June 2013

Contemporary Jewellers: Interviews with European Artists

Roberta Bernabei. Contemporary Jewellers: Interviews with European Artists. Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2011. Bernabei begins with a historical overview of European jewelry from the Middle Ages to the present day. All too often, the studio art movement is touted as the father of the studio jewelry movement, leaving students with little sense of the origins of

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Judith Kaufmann and Lilly Fitzgerald: The Ecstasy of Gold

Lily FitzgeraldIvan Barnett from Patina Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has known Lilly Fitzgerald and Judith Kaufman for many years, but they have never shown in his gallery. Although both jewelers have made a habit of showing on their own at craft fairs and in private showings, Ivan convinced them to present work with him during the opening of the opera season in Santa Fe. It is an exciting time of the year for the city, and Lilly and Judith will be attending the opening at the end of June. It is an experiment on everyone’s part to see if the gallery system can work for these two independent makers. 

Susan Cummins: Can you tell me the story of how you discovered that you wanted to be a jeweler? Where did you learn to make jewelry?

Lilly Fitzgerald: While in school at the Worcester Art Museum I studied painting, but we were required to take introduction classes in all media. Metal was a material I connected to immediately. So I started making work on my own, started selling things, and then I left school and worked for myself making jewelry and selling it.

Judith KaufmanJudith Kaufman: Becoming a jeweler was not on my radar. At 16, I was kind of a shy kid and had no passion for anything in particular. My mother had a friend who made silver jewelry. She asked if she could “borrow me” for a six-week class as an experiment to see if teaching jewelry would be something she would enjoy. It was a very basic class held every Wednesday for six weeks. I learned the usual basics of piercing, soldering, filing, polishing, etc.
I really enjoyed the hands-on experience, which led me to find a bench job at a retail jewelry store followed by a job working at a wholesale manufacturing venue. On weekends, I would exhibit my work at craft shows all over New England. In 1973, I opened my own studio, located in an old dynamite factory, with 27 other artists. While there, I enjoyed building my own collection as well as taking commission work and meeting the public. The environment was ripe with talent and filled with creative energy. 

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Jose Marín

Jose Marín, Dreaming My Garden, 2013, neckpiece, sterling silver, 18-karat gold, titanium, green amethyst, multicolor tourmalines, 157 x 253 x 15 mm, photo: Danielle Freiman Susan Cummins: Can you tell me the story of how you discovered that you wanted to be a jeweler? Jose Marín: My father was a goldsmith. In my childhood, at

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Jose Marín

Jose MarínJose Marín  is a master jeweler from Valencia, Spain, who is having a one- person show at Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His exhibit is up until June 22, 2013, and so we tried to slip in this interview before it came down.

Susan Cummins: Can you tell me the story of how you discovered that you wanted to be a jeweler?

Jose Marín: My father was a goldsmith. In my childhood, at 10 or 12 years old, I used to play in his workshop, which was in our house. That is how he woke up my love for this craft.

Where did you learn to make jewelry?

Jose Marín: At 13 years old, after school and in the early evenings, I went to a jewelry school at the Jewelers Guild in Valencia, Spain. Here, I studied jewelry making for five years, and after that, then four years of engravings and setting.

I have had 3 teachers. My father, until his death in 2006, taught me the jewelry style of Valencia, which is a jewel of floral inspiration and very baroque. It is made with platinum and gold leaves with a very traditional technique unique to this geographical area in Spain. I also learned the art of forging solid gold from him.

Pascua Auñon l was my first boss from 1981 to 1986. He had worked for 15 years in Germany. He taught me to do rivière necklaces and bracelets and all kinds of jewelry made with wire.

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Schmuck 2

This article by Susan Pietzsch on her Schmuck2 projects does not fit in any of AJF’s sections. The scope of her interests and the efficiency with which she switches between roles and implements her projects across continents mark her as a “Renaissance woman.” She is a curator (and this could be a curator’s profile), but also an artist and an editor. She organizes picnics, museum performances, and jewelry hunts. Some of her projects infiltrate the urban fabric, others happen in remote areas, and she does not seem to mind migrating from the crowded mall to the deserted parking lot. (Her projects mostly happen “in the public sphere,” but not necessarily “with a public” or “for one.”) She writes her own commentary because her cross-disciplinary approach makes it difficult for others to do so. However, she would prefer if it were not the case. Typically, the draft for this text was written in the third person. After some discussion, she reluctantly agreed to put it in the first.

