Freehand Jewelry Show Volume 40.3

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ROBERTA AND DAVID WILLIAMSON

An unassuming storefront along Los Angeles’s bustling West Third Street is a creative way-station for those in the know. Freehand Gallery has been in business since 1980, the carefully stewarded brainchild of Carol Sauvion. Its longevity is a remarkable tribute to the enduring power of craft as an aesthetic and cultural force. As you step through the door, a welcoming sanctuary of handmade contemporary craft offers a respite from the turbulence of life outside its walls. Large windows, in which ceramics, sculpture and other fine works reside on a temporary basis, let in the soft Southern California light. It is an unassuming, unpretentious space and one that invites you to enjoy its offerings in a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere. One can slow down here and take time to enjoy the creative endeavors of artists from all over the country. Throughout the year handmade objects spill over shelves, tables, counters, and displays—a rich tapestry of all the craft media—ceramics, metalwork, decorative fiber, glass, and jewelry. However, each spring, Freehand is devoted to jewelry and the pace of the gallery quickens. From April 21 through June 2, 2018, this year’s annual jewelry show, entitled “Back Again, Forever,” focuses on the way jewelry evokes memories, even imagined ones, of times long past, inducing reflection on possibilities yet to come.

      The eleven jewelers and one clothing maker who were selected create a synthesis between the traditional and the contemporary, each with their own way of paying homage to artists of earlier eras. Roberta and David Williamson, who have been making jewelry together since the 1970s, have a strong and familiar connection with memory. Their work often includes lithographs, a moment frozen in time, harkening to a bygone age. Yet their intent is not to be held back by the past, to dwell in an imagined history that is frozen and unchanging. Rather, their jewelry seeks to connect the past and present, reminding us of those perfect moments that existed then, and still exist now.

RAÏSSA BUMP

The connection between past and present can be interpreted in many ways, some more abstract than others. Raïssa Bump is fascinated by texture. Miniature pearls and seed beads are woven into or adorn the surfaces of many of her brooches, necklaces and earrings. This constant finds itself expressed through many variations, and the results often find a way to echo our primeval beginnings. A bracelet, featuring half-moons of silver and a loose chainmail of wire strung with golden beads, calls to mind European filigree. Nevermind that the method she employs deviates in some important ways to that ancient technique—memory is a strange animal, a carnival hall of mirrors that even though refracted recalls an impression of the original.

MARU LOPEZ

Traditional culture is also a method of remembering. Puerto Rican Maru Lopez moved to the mainland and now resides in San Diego. She takes inspiration from ancient Central American jewelry, using primarily nonprecious metals such as brass to provide the golden glitter that was so prized among precolumbian peoples. Her own contribution to that creative lineage is the use of hand-dyed resin, self-made gemstones as it were. The work she does is both preservation, and play.

Kathlean Gahagan also honors the past through her jewelry. As the daughter of Jewish and Irish parents, she fuses together both heritages in her brooches and pendants. Incorporating Celtic runes, Hebrew script and other symbols native to the two cultures, her interpretative work has kinship with ethnic jewelers for whom these emblems make up a visual lexicon. Each speaks to the viewer in a similar fashion, by employing a common tongue which stirs feelings of belonging and shadows of understanding.

As curators of craft, galleries are a stage upon which the artists being featured are the actors. But the setting can be equally important. Galleries are more than just entrepreneurial exercises, when managed correctly, and Freehand is an example of that. They provide a human connection that elevates the artwork being sold, allowing you to interact with the work, and with the gallery staff who can relate the history behind each piece. Freehand has embodied these qualities, honoring craft with its roots in function and purposeful making, throughout its thirty-eight-year presence in the craft field.

The “Back Again, Forever” show illustrates this by being both venue, experience and source. The gallery’s openness (except when filled with jewelry enthusiasts and onlookers) and receptive environment are an invitation to take pleasure in just observing. And perhaps, buying, if what you see calls to mind a memory, whether of the past, or something subtler still.

