viewer. My brooches are objects and people place great power and significance in objects. The materials and found objects I use have a history and meaning that are inherent to and are woven into their origins. I attempt to use this combination of meanings and histories to create a complex dialogue of relationships that are revealing and affirming.
Secret Pointer addresses luck, chance and the importance of remaining strong in the face of adversity.
Millville, New Jersey
All of the pieces that I am currently working on are made of aluminum which has been lathe turned, and then carved with a band saw and flexible shaft. The pieces are finished completely, colored and then assembled.
I have been working with the idea of translating the images of memory and subconscious dream imagery into small functional objects. Function, real or implied is essential to me as it asks for interaction. The scale I choose initiates an intimacy and close inspection. The imagery, I hope, connects with parts of a person’s own memory and emotion. Within the field of anodizing I am interested in the effects of light and its interaction with color, as well as its effects on a form.
Billie Jean Theide
Currently, my energies are directed at designing and fabricating objects and wearables in copper, brass, sterling silver, and aluminum. Conceptually, the work is a conscious response to spiritual and physical journeys and explorations-records of personal thoughts and recollections, autobiographical in nature. The pieces refer to the nature of specific relationships, where ideally aesthetics, concept, and function become one.
The most recent body of work, a series of fabricated teapots, are the result of direct observations of the western and southwestern landscape. The pieces are an autobiographical record or account of numerous visual experiences. My intent is to provoke monumentalism (in spite of scale), timelessness, and mystery. While the reference is specifically to land formations, the forms are also suggestive of fat irons, tugs, and ironclads.
Harriete Estel Berman
San Mateo, California
My recent work is a series titled A Pedestal for a Woman to Stand On. The minimal cube shape is a formal self-imposed restriction representing a formal sculptural approach. A square also represents my home, and the toy houses (similar to those I remember playing with as a child) which I use to fabricate these pieces. These pieces of a “home” are an effort to reconstruct my life. They symbolize both the autobiographical content and the complexity of women’s lives in today’s society.
A square is also the building block of most quilt patterns. These pedestals use traditional quilt patterns to make a visual connection to quilts, historically one of the few creative outlets for women. The name of each quilt pattern is chosen to add content to each pedestal, as well.
Hourglass Figure – the scale of torture, continues to evolve from issues that are both autobiographical and revolve around concerns of all woman in our society. The form is modeled after a domestic bathroom scale. The printed steel images were cut from unformed sheets of slim last cans contrasted with cookie images from cookie tins.
The edges were cut with pinking shears (a reference to fabric) and turned up so that even the thought of standing on this scale would be extra painful – as if standing on a scale isn’t painful enough already. The quilt pattern used is based on an hourglass variation, a visual pun on the stereotype of a woman’s figure.
The inside is the part that very few people see; it is a reflection of my domestic sphere trimmed with autobiographical content. Endless daily routine revolves….
Los Angeles, California
The physical process of working with metal has obviously been dictated by the essential characteristics of metal – strength, malleability conductivity ability to assume and hold form and volume, reflective ability. These characteristics, however, are more than physical features or technical agendas, they are inseparable from historical, sociological, and theoretical conditions. Material facts present the value of metal to humankind and become self-explanatory in the history of the use of metal in utilitarian objects – tools, weapons, vessels, currency, jewelry, precious objects. The history of the formats assumed by metals and the uses and values placed on such formats can be transcribed into an inherent history of human needs and desires. For me, this history, the reading of these cultural codes and structures, is inseparable and essential to metals as a field and a means to making art.
I am invested in utilizing the inherent subject matter within the objects we make, within the materials, formats, histories, experiences we claim. I acknowledge tensions as being significant to my understanding of this field, namely the tension between the physical and the intellectual and its underlying binary structure of meaning and value which informs the fine art/craft polarization as well as other hierarchies within our culture such as:
domestic (interior) – public, corporate
authoritarian – vernacular
structure – decoration
My current work, articulated through the format of the vessel – a structure of containment, storage, and collection – is meant to introduce a sense of the physical or the experiential as resourced through the implication of utility. These vessels present a formal and conceptual tension of structure and skin, meaning and material; through girded steel and natural materials which are at once indicative of sensual wealth and the intensive labor of natural functional structures such as the honeycomb, silk cocoons, or a coat of hair. Other materials imply the maintenance and preservation of the domestic realm; such as soap, paraffin wax, and mothballs.
