Karen Gilbert: Shift

Shibumi Gallery, Berkeley, California, USA

Karen GilbertKaren Gilbert is a designer, jeweler, mother, wife, partner in a glass business, and gallery owner. I don’t think she can fit one more thing on her plate. She is having a show with Shibumi Gallery, where owner April Higashi is pretty much in the same boat. How do these women do it…and do it so well? In this show called Shift, Karen has shifted the look of her jewelry to a simpler, more colorful style.

Susan Cummins: What is the story of your journey to becoming a jeweler?

Karen Gilbert: I became a jeweler by accident. I was a student at California College of Arts and Crafts in the painting department when I took an elective in the metals department and became mesmerized by the material of metal. I loved drilling it, sculpting it, torching it—all the tactile qualities appealed to me. I switched my major, and at the same time, became involved in the glass department. The two materials had the immediacy that I needed. I love to work quickly and to respond to my materials as I am working. After school, I worked for numerous jewelers, and that led me into creating wearable pieces. I loved that people actually wanted to buy and wear what I created, and that the relationship of maker and collector really gives meaning to art.

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Ruudt Peters / Qi

Galerie Rob Koudijs, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Ruudt PetersRuudt Peters is a force. He is everywhere, it seems, with an irrepressible energy. He lives in Amsterdam, but you can find him in Mexico, India, Sweden, China, and numerous other places on a regular basis. You could even find him on the AJF jury recently for the Artist Award. Over the years, he has made it a habit to investigate cultures unfamiliar to him when he was ready to start a new series of jewelry. His curiosity drives him to learn about the spiritual inclinations of each place and come up with a way to express it. He is adventuresome, and with each series he changes the idea, the medium, and the technique he uses to make his jewelry. It is a bold way to work. This new show at Galerie Rob Koudijs is a result of his trip to China and his research about Qi.

Susan Cummins: Please explain the Qi project.

Ruudt Peters: Qi is the energy of life. It is Chinese alchemistic knowledge. I traveled through China for three months in order to be in touch with the Chinese alchemy of Qi. During my stay, I found out that there is a big difference between the East and the West in their approach to life. The Chinese are more holistic in their view of life/health and the mind/body relationships. Chinese alchemy is a mixture of Taoism, herbal medicine, acupuncture, and tai chi. It is based on real life. I tried to get all these influences and ideas into my work. I got crazy about it, and so in the end, I decided to make a blind drawing daily. It was a way to keep the memories alive. 

For two months, I traveled around the country researching, and then for the last month, I stayed in Xiamen at the Chinese European Art Center (CEAC). During that time, I worked with ceramicists and stonecutters who took the blind drawings and began to laser cut and etch the stone into brooches. By the time I left, the project was halfway finished, but I continued to work on them from Amsterdam through emails and translations. Also after I came home, I worked out how to treat the 99 individual ceramic men who represented the body experiences of acupuncture, cupping, stone massage, goose bumps, anxiety, crying, craziness, affection, and other feelings. Then, I went back to China for four days to work on the figures to make each one feel like an individual. Then, I had all the work shipped back to me, and when they came, I was even surprised by how they looked.

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La Frontera (The Borderlands)

Velvet da Vinci, San Francisco, California, USA

Lorena LazardLa Frontera (The Borderlands) arrives at Velvet da Vinci gallery at the same time as The Bridge (a show dealing with a murder at the border) arrives on television and the immigration legislation arrives in Congress. It is a politically motivated exhibition dealing with a current, though ongoing, political issue. The exhibition includes 150 pieces by 90 artists from the United States, Mexico, Europe, Australia, and Latin America. It is rare to see a show with a theme responding to something playing out on the world stage at the moment. What a treat!

Susan Cummins: La Frontera addresses a current political moment related to immigration and specifically to the border between the US and Mexico. What led you to pick this issue as your theme?

Lorena Lazard: The idea for this exhibition has been in my mind for some time. I have a masters degree in sociology, so I have a long-standing interest in political and social issues. Especially, I think the Mexico-US border is an issue that is contemporary and important at this juncture.