CARLY WRIGHT

MARY FILAPEK AND LOU ANN TOWNSEND

 

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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. As a former resident of Los Angeles (albeit only as a toddler), the City of Angels holds a certain sense of nostalgia, in particular one of its oldest purveyors of fine craft, Freehand Gallery. This issue he takes the reader through its annual jewelry show, where an eclectic assortment from the bright and bubbly, to the sedate and contemplative, brings the world of studio art jewelry to Southern California. As Ornament’s reporter, he also provides a zesty compilation of the latest news in craft.

Celestial Volume 39.4

NU WA, THE CREATOR PENDANT by Cynthia Toops, metalwork by Nancy Bonnema, of micro mosaic polymer clay, sterling silver and old steel caliper, on a sterling silver chain, 2016.  Photograph by Doug Yaple. Background:  PISMIS 24.  Photograph courtesy of NASA, ESA and Jesús Maíz Apellániz (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain). Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin (ESA/Hubble).

NU WA, THE CREATOR PENDANT by Cynthia Toops, metalwork by Nancy Bonnema, of micro mosaic polymer clay, sterling silver and old steel caliper, on a sterling silver chain, 2016. Photograph by Doug Yaple. Background: PISMIS 24. Photograph courtesy of NASA, ESA and Jesús Maíz Apellániz (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain). Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin (ESA/Hubble).

Humans have always gazed at the heavens with wonder and awe. The sky, with its endless shifts in light and mood, inspires fear and faith, science and fantasy. The gods of nearly all religions dwell in the endless, unfathomable worlds beyond our little planet, as do the extraterrestrial civilizations described by science fiction writers. Even as astrophysicists study space and explain what they know, the celestial world remains tantalizingly mysterious to most of us. And thank goodness for that.

      In times of personal or societal turmoil, we turn to the sky with its infinite possibility and dream of worlds beyond our own. The artists in “Celestial: Comets, Cupids, and Other Heavenly Bodies,” a recent exhibition (February 8 - 28, 2017) at Facèré Jewelry Art Gallery, in Seattle, Washington, were inspired by shooting stars and blue moons, meteors and cloud patterns, origin myths and the zodiac, time traveling and communication with other worlds. The exhibition was a delightful antidote to the dark skies of mid winter and dark horizons everywhere. 

The exhibition included the work of twenty-two artists mostly from the United States and Canada. With jewelry displayed on reproductions of celestial maps, the show looked like part of a stylish observatory display, as though the jewelry represented miniature solar systems for us to study. Jan Smith’s exquisitely crafted enamel and silver neckpieces suggest tranquil blue landscapes on other planets. Plants and animals could live on these welcoming orbs. At a time when our earth’s environment is increasingly fragile, Smith’s Oort Cloud and Once in a Blue Moon offer hope for worlds with still pristine blue waters and clear skies.

METEORITE LANDING RING by Checha Sokolovic of sterling silver, patina, charcoal, cement, dye, and resin, 7.0 x 3.2 x 5.1 centimeters, 2016. Photograph by Barbara Cohen. UNIVERSE RING by Jennifer Merchant of acrylic, fine silver leaf, silver, glitter, and printed photographs, top measures 3.2 x 2.2 centimeters, 2016. Photograph by Jennifer Merchant. RADIANT CUFF by Wolfgang Vaatz of oxidized sterling silver, eighteen karat yellow gold and diamond, 2016. Photograph by Wolfgang Vaatz.

      Cynthia Toops, noted for her work in polymer clay micro mosaic, created narrative pieces based on myths about the heavens. Her pendant Nu Wa, The Creator is named for a goddess from Chinese mythology with a human face and a snake’s body. Nu Wa is the goddess of order and she also created humans. One of her heroic acts was to stop the heavens from collapsing onto earth. Toops collaborated with metalsmith Nancy Bonnema to make the piece.