The tensions of interpretation hold my focus on formats which can result in contradictory readings. The container, that it may hold and protect or may imprison, posses and restrict; that a gate, a tool of access but oftentimes considered a beautiful ornament can from another point of view become a offensive barricade; that a handle or spout, grants you access to a volume within while simultaneously maintaining a physical and sensual distance. It maintains and directs. Such tensions of desire may be seen as a romantic “art” subject, a subject which is however invested in and contributing to the ordinary yet extraordinary role played by utilitarian objects throughout history.
Penland, North Carolina
As a metalsmith my primary focus is on jewelry. I have a great interest in Ancient and Historical Metalwork. I use this research to create layers of meaning and associations in my own work. The comparative study of different traditions illuminates not only human constants but the evolution of social and cultural meaning. While some references may be to the past, it is important that the pieces remain both personal and contemporary in nature. By integrating cultural and technical quotes I can shift the original context and create a new and relevant dialogue.
As a means of integrating visual imagery and technical process, I have concentrated on using eutectic fusion/granulation techniques. Granulation is an ancient method of fusing precious metal to itself. It has provided a direct technical reference to the past and a means of exploiting the innate properties of gold and silver. By using granulation, I am able to build images with a sense of detail and delicacy that are the delight of small scale work.
Visual imagery combined with the permanence, value, and purity of the material are integral parts of my work. I have consistently sought to imbue each piece with a distilled and rarefied aura. There has always been the need for personal fetishes of real worth and beauty but vanity alone is not the justification. These are objects to commemorate one’s personal, social, and cultural rites of passage. Their immutability is as much a testament to the human spirit as to the objects themselves.
North Dartmouth, Massachusetts
I am interested in creating jewelry that is abstracted yet ties to various forms in nature as well as to my own personal history. There are aspects of my brooches that are rationalized and others that remain intuitive. This layering of information hopefully adds a sense of mystery and ambiguity to the work.
While creating this body of work, I have been preoccupied with a specific three-dimensional form that I personally imagine to be figurative. These forms are elongated and usually suggest a head, torso, tail, or skirt. My involvement with this abstracted figure may be connected with my interest in historical costumes and perhaps earlier ballet training. However, these forms are not singularly related to the figure. They have amorphous qualities which may suggest the relationship to the form of a pod, flower, or sea creature. It is my intention that this interaction between a figure and a plant-like form arouse curiosity in the viewer through its obscure nature.
Today, the introduction of the electroformer into the metals studio has allowed the jeweler to create larger forms that are very light in weight and quite wearable. Most of my work is made with this technology. My brooches range in size from five to nine inches in length and two inches in width. I feel this size is appropriate because it suggests a relationship to recognizable forms of similar size such as a doll or a small vase with flowers.
Coloration with enamels and gold leaf acts as a vehicle to impart character on the work. It is my intention that as the enamel interacts with the form it does not become a statement in itself, but a necessary part of the whole.
It is my hope that through stance, gesture, and coloration, a subtle personality or inner spirit is revealed in each brooch.
My work is a sculptural statement which is complete when off the figure yet is constructed and exists because of the human body. I am intrigued by the idea that the human body is capable of carrying large objects, both physically and visually; therefore, I often construct forms in a scale which puts the work into the category of body sculpture rather than jewelry.
There are five major aspects to my work: the constructed three-dimensional form, the color relationships, the definition of space, the combination of patterns, and the scale of the objects in relationship to the human figure. My goal is to create a sense of visual tension among the formal elements of each object, such as from line to plane, from color to value, from one directional force to another, or from the rhythms in the structure to the rhythms in the colors. Each object is studied and worked in totality no part being any less important than any other.
