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.

Stone Beads and Their Imitations Volume 39.1

Lapidary Skills & Imitations In Stone Beads

FOUR ANCIENT TABULAR/LENTICULAR HARD STONE BEADS FROM AFGHANISTAN AND TWO REPLICA AGATE BEADS; these carnelian and agate tabular beads are very similar to Mesopotamian third millennium beads, 2.8 - 3.5 centimeters long, 0.6 - 0.9 centimeters thick. Courtesy of Anahita Gallery and J. Lafortune, 1978. Two lowest beads are new replica tabular agate and leech beads from Iran and Cambay, 0.6 - 1.0 centimeters thick; Courtesy of W. Seifried, 2006 and Beadazzled/Kamol, 1999. Due to better lapidary equipment, especially drills, many replica beads are now thinner than the prototypes. Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament; shot with studio strobes, using softboxes for both transillumination/reflected lighting or just reflective lighting when shooting on black Tufflock. 

Recently we relocated our office of the past twenty-six years into a much more manageable space. This entailed examining, sorting and discarding old files, as well as other material collected over forty-two years of publishing. While packing our study bead collections, I was struck again by the beauty of ancient hard stone beads, the lapidary skills of their makers, and how skilled contemporary stone beadmakers had become in producing imitations, replicas or their own designs. Such observations and insights are very similar to the pleasure of re-discovering books in your library that you have not read for years.

      I have always regarded tabular hard stone beads of the third millennium as among the most aesthetic uses of stone, as well as so-called leech beads, which can date as early as 2200 to about 300 B.C. (Liu 1999). If one is cognizant of bead history and technology, the roles of stone beads in ancient world trade and exchange, then the importance of simulations would be readily apparent...

 

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Robert K. Liu is Coeditor of Ornament and for many years its in-house photographer. His recent book, The Photography of Personal Adornment, covers forty plus years of shooting jewelry, clothing and events related to wearable art, both in and out of the Ornament studio. In this issue Liu writes about the Ethnic Costume Museum in Beijing, which he visited with Carolyn and Patrick in 2013, on a return to China after sixty-seven years in the United States. While going through the recent move of the Ornament office, he restudied some ancient stone beads in its study bead collection, marveling at both the skill of ancient and contemporary stone beadmakers, especially those who did replicas or imitations.

International Folk Art Market Volume 39.1

International Folk Art Market

IDA BAGUS ANOM SURYAWAN, mask carver from Mas Village in Bali, Indonesia. Photograph © by Marc Romanelli.

If there was ever a riot of colors and sensations, rebelling against the staid bland urbanity of modern life, the International Folk Art Market, held annually in Santa Fe, New Mexico, would be it. Bringing together travelers from across the world, and pairing what is quintessentially local art with a meeting ground accessible by a global audience, this festival of human creativity is rather remarkable to say the least.

      The event began in 2003 as an effort to empower folk artists by providing them with a marketplace that they could never have accessed otherwise. The thought was many artists in first, second and third-world nations create beautiful work, but are limited to selling to their village, tribe or the occasional tourist. By providing a venue in the United States and assisting them in traveling to America, these folk artisans could experience a windfall in profits while giving visitors the opportunity to purchase unusual crafts and art to which they might never have been exposed. It was a win-win concept, similar to the idea of micro-loans, and it has been hugely successful...

 

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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. This April he attended the Smithsonian Craft Show, always a favorite, where he was part of a panel led by Craft in America producer Carol Sauvion discussing the state of craft in the twenty-first century. He contributes to the current issue an exploration of the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a world bazaar if there ever was one. 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.

Beijing's Ethnic Costume Museum Volume 39.1

Beijing's Ethnic Costume Museum

CLOTHING GALLERY, with spinning fixtures and weaving looms in foreground. Such textile furniture has also been preserved in other museums. Photographs by Robert K. Liu and Patrick Benesh-Liu/Ornament; shot hand-held, with high-ISO and no flash, to prevent light damage.

