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 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.