Saul Bell Design Award Volume 40.5

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BEST OF SHOW. Sophia Hu, USA, Origami—Window with a View Collection of oxidized sterling silver and twenty-three karat gold. Photographs courtesy of Rio Grande.

 

The Saul Bell Design Award has been driving jewelers to innovate and excel for eighteen years, giving a platform where craft and fine jewelry can intersect and cover new ground. From alternative materials to silver, platinum and gold, the high rigor of the jurying process, together with Rio Grande’s professional recognition, bring a breath of fresh air to the industry.

This year’s award winners include several jewelry artists who also traverse the craft show circuit. Sophia Hu, who won the Best of Show award with her Origami—Window with a View collection, has previously been inducted into the Saul Bell Hall of Fame. In 2017, she was awarded Second Place in the Alternative Materials category, but due to a twist of timing, her husband was unable to attend the ceremony, a regret which compelled her to test her skills once again in this year’s competition. An intriguing concept and a consistently developed theme led to this collection. Hu’s fascination with the nature of folding, of flat planes given dimensionality and depth, is inspired by Japanese paper art, and perhaps, too, her fifteen years background in architectural design.

FIRST PLACE GOLD/PLATINUM.   Garen Garibian, USA, Mata Hari brooch of eighteen karat yellow, pink and white gold, druzy onyx, white brilliant-cut diamonds, and red spinel.

FIRST PLACE GOLD/PLATINUM. Garen Garibian, USA, Mata Hari brooch of eighteen karat yellow, pink and white gold, druzy onyx, white brilliant-cut diamonds, and red spinel.

Her foray into jewelrymaking all came about due to a lack of choice: Hu’s taste in jewelry is particular and the commercial world had nothing to offer that matched her personal aesthetic. The solution was to make her own jewelry, and she dove into it with her husband’s full support. The result is lightweight geometry, blooming like flowers in the night, with surface textures and keum-bo to impart contrast and color.

Coming with a very different approach is Garen Garibian’s Mata Hari brooch, a classical design that manages to combine the elegance of the fine jewelry of the twentieth century with a playful touch. Named after the famous, or rather infamous spy from World War I, Garibian’s piece is like a miniature sculpture, with one blood red ruby drop betraying Mata Hari’s untimely demise. A necklace of diamonds contrasts with a silky black dress of onyx, spiraling down like a twister, bare golden arms tempting the onlooker to come hither.

Garibian came to the United States from Armenia to pursue a career as a plastic surgeon. His life changed course after arriving in America when he took on a friend’s job doing jewelry repair work. A certain sense of irony in the universe perhaps gave him this similar line of work to his old career, where he focused on face recovery. Garibian had graduated from art school back in Armenia, so the shift to making jewelry was a natural fit.

FIRST PLACE JEWELRY COLLECTION COUTURE/FINE. Wolfgang Vaatz, USA, Rocky Mountains Memories bracelet of sterling silver, eighteen karat gold, eighteen karat rose gold, fourteen karat yellow gold, fourteen karat rose gold, unrefined gold nuggets, diamonds, and platinum.

FIRST PLACE JEWELRY COLLECTION COUTURE/FINE. Wolfgang Vaatz, USA, Rocky Mountains Memories bracelet of sterling silver, eighteen karat gold, eighteen karat rose gold, fourteen karat yellow gold, fourteen karat rose gold, unrefined gold nuggets, diamonds, and platinum.

As a regular winner in the competition, Wolfgang Vaatz is a consummate jeweler, with a love of surface design and rich textures. He turns bracelets and pendants into canvases where nature unfolds like a landscape painting, although his work goes beyond the representational. This year, he applied for the new Jewelry Collection categories, where he was awarded First Place in Jewelry Collection Couture/Fine.

The inspiration for this collection was the Rocky Mountains, which Vaatz has visited in the past. His capture of the serenity and stark beauty of that stretch of wilderness imbues each piece. An artist who works in a variety of media, including painting, Vaatz employed a variation of the sgraffito technique, where a surface layer is scratched away to reveal the substrate underneath. In one bracelet, a glorious sunburst emanates from a single diamond, placed in the center above the rolling hills. Etching away the gold, then oxidizing the silver produces thin black lines, like the caress of a pencil upon thick paper, that pulses outward. Shrubs, towering, spindly trees, and deep shadows make this subtle scene come alive.

