Dramatic Jewelry: Five Masters

Aaron Faber Gallery, New York, New York, USA

Paolo Marcolongo Aaron Faber Gallery in New York City is presenting the work of five master jewelers from Europe and America. In an impressive showing of innovative stonecutters and metalworkers, this exhibit celebrates the creative talents of these jewelers. Patricia Faber answers some questions about the choice of jewelers and what is so special about their work.

Susan Cummins: The title of your show is Dramatic Jewelry. How would you define dramatic jewelry as opposed to any other kind?

Patricia Faber: The title of this show cannot be parsed. It is Dramatic Jewelry: The Five Masters. Usually, gallery show titles are headlines or banners to communicate the essence of the exhibition and to describe it to non-collectors as well as to the jewelry community. So the word “jewelry” in the title is essential. And in the presence of these works, their dramatic scale stands out. These are all artists exploring the sculptural possibilities of their media, and the works are large.

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Atelier Tom Munsteiner
Design Peter Schmid
Design Peter Schmid
Paolo Marcolongo
Atelier Tom Munsteiner
Paolo Marcolongo
Michael Good
Charlotte De Syllas
Charlotte De Syllas

David Bielander: Koi for Joy

Gallery S O, London, England

David Bielander The Swiss jeweler David Bielander is unique and so is his jewelry. In his current show at Gallery S O, he presents a broad array of his work, going back to the famous 1999 lips. There is always something intriguing, strange, and humorous about his jewelry, and the more you ponder it the more amazing it becomes. He has his own ways of thinking about what he does as well. It is all very curious and fascinating. How does he think of these things?

Recently, David Bielander was chosen by the AJF board to make the 2014 AJF membership pin. I can hardly wait to see what he does.

Susan Cummins: David, can you tell the story of how you discovered you wanted to make jewelry?

David Bielander: My first encounter with the world of making jewelry happened when I was 19 and had to make an unscheduled detour on my straight-lined and not at all naive path to become a groundbreaking fashion designer in Antwerp. A trial week in goldsmithing, followed by a four year apprenticeship as a traditional goldsmith. I did this because of the attraction of the resistance of metal and the handling of fire. But mainly because I was fascinated that everything I learnt was visible on the bench at the end of the day and also everything that I had thought I had learnt, but in fact had not internalized was also visible.

I did this not because I would have been interested in jewelry in any way. I have never been a dedicated wearer, I could not comprehend the notions of enhancing a person, of simple beautification, joyful decoration, or showing off materialized technical virtuosity or splendor, which I learnt would be the parameters of jewelry. Even not after having been the goldsmith for two years of the wonderfully kooky Georg Spreng.

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David Bielander
David Bielander
David Bielander
David Bielander
David Bielander
David Bielander

Alexander Blank: Blank Planet

Ornamentum, Hudson, New York, USA

Alexander Blank Alexander Blank studied jewelry from 1997 to 2010 at a variety of different schools and finished as a graduate of Munich’s Academy of Fine Arts where he was a student of Otto Künzli’s. In a recent AJF blog, Blank answered questions about his experience of studying with Künzli, but this interview is about his first solo show in the United States. Ornamentum, a gallery located in Hudson, New York, invited Blank to present a retrospective of his work from 2006 to the present. It is an opportunity to see the development of his thinking and understand the recurring themes told through his passionate interest in storytelling. Blank is clearly a smart and talented maker with a youthful zest for life.

Susan Cummins: Alexander, you recently answered some questions for this blog about working with Otto Künzli at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, so I won’t ask you about your academic training, but can you tell us the story of how you became interested in being a jeweler?

Alexander Blank: Actually, I was not very interested in nor was I planning to become a jeweler when I started it. I wanted to become a photographer, but the one I chose to study with already had an apprentice, so I just simply inquired in the next shop down which happened to be a goldsmith. They took me as an apprentice, but I really was more interested in my friends, sports, and just hanging out at the time. I have to say that I was still quite immature.

Jewelry became much more interesting to me when I was in the advanced technical college in Hanau, Germany. There, I began to get an idea of what jewelry could be beyond well-crafted pieces, good selling ideas, and old school tradition. I felt there was more potential and other values beyond the material based intentions in the jewelry making. Suddenly I noticed that it was possible approach a jewelry piece to criticize, comment, use, and narrate everything I can imagine. That made me very curious, and I continued to study in Munich. To make it short, not much has changed from the younger version of me, but now I feel like jewelry has turned into my playground, and I have begun to love that game.

