AJF Trip 2011: Seattle

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What is it about the Westin Hotel in Seattle that I find so offensive? Is it the tasteless and blandness of the décor or the airlessness of the space that bugs me? During Flux, the 2011 Society of American Goldsmiths (SNAG) conference, the place was crawling with metalsmiths of all stripes, but they were placed against a backdrop of spring green and pastel accents that diminished their flamboyant displays of pink and purple hair and oversized ornamentation. Imagine this flock existing in more elegant surroundings. It seems a shame that craft conferences can’t be held in beautifully crafted places. Or am I just old guard?

AJF Exhibition Geography
AJF Exhibition
Art Jewelry Forum Trip
“Nothing if Not Critical” panel: Damian Skinner, Monica Gaspar, Kevin Murray, Ben Lingel, and Namita Wiggers
Art Jewelry Forum Trip
Kiff Slemmons, Pride of Paper/ Orgullo en Papel

Visual highlights of the trip were the exhibitions scattered around town. We were especially taken with the following:

  • Kiff Slemmons’s exhibition called Pride of Paper/ Orgullo en Papel at THREE BY TEN.
  •  Us in Flux at Greg Kucera Gallery, curated by Ruth Koelewyn and Seth Papac.
  • Sondra Sherman’s exhibition called Found Subjects at Marquand Books.
  • ABeCeDarian at Facèré Jewelry Art Gallery.
Art Jewelry Forum Trip
Lori Talcott in her studio with her cat.
Art Jewelry Forum
Nancy Yoneyama wearing neckpiece by Seth Papac

We also visited the home of Sally von Bargen, AJF board member and treasurer (soon to retire). She invited the young jewelers Stephanie Tomczak, Molly Epstein, Julie Harrison and Midori Saito to join her. Sally planned an unexpected treat for us. As we entered her home we were each given a piece of paper with a statement or two on it about someone’s life. For example, one said, ‘I work three jobs besides doing my jewelry.’ We were presented with groupings of work by each jeweler and were asked to place our statement with the jeweler it belonged to. This proved to be a daunting task and most of us got it wrong, but in the ensuing conversation we learned a lot. The jewelers also asked the AJF trip members some questions and it provoked a lively conversation. It was fascinating how disconnected the life of a jeweler is from the way their work appears to the viewer. Hmm, something to consider! Finally, before we left, I presented Sally with a gift of an ounce of silver from the board for all her work with AJF and expressed our immense debt to her. She will be spending more time working as a jeweler in the future.

We finished up the trip with a bus ride to Bellevue Museum of Art. First we spent some time enjoying the Think Twice: New Latin American Jewelry exhibit, which was beautifully installed in this venue. (MAD in New York, eat your heart out!) It looked like a totally different and much more interesting show here. Then we saw this year’s version of SNAG’s Exhibition in Motion. It was hard for the audience to see what was going on, but offered an experimental way of showing jewelry.

To wrap it up I would just mention that we all enjoyed several meals together. In particular, the Friday night dinner at Wild Ginger, with the international writers in attendance as well as some of the jeweler members of AJF, was the most memorable. We really got a chance to talk and engage in a deeper discussion and that is what it is all about.

Art Jewelry Forum Trip
Geography installation crew: Susan Cummins, Bin Dixon-Ward, Nancy Yoneyama, Tom Hill, Mike Holmes and Linda Peshkin

Next year Schmuck?


  • Susan Cummins

    Susan Cummins has been involved in numerous ways in the visual arts world over the last 35 years, from working in a pottery studio, doing street fairs, running a retail shop called the Firework in Mill Valley and developing the Susan Cummins Gallery into a nationally recognized venue for regional art and contemporary art jewelry. Now she spends most of her time working with a private family foundation called Rotasa and as a board member of AJF and California College of the Arts.

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