I refer to the linear constructions as three-dimensional drawings to wear and to the newer works consisting primarily of planes as paintings to wear. I hope that as objects they seem to be “alive” with aesthetic presence. The motivation for the work is never to fit into any trend but rather the work is done out of a passion for creating, for trying to do something significant.
My work is about provoking memories and associations through visual objects.
These objects lead the viewer to question where they may have come from and what or how they may have been used. The audience brings with them their own recollections enabling them to enjoy and understand the work.
The references to machine parts, toys, hand tools, and nautical devices are apparent.
In my most recent work, I play with seeing, perception and the visual transmission of ideas. I have long been interested in ambiguity and the possibilities facilitated by the overlap of images. Recent brooches make reference to eyes and glasses as a metaphor for seeing and understanding.
The nest pieces come from musings about the nature of influence and the transfer of visual ideas. Those of us who are receptive to visual stimuli absorb images which then incubate and transform in our brains.
The pieces which employ color and Venn diagram imagery overlapping with eye and glasses imagery allude to seeing more clearly but also to making distinctions or classifications. They refer to the paradox of striving for objective understanding without being able to achieve it.
The works which contain references to magnifying lenses or loupes and fractured or broken eggs are about self-examination as a response to a threat to one’s vision of life and perceptions of the world.
I have been studying the hand-crafted metal object and traditional processes such as tinsmithing and riveting which have their origins in early industrial society. My handcrafted “projects” are parodies of utilitarian objects such as tin pails, wastebaskets and heating ducts.
Utilitarian objects, specifically those with domestic overtones and the residue of repeated use (and thus memory), often derive from the history of the Decorative Arts and invention. They provoke responses quite unlike sculptural forms. Vernacular forms of metalworking such as sheet metal work which is associated with the trade unions and the heating and air conditioning industry have intrigued me with their formulaic plans and diagrams.
I adapted this male methodology to my needs. Sheet metal work involves a set of mathematical methods for layout and stretchout. Both are methods for transforming a 3-dimensional volume into a series of flat shapes. This flattening of the form bears a strong resemblance to dressmaking. Recently I have been adding another layer to the idea by building the hollow duct sections in preprinted sheet metal. Wood grain printed steel is an ideal material; in addition to being culturally familiar as the ubiquitous covering of microwave ovens, it is a camouflage. I have expanded upon this idea with heating ducts with reflective mirrored surfaces. By laminating an image or veneer upon the forms, a 2-dimensional system is superimposed upon the 3-dimensional system of sheet metal fabrication.
My new exploration is in the brooch genre. Beginning this new direction with the Sketch Book Series, which were anecdotal studies, I worked the metal in simple ways – drilling, piercing, bending-then adding surface embellishments such as paint. The Screen Series (series of 4) is a continuation of this elementary way of working only containing a much simpler concept. They are simply screens with polymer clay forms playing across them. For the last several years my work has begun to incorporate more organic forms and at the same time I’ve been leaving geometric abstraction behind. I am beginning to explore broader themes. The Songs Series of brooches is my latest. Repoussé brooches, they are a personal response to life forces and mortality. The repoussé process, moving the metal in such plastic ways, and the brooch format, are allowing me much new room to explore these new themes.
Marilyn G. da Silva
The series of candle snuffers entitled Put the Fire Out is a direct emotional response to having been burned out of our house on March 23, 1993. Disasters have a way of forcing one to reaffirm priorities. Being strong afterwards does not seem to be a choice, but rather a necessity. I felt like I never got a chance to reflect on the loss of things that were surrounding me for so many years, so I made some pieces to remember them. Also, the whole experience of claiming what is rightfully yours through an insurance company was educational and deflating at the same time. These candle snuffers speak to all of this.
Put Out the Fire I-III were done one month after the fire. The function of all these pieces was as conceptually important as the imagery. I shows the house on fire. II is the house after the fire. And III is our dream house.
My recent work is a reflection of the eclectic visual information I am exposed to. The images constantly being fed to me via architecture, nature, and history go thru some built in system in my head which scans, blends, and stores it for me to tap into.