FIRST PLACE ENAMEL.   Carina Wong, Hong Kong, Leaping Tree Frog ring of  champlevé  enamel, eighteen karat gold, white diamonds, orange sapphires.

FIRST PLACE ENAMEL. Carina Wong, Hong Kong, Leaping Tree Frog ring of champlevé enamel, eighteen karat gold, white diamonds, orange sapphires.

Sometimes it is the denizens of nature that make an appearance in the contest. Carina Wong’s First Place in Enamel, Leaping Tree Frog, is a delicate and attractive rendition of the famous amphibian that dwells in the Amazonian rain forests. Orange sapphires are used to recreate the creature’s webbed feet, while the brilliant enamel brings to life the poisonous animal’s vibrant patterning. A resident of Hong Kong, Wong is one of the contest’s international applicants, and an example of jewelry as a universal artform. Another member of the animal kingdom is represented by Sinork Agdere’s The Dragonfly, the Second Place winner in the Enamel category. From Los Angeles, California, Agdere’s take demonstrates how many ways the same subject can be interpreted, where artistic license and abstraction leads to an almost clockwork creation. The two award winners also utilized different enameling techniques, with Wong employing champlevé to produce the silken texture of the frog’s skin, while Agdere used plique-à-jour to infuse her insect’s wings with their characteristic shimmer.

The Alternative Metals/Materials category is an interesting exercise in making a piece of jewelry that appears luxurious without using the materials most associated with luxury. The requirement is that the predominant material must be a metal or material not included in the other categories, and in previous years has featured such unusual mediums as recycled rubber and Nespresso coffee capsules. Gabri Schumacher, from Schoonhoven in the Netherlands, won this year’s First Place prize with her titanium ring, Head in the Clouds.

 
FIRST PLACE   ALTERNATIVE METALS/MATERIALS. Gabri Schumacher, The Netherlands, Head In The Clouds ring of titanium, gold and diamonds.

FIRST PLACE ALTERNATIVE METALS/MATERIALS. Gabri Schumacher, The Netherlands, Head In The Clouds ring of titanium, gold and diamonds.

 

Schumacher’s piece is self-commentary, not only on herself, but also other artists and designers who are constantly thinking about what they will make next. To those who experience the drive to create, the process is a continuous flow of observation, inspiration and imagination, a sort of day-dreaming which manifests in the crafted object. Despite the mercurial picture that she depicts, Schumacher went through a laborious and detail-oriented procedure to arrive at this ring. She first made paper cutouts as a three-dimensional model of sorts, to arrive at the basic design. Once that transpired, a 3D computer program was used to  produce the prototype. The ring had to be perfectly designed from the beginning, as any mistakes in the dimensions would make it impossible for all the pieces of titanium to fit together. The end result is abstract, quixotic and mysterious.

FIRST PLACE EMERGING JEWELRY ARTIST 18 YEARS OF AGE OR YOUNGER.   Peyton Rogers, USA, Waterfall necklace of nickel silver and synthetic beads.

FIRST PLACE EMERGING JEWELRY ARTIST 18 YEARS OF AGE OR YOUNGER. Peyton Rogers, USA, Waterfall necklace of nickel silver and synthetic beads.

The competition also encourages the next generation of jewelers to participate in making their mark with the Emerging Jewelry Artist 18/22 Years of Age or Younger categories. This year, Hoi Yi Lai of Toronto, Canada, and Peyton Rogers of Fort Worth, Texas, were the first place winners, each coming from different places but showing ingenuity and imaginative thought in both their designs. Rogers is fifteen years old and constructed her necklace entirely by assembly and handsawing nickel silver; a few salvaged synthetic beads added color to the piece. She is a world traveler, and the inspiration for her necklace comes from the waterfalls she has witnessed in Ireland and Switzerland. Wearability was an important factor in the design, and she made sure that it would properly flow down the neckline, like roiling water.

Courage is the name of Lai’s ring, and her interest in philosophy and religion leads her to pick words that have meaning and then render them as a piece of jewelry. Entirely hand-fabricated from wire and silver sheet, the piece looks both diaphanous, and a bit intimidating, like brass knuckles that were formed for a particularly erudite gangster. The first jewelry she ever made was “a brooch that I pierced out of brass. It was a drawing of an alien with cat ears,” she says.

FIRST PLACE EMERGING JEWELRY ARTIST 22 YEARS OF AGE OR YOUNGER.   Hoi Yi Lai, Canada, Courage ring of sterling silver and tourmalines.

