Interview Type: Artist

Iris Bodemer

This month Jewelers’Werk Galerie in Washington DC is showing the work of Iris Boedmer, the German jeweler from Pforzheim. Ellen Reiben has been in the jewelry business a long time. She has had the gallery since 1988 when she took it over from the founder, Dutch jeweler Joke van Ommen. I asked both Ellen and Iris some questions about the gallery and the fabulous work being shown.

Iris Bodemer and Ellen ReibenSusan Cummins: Ellen, how do you describe what you show?

Ellen Reiben: I show contemporary international jewelry by artists, in a range of materials. What is most important to me is a sense of a clear and original vision that does not feel derivative in concept or implementation. The work must speak of its time (I am not fond of the term ‘timeless’) and I am also very attracted to subtlety. Having been in this field for a long time and having seen so much work, it is still inspiring to me to find new work that is truly provocative and powerful and seems to speak its own ‘language.’ My intuition plays a role in selection – an intuition that has grown and that I now trust, from so many years in this field.

What is your background and what led you to run a gallery showing art jewelry?

Ellen Reiben: I have an MFA in jewelry from Rochester Institute of Technology and I studied with Gary Griffin. My work was mostly in non-precious materials. I was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin and studied with Fred Fenster. Since then I have done a broad array of exhibition design, theatre props and my own jewelry. Now, however, I focus on my gallery and my daughter, who is fifteen. The gallery was called V O Galerie in 1984 when Joke van Ommen opened it. She was killed in an automobile accident in 1988 and her family asked me to take over. At the time I had my work in her gallery. I changed the name of the gallery for legal reasons and carried on with her goals of bringing international artist jewelers’ work to the United States.

 

Ulrich Reithofer: Curse of Symmetry

Ulrich Reithofer Caroline van Hoek in Brussels, Belgium, has had her gallery for five years. The storefront she occupies was once a grocery store and the original awning still refers to Fruit and Legumes. She has participated in a number of high profile fairs like Design Miami and has tried to expose art jewelry to new audiences. Her show in April 2012 with Ulrich Reithofer, an Austrian living in Amsterdam, presented a full and rich range of his latest work. Ulrich took a while to get back to me with answers to my questions and apologized with a song by F R David called ‘Words Don’t come Easy.’I think you will find that his words might not come easy but they are pretty damn poetic.

Susan Cummins: Please tell me where you went to school and where you are now.

Ulrich Reithofer: I was in a technical college for civil engineering in Austria during the 1990s and in 1998 I entered Fachhochschule Trier, Fachbereich Idar- Oberstein in Germany where I learned gemstone cutting and jewelry design with Theo Smeets. That was followed by two years at the Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam getting a Master of Applied Arts with Marjan Unger. I am now living and working in Amsterdam.

Ford/Forlano: Overlay

Ivan and Allison Barnett Patina Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is owned and run by Ivan and Allison Barnett, an energetic and engaging couple. They chose to have a show called Overlay with Steve Ford and David Forlano through April 22, 2012, during the time of David Forlano’s painting exhibition at the New Mexico Museum of Art. Ford and Forlano are popular artists on the craft fair scene and innovative makers using polymer clay. But beyond that they have very active creative lives, as you will see.

Ford/Forlano Susan Cummins: I understand that you and Steve Ford met in Rome during a year of studying abroad through the Tyler School of Art. Can you retell the story of your meeting and explain why you became friends and working partners?

Steve Ford: David and I were assigned adjacent studio spaces at Tyler/Rome in 1984 and had similar work habits. We both liked to work until the building closed at midnight. We’d then walk back to our pensione, stopping at Giolliti’s near the Pantheon for a late night gelato. While our individual styles were very different, I think we were both intrigued by the other’s thinking about art and how to make a successful painting. Our first collaboration was in a figure drawing class there. Working next to each other, our two drawings of the same model had opposite problems. We spontaneously traded drawings and ‘corrected’ each other’s work.

David Forlano: I remember being interested in the way Steve thought about painting. We had studios directly next to each other, which allowed for constant dialogue about the process of making work. I was intrigued by Steve’s focus on the construction of paintings as an object.