China is a land rich in museums—by the end of 2013, there were almost twenty-seven hundred known institutions. We first covered exhibitions at Chinese museums in 1982, when my brother David and I co-wrote about Qing Dynasty jewelry in the Museum of Treasures, Beijing. This was shortly after China was opened to Americans, after President Nixon’s visit, when my brother was working for American television news. Since then, we have had occasional coverage of exhibitions there: in 2000, “Forbidden City” by Carolyn Benesh; in 2008, when Patrick Benesh-Liu made his first visit to China, and reviewed the Shanghai Museum of Art. In 2013, I returned to China after an absence of sixty-seven years. Having left Shanghai as a child of eight, China was so different, yet still so familiar in essence. During our whirlwind trip through Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, and Jinze, we visited museums in each city. Our review of the Warring States beads exhibition at the Shanghai Museum of Glass in 2013 was an example of such coverage.

 

      To Read The
  Complete Article


Robert K. Liu is Coeditor of Ornament and for many years its in-house photographer. His recent book, The Photography of Personal Adornment, covers forty plus years of shooting jewelry, clothing and events related to wearable art, both in and out of the Ornament studio. In this issue Liu writes about the Ethnic Costume Museum in Beijing, which he visited with Carolyn and Patrick in 2013, on a return to China after sixty-seven years in the United States. While going through the recent move of the Ornament office, he restudied some ancient stone beads in its study bead collection, marveling at both the skill of ancient and contemporary stone beadmakers, especially those who did replicas or imitations. 

Mood Indigo Volume 39.1

 

JAPANESE BEDDING COVER (futonji) of cotton cloth with indigo dye (kasuri), Meiji period 1900-1912, Gift of the Christensen Fund. Background: NIGERIAN ADIRE ONIKO with full moon (osu bamba) of cotton cloth with indigo dye, twentieth century. Gift of the Christensen Fund. All textiles collection of Seattle Art Museum; photographs courtesy of Seattle Art Museum.

 
 

Spend an hour wandering through the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s seductive exhibition of indigo-dyed textiles and you will understand why blue is just about everyone’s favorite color. From Japanese kimonos and bedding, to Nigerian garments, Flemish tapestries, Korean wrapping cloths, and a Guatemalan huipil, the brilliant, saturated blue achieved with indigo dye gives the textiles a richness and depth that are unimaginable in any other color.

      Take the large, sumptuous cotton cloth from Nigeria that shows an abstract pattern of full moons. The panel is a midnight sky of swirling moons, exuberant and wild even though, unlike many textiles in the show, it is monochromatic. The Nigerian artisan who made this piece seems to have been inspired by the same pulsating full moon that fascinated Vincent van Gogh. The dark indigo gives the cloth the look of an endless, cosmic night sky. More tranquil, and plusher, are the quilt-like yogi from nineteenth-century Japan. The thick cotton ‘kimonos’ were made as bedding rather than garments to be worn. The thought of sliding yourself underneath one for the night is delicious. The bedding kimonos are indigo though many are also decorated with imaginative scenes relating to dreams and sleeping. One especially charming scene shows hares leaping through frothing ocean waves. As a soporific, counting fat white rabbits leaping through a seascape is probably at least as effective as counting sheep—and far more magical.

JAPANESE COVERLET (detail) in kimono form (yogi), of cotton cloth with freehand paste-resist decoration (tsutsugaki). Gift of Virginia and Bagley Wright.

      There are many antique kimonos in the show, most of them beautiful. An indigo-colored, nineteenth-century child’s kimono is decorated at mid-body with an ivoryand celadon design. Another kimono-shaped bedding quilt has light blue borders and a spectacular display of peach, orange and yellow fans across the back. As always when contemplating the beauty of antique kimonos of this caliber, it is striking how the long, boxy shape of this traditional garment is perfect for ornamentation. Like nearly everything in the exhibition, the kimonos come from the Seattle Art Museum’s permanent collection, which is particularly rich in Japanese and African textiles and artworks.