“Take a left at the corner, then straight for 20 meters, and another left. The object of concern is to be found about 1 meter from the stone wall.” That is more or less how it will be this summer as Schmuck2 and the Japanese jewelry maker Naoko Ogawa take their guests on a hunt for adornment under the rubric “Jewellery Hunting—Die Jagd nach dem Schmuckbild.” The quarry, in this case, is likenesses of jewelry that exist only momentarily through the diffusion and fragmentation of light.

With this project, Schmuck2 builds a bridge between theory and public practice, following its last workshop in which a series of artists, designers, jewelry makers, and theorists congregated in a temporary laboratory to discuss and visualize possible extensions to the concept of jewelry in hyper-reality.

Under the theme “Jewellery Hyperreal—How jewellery could be transferred into hyperreality,” the workshop and exhibition took as a point of departure remarks made by the Spanish designer Martí Guixé in an interview for the publication HOCHsitzen (published by Schmuck2 in 2011). Among other things, Guixé suggested that the current function of jewelry is only to be found in images, not in reality, and that it can have a presence in this sense without actually being formulated in practical terms.

The results—in the form of video works, photographs, installations, graphical works, as well as jewelry—also reflect the variety of approaches through which Schmuck2 has sought ever new ways to understand, interpret, delineate, and fashion jewelry as a phenomenon for more than 15 years.


Against this backdrop and in accordance with Schmuck2’s characteristic principle, people from different creative branches are brought together for interdisciplinary projects. In the process, the intention comprises a diverse presentation of contemporary ideas of jewelry that are based on unconventional and experimental concepts between fine and applied arts.

Holding nearly all projects in common is the fact that they spring from my mind as an artist and Schmuck2 founder. And through this, as the French jewelry maker, author, and curator Benjamin Lignel describes, I “connect with institutions neither as a curator nor as publisher but more as a catalyst and cultural agitator in order to explore jewelry across disciplines.”

As an established institution itself, Schmuck2 often enjoys acting independently on the public stage. Since 2005, it has regularly published exhibition catalogues in an international format under its own direction to provide long-term information about its projects and ideas. The multifaceted program supports numerous projects within Germany and abroad, in countries such as England, Japan, the Netherlands, and Sweden, among others.

Although I first and foremost plan and organize the world around Schmuck2 independently, there have been some important supporters over the years.

Among these is the Cologne-based art historian Dr. Anne Schloen, who has repeatedly curated in the context of jewelry. Others include Martí Guixé, the German-French label BLESS, and the German artist Suska Mackert.

Three years ago, in order not to be homeless in between many locations, Guixé created a permanent home for the organization in the northern German region of Mecklenburg—the HOCHsitz Atelier. This hunting stand, set up on stilts in the middle of an idyllic landscape, serves as Schmuck2’s contribution to the contemporary discourse regarding the principle of exhibition hall/atelier/space for art and design as well as a starting point for some of its projects.

As designer, Guixé postulated the radical change in thinking and seeing in design. In his opinion, design must be strongly rooted in contemporary practice and not cling to old structures of function. With his critically provocative approach, he fulfilled the contextual requirement that I have placed on Schmuck2.

Set against the backdrop of social, sociocultural, and global changes, as founder I aim my activities to scrutinize creative strategies and artistic practices in the context of jewelry. For this I act from various points of departure. One of these is to contemplate the automobile in relationship to jewelry, and this appears as a common theme through many of Schmuck2’s projects and exhibitions. This comes as no surprise considering that, as a jewelry maker, I have already been very personally interested in this theme for many years in collaboration with my colleague, the German photographer Valentina Seidel.