Gesine Hackenberg: Still Lifes

 

Galerie Pont & Plas, located in Ghent, Belgium, is housed in a beautiful old eighteenth century house. Nicole Thienpont founded the gallery in 2002 and shows a variety of artwork, including jewelry. She says she was inspired by the words of Dr Adriaan Claerhout, ‘Is there a purer, more honest meeting point imaginable between cultures and people than art?’ Her show with jeweler Gesine Hackenberg opened on a drizzly night in early March 2012 and will continue through April. I was curious about Hackenberg’s work and her decision to use contemporary glassware imagery.

Susan Cummins: Can you describe your background as a jeweler?

Gesine Hackenberg: I was born in 1972 in Germany but now I live and work in Amsterdam. I was trained as a goldsmith at the Fachhochschule für Gestaltung in Pforzheim, Germany and in 2001 I received my degree from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. I am currently a Visiting Professor at the MAD-faculty in Hasselt, Belgium and at the VakschoolEdelsmeden in Amsterdam.Gesine Hackenberg

Was there a particular teacher or artist that influenced you?

I guess Iris Eichenberg, who was one of my teachers at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, has influenced me most in my way of working and looking at materials. Though I believe that also my background as a goldsmith in Germany has always stayed with me.

How would you describe your work in general?

A basic theme in my work is placing ordinary objects of use in the perspective of jewelry. I reflect their emotional value and possible position on the body. The pieces are based on craft techniques and various materials that tell their own stories about preciousness and adornment, like ceramic tableware, (precious) metal, Japanese Urushi lacquer and glassware. They refer to the validity of traditional themes and their heritage. In the same time, they merge concepts like jewelry, ornaments and objects of use.

Octavia Cook

Octavia CookThe National in Chistchurch, New Zealand, was founded in 2004 by Caroline Billing to raise the profile of New Zealand jewelers. She is currently showing work by a really imaginative jeweler named Octavia Cook. I love artists who make up myths or narratives about their work and Octavia is one who does. The jewelry itself doesn’t have to carry the full story but the story can be in addition and just go along with it. For me, it adds an another element that helps me to both understand the work and remember it.

Octavia Cook Susan Cummins: Octavia, you have made up a character for this show. What is Cocoa Vitako’s story?

Octavia Cook: Cocoa Vitako is the latest alter ego I invented to move my work in a new direction since killing off Cook & Co, my fictitious family jewelry company (which has been a vehicle for the ideas in my work since 2003).

The name is an anagram of my own name, so she really is a part of me. I wanted the name to sound exotic but unplaceable in terms of nationality. The ‘Cocoa’ part is a bit of a reference to the fashion world that crops up in some pieces of my work – I made a piece for a show last year where I borrowed one of Coco Chanel’s well known portraits and replaced her face with mine. I believe jewelry and fashion are closely linked. The ‘tako’ part in Vitako is meaningful to me as well. Tako is the Japanese word for octopus and both Japan and octopi have been twisted into the narrative of Cook & Co in the past.<--break->

Octavia CookIs she based on an historical figure?

 As mentioned above she isn’t based on any one person but represents a type of person or a part of my personality that I have chosen to indulge for this exhibition. I see her as a slightly shallow magpie prone to seduction by distinctive objects and clothing.

Kiff Slemmons

Patti Bleicher and Eileen David started Gallery Loupe in Montclair, New Jersey, United States, six years ago. They show a roster of both established and emerging international artists and are interested in furthering the dialogue that contemporary jewelry evokes. In February they asked Kiff Slemmons, an established American artist, to show her most recent work in an exhibition called Huesos. I caught up with Kiff and asked her a few questions about her work and her interests.

Kiff SiemmonsSusan Cummins: Kiff, I know you have been working with artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico for the past ten years and that these paper pieces represent work you did with them. Please tell me something this project and the resulting work.

