Opulence was on display from February 4–24 at Shibumi Gallery, located in Berkeley, California, USA. This exhibition featured works by two British jewelry artists—Polly Wales and Jo Hayes Ward. In this interview, Polly and Jo provide us with insight about their process and the concept behind their pieces.
Missy Graff: Please tell me about your background. How did you become interested in making jewelry?
Polly Wales: I initially studied sculpture, but I couldn't really come to grips with the convoluted language of fine art. It felt so removed. After a few years, I wasn’t sure why I was trying to communicate in what felt like such an indirect form. A few years later, my passion for making drove me back to the university, where I studied jewelry. I loved making for making's sake and making decisions from an aesthetic viewpoint rather than a totally intellectualized one. That said, for the first few years of my jewelry career I was still in pursuit of marrying the two, and it was while I was studying at the Royal College of Art (alongside Jo Hayes Ward) that I began my investigation into casting materials together. I was making jewelry that never had a perfect moment; a moment of shiny newness that heralded, somehow, the beginning of the end; or jewelry that demanded to be kept pristine, polished, and safeguarded. So, I started casting stones inside the metal, creating pieces that always had unique outcomes, and if worn forever and a day, would always be changing and revealing something new, the gold wearing away to reveal the stones buried within. This process became the backbone of my work.
Sienna Gallery is having a rather unusual show this month with a series of photographs by Lauren Kalman accompanied by a few objects used in them. The photos include a nude figure, ormamentation and mid-century furniture. Very strange and very beautiful but extremely mysterious. If you want to understand them you must read on.
Susan Cummins: Lauren, please tell the story of your background.
Lauren Kalman: Both of my parents were visual artists, and I think that had a huge influence on my development as an artist. My father is an industrial designer who is currently involved in designing and building his house, and my mother was a commercial photographer. They collected design and craft objects and were interested in architecture and design, so my aesthetic influences began very young. More specifically related to But If the Crime Is Beautiful … , we owned reproductions of the Eames recliner and Wassley chair, so Modern design was a part of my environment growing up.
I majored in metals at Massachusetts College of Art, and following that, was accepted into the now-defunct apprenticeship program at the Johnson Atelier Technical Institute of Sculpture. There, I was trained in foundry with a focus in metal chasing and welding.
My MFA is in art and technology from The Ohio State University. This background includes exposure to conceptual practices, physical computing, digital imaging, and digital video, all of which play an important roll in my current practice.
Karen Lorene, the owner of Facèré Jewelry Art Gallery, is interested in words, but this show indicates that jewelry has a voice that is often louder. As she has done in the past, she once again incorporates the idea of language in conjunction with or opposed to the object. This exhibit called Louder Than Words includes Cynthia Toops & Dan Adams, Davide Bigazzi, Jana Brevick, Jude Clarke, Kat Cole, Nancy Mēgan Corwin, Kathleen Faulkner, Peg Fetter, Sandra Frias, Laurie Hall, Trudee Hill, Sarah Hood, Judith Hoyt, Jacquie & Uosis, Nadine Kariya, Marina Marioni, Karen Massaro, Carla Pennie McBride, Marcia Meyers, David LaPlantz, Eve Llyndorah, Marge Levy, Kristin Lora, Linda Kindler Priest, Gail Rappa, Biba Schutz, Jan Smith, Carolyn Tillie, Wolfgang Vaatz, Sarah Wauzynski, Paulette Werger, and Sara Westermark. It’s a full house.
Susan Cummins: What was your inspiration for this show?
Karen Lorene: Facèré Jewelry Art Gallery has, for many years, combined the worlds of art jewelry and the written word. Often, the shows that combine a publication: Signs of Life, a literary journal; ABCdarian, a children’s alphabet book; and Celebrating 70, have been invitational shows. This show, Louder Than Words, was an open invitation to all of the artists we regularly represent. The artists’ responses have been varied and visually exciting. The show was scheduled for Valentine’s Day shopping, and more importantly, for a conference of the Association of Professional Writers. The anticipated conference attendance will be 16,000 people, and they are registering directly across the street from Facèré at the Sheraton Hotel. We have invited attendees for coffee and crème puffs on a morning during the conference. A crazy invitation, and we hope 30 will show up, we expect 100, and if more than that attend, there will be a line around the block!
Much to the delight of the skiing crowd, it is snowy and cold in Vail this time of year. Jim Cotter is a jeweler and also has owned a gallery there for 44 years. He and gallery director Theresa Hauser have put together a wood jewelry show featuring Maria Christina Bellucci, Christine Brandt, Kate Furman, Tara Locklear, Margherita Marchioni, Gustav Reyes, Marjorie Schick, and Flora Vagi. Although using wood in jewelry is an established practice, this mountainous location makes it the perfect place for a show of jewelry using this natural material.
Susan Cummins: Theresa and Jim, I understand that you worked together to curate this show. Can you walk me through how that worked? Who thought of the idea for the show, and how were the artists chosen?
Jim Cotter: I have been working with wood for many years now and recently made a collection of work that included a number of wood pieces. When looking at other contemporary jewelers, emerging and established, I feel that there are a lot of interesting things being made in the medium of wood. The artists we chose show a real range of visual style, process, and wearability.