JAPANESE CHILD’S KIMONO of bast fiber (asa) cloth with freehand paste-resist decoration (tsutsugaki) and handpainted pigments and ink decoration, nineteenth century. Gift of Virginia and Bagley Wright. JAPANESE SUMMER INFORMAL KIMONO (yukata) of cotton cloth with indigo dye (katazome), Taisho period, early twentieth century. Gift of the Christensen Fund. JAPANESE KIMONO of cotton cloth with indigo dye (shibori), Taisho period, early twentieth century. Gift of the Christensen Fund.

      Indigo dye has a fascinating history. Natural indigo comes from plants of the large Indigofera genus. The species used for indigo dye require tropical or sub tropical climates. They resemble basil plants and making dye involves drying the leaves then creating cakes of dye, a painstaking process. Indigo has always been grown in Asia, West Africa and parts of Central and South America. Europe lacks the climate to grow indigo successfully, so for centuries indigo dye came to Europe through trade with Asia and Africa. India was the first major producer and exporter of indigo, and it supplied the wealthy in ancient Greece and Rome. The name “indigo” is believed to be based on the ancient Greek word for India.

Indigo has always been valuable because it is the only reliable natural blue dye. After Europeans colonized North America and Caribbean Islands, indigo plantations on the islands and in South Carolina produced great wealth for their owners. Indigo was known as “blue gold.” Synthetic indigo was invented in the early twentieth century, and most jeans and other blue textiles today are made with synthetic indigo since it is cheaper to make and easier to work with. Unfortunately the exhibition offers almost none of this history, which would have been a welcome addition.

FLEMISH WOOL TAPESTRY OF ASIA by Jacob van der Borcht, late seventeenth century. Gift of the Hearst Foundation, Inc. 

      Among the most dramatic pieces are the three late seventeenth-century Flemish tapestries depicting allegorical scenes of the continents of Africa, Asia and America. At a square thirteen feet they are stunning and they are examples of indigo as the color of splendor and luxury in seventeenth-century Europe. In each tapestry the continent is represented by a woman who sits, queen-like, on a throne in what the Flemish tapestry designer presented as an idealized natural setting. In each tapestry the magnificent woman is surrounded by a cornucopia of plants, animals and rosy, cherub-like children. The visual clichés are amusing to our twenty-first-century sensibilities: Asia is shown with a camel and a fanciful pagoda in the background, for instance. But all the women wear blue clothing. Asia’s gracefully draping gown is a particularly deep, rich indigo—perhaps the designer’s homage to India as the traditional source of the dye.

Also of interest are the historic Japanese fire fighters’ suits. These remarkable mid-nineteenth-century outfits consist of pants, boots, gloves, short kimono, and full head and face covering, all made of thick indigo-dyed cotton. The entire outfit turns the firefighter into a superhero, which is what they were to the communities where they lived and worked. According to the exhibition notes, fire fighters put on these outfits, then soaked themselves—fully dressed—in water before entering burning buildings. Wrapped in thick, wet cotton, they were able to withstand the heat longer than they would have otherwise. Firefighters were important and much respected members of the community, and this was reflected in the indigo color of their protective uniforms.

BLOCKS QUILT by Annie Mae Young, 2003. General Acquisition Fund.

      Much of this handsomely installed exhibition focuses on textiles from Asia and Africa, but there are pieces to admire from the Americas. An early twentieth-century rug from the southwestern United States and a Guatemalan blanket of the same period are both designed to show off blue fibers. Both are classic examples of native weaving, with designs in indigo as the focal point. Another remarkable abstract composition is seen in a contemporary quilt by Anna Mae Young, one of the famous quilters from Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Her quilt suggests a Mondrian painting in which rich bands of indigo cloth play the starring role.

This exhibition will not travel. But if you are in Seattle before October, “Mood Indigo” is worth a visit. If the sun is out, the Seattle summer sky and the waters of the Puget Sound will be intensely blue. Our associations with the color blue, since it represents our natural world, are primal. “Mood Indigo” makes that crystal clear.