FIRST PLACE EMERGING JEWELRY ARTIST 22 YEARS OF AGE OR YOUNGER. Hoi Yi Lai, Canada, Courage ring of sterling silver and tourmalines.

The Saul Bell Design Award shows that the stories behind fine jewelry are more nuanced than one might imagine. As a cross-section of skilled craftspeople from across the globe, the competition has given individuals the ability to define what jewelry is and will become. The results, as we can see, are fascinating.

Next year’s winners will be announced at the Saul Bell Design Award ceremony on May 19, 2019. Read more on present and past award recipients on their website www.saulbellaward.com.

 

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Get Inspired!


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Patrick R. Benesh-Liu is Associate Editor of Ornament and continues to find time to enjoy craft in between writing, travel and tech support. A recent trip to Michigan for a friend’s wedding led inevitably to work on the side. A visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts, preceded by a very pleasurable excursion to the Scarab Club, gave him the opportunity to see “Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume” in person. As a science-fiction geek, it was hard to resist. From the original trilogy to the most recent reprise of the series, Benesh-Liu appreciated costumes past and present, and found out how poorly the lightsaber props were constructed. He did not miss the chance for a photograph with famous alien sage Yoda either. He also presents the winners of the Saul Bell Design Award, a competition organized by Rio Grande where stellar artisans from across the world test their ability, and ingenuity, in the pursuit of fine jewelry.

Saul Bell Design Award 2017 Volume 40.1

 

VALERIE JO COULSON. Firenze Bracelet of sterling silver, Australian tiger iron, purple agate, and flower agate. Best of Show. 

 

Saul Bell is the patron saint of all jewelers and metalsmiths, past and present. For over fifty years, from the moment he opened Rio Grande, a wholesale jewelry supplier, on Route 66 (now Central Avenue) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1944, Bell became known as a trusted mentor and teacher, sharing his knowledge of old-world techniques and always ready with unstinting guidance and support for legions of artisans, jewelers and metalsmiths. By the time of his death, in 1996, Saul Bell had helped an industry grow up, and Rio Grande had become a megalith, the largest jewelrymaking supplier in the world. Now part of The Richline Group, Rio Grande in 2000 established the annual Saul Bell Design Award (SBDA), an international competition to honor distinction in jewelry design. The 2017 winners, in nine different categories, were announced this past May. For an artist, winning much-deserved recognition by a jury of peers carries with it an intangible feeling of validation—the judges above all know and understand the skills and craftsmanship it took to succeed.

      The competition stages two rounds of judging: the first to winnow entries down to a select group; the second to decide finalists and winners. Judges, white-gloved and armed with loupes, are charged with evaluating the creative originality, technical excellence and degree of innovation undertaken by every entry. Among the five 2017 second-round judges were Michael Good, an award-winning metalsmith and a pioneer in anticlastic-raising techniques; Debbie Sheezel, a name to conjure with as an internationally known Australian enamelist specializing in cloisonné on silver and gold, and a previous SBDA winner; Kent Raible, one of the country’s most acclaimed studio master goldsmiths and a two-time SBDA winner; forty-year jewelry industry veteran Mark Mann, the GIA senior director of Global Jewelry Manufacturing Arts; and Kaminer Haislip, a Charleston, South Carolina-based silversmith.

Italy comes calling in Valerie Jo Coulson’s bracelet, Firenze, receiving 2017 Best of Show. Employing hollow fabrication and stone inlay in sterling silver, the sculptural-looking Firenze is a masterpiece of construction and composition, meant as a tribute to the octagonal roof structure of the Renaissance-era Battistero di San Giovanni [the Florentine Baptistery]. The bracelet’s upper pattern celebrates pietra dura, an Italian inlay technique of cutting and fitting stones together to create illusionistic images. Coulson calls her first trip to Florence, in 2011, “an apex of my life.” In her jewelry, the artist says, she seeks “a purity of design with an aesthetic which is intrinsically governed by the principle of sacred geometry.” A veteran studio artist and 2014 SBDA winner, Coulson makes her home in rural Pennsylvania. 