A further focal point is exhibition practice. Schmuck2 intervened in public space with projects such as “reloaded—creative strategies on cars,” in which all of the exhibition objects were to be found on the street, at car dealerships, in hotels, and even in the current newspaper.

This is in stark contrast to “XS extra small,” a show that stood the classic exhibition design in a museum on its head. All of the exhibition objects were presented on the floor in the Guixian “Top Manta” system, turning an illegal sales system used in public spaces into a legal alternative means of presentation. (“Top Manta” is a Spanish term referring to the selling of illegal or counterfeit products, such as pirated CDs and DVDs, displayed on a blanket stretched out the pavement. The blanket is, in fact, a piece of cloth with two strings, which allows the seller to wrap up and run in a matter of seconds if they spot the police coming.)

Further examples of discourse include: a “Discursive Picnic” as a performance action parallel to the Handwerksmesse (trade fair) at the Munich Maximilian’s Forum; the installed reading room in the show A Possible Dimension in Osaka, Japan; and the installed hyperspace in the current exhibition at the Neues Kunsthaus Ahrenshoop.

These also serve as supporting evidence for the manifold and multifaceted ways in which Schmuck2 scrutinizes and illuminates the theme of jewelry. In doing so, the point for me—as a trained and educated goldsmith and jewelry designer—is not to visualize or interpret new jewelry objects or place them in new contexts. Rather, I would like much more to encourage an interpretation and reflection of a thematic point of departure for the contemporary concept of jewelry, which can vary anywhere from its realization as a wearable piece of jewelry to manipulated advertisements in the form of ordinary newspaper flyers.

I am convinced that the untethering from conventional structures is also an agent for designing a contemporary image of jewelry.



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Tweex 1

Arthur Bouillé, Bel ami, 2013, neck piece, felt, 250 x 300 x 140 mm, La Cambre, photo: Nicolas van Haaren I like the way Françoise Vanderauwera, the owner of the gallery, talked about the “transfer of knowledge” as what happens between student and teacher. It has a Buddhist ring to it. This young gallery has

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Hardware Artware

Poster of event Susan Cummins: Why did you choose these particular five artists–Francisca Bauzá (Germany), Lisa Björke (Sweden), Märta Mattsson (Sweden), Deborah Rudolph (Germany), and Nina Sajet (The Netherlands)—to be in this show? Atty Tantivit: Though I have seen some of their works before separately, I first saw them working as a group at the exhibition

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Hardware Artware

ATTA Gallery in Bangkok, Thailand, is run by Atty Tantivit and shows an international selection of jewelers with local ones. It makes for an interesting mix worth looking in on from time to time. The exhibition Hardware Artware highlights five jewelers who have been showing together for a few years and who are experimenting with presentations. They have an interesting history.

Susan Cummins: Why did you choose these particular five artists–Francisca Bauzá (Germany), Lisa Björke (Sweden), Märta Mattsson (Sweden), Deborah Rudolph (Germany), and Nina Sajet (The Netherlands)—to be in this show?

Atty Tantivit: Though I have seen some of their works before separately, I first saw them working as a group at the exhibition Pin Up during Schmuck 2012. Their pieces are different in many ways but are of equal strength in terms of concept, technical quality, and their communicative languages. There was a synergy among them. I think the way they present their works together is fresh and exciting—a group of young female artists in a field that was dominated by men a decade or so ago. Also, all five of them are from northern European countries that are key players in terms of contemporary art jewelry. It was interesting for me to see similarities and differences in their works.

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Sent Does Not Mean Received

In her article on the closing of Galerie Louise Smit, jewelry historian Liesbeth den Besten painted a rather unflattering picture of the contemporary jewelry market and what she feels is an unbalanced relationship between galleries and their artists. Citing the mounting pressures exerted on makers, den Besten ends her article with an appeal to galleries for more

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Is this for sale? Are you actually waiting for customers to pass through these doors, try this necklace on, and walk out with it? While contemporary jewelers often invoke the wearer or the collector as end destinations for their creative efforts, this was not always apparent in the crop of exhibitions and projects we visited


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