 
 

      Get Inspired!

 
 

Robin Updike is a Seattle-based arts writer with a deep attachment to artist-made jewelry. As a former newspaper art critic she also has an interest in artists and the difficult choices they often face when it comes to their careers. For both reasons, she was pleased to have the opportunity to interview Julie Shaw, a jewelrymaker whose life as an artist is notable not only for the remarkable work she has made, but for the joyful, open-hearted way in which she has created a life wholly dedicated to art. In this issue Updike also reviews a handsome exhibition about indigo-dyed textiles at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. The exhibition is a serene reminder of why blue is such a primal color for us all.

Lee Marraccini Volume 39.1

AQUA DOLCE NECKLACE of eighteen karat yellow gold set with natural surface and faceted aquamarines, 40.64 x 5.08 x .64 centimeters, 2010. Photographs by Pam Perugi Marraccini.

 

On a mid-April morning Lee Marraccini is in his element, talking about his work in his shop, Angelo Jewelry, which he opened in 1998 in the old Michie Building on the downtown mall in Charlottesville, Virginia. Wearing gloves with their tips cut off, Marraccini shows off a ring featuring handcarved mother of pearl with eighteen karat gold and silver and diamond accents. The piece is stunning in its simplicity and depth—like the jewelry equivalent of Venus on a half shell.

ANCIENT PEARL COLLECTION RING of eighteen karat yellow gold, fine silver and sterling silver with carved mother of pearl and inset diamond, 1.53 centimeters diameter, 2015.

      The ring is a part of Marraccini’s latest collection, which he has been developing over the past two years. The mother of pearl came from his wife, Pam Perugi Marraccini’s grandfather’s collection of materials. From Carrara, Italy, one of the marble centers of the world, stone sculptor Araldo Perugi came to America in the early 1900s. He worked on a number of projects in the northeast. One of the altars at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City is inlaid with the same mother of pearl that forms the foundation for this new collection.

Marraccini points to its unusual thickness: “The shell creature must have been really big,” he surmises. He discovered that he could carve into it and not lose the pearlescent quality of the surface. He has made bracelets, pendants and other ornaments from these remnants of Araldo’s altarwork.

Turning to a set of chrysoprase earrings with sapphire accents, Marraccini points out how they have great movement. He carved the warm green mineral stone into matching ovals, setting them off in scroll frames. He prides himself on an exceptional ability to shape stones on a wheel. That special talent has led to jewelry that is warm, clean, linear—and playful.

Marraccini has just returned from the American Craft Council show in St. Paul, Minnesota, which he feels is one of the most creative in the country. He enjoys meeting local artists from the greater St. Paul/Minneapolis area whom he does not see at other shows. “It’s good to see younger people coming back into the trade,” he states.

EARRINGS of carved green chrysoprase with faceted blue sapphires and diamonds in hand-fabricated eighteen karat yellow gold, 5.33 x 1.78 centimeters, 2013.

      One of the artist’s favorite gatherings is the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) GemFair held every winter in Tucson, Arizona. As a “serious rock fanatic,” Marraccini can satisfy his jones for stones in a major way. “You usually end up buying something you weren’t planning on buying,” he says, “but it always works out.” He describes the expanse of the show with awe, the way the fair spills out from the convention center into the streets. “You can get anything from a twenty-five-cent pyrite to a piece of fossilized tree,” he reports, adding, “The hard part is not spending money.”

The show, Marraccini has found, is a “kick starter” for design. “You come across a stone you’ve never seen before or an abundance of a stone you weren’t able to obtain in the past.” Several of his lines have started with Tucson finds. About ten years ago, for example, he started working with natural surface lines, picking out stones whose surfaces he could highlight without cutting. The Dolce series was born. “The Tucson show was key,” he says, “because I could find rough stones.”