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      Winner of the Enamel category for 2017, Sandra McEwen’s triumphant triptych brooch, Fool’s Errand, impressively re-interprets classical techniques in a vigorous, contemporary form incorporating faceted pyrite and a lavender moon quartz. The brooch seems cinematic in its shifts in perspective, while the irregular rhythm among its champlevé and cloisonné panels poses the niggling question: what is the foolish errand? McEwen, from Raleigh, North Carolina, studied illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. Fascinated with medieval illuminated manuscripts, she also has a notable reputation for her color sense. About Fool’s Errand, McEwen says, “I love the precision of the [twenty-four karat gold] wirework and the color of the sky. The colors travel from morning at the top to evening at the bottom. The blues are the unifying element.”

      A thirty-year-old memory of an eighteenth-century church in his native Ukraine inspired Aleksandr Maryaskin to win his second SBDA in Hollowware/Art Objects with his entirely hand-fabricated Discovery of Eggcellence. Maryaskin’s ethereal, bejeweled gold-filigree egg, reminiscent of Fabergé’s golden Easter eggs, opens up to reveal an exquisitely detailed, three-dimensional church. The egg sits above a half-sphere of polished lapis lazuli enclosed in a filigree base. Maryaskin gave himself the personal challenge of using only a laser welder to make the piece. A self-taught jeweler and metalsmith from Carrollton, Virginia, Maryaskin has a passion for manipulating metal and creating one-of-a-kind designs; he dislikes earrings because he has to make two of them. His filigree work, as fine as spun sugar made from fourteen karat white, yellow and red gold, alone is a feat of artistry; Maryaskin is especially proud of how he solved the engineering of the design to make all three components work together.  

      If you have got it, flaunt it, especially if you can show off the glamorous prize-winning ring, Passarola, by Arturo Sanfelix Garcia, of Valencia, Spain, participating in his first-ever competition. Garcia describes Passarola as a cocktail-type ring, inspired by traditional Georgian-era jewelry. The ring is cast and hand-fabricated in Argentium® silver with yellow and white gold plating, set with simulated amethysts and created diamonds, and crowned with a checkerboard-cut natural citrine. Garcia, who trained in his father’s jewelry studio, took two years to create the piece on weekends; the design kept evolving as he worked. Because it took so long, Garcia says, he has learned, “It is better to have a plan.”

      Jason Baide admits he is in love: Montana Yogo sapphires “are near and dear to my heart. Their rich color is completely natural, never treated. Plus they are found just a couple of hours from my hometown” in Bozeman, Montana. For his second SBDA, the Montana State University student won First Place in Emerging Jewelry Artists 22 Years or Younger with Flexibility, a hand-fabricated ring of fourteen karat yellow-gold wire and tubing set with his favorite sapphires. He has always been attracted to making flexible jewelry, going back to growing up working in his father’s custom jewelry gallery, where he got some early training. Baide said his greatest challenge was problem-solving the mechanics of how to “add the stones without hindering the smooth flexibility of the ring.” The chance recently to study in Italy had a huge influence on his aesthetics, reflecting what SBDA, in naming Baide, called “a sophistication well beyond his years.” 

The next Saul Bell Design Award ceremony takes place May 20, 2018, in Albuquerque. For 2018, the competition has upped the ante and introduced two new categories: Jewelry Collection Couture/Fine, and Jewelry Collection Fashion/Bridge. The event is held during the four-day Santa Fe Symposium, which brings together jewelry professionals from all over the industry and everywhere in the world to talk about work, business and the future. For craftspeople it offers a chance to network and swap trade news, brainstorm ideas, and hear about new techniques: exactly what Saul Bell set out to do.

 

      Get Inspired!

 
 

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Leslie Clark is a Santa Fe, New Mexico-based freelance writer. While learning about the winning artists for the 2017 Saul Bell Design Award, Clark was intrigued to discover that “women mostly learn jewelrymaking in classes, while men often have been taught by their jeweler-fathers. All the artists loved entering the SBDA competition for the chance to try something different. Almost everyone listens to something—music, or a podcast—while they work. And, fortunately, nobody pays any attention to trends.”

Comment

Leslie Clark

Leslie Clark is a freelanced writer and editor in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Clark, who claims red is her favorite color, was flabbergasted by her visit to the “The Red That Colored the World” exhibit at the Museum of International Folk Art up on Museum Hill. “I had no idea how exhaustively people worked, for centuries, to produce a red color. No wonder kings and prelates hogged it for themselves. Cochineal changed everything. Even now, with synthetic dyes around, its amazing properties are still the best. It makes you grateful to Mother Nature and those little bugs.”