Checha Sokolovic’s work incorporates treated charcoal used as gemstones. Meteorite Landing is a sterling silver and cement ring with a hunk of treated charcoal displayed like treasure. Meteorites that land on earth are in fact treated like precious rocks, and Sokolovic’s work raises questions about beauty and exactly what makes a material precious. Jennifer Merchant’s acrylic-based necklace and ring included bits of space photography. Merchant excels at building layers of acrylic, fine silver leaf, silver, and glitter all in the service of creating depth. For these pieces she also used snippets of photographs taken through the Hubble Space Telescope. Her necklace and ring, both called Universe, are glimpses of infinity.

Some of the most striking work was abstract in design but rich with cosmic allusion. Carla Pennie McBride’s several pieces are studies in black and white, positive and negative space. Light and Dark Necklace is a translucent epoxy resin sphere held in place by a chain of beads made from black lava. It is an elegant piece of jewelry as well as a poetic reference to the interdependence of our rocky planet and the life-giving atmosphere that surrounds us.

      Then there is Kirk Lang, who found a real meteorite to work into his brooches. Lang’s work is formal and well made and the hexagonal shape of his brooches suggests clusters of atoms and molecules, or other scientific phenomena made visible. Crafted of titanium, gold, diamonds, and meteorite, Lang’s work also refers to the preciousness of materials. In this case, shards of meteorites are as valuable and beautiful as diamonds and gold.

Nadine Kariya mined Greek mythology for inspiration, and made rings and neckpieces referring to Athena, Aphrodite and Ganymede, a Trojan prince who Zeus transformed into an eagle. Like heroes from all classical mythologies, the Greek gods travel between Earth and the heavens at will. With its classical grandeur, Kariya’s work could easily be worn by the gods of any culture.

MOONBEAM ANTHEM 1: BOWIE (obverse, reverse) by emiko oye of LEGO in fine and Argentium silver, and stainless steel pin. 10.8 x 9.53 x 2.54 centimeters. Photograph by Daniel Fox, Lumina Studio.

      There was work in the show representing shooting stars, the signs of the zodiac, and planets belted by outer rings, in the manner of Saturn. For wit, however, it is impossible to improve on pieces by Jana Brevick and emiko oye. Brevick has for many years made work about robotics, extraterrestrial communication and any number of other subjects sparked by her fascination with science and outer space. Her silver brooch/pendant Tracking Heartbeats resembles a miniature radio tower perched on a scooped out antennae dish. You can imagine it floating through space listening, perhaps indefinitely, for a message from another world.

Artist emiko oye infuses smart design with pop culture in a way that was perfectly apropos to this exhibition. Using purple and black LEGO pieces, she made brooches that resemble tiny space ships. Like the galaxy crossing space ships in Star Trek, her LEGO transporters are all right angles and diamond shapes. San Francisco-based oye is known for creating cheerful jewelry out of the bright plastic toy bricks. But for this show she also added song lyrics about the eternal appeal of looking beyond Earth for inspiration. On the backs of the brooches she inscribed lyrics from David Bowie, Prince, Depeche Mode and the character Hedwig, in the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Bowie and Prince, who both died in 2016, sometimes presented themselves as messengers from other worlds. When times are tough on our planet, the musicians suggested, dream of better worlds far, far away. The jewelry in “Celestial” made it easy to dream.

 

RINGS BROOCH by Sara Wauzynski of sterling silver, eighteen karat gold, egg tempera on gesso, pearls ,and garnets, 2.75” x 1.5” x 1.25”.

 
 

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Robin Updike, a Seattle-based arts writer and a regular contributor to Ornament, is a longtime observer of the craft scene. Over the course of more than two decades she has reviewed many exhibitions at Facèré Jewelry Art Gallery in Seattle and has always been impressed with the gallery’s themed, group shows. In this edition of Ornament Updike reviews a Facèré exhibition in which twenty-two jewelry artists made work about celestial bodies, both real and metaphorical. She let us know that the resulting show was “dreamy.”

