Saul Bell Design Award 2015
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.
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.
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.
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.