Saul Bell Design Award 2016 Volume 39.1

Saul Bell Design Award 2016

KATHLEEN NOWAK TUCCI. Secret Garden Necklace of recycled motorcycle and bicycle inner tubes and Nespresso coffee capsules, Second Place Alternative Metals/Materials.

 

Springtime is a special season for the Rio Grande company in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Each May there is cause for celebration as Rio Grande announces the recipients of the Saul Bell Design Award competition. 2016 marks its sixteenth year of honoring distinctive work in jewelry design. The Award invites artists to select from seven specific categories of materials to produce innovative works which are then juried in two rounds by accomplished experts in the field of jewelry. This year’s diverse blend of jurors for the final round included Teresa Frye, Jeffrey Herman, Karen Lorene, G. Phil Poirier, and Jim Tuttle. Final round judges examine each finalist’s piece by hand and as worn on a model. Teresa Frye is a leading expert on jewelry casting and president of TechForm Advanced Casting Technology. With an international reputation for quality craftsmanship, Herman began his life as a silversmith while still in high school, and went on to found the Society of American Silversmiths to preserve and promote this beautiful artform. Gallerist Karen Lorene heads Facèré Jewelry Art Gallery in Seattle, Washington, one of the few prominent galleries in the United States still showing original works by contemporary studio jewelers as well as antique jewelry, a passion of Lorene’s. A master gem-cutter and practicing artist, Poirier is owner of Bonny Doon Engineering where he develops hydraulic presses for the jewelry industry. Founder and president of Green Lake Jewelry Works, Tuttle’s company is one of the largest custom jewelry shops with over fifty jewelers in one location.

JUSTINE GAGNON. Monsieur Bracelet of sterling silver and plastic tube, Second Place Emerging Jewelry Artist.

     

Another public acknowledgment of her innovative recycled jewelry, this is the second consecutive year that Kathleen Nowak Tucci has placed in the Alternative Metals/Materials category, this time with her Secret Garden entry, whose secret is to be discovered on the back of the necklace.  Her materials range from bicycle and motorcycle inner tubes to the bright metallic colors of Nespresso coffee capsules.

Garen Garibian’s prize-winning piece The Queen must in some part be considered a labor of love—the ring took two years to make, a deliberately gradual process. Garibian’s interests reside not just with achieving some fabulous physical tour de force but also with setting personal challenges to resolve through the execution of his careful, exacting skill set.

Enamelist Amy Roper Lyons has secured a third Saul Bell Design Award with her beautiful celestial bejeweled celebration of the universe. Her Orbit #2 is part of an ongoing series inspired by photographs taken of deep space by the Hubble Telescope. A self-described perfectionist, Roper Lyons is all hands on, from her enameling knowledge and practice of cloisonné, plique-à-jour and basse taille to her metalsmithing repertoire of traditional goldsmithing techniques.

Patrik Kusek’s submission is centered around personal loss—his mother has dementia, and Memory Interrupted was designed for and dedicated to her. It is an extraordinarily lovely tribute to Kusek’s mother, and has a life beyond the personal as it quietly communicates to those responding to its poetic beauty. Kusek works in many materials, not just metal clay, and he cites Judith Kinghorn and Harold O’Connor as having been important to his professional development.

 

GAREN GARIBIAN. The Queen Ring of eighteen karat white and rose gold, including freshwater pearls, diamonds, sapphires, and moonstones,
First Place Gold/Platinum.
SAMANTHA FREEMAN. Peacock Pin of eighteen karat gold, Namibian tourmaline, diamonds, and sapphires, Second Place Gold/Platinum.
ZOLTAN DAVID. Moonshine Pendant of platinum, cobalt chromium steel, stainless steel, diamonds, and moonstone, First Place Alternative Metals/Materials.
AMY ROPER LYONS. Orbit #2 Pin/Pendant of eighteen and twenty-four karat gold, enamel, lapis, and diamonds, Second Place Enamel.

 

      For artist Wolfgang Vaatz, the inspiration for his award-winning neckpiece was the quartz crystal with natural tubes, carved by Tom Munsteiner, a noted German gem sculptor from the internationally renowned Munsteiner family of cutters. His jewelry inspiration is derived from the natural landscape and his experiences within it; Vaatz also utilizes asymmetry and color contrast to achieve a well-balanced composition, as he puts it, for a “calming zen-like effect.”