Stones and their color are the ground floor for my designs, so using my stored and distorted information I begin to build.
New York, New York
My interest in enameling began with a desire to incorporate a drawing sensibility with the intimate scale of wearable jewelry. I found in enamel a vehicle for color, line, shape and surface as well as qualities of luminescence and preciousness.
These brooches are fabricated of etched copper and enameled in many fine layers allowing the surface image to evolve in a very intuitive manner.
As an enamelist, I attempt to find a balance between control of, and respect for, my material. As an artist, I aim to create small, evocative, three-dimensional paintings which function as wearable works of art.
Keith A. Lewis
For a time, my work had been almost exclusively self referential. A number of self-portraits addressed feelings of loss and grief, of incompleteness and self-created obstructions. The central dilemma for me has been the familiar comfort of familiar pain – the fond, reliable ache of self-fulfilling prophecies. The satisfaction of feeling lousy.
I’ve tried, sometimes with humor, to carve off some of that anxiety, reiteration, and longing and to try to see strengths and weaknesses that those emotions and actions embody. The work helps me to commemorate grief while chastising self-pity. If, after the making, those doubts and fears seem familiar to others as well, then the pieces can serve a wider function.
In some way or another all my work comes out of my perspectives and experiences as a Queer man. My sexuality is the central, defining fact in my life. The strengths it has forced me to build and the challenges it has posed have created the lens through which I look.
In that lens I see that now, forevermore, HIV hovers over our heads. As a Queer man – along with my fellow-travelers, both positive and negative – I have been up to my knees in death for over a decade now. Loss is a constant ringing in our ears and the landscape is not conducive to love. I was tired from political work, attending funerals, writing down memories, entering the bedroom armed and suited-up for battle. I was tired of making lists – of filling holes with words.
It was time then, to explore the commemorative nature of jewelry; a practice with long-established roots. whereby mourning was validated and made public. Reminders of mortality, enshrined mementos and relics, outward manifestations of grief and loss were common elements of western jewelry for millennia prior to the 20th century. Now, in the culture of the quick fix and the power of positive thinking, grief is supposed to be silent and short. But loss is tragic, and grief hurts. . . and pain is an affront. Further, the sorts of relationships that I wish to see commemorated are not recognized as valid by our heterosexist culture – so the mainstream (but archaic) tradition of memento mori can be resurrected to validate dis-valued relationships and discounted grief.
That is the work I am currently engaged in. I can commemorate what I feel: the anger at missed chances, the holes in the crowd around me, the waste, the fading memories (what was his last name, his favorite color, his lifelong dream?), the being left (miraculously, arbitrarily) alive, the death of my community, . . . the acres of loss. If I’m careful . . . if I do it right, I can remember my friends.
Richelle P. Post
State College, Pennsylvania
LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS
Let me decipher you the message of my flow’rs:
The rose means “love”, the violet “I am true”.
Thus speak the leaves that garland fair Virginia’s bow’rs:
“In sunshine and in grief I cling to you”.
When I was a little girl, I had a deep affection for picking and giving flowers to a neighbor lady who lived behind us. All of her children were grown and no longer lived at home. She and I were the best of friends, and she made me feel as though these small bunches of flowers were the greatest gift she had ever received. (Half the time they came from her own yard.) For my first communion she bought me a bud vase, which I still have. We moved away from that neighborhood when I was eleven and the following year my friend died from cancer. Although I had drifted away from her, she always remained in my thoughts. To this day when I see violets, I think of her and remember a time when life was sweet.
It was my intent with the two vases, Feuille and Cayeux, to create vessels that would not only complement flowers but also stand on their own. These pieces are straight forward and functional. I chose to make them in sterling silver because of the beauty of the metal. With the work there is an intertwining of my past and present interests. I look at my work as a three dimensional diary marking events or memories in my life.
At the present time, I mainly produce one-of- a-kind work in metals, wood, gems, fossil-ivory and vitreous enamel. My skills include a mix of European and Japanese techniques including fabrication, carving, casting, engraving, repoussage, enameling, and patination. My personal style reflects a blend of European and Oriental influence. Currently I am producing edged weapons (in collaboration with several of the world’s finest forging bladesmiths), netsuke, jewelry, small containers, and other small objects.