Theresa Hauser: Being located in the Rocky Mountains, it is hard not to be inspired by our surroundings. Our visitors understand the natural and visual role of trees in our lives and maybe are even seeing them transformed into sculptures, but to have a pieces of jewelry made of wood often causes people to look twice. As Jim said, we have had his wood jewelry in our galleries, and these pieces have always elicited interesting reactions from our clients. Having a range of work with one material in common is a great way to communicate to our clients and guests the possibilities within the field of contemporary metalsmithing.
Noel Guyomarc’h turns his gallery into a museum this month in order to display the collection of Jocelyne Gobeil, a pioneer in the art gallery scene in Montreal. Jocelyne ran a gallery showing art jewelry and also collected it. Her daughter Julie Anne Tremblay planned to produce an exhibition and catalogue of the collection and asked Noel to become involved in the project. And so, the show was conceived. Jocelyne had to close her gallery due to illness and died in 2005 of ovarian cancer. This is a wonderful tribute to her, which I am sure she would appreciate.
Susan Cummins: Noel, please tell us about Jocelyne Gobeil and why you wanted to have a show about her.
Noel Guyomarc’h: Jocelyne Gobeil ran the first gallery dedicated to contemporary jewelry in Montreal, Canada, from 1987 to 1994. She introduced the local audience to the new movements in the jewelry field. She was a forerunner. Her gallery was already closed when I opened mine, but she came a few times to my gallery to discuss and exchange ideas about jewelry. She was very supportive to me. I knew the artists she had represented, and I was really impressed. A few years ago, her daughter Julie Anne Tremblay came to me with a project including a catalogue and an exhibition. It was clear to me that I should do it.
Karen Pontoppidan is having numerous shows as part of a series called CANVAS CONTEXT CASH. The first part, called just CANVAS, was presented in 2011 as a solo exhibition at three different galleries—Galerie Rob Koudijs, Galerie Spektrum, and Gallery V + V. The current show called CONTEXT was first presented at Galerie Rob Koudijs last April and is now at Galerie Spectrum. CASH will be presented for the first time with Gallery Maurer-Zilioli as a solo exhibition in March 2014, and then continue to a group exhibition in Poland. The concept of rolling out a big collection of jewelry using related ideas is very ambitious. And Karen is trying out and really experimenting not only with that but with ways of working as well. Pretty fascinating stuff.
Susan Cummins: Karen, can you fill us in on your background, and when it was that you decided to become a jeweler?
Karen Pontoppidan: When I was 13-years-old, I decided to become a jewelry artist. It was an easy decision because, growing up on a farm in Denmark, my imagined future profession and my imagined future “glory” seemed far away. Looking back at my decision, I believe it was mainly made against my parents and against the unbearable conservatism of the environment in which I grew up. Becoming an artist would make me untouchable for the measurements of a farmer’s mind, and therefore it was the best escape I could imagine. But no matter why I developed this goal, I am very happy with my choice of profession.
Katja Prins has expanded her views of the relationship of humans to technology in her new show with Galerie Rob Koudijs. Her new jewelry continues to research the way the two interact in the modern world. It is something no one today can deny confronting. These beautiful, clean, and provocative pieces are very suggestive and thought provoking.
Susan Cummins: Can you tell the story of how you discovered that you wanted to be a jeweler?
Katja Prins: I think that the need to express oneself by creating things and using visual language is something that doesn’t come like a discovery or epiphany. It’s something that is just part of you, and it simply needs to have the opportunity to develop. I’ve always been interested in all kinds of art and have always liked to make things, so I just followed my heart.
As soon as I started my technical education as a goldsmith at Schoonhoven, it was clear to me that there was more. I wasn’t too interested in traditional jewelry, and so right away, I focused on going to the art academy. There wasn’t much about jewelry there, but much more about expressing yourself, developing a visual language, and telling an interesting story. It made me an artist whose medium happens to be jewelry.
Dutch jeweler Beppe Kessler took some time out of her visit to Thailand to answer questions for AJF about her work, and specifically about the work in the current show at ATTA Gallery in Bangkok, Thailand. She expresses what a lot of jewelers think about making work with her hands more than her head, and how that translates to her jewelry and painting.
Currently, Thailand is experiencing protests against the government, and I asked Atty Tantivit, the owner of ATTA about it. This is a contrast to this interview, but I thought it was important to note Atty’s response.
“Though corruption is known in Thailand, this is the first time that the people have taken it to centerstage and marched against it, including the corrupted government. The situation is mostly peaceful. There have been some incidents of violence against the protesters by “unknown” attackers, and so far there are about 10 casualties. The protesters occupied the central part of Bangkok. Unless they march the streets asking for support along various roads in Bangkok, we at ATTA Gallery do not feel any disruption.
Pray for us. We need your understanding and support. We are fun- loving, peaceful people. But, when there’s a need for us to fight for what is right, we will not stop short of it. I continue to open the gallery as I think that I owe it to the artists to present their work to the best of my ability. I also think that, at time like this, we could use art to heal our souls. What we have at ATTA Gallery could give people a bit of an uplifted feeling during this tough time.” Atty Tantivit
Our best wishes go with you Atty.