Because Samantha Freeman’s The Peacock Pin was so complicated to make, and entirely hand-fabricated, she first constructed a silver model before going on to actually make the piece in eighteen karat gold, Namibian tourmaline, diamonds, and sapphires. Her two biggest historical influences have been Fabergé and Lalique, but contemporaries, like studio jeweler Tom Herman, are also considered as important mentors, including Alan Revere who has been a major influence on decades of novice and professional jewelers through his Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts, in San Francisco.

 

SEUNG JEON PAIK. Unity Brooch of silver and eighteen karat gold, First Place Silver/Argentium® Silver.
TOM FERRERO. Mace of silver, twenty-four karat gold over sterling, copper, resin, enamel, Italian acetate, and over two hundred gems including diamonds, garnets, citrines, topaz, amber, and zircon, First Place Hollowware/Art Objects.
WOLFGANG VAATZ. Neckpiece of sterling/argentium® silver, unrefined placer gold, twenty-two karat gold, quartz crystal carved by Tom Munsteiner, Second Place Silver/Argentium® Silver.

 

      An MFA student at the Savannah College of Art and Design (many of its graduates go on to become prominent studio jewelers), Seung Jeon Paik secured First Place in the Silver/Argentium® Silver Category, a nice coup for this already accomplished young designer. This also is Paik’s first Saul Bell Design Award. “Everything in the universe is composed of particles,” is the statement that serves as the source for his inspiration. His Unity Brooch utilizes the technique of granulation to illustrate them. Paik uses thirty-two-gauge silverwire onto which eighteen karat gold granules are fused and employs Rhino 3D software to position the wires and the golden grains. “Mastery of skill is an important aspect of my work,” states Paik. “Artists obtain this mastery with deep understanding of the materials, tools, techniques, and possibilities of application.” He regards SCAD professor Jay Song as a mentor—one who encourages Paik to balance academics with life outside it—and the late artist Hermann Jünger, a pioneer in contemporary jewelry.

 
 
 
 

DEBBIE SHEEZEL. Silken Wing Neckpiece of eighteen, twenty-two, twenty-four karat gold, sterling silver, enamel, and blue quartz,
First Place Enamel.

      Debbie Sheezel, not only an accomplished enamelist but also painter, took First Place in Enamel. In making jewelry, her priority is with its wearability: “to me they are wearable art.” She points out that her creativity is “completely unpredictable. Anything can trigger it. Enamels are time-consuming and have rules that must be obeyed, but the outcome is so beautiful that the time spent is worth it.” She is one of a number of finalists who reside in countries other than the United States (in her case, Australia) who bring a global component to the Saul Bell Design Award, which increasingly has as one of its primary goals internationalization of the competition.

There is still time to enter for 2017. Registration is open until October 27, 2016, with its springtime salute to the winners on May 21, 2017 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Visit www.saulbellaward.com for more information about submitting applications.

 

PATRIK KUSEK. Memory Interrupted Necklace of pearls, simulated citrines, peridots, silver PMC, and twenty-two karat gold, Second Place Metal Clay.

 

      Get Inspired!

 
 

Carolyn L. E. Benesh is Coeditor of Ornament and the magazine’s expert on contemporary wearable art. As Ornament resident itinerant, she moves to and fro across the United States in search of inspiring craft, great experiences, and of course, excellent food. Among her yearly stops are the Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington, D.C., and the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show in Pennsylvania, both occasions to meet old friends and make new acquaintances. This issue she gives her appreciation for the winners of Rio Grande’s Saul Bell Design Award, acknowledging the excellence in craft that the competition promotes.

Saul Bell Design Award 2015 Volume 38.3

Saul Bell Design Award 2015

KENT RAIBLE. From The Deep Necklace of eighteen karat yellow and twenty karat pink gold, platinum, indicolite tourmaline, tsavorite, garnets, rubies, and diamonds, First Place: Gold/Platinum.

KENT RAIBLE. From The Deep Necklace of eighteen karat yellow and twenty karat pink gold, platinum, indicolite tourmaline, tsavorite, garnets, rubies, and diamonds, First Place: Gold/Platinum.