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Alexander Blank
Alexander Blank
Alexander Blank
Alexander Blank
Alexander Blank
Alexander Blank
Alexander Blank
Alexander Blank
Alexander Blank

HELTER SKELTER

Galerie Rosemarie Jäger, Hochheim, Germany

With Otto Künzli’s much-deserved exhibition up at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, Germany, it seems to be a good time to have a deeper look at his work as a professor as well as a maker. Five of his students—Alexander Blank, Attai Chen, Carina Chitsaz-Shoshtary, Melanie Isverding, and Mia Maljojoki have organized a show at the Galerie Rosemarie Jäger this month called Helter Skelter. Rather than discussing the theme of the show, I decided to ask these former students of Otto Künzli’s about his work as a teacher.

Helter Skelter artistsOtto Künzli

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Alexander Blank

Mari Ishikawa: Landscape

Klimt02 Gallery, Barcelona, Spain

Mari Ishikawa Klimt02 Gallery, in Barcelona, Spain, is having an exhibition this month with Mari Ishikawa. Mari is Japanese but trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and now lives there. She was a Herbert Hofmann awardee in 2000 and the Elizabeth R. Raphael Founder Prize winner last year. Mari has shown far and wide and brings her special point of view to the jewelry she makes. Her show Landscape became an opportunity for an interview this month.

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

Mari Ishikawa: I worked as an interior designer in Japan. It was quite interesting, but the range was too limited. Jewelry gives me more artistic freedom. At the same time, the relationship that exists between the object, the person who wears it, and me is more personal and more intense in jewelry.

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Mari Ishikawa
Mari Ishikawa
Mari Ishikawa
Mari Ishikawa
Mari Ishikawa

Ken Bova

Gravers Lane Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Ken Bova Gravers Lane Gallery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is showing the work of Montana-born jeweler Ken Bova. Ken is currently a professor at the very active East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. This exhibition gave me a chance to find out a bit more about Ken and his work as a jeweler, an enamellist, and unexpectedly as it turns out, a reader.

Susan Cummins: Ken, can you tell me the story of how you became a jeweler?

Ken Bova: Interestingly (at least to me anyway) while in high school I bought a set of jewelry tools (pliers, a saw frame and a few hammers). I tried to teach myself how to make silver rings and bangle bracelets (without much success I might add) but abandoned it after entering college to study art.  The stage was set before university, but I just needed the right nudge and opportunity.

I was working on my BFA with a major in painting and drawing when a professor hired me to help hang wallboard in a studio he was building. Part of this studio was dedicated to a small jewelry making space. In exchange for the help,

I was paid in part with six weeks of jewelry casting lessons. I was hooked. I was only a semester away from getting my degree when I decided that this was it—THE discipline I wanted to pursue as an artist. Because the school had no program in metals, I finished the degree in painting and then transferred to the University of Houston. I studied for a year of post-baccalaureate work with Val Link and Sandie Zilker before applying to graduate schools. 

I was convinced I wanted to be a smith and concentrated on raising and forming processes. In graduate school, however, I found myself inexplicably drawn to the wearable—perhaps because of its intimate scale or maybe because working with the brooch format was comfortable and echoed my experience in painting. In any case, I gravitated towards jewelry, and there I’ve stayed.

By the way, I still have the very first piece of jewelry I cast, a sterling silver and tumbled jade stone ring.

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Ken Bova
Ken Bova
Ken Bova
Ken Bova
Ken Bova
Ken Bova

Barbara Heinrich: Ribbons of Gold

de novo, Palo Alto, California, USA

Barbara Heinrich is a delightful example of one of the best production studio jewelers working in America today. Her current show at de novo in Palo Alto, California, gives us an occasion to ask her a few questions about her background and her attitude toward making jewelry. Barbara’s ability to turn a dilemma into an opportunity is one of her great strengths, and the energy she brings into the studio each day can’t be ignored as a key to her success.

Susan Cummins: Barbara, what is your background, and how did you decide to become a jeweler?