While defining the ideas for the project, I realized that it should be on view in both countries. In Mexico, the Museo Franz Mayer was the ideal space, and in the United States, Velvet da Vinci gallery. Elizabeth Shypertt and Mike Holmes took an interest right from the outset. They have plenty of experience working with international artists and have put on exhibitions with political themes. They understand them and are completely open to them. And because this is a bi-national issue, I thought it was important the juries have both the North American and the Mexican viewpoints. Without a doubt, Elizabeth’s and Mike’s involvement was key to the success of this exhibition. This show includes US and Mexican artists as well as others from outside these countries.

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Cristina Celis
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Perspective And Invention

Taboo Studio, San Diego, California, USA
Missy Graff

Perspective and Invention is on display through September at Taboo Studio in San Diego, California. This exhibition features jewelry by artists Kristin Beeler, KyungHee Kim, Iker Ortiz, and Donna Veverka. In this interview, Jane Groover describes the connections between the selected works and how the exhibition developed.

Missy Graff: How did you come up with the concept for this exhibition? What importance do perspective and invention have for jewelry?

Jane Groover: The concept for this exhibition came about through some intriguing photographs of new work by four artists whose jewelry we have previously exhibited.  The work looked fresh and evocative to us, and each artist seemed to have a clear frame of reference for what they were researching and making. Perspective and invention have importance in all forms of art. As a gallery, we are often subjected to looking at jewelry that is derivative and that doesn’t understand the meaning of personal perspective. When we see work that is inspired and has a point of view, we are charmed.

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Henriette Schuster: Almost Invisible

Gallery Funaki, Melbourne, Australia

Henriette SchusterHenriette Schuster is a quiet jeweler, and the title of her show at Gallery Funaki Almost Invisible is perfect. She makes simple pieces with delicate domestic references or pure abstractions. There is nothing big or boisterous about her or her work. It is just humble, quiet poetry.

Susan Cummins: Henriette, what is your story? What compelled you to become a jeweler, and what was your path to learning how to do it?

Henriette Schuster: I have known I wanted to be jeweler since the age of six or seven. My grandfather built pianos, and I used to watch him at work when he handmade the keys using ivory, ebony, felt, bone, glue, and shellac. He didn’t say much, but one day he handed me a pair of his working pliers and a piece of wire. It was here that I began making jewelry.

I went against my parents’ wishes by dropping out of my studies in architecture and following the recommendation of Hermann Jünger to take up training in gold- and silversmithing at the renowned Neugablonz Fachschule für Glas und Schmuck (Neugablonz College for Glass and Jewelry). After completing my degree, I was accepted into the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich as one of Otto Künzli’s first students in 1991. I graduated in 2000. Simultaneously, I have worked in my own studio in Munich since 1988. 

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Flora Sekanova: Project Schmetterling 2013

Fingers Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

Flora SekanovaFingers is a gallery of contemporary art jewelry located in Auckland, New Zealand. This August, Kvetoslava Flora (also known as Flora Sekanova) is displaying selected works from her most recent project Schmetterling (Butterfly), in which she continues her exploration of newspaper as a material. Born in Slovakia and currently attending the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, Flora prefers to leave room for the imagination in her responses from our recent interview.

Missy Graff: Can you please describe how you came to be a jeweler?

Flora Sekanova: I became a jeweler on the way to finding my true expression of what this life is about.

You have lived in a few different countries. Do your travels play a role in your work?

Flora Sekanova: Yes, I have lived in a few different countries so far, but as a jeweler I was born in New Zealand. My previous experiences with different cultures have shaped me as a person. So in this sense, yes, my travels play a major role in what I make.

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Lahti Korut, Curated by Anna Rikkinen and Helena Lehtinen

Gallery Pont & Plas, Gent, Belgium

Tarja TuupanenAnna Rikkinen and Helena Lehtinen organized the exhibition Lahti Korut and both live in the city of Lahti, Finland. They use the city as an unusual topic for a jewelry exhibition. This show appeared first in Lahti, then in Munich during Schmuck, and now is being presented at Galerie Pont & Plas. How successful is the show as a whole in capturing the feeling of the city? How successful are the individual pieces? It was a big project about a complex topic.