Looking at a bracelet from the Dolce collection in one of the cases in his shop, Marraccini lists the six natural stones in the line-up: aqua, peridot, amethyst, citrine, tourmaline, and garnet. The stones have been laid over mother of pearl. “You can see the juiciness of the piece—that’s why I call it dolce, it’s sweet like rock candy.” He notes that to create such a piece you need to have a level surface, but enough saturation of color. “It can’t be too translucent,” he explains.

SPRING GOLD BRACELET of eighteen karat yellow gold with inlaid natural black jade and flushed set black and white diamonds, 16.51 x 1.27 x .64 centimeters, 1995.

      While recognizing that the work and travel that goes into participating in fairs may not always bear the financial rewards he seeks, Marraccini loves meeting up with close friends to talk art and business. These trips also double as scouting expeditions. His shop in Charlottesville carries the jewelry of more than twenty artists, offering a wide-ranging showcase of contemporary jewelry design from across the U.S. Featured jewelers include Belle Brooke, Reiko Ishiyama, Paul Morelli, Judith Neugebauer, Jayne Redman, Bree Richey, and David Urso. The work of several Charlottesville-area artists is also on display, including that of Tavia Brown and Gabriel Orfiesh.

Marraccini’s wife Pam is director of Angelo Jewelry. Her photographs of Italy are hung on the walls. She made a living as a wedding photographer, but gave it up after developing shoulder issues. Since the arrival of grandchildren, the couple has limited their travels to going “where they are.” Daughter Marisa is a postdoctoral fellow in clinical psychology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Their son Marco works for an architecture firm in Culver City, California.

Marraccini and his son collaborated on the MarcoLee collection. They were interested in trying 3-D printing. With Marco’s familiarity with the CAD design system, they were able to create a line of intricate and intriguing pieces. An eighteen karat yellow gold and oxidized sterling silver icosahedron pendant with turquoise and rubies brings to mind the designs of M.C. Escher. Marraccini uses a company in New Jersey to do the casting; “I send them the sketch, they send back the design; I tweak it and then they cast it.” The process is expensive, but to get someone to carve it in wax is becoming increasingly difficult.

MARCO LEE COLLECTION ICOSAHEDRON PENDANT of oxidized sterling silver and eighteen karat yellow gold set with sleeping beauty turquoise and rubies, CAD designed and 3-D printed, 2.39 x 2.79 centimeters, 2012.

      A lot of Marraccini’s work remains hands-on, as a trip to his studio proves. Located in a line of brick buildings by the railroad track about a block or so behind his shop, the space is filled with the accoutrements of a full-blown jewelrymaking operation—benches, diamond saws, polishers, drawers of stones, stations for soldering and for other parts of the jewelrymaking process. On one table is an assortment of washers purchased from Hoover and Strong that Marraccini has incorporated into his work.

In speaking about the jewelry business, Marraccini traces the ups and downs. He began to see the beginning of a downturn in 2000 when several of the stores that carried his work closed. At the time, he had a bustling studio with as many as nine people working for him, plus a couple of apprentices. A series of setbacks, including having his jewelry stolen while at a fair in Winter Park, Florida, led him to begin paring down his operation.

Today, the team consists of Marraccini and Carol Rohmann Greene. He also lends space to jeweler Avery Groves who lives in nearby Afton, Virginia. While Marraccini misses his crew, which included an in-house caster, he continues to design like crazy, turning to a blackboard in the studio to work out new combinations.

CAROL ROHMANN GREENE, Marraccini’s assistant, working at her bench.

      “I’m really passionate about the jewelry I’m making now,” Marraccini states, even as he acknowledges that the winds of commerce blow hot and cold. His store is doing well this year, which allows him to design more and continue to attend shows. He credits his wife with helping to turn the business around. He also does a “decent amount” of custom work and offers general repairs, resizing and laser welding, as well as inlay work.