Gallery Lulo Volume 39.2

The jewelry art gallery is a curated space where both environment and the objects on display are carefully cultivated to create a narrative atmosphere. It is the frame, the lens, which allows visitors to experience the work as parts of a great visual novel, rather than a chaotic array of disparate elements. This is the true beauty of an art gallery, beyond simply expressing the tastes of its owners. At Gallery Lulo in Healdsburg, this sweet spot of an impressive collection, with a love for the experience, has been achieved through the union of European minimalism with Californian casualness.

      Healdsburg itself is one of those interesting experiments in suburban renewal, a gentrified town whose Main Street is made up almost in its entirety of boutique shops and artisanal food restaurants. The density of start-ups is intense, with only a few signs of Healdsburg’s previous life poking out from underneath, such as an old Mexican family restaurant on one of its street corners.

Lulo is owned in a partnership by glass artist Karen Gilbert and Danish immigrant Katrina Schjerbeck. The two co-owners met through a mutual friend who attended the American Craft Council shows. Katrina had been assisting at her friend’s booth, and they decided to visit Karen in Healdsburg. It was a serendipitous moment; Katrina and her husband had been looking for a new place to live, and Healdsburg was a perfect match.

A multimedia exhibition arena, Gilbert and Schjerbeck include paintings, ceramics and other artforms seemingly not as additional wares, but as accents to the ambience which they are fostering. Used sparingly, they augment and frame the jewelry, which is good as the pieces and artists chosen for Lulo’s collection are delicate, tactile and sensitive. Anything more would be overwhelming, yet the gallery proprietors show sound presence of mind in ensuring that the jewelry stands out first and foremost.

RAW RUBY AND GOLD BROOCH by Petra Class. ENAMEL BROOCH WITH BEADED GLASS AND GARNETS by Karen Gilbert. TAGLIATELLE BRASS RING by Mia Hebib.

      White glass-covered cases contain numerous specimens, with multiple drawers that roll out smoothly on well-oiled mechanisms. The work itself is from jewelers around the globe. Though the gallery does not restrict itself to artists known for having a minimalist aesthetic, the pieces they sell tend to be along those lines.

As an example, take the bold gemstone jewelry of Petra Class. Class’s focus is her lapidary work, where she often uses outlandish segments of precious and semiprecious stones encased in gold. Instead of using small rubies as accents in a ring or bracelet, she uses a whole flat sheet of ruby for a brooch. The ruby is both canvas and painting, where Class lets the grain of the raw stone become the visual palette across which the eyes dance. While that piece is representative of her oeuvre, she also has more understated jewelry, where a series of gold-encapsulated aquamarines or emeralds, linked by chain, become a bangle.

There are a number of jewelers whose works might not be found at other galleries, making this a treasure for those seeking something simple and sleek. Gilbert and Schjerbeck select an international representation of artists who often tend towards the abstract, with minimal use of gemstones. Such can be seen in the jewelry of Mia Hebib, a Bosnian-Croat who came to the United States to study at the Savannah College of Art & Design. She utilizes brass, polished and patinaed, as well as occasionally other metals, and from it derives undulating bands that warp and wend their way around each other. 

Her series entitled The Golden Years makes use of the gleaming polished surface to reflect one’s surroundings, which become part of the visual presentation of the piece. They arrive at that certain point of grace where a thing exhibits complicated attributes without becoming overwrought; like liquid sculpture in motion. For a certain type of person, they are exquisite. 

JEWELRY BY TZURI GUETA AND NAOMI MCINTOSH. Gueta creates jewelry from silicone-Injected lace. Mcintosh uses CAD to create designs on a sheet of wood, which she then removes via laser-cutting. Photograph by Robert K. Liu/Ornament Magazine.