Kiff Slemmons: These pieces emerged from an art residence at Arte Papel Oaxaca. The artist and  members of the atelier did the work together. Early pieces referenced African jewelry with discs built up into sculptural bead forms. Later pieces exhibit the techniques of folding, cutting and hollow-punching, rolled and formed paper pulp. The atelier is dedicated to ‘reviving the pre-Columbian tradition of making paper from natural fibers.’ The result of this project is a collection of paper jewelry, which is highly sculptural and utilizes indigenous plants, fibers, natural and synthetic dyes. 



 Talking about paper in Oaxaca involves countering assumptions about the material, its fragility versus strength, the metaphoric implications of paper in this regard, in relation to books and the culture at large. What paper meant in pre-contact culture in Mexico, its magnified significance after conquest and its current place in culture today. How I came to work as I did there means looking at my previous work, how it might have led to such a project which involves a kind of world view through jewelry and writing. My work is really not technique determined, even with the paper. It’s ideas that interest me first and the possibility of being poetic in a visual language.

Patti Bleicher and Eileen David started Gallery Loupe in Montclair, New Jersey, United States, six years ago. They show a roster of both established and emerging international artists and are interested in furthering the dialogue that contemporary jewelry evokes. In February they asked Kiff Slemmons, an established American artist, to show her most recent work in an exhibition called Huesos. I caught up with Kiff and asked her a few questions about her work and her interests.

Kiff SiemmonsSusan Cummins: Kiff, I know you have been working with artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico for the past ten years and that these paper pieces represent work you did with them. Please tell me something this project and the resulting work.

Kiff Slemmons: These pieces emerged from an art residence at Arte Papel Oaxaca. The artist and  members of the atelier did the work together. Early pieces referenced African jewelry with discs built up into sculptural bead forms. Later pieces exhibit the techniques of folding, cutting and hollow-punching, rolled and formed paper pulp. The atelier is dedicated to ‘reviving the pre-Columbian tradition of making paper from natural fibers.’ The result of this project is a collection of paper jewelry, which is highly sculptural and utilizes indigenous plants, fibers, natural and synthetic dyes. 



 Talking about paper in Oaxaca involves countering assumptions about the material, its fragility versus strength, the metaphoric implications of paper in this regard, in relation to books and the culture at large. What paper meant in pre-contact culture in Mexico, its magnified significance after conquest and its current place in culture today. How I came to work as I did there means looking at my previous work, how it might have led to such a project which involves a kind of world view through jewelry and writing. My work is really not technique determined, even with the paper. It’s ideas that interest me first and the possibility of being poetic in a visual language.

Color and Form: Brooke Marks-Swanson

You may have noticed that we are featuring six galleries each month on the AJF website homepage  and I wanted to get the low down about some of the shows that are up in February. I was curious for more insights from either the gallery owners or from the artists. Taboo Studio in San Diego, California, is the first up. They are presenting a show called Color and Form running from February 10 to March 23, 2012. The show features work by Brooke Marks-Swanson, Heather Guidero, Ananda Khalsa, Valerie Mitchell, Joan Parcher, Munya Avigall Upin, and Barbara Uriu. Joanna Rhodes and Jane Groover, co-owners of Taboo Studio, thought that an interview with Brooke Marks-Swanson would provide a flavor of the show and offer special focus on an artist they represent. Marks-Swanson is from South Bend, Indiana and studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

Susan Cummins: How long have you been represented by Taboo Studio?

Brooke Marks-Swanson: I was first invited to be in a show in 2008 and then Jane saw my work at the AJF Geography show this past summer and was gracious enough to invite me again for the current show, Color and Form.

Given your participation in the Geography show, would you say that what you do is influenced by where you live?

Absolutely.  For the longest time I was drawn to the infinite horizon; mostly with the point of contact where the land and the sky meet. Upon further study of my surroundings, I am more interested in the connection between a sense of place, elements from the natural world and the dialogue that develops between the two.

EAA Winner 2009

As a Pittsburgh-area native who had left some time ago I was thrilled to have the opportunity to return there to meet and interview Sharon Massey, this year’s AJF Emerging Artist Award winner and a recent transplant to the Pittsburgh-area. While this interview focuses on the emerging artist award, during our conversation I was excited …

EAA Winner 2009 Read More »

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