Marraccini’s journey began in 1947 in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, just south of Pittsburgh in the Monongahela River Valley. He grew up above Angelo’s Bar, which was owned and run by his father, Angelo Marraccini. After his father passed away in 1959, his mother took over the bar “and kept it.”

Marraccini graduated from Penn State in math education. He taught at the North Bethesda Junior High School. Not long after he married Pam, a third grade teacher, in 1972, she decided to take a class in pottery at an art studio in Washington, D.C. Wanting to accompany her through the dark city streets, Marraccini enrolled in the only other available class: jewelry. That is how he got started, learning the ropes from silversmith Dorothy K. Gordon, who specialized in hollowware.

Marraccini considers his “main talent” to be “designing by parts.” Starting with sketches on the blackboard, he develops concepts for new pieces and watches them “metamorphose” through metal manipulation, fabrication, casting, and stone inlay.

      In 1973, the Marraccinis took off in their van, outfitting it with a bed and camp stove. “You would call us hippies now,” Marraccini notes, “but we didn’t consider ourselves that back then.” At one point they went to visit a friend in San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico and ended up staying for three months, taking courses at the Escuela de Bellas Artes, an art school housed in the cloister of a former convent. “For thirty-two dollars a month, you could take four full-time art classes,” Marraccini recalls. Having never attended art school, he signed up for jewelry, drawing, guitar, and ballet. “Why not?” he thought at the time.

When things started to get a little crazy in Mexico, the pair returned to the East Coast. On their travels, they had met some friends who lived in West Virginia so they set up camp in Paw Paw, a small town located on a bend of the Potomac River “in the middle of nowhere.” They took up organic gardening and barely survived.

 

BLACK & WHITE COLLECTION ELEMENTS of eighteen karat yellow gold and sterling silver set with natural black jade and mother of pearl inlay, ranging in size from .64 to 1.91 x .95 centimeters, 2006.

 

      It was at that point that Marraccini made his fateful decision: to figure out how to make jewelry that he wanted to make and that people would want to buy. He made a commitment to this vision, stuck with it, and began to gain traction. He launched Moondance Silver and began making the rounds of craft shows. Around this time, West Virginia was becoming “a little too wild.” Floods and harsh weather, along with isolation, inspired the pair to seek out a new place to set down roots. Pam suggested Charlottesville; they moved there in 1984.

While much of his learning took place while residing in Paw Paw, Marraccini had some terrific teachers along the way, including Heikki Seppa, Ronald Hayes Pearson, Robert Ebendorf, and James Meyer. He learned rendering from Ivy Ross and advanced stone-setting from Alan Revere, the latter in San Francisco in 1986.

LEE MARRACCINI AND PAM PERUGI MARRACCINI standing in front of their store, Angelo Jewelry.

      Marraccini considers his “main talent” to be “designing by parts.” Starting with sketches on the blackboard, he develops concepts for new pieces and watches them “metamorphose” through metal manipulation, fabrication, casting, and stone inlay. He combines gemstones, conflict-free diamonds and recycled gold in contemporary yet classic designs that have won him awards at craft shows.

Marraccini has always worked this way, even when he had a larger crew. He starts by identifying what he wants to accomplish and then proceeds to work on it, letting chance and change guide the design. “That’s the way I’ve designed my whole career. I can’t stop designing. I can design all day long. Anything.”

Charlottesville is a “sweet place,” Marraccini says, and he has developed a faithful following for his collections. He has been in the business for more than thirty-five years now; and although he is fond of quoting fellow jeweler Jacob Snow—“Setting stones in metal is a bad idea”—he has found a way to keep developing and to remain thrilled by the possibilities of the creative process.

 

STACKING RINGS 80’S COLLECTION of eighteen karat yellow gold set with diamonds, inlays and faceted stones, 5.75 centimeters, 1985.
ANCIENT PEARL COLLECTION EARRINGS of natural abalone shell, faceted blue sapphires, pink sapphires, and diamonds in hand-fabricated eighteen karat yellow gold, 3.2 centimeters diameter, 2014.
STONE COLLECTION RING of eighteen karat yellow gold bezel set red jasper with inset faceted red zircon on a sterling silver shank,
2.54 x 1.91 centimeters, 2009.