Barbara Heinrich: I grew up on a vineyard in Germany and always made jewelry from the time I was little. When it was time to decide on a field of study, I thought I should study something “harder,” such as architecture or product design, but my father convinced me to pursue what was most natural to me, making jewelry.

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Barbara Heinrich
Barbara Heinrich
Barbara Heinrich
Barbara Heinrich
Barbara Heinrich
Barbara Heinrich

Jamie Bennett: Among Etcetera, Jewelry and Drawings

Antonella Villanova, Florence, Italy

Jamie Bennett Starting in May, American jeweler Jamie Bennett has a delightful show at Antonella Villanova contemporary jewelry and design gallery in Florence, Italy. It is an unexpected place for Jamie to exhibit his enamels given the rarity of Americans showing in European galleries. I applaud both Antonella and Jamie for making it work. Jamie has answered my numerous questions with thoughtfulness, and although I have known him for many years, I learned a lot from this interview. Enjoy.

Susan Cummins: Jamie, can you tell me the story of how you became a jeweler?

Jamie Bennett: Once I finished undergraduate school with a business degree from The University of Georgia, I began taking art classes there. I was thrilled with the freedom I sampled by taking painting, ceramics, sculpture, and jewelry. Though I had only taken one class in jewelry, the intimacy, the particular type of making, and these objects all appealed to me. And I realized I already had a connection, which perhaps instigated my interest.

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Jamie Bennett
Jamie Bennett
Jamie Bennett
Jamie Bennett
Jamie Bennett
Jamie Bennett
Jamie Bennett
Jamie Bennett
Jamie Bennett
Jamie Bennett

Mia Maljojoki: Life is juicy - How fragile is your day

Galerie Spektrum, Munich, Germany

Mia Maljojoki For once, I had the great good fortune to see one of the shows featured on the blog in person. I wish this were possible for every interview. Mia Maljojoki presented her work with Galerie Spektrum during Schmuck week in Munich, guaranteeing a huge audience. It is important to see her work up close to become aware of the care with which she makes it. Also, there is a very tender feeling that photos do not capture. The necklaces are accompanied by videos of a close examination of skin—again, something that can’t be sensed via this blog. However, Mia’s answers give us an excellent opportunity to understand more.

Susan Cummins: Can you tell me the story of how you became a jeweler, including where you lived and went to school?

Mia Maljojoki: In 1996, after working in fashion for several years in Helsinki, Finland, I went to work at a summer camp in western North Carolina, USA. That summer, in the middle of the woods near Asheville, I started to make jewelry by braiding twigs and lining up stones. Wanting to continue transforming materials into ornament, I attended the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, studying under Professor Joe Wood. In 2001, I graduated with a bachelor of fine arts in small metals.

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Mia Maljojoki
Mia Maljojoki
Mia Maljojoki
Mia Maljojoki
Mia Maljojoki
Mia Maljojoki
Mia Maljojoki

Sally Marsland: Everything depends on what we would rather do than change

Jeweler’sWerk Galerie, Washington DC, USA

Sally Marsland Jeweler’sWerk Galerie in Washington, DC is having a marvelous exhibition with Australian Sally Marsland this month. Sally’s show has the very long title Everything depends on what we would rather do than change. It is accompanied by a catalog that’s remarkable in its honesty and humor about making work and living life. I was delighted by it and by her answers to my questions.

Susan Cummins: Can you tell me how you came to make jewelry?

Sally Marsland: When I was 12 I obsessively drew house plans and elevations on 5-mm graph paper, carefully placing windows and doors and furniture etc. I decided the logical conclusion was to become an architect. I followed this through to university, and then fell in a huge heap part way through as it dawned on me that perhaps the obsessive drawing had been a symbol of something else. I was studying architecture at RMIT University in Melbourne, and after a year of depression, I started in the jewelry course there. I studied at RMIT for five years and worked with the late Melbourne sculptor Akio Makigawa (husband of jeweler Carlier Makigawa) while I set up my own practice. I studied for two years with Otto Künzli in Munich. Since 2000, I have been back in Melbourne where I work and live with my husband Stephen Bram, an abstract painter, and our two sons.

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Sally Marsland
Sally Marsland
Sally Marsland
Sally Marsland
Sally Marsland
Sally Marsland
Sally Marsland
Sally Marsland

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