The inspiration and subject matter for my work are often derived very directly from nature. I am continually awe stricken by the ineffable beauty of nature. Rather than try to depict an exact replica of nature, I strive to portray some small natural relationship. It is my attempt to capture and convey an aspect of the mystery I have felt in natural settings. I admire the Japanese appreciation of beauty in the ordinary and unrefined.
I feel strongly the importance of mastering the basic skills of a craft before there can be artistic improvisation. I am fascinated by technical process, but it is important to me to keep this sublimated to the artistic expression of my work.
Combining materials to achieve color and textural contrasts is something that I find intriguing. Precious materials are used for their visual and textural qualities rather than commercial value.
Mesilla, New Mexico
The installation Adornments begins an exploration of the intersection between traditions of adorning the body and the history of the study of that body within a western medical tradition.
The idea behind the installation is to create a viewing room for the images, where they hang discretely – floating, underscoring separateness, (of the body, of the viewer etc.). The five images have been taken from a 1906 book which illustrates surgical procedures. The revealed part of the body, that which lies under the surface and is exposed in the operation by the slice of the knife and the folding back of skin, has been transferred to precious metals (silver, gold) to create objects of adornment to be worn on that specific site of the body. Instead of adornment functioning as a tool of vanity or social information, these pieces display the self-consciousness of mortality and vulnerability and in an ironical manner ornament the physical body with illustrations of its own potential dysfunctions.
Any form of adornment is interesting because it feeds into and carries with it a history of observation and meaning. The juxtaposition of these objects (the wearable ones), with images from a tradition of observation and manipulation (medical) raise questions about the role of gender in both fields. Who wears the jewels, why, and with what resultant meanings? What model or subject has the medical discipline been based upon, and what meaning lies in that?
My central visual interest is in the hand-made artifact. I am most drawn to objects which seem to me to represent the simplest, most elegant expression of the idea of a kind of object (e.g., what is the ‘essence of’ teapot, or wine bottle?). I have used the still life format and other references to drawing and painting to make these solid, real containers seem sometimes flat and abstract, that they might be seen as representative of a class of objects as well as individual characters.
It is important to me to make things which can be appreciated by people who don’t read about art (as well as by those who do). It is for that reason that I want the subject matter to be familiar and the surface and/or color to be seductive. I hope that the care with which these simple objects are made and the context into which I put them conveys my attitude towards them, and gives them a kind of weight which justifies their being hand-made in a time and place where such time-consuming activity has been rendered unnecessary. To me they are comforting in a world full of mass produced objects which nobody ever loved or will care about.
I see my one-of-a-kind pieces as immensely satisfying experiments, in which I try to combine densely textured, rounded areas of intense color with areas of simply contoured, fat metal shapes suggestive of the sails of a ship, the leaves of a tree, or the shards of a mirror. The beaded areas suggest solidity and stasis, the metal areas: fluidity and movement. I am interested in the tension that emerges from juxtaposing these two materials in a strong, spare structure. I strive for economy of form.
Some of my pieces are inspired by the “ship of transition” motif in Southeast Asian iconography, a motif that appears on objects associated with rites of passage such as marriage or death. The motif signals a period of change following a period of stasis. I adopt this motif in my own work as a quiet reminder of the vicissitudes of the human condition, and of the need for transcendence.
Julia M. Jiannacopoulos
New Bedford, Massachusetts
At the core of my work is my constant fascination with the incorporation and transformation of found objects. This process is intended to instill elements of chance or mystery. The found objects have a separate identity defined by strong emotional attachments to the form and function of ordinary useful things. I am interested in exploring the evolution of these elements/artifacts from their primary identifications to the transformed objects. The dissonance that is created by the artifact’s original function and its new aesthetic function is essential to the nature of the piece. My interest is in achieving consonance by bestowing a new status and function on the objects. I deliberately choose materials and objects that have specific references, synthesizing new objects with fabricated forms and utilizing elaborate surface treatments.