Susan Cummins: What is so special about the town of Lahti, Finland, that it inspired you to curate a show about it? How did the project evolve?

Anna Rikkinen and Helena Lehtinen: Lahti is our hometown. In 2012, Lahti was the World Design Capital together with Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, and Kauniainen. Our project Lahti Jewelry was selected to be part of the official World Design Capital Helsinki program.

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Jessica Stephens: Natural Formations

Heidi Lowe Gallery, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, USA

Jessica Stephens Heidi Lowe Gallery is located in the beach town of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and has an active program of exhibitions and classes taught by the owner Heidi. In July, Jessica Stephens, a recent graduate from State University of New York (SUNY) New Paltz was the featured jeweler. I think Jessica’s answer to my first question is very telling. Why aren’t students being asked to consider the wearer? Has education swung too far in the direction of self-expression that the wearer isn’t considered in academia? After all, the wearer provides both the end site and the reasons for making jewelry in the first place. I was grateful for Jessica to bring this up in her interview. She is an articulate maker and someone to watch in the future.

Susan Cummins: Jessica, you have been out of school now for about five years. Since graduating from SUNY New Paltz, have your ideas about making jewelry changed?

Jessica Stephens: I definitely think more about wearability. I think about the viewer’s and the wearer’s perception and if the pieces are accessible to a broader audience. In graduate school, you are gifted with an educated audience, a group of people who are intense and invested in the same manner as you. Once you leave that world, you realize how different the value system of the general public is, especially with regards to jewelry, craftsmanship, and invention.

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Linda MacNeil: Brooches

Mobilia Gallery, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Linda MacNeil Linda MacNeil makes jewelry using glass and metal, which gives her amazing control. By using glass and creating jewelry, she crosses over the material lines and appeals to both glass and jewelry collectors. Well established and collected by many museums, Linda joined with Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to concentrate on Brooches, the title of her new show. The variety of style, color, and form is pretty remarkable.

Susan Cummins: Please give us some idea of how you became the unusual combination of a glassblowing jeweler.

Linda MacNeil: To clarify, I don’t do any glassblowing. I work with glass in various ways to create specific parts and shapes and colors or to make solid masses of stock, which I can cut and grind to fit the metal parts of a specific piece.

I was experimenting with acrylics in 1972–73 when I met Dan Dailey, who showed me that glass can be an artist’s medium. Glass has diverse optical properties, an infinite range of colors, it can be similar to gemstones, similar to opaque minerals, similar to metal, yet it is unique. Glass is both ancient and contemporary.

Why do you make jewelry using glass?

Linda MacNeil: I have control over the color, the texture, and the quality of light falling on or passing through or refracting within my work. It is also completely my own, unlike a purchased gem or a custom stone.

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Helen Britton: Heterogene

Galerie Rob Koudijs, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Helen Britton Helen Britton has been very busy in the past couple of years, preparing an exhibit at the Neues Museum in Nürnberg, Germany, collaborating at FORM in Perth, Australia, preparing for gallery shows, writing for AJF, and so forth. How she also had time to pull together this show for Galerie Rob Koudijs in Amsterdam I will never know. Helen is a whirlwind. She is also one of the most professional and thoughtful artists working.

Susan Cummins: Helen, can you explain Heterogene as the title of your current show at Galerie Rob Koudijs?

Helen Britton: Heterogene is really from the word heterogeneous and refers to the diverse preoccupations in my work. The exhibition at Galerie Rob Koudijs includes, more or less, five different sections, one quite unrelated to another. There are the Dekorationswut pieces; a new drawing sequence that is autonomous but related to the Dekorationswut theme; a selection of the Industrial works, including what I am calling the New Industrial Gardens; as well as two major archival brooches. Then, there is The Big Ear, and of course a presentation of the Jewellery for T-Shirts project with Justine McKnight. It’s a pretty diverse show, and the first time I have presented so many different groups together. I usually have solo exhibitions where I just show one body of related work.

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