Month: February 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day

Cherry Lebrun Susan Cummins: How the relationship between Valentines Day and jewelry get established from your perspective? Cherry Lebrun: Jewelry is often considered to be a romantic gift. Valentine’s Day is a romantic holiday. I think the two fit together very naturally in that Valentine’s Day is a celebration of romance and jewelry is often …

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Putty In Your Hands: Elise Winters In Conversation

Since 1997 Elise Winters has been collecting polymer jewelry with the intention of establishing a permanent collection in an American museum, along with an online archive that celebrates polymer jewelry in all its forms. Having gone through all the stages and roles of collector – acquiring objects, establishing her collection’s identity, working with experts and …

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Color and Form: Brooke Marks-Swanson

You may have noticed that we are featuring six galleries each month on the AJF website homepage  and I wanted to get the low down about some of the shows that are up in February. I was curious for more insights from either the gallery owners or from the artists. Taboo Studio in San Diego, California, is the first up. They are presenting a show called Color and Form running from February 10 to March 23, 2012. The show features work by Brooke Marks-Swanson, Heather Guidero, Ananda Khalsa, Valerie Mitchell, Joan Parcher, Munya Avigall Upin, and Barbara Uriu. Joanna Rhodes and Jane Groover, co-owners of Taboo Studio, thought that an interview with Brooke Marks-Swanson would provide a flavor of the show and offer special focus on an artist they represent. Marks-Swanson is from South Bend, Indiana and studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

Susan Cummins: How long have you been represented by Taboo Studio?

Brooke Marks-Swanson: I was first invited to be in a show in 2008 and then Jane saw my work at the AJF Geography show this past summer and was gracious enough to invite me again for the current show, Color and Form.

Given your participation in the Geography show, would you say that what you do is influenced by where you live?

Absolutely.  For the longest time I was drawn to the infinite horizon; mostly with the point of contact where the land and the sky meet. Upon further study of my surroundings, I am more interested in the connection between a sense of place, elements from the natural world and the dialogue that develops between the two.

Throw off the wet blanket and go wildly ethical.

As promised here is Kevin Murray’s response to Bruce Metcalf’s article. What do you think about this? Please respond to

Beyond the occasional comment on a blog site, it’s rare for someone to put the effort into mounting a well-framed argument to express their disagreement. I’m naturally inclined to defend my point of view, but am grateful for the opportunity to continue an argument that will hopefully strengthen both positions.

Bruce Metcalf responded critically to an article I wrote for AJF about ethical jewelry which was recently reposted on this blog.  The kind of ethics I mentioned ranged from the democratic values involved in the critique of preciousness to Ethical Metalsmiths that recruit practice to environmental sustainability.

Ethics is a particularly sensitive subject for jewelry. Jewelry seems to be a medium we set aside from more weighty matters for the enjoyment of frivolity, irony and dazzlement. Expecting moral rectitude from jewelry can appear like throwing a wet blanket on a rare space of innocent play.

Yet we are aware also of monsters lurking in the woods. Jewelry has a profoundly undemocratic history, serving to prop up the aristocratic and military one percent. Stories about ‘blood diamonds’ suggest the trail human and environmental destruction that leads to breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Aesthetics versus Ethics: Judgment day for contemporary jewelry

Recently I came across Bruce Metcalf’s response to a text by Kevin Murray that AJF published on its blog a few months ago. Kevin’s text, ‘Aesthetics Versus Ethics: Judgment Day for Contemporary Jewelry,’ was written in preparation for the critical discourse session that AJF convened at the SNAG conference in 2011. We published it, Bruce didn’t like it and wrote about it on his blog. By then, we’d launched the new website and Kevin’s text hadn’t been moved over. So, in honor of what we think could be a useful moment of debate, we bring you Kevin’s text, below, and suggest you check out Bruce’s response, ‘Let History Be The Judge,’ on his blog. We’ve asked Kevin if he has anything else to say, and we’ll be publishing his thoughts on the AJF blog in a few days.

The other day I found Benjamin Lignel’s recent post in Art Jewelry Forum, ‘Just what is it that makes today’s art galleries so different, so appealing?’ It was a teasing title. A quick Google revealed its source as a collage by Richard Hamilton, satirizing 1950s consumerism.  

So what makes the art gallery so appealing for contemporary jewelry? Benjamin was reflecting on the first exhibition of contemporary jewelry at Gargosian Gallery, arguably the most prestigious commercial visual art space on the planet. It was an occasion well worth noting. What followed was a series of salutary disappointments. Rather than select a known figure of the contemporary jewelry scene, Gargosian chose the work of a fashion designer with Dior, Victoria de Castellane.

Maker’s Tool

In response to the opening of the Milwaukee Art Museum show called The Tool at Hand I asked a group of jewelers to talk about their preferred tool. Keith Lewis gave this short and swaggering answer. Try reading it with a cowboy twang. On second thought, perhaps a homoerotic bass tone would work better . . .



The Tool

My favorite tool is a Craftsman brand machinist’s reamer that belonged to my father. As an object it is completely beautiful: tapered, fluted, sharp and poised. It is also singularly specific in its usefulness. It makes holes bigger and is good for nothing else.

I use it all of the time and whenever I pick it up I remember the smell of my father’s shop and the sense of violation I felt selecting tools after he died.

A construction worker who walked like John Wayne and could have been a craftsman, my father made useful things around the house. I have his checkering tool, used for texturing gunstocks. I have a scribe he made from an old dart. And I have his machinist’s reamer.

Keith Lewis is from the wilds of Pennsylvania, where he learned that he liked men a whole lot more than he liked man stuff such as hunting and fishing. He is a jeweler and teaches in the wilds of Washington state, though he craves the city. His favorite fruit is jaboticaba.

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