Given the diversity of its categories, the Saul Bell Design Award competition is always fascinating to observe after its winners have been announced, as they now have for 2015. The competition never fails to serve up a rich potpourri of decorative and functional objects, from the classically inspired to the forward-looking avant garde. Since 2001 the competition has celebrated the art of jewelry and more. In an age when competitions continue to steadily decline, the Saul Bell Design Award is a supportive outreach to artists creating beautiful and challenging works and for public recognition of their achievements.

     Sponsored annually by Rio Grande of Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Saul Bell Design Award receives its name in homage to founder Saul Bell who began the company in 1944 during one of the more perilous times in the twentieth century. Bell grew it from modest beginnings on historic Route 66, the Mother Road, (passing through the heart of downtown Albuquerque), to a jewelry leviathan which later encompassed many of the sizable Bell family as active participants in the enterprise. It morphed ever larger from a company of one to over three hundred, and through changing locations, now residing on Albuquerque’s Bluewater Road. By 2013 Rio Grande had merged its rich resources with The Richline Group, a Berkshire Hathaway Company, perhaps its last permutation. Paterfamilias Bell died in 1996 at the age of ninety-six, still working, but the jewelry legacy of this fearless innovator moves forward into yet another transformative age.

ANDY LUCAS. Constrained Timelessness Pendant of gold, sterling silver, aquamarine, citrine, amethyst, sapphire, tsavorite, and black and white cognac diamonds, First Place: Silver/Argentium® Silver.  SANDRA MCEWEN. Empress Theodora Pendant of sterling silver, eighteen karat gold bezel wire, twenty gauge gold wire, enamel, citrine, Second Place: Enamel.  HOLLY GAGE. Je T’aime—Dual Flame Necklace of precious metal clay, pearls, peach sunstone, faceted hematite beads, Second Place: Metal Clay.

ANDY LUCAS. Constrained Timelessness Pendant of gold, sterling silver, aquamarine, citrine, amethyst, sapphire, tsavorite, and black and white cognac diamonds, First Place: Silver/Argentium® Silver.

SANDRA MCEWEN. Empress Theodora Pendant of sterling silver, eighteen karat gold bezel wire, twenty gauge gold wire, enamel, citrine, Second Place: Enamel.

HOLLY GAGE. Je T’aime—Dual Flame Necklace of precious metal clay, pearls, peach sunstone, faceted hematite beads, Second Place: Metal Clay.

In a first for the competition, Kent Raible of Mossyrock, Washington, secured both First Place in the Gold & Platinum and the Hollowware categories with tour de forces in From the Deep Necklace and The Pregnant Chalice, which honors “a holding place or womb for the sacred or for creative potential.” Raible’s development seems to have destined him early for the life of a goldsmith beginning with his first jewelry class while in high school to his relatively straightforward trajectory as a recognized exemplar of granulation.

Basically self taught, propinquity intervened when a six-month bicycling tour of Europe in 1980 (which lasted for two years) took Raible to Germany, where he studied at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd and could pursue a deepening passion for granulation. This ancient decorative element from the dawn of classical antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, is worked anew in the hands of goldsmith Raible. His lifelong concentration on this most precise of jewelry techniques has taken him to fresh, unexplored and rewarding challenges, and now to ultimate recognition with the Saul Bell Design Award.

How do you take a diverse mixture of gold, sterling silver, aquamarine, citrine, amethyst, sapphire, tsavorite, and black and white cognac diamonds and make them work as a coherent whole? Well, Andy Lucas, of Klamath Falls, Oregon, has in an extraordinary pendant which won him first place in the Silver/Argentium® Silver category. Endlessly fascinated by these jewels of the earth, gemstones are a major source of stimulation and fundamental to his complex compositions. Nature’s perfect geometry is another avenue to the successful actualization of his work, and the amazing intersection and interaction of multiple planes and lines, which he interprets and re-interprets in his jewelry, take him into astonishing explorations of the mysteries that lie at the heart of creation.

Hailing from Oak Park, Michigan, Ivy Solomon utilizes a combination of metal clay, pigmented epoxy resin and sterling silver to make her colorful, spirited jewelry. Solomon’s ability to finesse metal clay has gained her Saul Bell Design Awards in 2004, 2006 and now 2015. Inspired by a Japanese artistic motif called noshi, her First Place in Metal Clay for 2015 is for a brooch entitled Good Fortune. Dating from early Japan, and originally using only noshita awabi (dried abalone strips), noshi evolved into an origami fold of white paper and with the dried abalone were attached to gifts as an expression of good wishes to the recipient. Solomon’s lovely interpretation is an instructive reminder of how the creative act takes inspiration from the world around us and from time immemorial.