In my most current work I am attempting to raise consciousness in the viewer through analyzing both common and uncommon fairy tales, popular culture ideologies, beauty ideals, and ideas of traditional female roles. Through the work I hope to name and question the validity of the many intimated messages we receive and to discover whether these attempts to clarify affect our actual experiences. By revivifying objects through elaborate decorative surface treatments and purposefully working in a miniaturized scale I wish to initially engage the viewer on a level of formal relationship. The information provided is without absolute conclusions and my intention is to allow the viewer to participate in the discovery of the meaning and then question the validity strength, and aesthetic success of these visual investigations.
When private expression is exposed to public interpretation a certain amount of dislocation inevitably results. I hope to classify and define the direction of this process of communication in order to achieve poetry and conceptual simplicity in the relationships I create.
I started making jewelry for myself while studying art in college. At that time I felt a slight insecurity about jewelry as a serious art form. “Real” artists made art for arts sake. But as time went on, the jewelry grew into something more then decoration for mc. All of the things I could not express in words or other images went into these adornments. Wearing each piece was like being myself from the inside out. There was actually a stage where I felt incomplete without some form of jewelry to fill in the gap. My work has grown and transformed a great deal since those first pieces, but my inspiration has remained rooted in a search for history and identity, both personally and culturally, a common thread which somehow connects what is now to what has been.
It seems that viewers of my work are always asking, “How did you do that?” which has never been my guiding force. I have a vision and a relationship with the materials and we work together to express it. Technical expertise is a by product of the urge to create. But in trying to appease the technically curious, I explain that metal is much more fluid then one would believe and that enamel is much more flexible then she lets on in the beginning. I push them to discover their nature and their limitations and at the same time I discover my own. While working, they often show me a side I never knew existed. It is this mindful acceptance of their natural potential which I believe giver my pieces their spirit.
Susan Ringer Koons
Highland, New York
Ornamental forms have been used throughout the history of metalsmithing. Jewelry, hollowware, etceteras, have borrowed from the vernacular of architectural ornament. Through my work, I want to challenge the viewer to question the use of architectural ornament within the context of jewelry, as it relates to the human form. Through this inquiry, I hope to contribute to the understanding of the relationship between architecture and the body as it relates to the field of metalsmithing.
The origins of classical ornament are deeply rooted in the sacrificial practices of pre-classical Greek religion. The preparation, procession, and actual sacrifice became the structure and ornament of a Greek Temple. Greek society utilized architecture and the manner in which it was ornamented as a purveyor of religious and social information for future generations. As centuries passed, the architecture and ornament of Greek culture was emulated and appropriated at will. The names of the various ornaments and mouldings suggested sacrificial origins but their forms were so gentrified, that they were rendered meaningless.
As a metalsmith and jeweler, I am embracing the history of architectural ornament, dating to pre-classical Greece. By juxtaposing Formal elements of architectural ornament with actual natural forms, I am trying to cause a fracture that will lead to questioning. These ornamental elements are easy to recognize and have an established foothold in our society, but only as ornamental flourishes. Therefore, I am utilizing both the beauty and familiarity of these forms as a subversive tool.
I see my work as a blend of plant forms, machine forms, and light, both symbolically and functionally. I love simple, clean, strong shapes with a thickness of edge and an implied visual weight.
I use the vessel form for two reasons. One because it gives me a simple base upon which to apply my ideas. Unlike free form sculpture this gives me a common starting point from which I can push the vessel form in many different directions. The other is the human connection and mythical implications we all share through the vessel or container.
It is also important to me to animate my pieces. One of the elements I respond to in plant forms is the way they thrust themselves toward the sun. A way that I give that kind of energy to my vessels is to put them ‘on their toes’ so to speak. This frees them from the ground and gives the form a vitality.
Most of my vessels are double bowls. This not only provides visual weight but allows me to play the inner bowl against the outer shell. Lately I’ve begun to pierce the outer shell revealing the inner bowl.