Naomi Mcintosh’s use of wood in jewelry brings together technology and aesthetic into a razor’s edge balance. Mcintosh takes sheets of wood and then uses CAD and hand-drawn shapes to create her little repetitive forms, which she then excises from the sheet through laser-cutting. Strung on a dual strand of elastic to create tension, the asymmetric pieces spiral around each other in an endless reverberation. It is mesmerizing, and easy to wear: light, flexible and visibly bold.

“We love to see materials used in ways that speak to the tradition of the handmade, but has an aesthetic expression that makes the work relevant in the world of design and art—so a balance of the two, however abstract this may seem, is I believe what defines the pieces we are drawn to.” Schjerbeck explains.

KATRINA SCHJERBECK AND KAREN GILBERT. 

KATRINA SCHJERBECK AND KAREN GILBERT. 

The two gallery owners have learned from their interactions with customers, which has led to a subtle shift in the pieces they sell. “Having had the gallery in Healdsburg and understanding our audience and clients has also taken us in a direction that is lighter in heart —more color, movement, wear ability—than darker, larger conceptual pieces,” is how Schjerbeck reminisces on the topic. The impact of the client on the creative dynamic is always a complicated one of give and take.

Being a business goes beyond the customer to being part of the community. Healdsburg’s gentrification, while it has brought in a lot of money, also has significantly changed its character. While Lulo is a fairly new addition, Gilbert and Schjerbeck are comfortable with the knowledge that they are contributing to the town’s traditional values.

“The community is appreciative that a space exists which extends the idea of its cultural integrity,” Schjerbeck remarks. “In light of the wealth which has recently come to Healdsburg on a much larger scale, sustainable communal values are extremely important to the town. We maintain a family business which features regional artists, alongside challenging and avant-garde work—a business inclusive to both locals and tourists and outside the mainstream norm in wine country.”

Gilbert is in the unique position of being a jeweler and glassmaker in addition to her gallery duties, with her work also carried by Lulo. Saddling both realms requires a delicate balancing act which she finds rewarding. “I work in my studio on weekends and here and there during the week,” she muses. “I am in the gallery a couple times a week and at SkLO (her glassmaking company) for day to day operations. It is a busy schedule but it feeds my creativity.”

EXHIBITION ROOM ADJACENT TO GALLERY LULO’S ENTRANCE, with cases containing jewelry. Photograph by Adza Aubry.

As an artist, and in running her own design firm, Gilbert has the advantage of being continually exposed to new work, making her a headhunter of sorts for Lulo. “I have the privilege of working in several fields and it gives me insight into what is happening in the art world and the design world,” Gilbert explains. “With SkLO I am traveling around the country and looking at innovative furniture, lighting and accessories. I think a lot about the choices people make to what they want in their home and what is worthy of buying and living with. This helps keep us aware of the work we show in a greater context.”

Good galleries provide an essential function to the dissemination of art. A monolithic group, viewed from the outside, is impenetrable; in this case, any branch of craft media. Sifting through hundreds of artists is a delightful process, but one that few truly have the patience or drive to achieve. A gallery is not just a place to purchase works of beauty; it is an aesthetic collection steered by the sensibility of its curators. To wit, it is a living, breathing ecosystem of art. It is in this vital purpose that Gallery Lulo flourishes, in all its distinct character.

Visit gallerylulo.com for more information on the Gallery. Lulo exhibits new work by jeweler and sculptor Eric Silva in December.

 

      Get Inspired!

 
 

Patrick R. Benesh-Liu is Associate Editor of Ornament and continues to find time to enjoy craft in between writing, travel and tech support. Earlier in 2016 he visited Gallery Lulo in Healdsburg, where he took great delight in the gallery’s impeccable taste and delicate arrangement. This issue he writes on recent MFA graduate Peter Antor, who he crossed paths with at the 2015 SNAG Conference. Benesh-Liu found much to appreciate in Antor, from his views on personal adornment to his thoughtful ruminations on beauty in architecture and design. As Ornament’s reporter, he also provides a zesty compilation of the latest craft News, where you can find out what is happening with art to wear in the global neighborhood.