July 2014

Amber in Contemporary Jewelry

Sara GackowskaAmber has a long and storied past as a material used in jewelry. From being called “the Baltic gold” to rarely being used in contemporary jewelry, today amber is experiencing a renaissance. This renewed interest in the material is the subject of an important exhibition at Gallery Putti in Riga, Latvia. Called Amber in Contemporary Jewelry and running from May 22–August 2, 2014, this exhibit demonstrates the possible range of application of amber in contemporary art jewelry as created by 20 artists from Latvia and Italy, as well as from countries along the ancient Amber Road (Russia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Austria, Slovenia, and Hungary). It not only links the Amber Road geographically but also historically by connecting ancient times with the present, and by demonstrating the richness of amber jewelry creation today. Here Bonnie Levine speaks with Gallery Putti’s Eva Melnika, who is interning with the gallery this year.

Bonnie Levine: Amber has been around for 40 to 60 million years and there’s a real mystique to it—it’s been traded, worshipped, and used for healing and protective purposes going back in time. Can you elaborate on the history of amber and why it’s important today?

Eva Melnika: Amber has always been known as the Baltic Gold—it can feel warm and fragrant, and the Etruscans valued amber even more than gold for its beauty and the healing properties they believed it held.


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Collecting by Design

Unique by Design: Contemporary Jewelry in the Donna Schneier Collection May 13–August 31, 2014 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York A collection always bears its own narrative. This narrative is usually inspired by a folksy story about the first acquisition, a heralded inaugural object that serves as a kind of synecdoche that characterizes and sets

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Eunmi Chun: Precious Beasts—Blooming

Eunmi ChunEunmi Chun is a contemporary jewelry artist who began her jewelry and metal studies in South Korea and eventually traveled to Germany to study under Otto Künzli at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich. Her current show, Precious Beasts—Blooming, at Rob Koudijs Gallery combines her meticulously crafted and organic work with her insights into human psychology. Known for working with repelling, unusual materials such as cow intestine and pigskin, Chun talks about her deviation from traditional metalsmithing materials in this interview.

Find out more about Chun’s work from Pravu Mazumdar’s One on One article about Eunmi Chun. 

Olivia Shih: You started your education with a BFA in mathematics and craft, then a MFA in jewelry and metal in Korea. Afterward, you traveled to Munich and studied under Professor Otto Künzli. Could you talk about the transition from one environment to the other and your learning process?

Eunmi Chun: I first started my college education in mathematics, so when I joined the metal department, I had to start with senior (third year in Korea) students. As a result, I learned demanding skills in quite a short time, during which my work was inferior to that of fellow students. But due to that situation, I started to develop my own methods.

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Biba Schutz: Half Full

Biba SchutzBiba Schutz is a very productive jeweler living and working in New York City. Her show at Sienna Gallery features a very new series of work. She once used metal exclusively but now has worked glass into the designs. These fresh, wearable necklaces and brooches incorporate glass into her work in a very successful way. The presentation of these new pieces offered a wonderful opportunity to ask her about her work and her history.

Susan Cummins: In your new show at Sienna Gallery, you seem to have changed your approach to making jewelry. Gone are the twisted expressive wires and in come the cool, sleek glass and metal. What happened?

Biba Schutz: I am continually looking for new challenges and traveling in unchartered areas.

As time has passed … my language and materials have grown, but the voice still has the same thread of inspiration and process. I still investigate, challenge, and explore my environment and emotional experiences. There is still mystery, memory, and a place to hide and travel while experiencing my jewelry.


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Out of the Blue

Myung UrsoGroup shows are tricky things. Taboo Studio has had a number of them in the past, with titles like Structure and Purpose, Color and Form, and Perspective and Invention, so a show called Out of the Blue isn’t surprising. The hard thing to do with a group show is to make an observation about something, anything really, that the artists or pieces of jewelry have in common, come up with a theme, and then assemble a grouping that makes sense within the theme you have chosen. Taboo has done this numerous times over the years and is practiced at it. For this post, I spoke with Jane Groover, one of the gallery’s owners, as well as with a number of artists who participated in the show.

Susan Cummins: Jane, in the exhibition Out of the Blue, you asked the following artists to interpret the theme as it relates to the sea and sky:

Brooke Battles • Marilyn Brogan • Susan Chin • Petra Class • Jane Groover • Sydney Lynch • Wendy McAllister • Christina Seebold • Cindy Sumner • Myung Urso

Did you imagine this to be mainly about landscape or color?

Jane Groover: I initially thought that the work in Out of the Blue would be about both landscape and color, while acknowledging that blue certainly means different things to different people. It felt like an intriguing title because of its ambiguity. And since it is common knowledge that the majority of people claim blue as their favorite color, I imagined the work for this exhibition would probably focus primarily on color. 


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Harold O’Connor

Harold O’ConnorPatina Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, had a show last month of the work of Harold O’Connor, who is highly regarded for his technical expertise and was recently featured in a cover article in Metalsmith magazine. Harold is considered one the great teachers of his generation and he has conducted workshops all over the world. The process of fabrication is evident in every piece and his work is clearly marked by his early training and the time in which he has lived.

Susan Cummins: Harold, you are known for your technical expertise. In fact, you conduct classes all around the world teaching embossing, granulation, and reticulation, among other things. Did learning these skills come easily to you? Can you tell the story of the way you acquired them?

Harold O’Connor: I first learned granulation at school in Pforzheim, Germany, in 1967, but I had forgotten that I had already learned it, as my portfolio of early works I showed at Martha Connell Gallery in Atlanta demonstrates. In 1988 I went to a small workshop in the town of Ahlen, in northern Germany, called the European Gold and Silversmith Academy, to learn granulation in gold. There I met several participants from Cologne, Germany. Eventually they became best friends and also introduced me to other masters of the technique in Cologne. By visiting their workshops, I was able to pick up more hints on executing the technique. We saw the works of Germany’s most famous granulationist, Elizabeth Treskow from Cologne (who has a street and a square named after her). The American granulationist John Paul Miller met with Treskow when he was in Europe. Most likely he, too, picked up some pointers from her. After learning granulation, I did not do it at all for one and a half years, as I did not care to make the classical patterns, such as triangles and pyramids of beads. One day in the studio I realized that the 18-karat gold granulation would go well with reticulated silver patterns. From that beginning I have created many forms over the years in this combination. I had been doing some reticulation on sterling silver over the early years but the results were lacking in pattern and detail. Somewhere along the way I broke down and bought some reticulation silver (.820 silver) and a whole new world opened for me in creating forms with interest and dimension. The granulation evolved over time and in recent years I have added the use of silver granulation in combination with the gold. I tell people that doing granulation is like working with enamels—one needs patience and time and a steady hand. Time is consumed in making the beads for granulation, done by heating small snips by hand or in a kiln. The most difficult process to learn is knowing the right temperature at which the beads fuse to the metal surface. Twenty years into it, I’m still learning what works and what doesn’t. Granulation for me is like Zen meditation.


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