KATE HUBLEY. MagiSphere Concept Pendant of sterling silver, fourteen karat rose gold, black diamonds, Second Place: Silver/Argentium® Silver.  GENEVIEVE FLYNN. Ssssssumtuous Tea Vessel of sterling silver, Second Place: Hollowware/Art Objects.  IVY SOLOMON. Good Fortune Brooch of sterling silver square wire, sterling silver sheet, precious metal clay, and colored epoxy resin, First Place: Metal Clay.

KATE HUBLEY. MagiSphere Concept Pendant of sterling silver, fourteen karat rose gold, black diamonds, Second Place: Silver/Argentium® Silver.

GENEVIEVE FLYNN. Ssssssumtuous Tea Vessel of sterling silver, Second Place: Hollowware/Art Objects.

IVY SOLOMON. Good Fortune Brooch of sterling silver square wire, sterling silver sheet, precious metal clay, and colored epoxy resin, First Place: Metal Clay.

For those familiar with the jewelry of Kathleen Nowak Tucci, her award for Alternative Metals/Materials is welcome acknowledgment of her innovative recycled jewelry. Tucci’s eye and hand have special receptors for objects that get thrown into the landfill, building the mountains of waste that bedevil the modern world, endangering our survival. Her compositions derive from bicycle and motorcycle inner tubes to the bright metallic colors of Nespresso coffee capsules. Her Hummingbird Necklace which took First Place, while notable for the idiosyncratic use of a well-known commercial product, was also elevated and transfigured by Tucci’s knowledge of color theory and design, her singular artistic expression and a healthy respect for the importance of wearability no matter how unlikely the material. Tucci resides in Atmore, Alabama.

From Budd Lake, New Jersey, Jennifer Park took First Place in Enamel with her Streaming Turquoise Brooch, an exquisite image of an idyllic Edenesque landscape. A turquoise-colored cloisonné river flows around a center-set stunning piece of turquoise with touches of golden mountains receding in the distance. It is a wonderful meditation on Mother Earth and its life sustaining properties. Like Raible, her brooch also incorporates granulation. Park uses transparent colored enamels on fine silver to capture the many moods she seeks to conceive. Primary among them is honoring the awe-inspiring ability of nature to help us respect the world as a sacred space. Formerly a graphic designer, she received her bachelor of fine arts from the University of Tennessee and a master’s degree in jewelry and metals from New Jersey City University. In addition to the Saul Bell Design Award, Park has been honored by the Niche Awards, MJSA Vision Awards and the Halstead Bead Jewelry Design Business Development Grant.

It takes hard work and dedication to become a successful jewelry artist, and it was to honor that commitment that Rio Grande established its Emerging Jewelry Artist Award for those twenty-one years of age or younger. Lisa Krulasik, from Glendale, New York, took First Place, followed by Elly Cernohorsky of Halls Head, Western Australia, and Ella Calas of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. Krulasik’s Hollow Brooch, a model of structured simplicity, shows the work of someone already demonstrably talented. Currently working on her bachelor of fine arts jewelry thesis, she is preparing for her spring 2016 show with a presentation of fifteen major pieces. She also is planning to enter another Saul Bell competition, and wants the committee to keep “an eye out” for her submission. More than the Rio Grande group will be keeping on eye out on Krulasik’s progress.

 
JENNIFER PARK. Streaming Turquoise Brooch of sterling silver, twenty-two and eighteen karat gold, twenty-four karat gold foil and cloisonné wire, enamel, turquoise, and diamonds, First Place: Enamel.

JENNIFER PARK. Streaming Turquoise Brooch of sterling silver, twenty-two and eighteen karat gold, twenty-four karat gold foil and cloisonné wire, enamel, turquoise, and diamonds, First Place: Enamel.

 

Carolyn L. E. Benesh is Coeditor of Ornament and the magazine’s resident expert on contemporary wearable art. She gives her personal view on what is taking place in the current issue in Postscript on page 64. Benesh also writes about the Philadelphia Museum of Art Contemporary Craft Show, one of her favorite craft events, where each year Ornament sponsors and selects the Award for Excellence in Art-to-Wear. She includes a report on the Saul Bell Design Award for 2015. The competition never fails to serve up a rich potpourri of decorative and functional objects, from the classically inspired to the avant garde.