 

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On a visit with his daughter Emily and her family in Charlottesville, Virginia, in April, Carl Little paid a visit to Lee Marraccini at his shop and studio in the city’s pedestrian-friendly downtown center. Marraccini had just returned from an American Craft Council show in St. Paul, Minnesota. His belief that making jewelry should be “serious fun” for the wearer was evident in the work he shared during the interview. Little’s latest book, coauthored with his brother David, is Art of Acadia, which is being published to coincide with the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of Acadia National Park in Maine.

James Thurman & Umut Demirgüç Thurman Volume 39.1

 

The ideals of marriage neatly conveyed by a triad of Cs—complementarity, collaboration and coexistence—are as relevant to the combination of two different art media as they are to the literal union of spouses. In both cases advantages come with the ability of each element of the relationship to enhance the inherent qualities of the other, the potential to combine these qualities in pursuit of mutual objectives, and, perhaps most important of all for the perpetuation of the relationship, the freedom to retain individual identities even while contributing to one that is jointly held. For James Thurman and Umut Demirgüç Thurman, the husband-and-wife team behind Denton, Texas-based UJ Design Studios, the exactitude of the parallel between an effective marriage of art media and success in matrimony is obviously more than just a matter of speculation.

 

LAYERED SYNERGY 12-0929 BROOCH by James Thurman of lathe-turned Thurmanite® and Damascus steel, 5.08 x 5.08 x 1.27 centimeters, 2012.
Photograph by James Thurman.
FRAMED PENÇ NECKLACE by UJ Design Studios of lathe-turned Thurmanite®, enamel, sterling silver, and copper, 5.08 x 3.81 x 0.64 centimeters, 2014. Photograph by Rafael Molina.
MAVI (BLUE) BROOCH by Umut Demirgüç Thurman of sterling silver and enamel, 4.0 x 5.0 centimeters, 2008. Photograph by Ufuk Demirgüç.

 

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“There’s never a break in the conversation,” comments Kansas State University Professor of Art History Glen R. Brown on the advantages of interviewing two artists at once.  “If one doesn’t recall the answer to a question, the other one will.” When Brown visited James Thurman and Umut Demirgüç Thurman, the husband-and-wife team behind UJ Design Studios in Denton, Texas, he was impressed by the degree to which the two artists seemed to understand each other’s personalities as well as their respective work in the studio. “It’s clearly a successful collaboration on two fronts,” he remarks. Brown will be reviewing “Glitterati, Portraits & Jewelry From Colonial Latin America,” at the Denver Art Museum, in the next issue.

Reigning Men Volume 39.1

SILK COAT with silk embroidery, France, circa 1800. ZOOT SUIT of wool and twill, with spectator shoes of leather and suede, United States, 1940-42. Photographs courtesy of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, © Museum Associates/LACMA.

For much of human history, it has been a man’s world—except in the museum world, where menswear is often overlooked in favor of the more colorful, ornamental fashions worn by women. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s new exhibition “Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015” serves as a powerful corrective to the long-held notion that menswear is boring and drab. “Everyone thinks the gray flannel suit still exists!” says curator Kaye Spilker. “It was a wonderful journey to find out how interesting menswear really is.”

      The show covers three hundred years of male style, from the macaroni to the metrosexual. Despite the subtitle, it is not limited to fashionable dress; there are some utilitarian pieces, including a redcoat’s red coat, a Brooks Brothers blazer, blue jeans, and, yes, a couple of gray flannel suits. But they are juxtaposed against examples of cutting-edge fashion, both historical and contemporary. 

 

HELMUT LANG VEST of leather, synthetic/cotton felt, bottle caps, laminated foil, from Spring/Summer 2004.
JOHNSON HARTIG FOR LIBERTINE ENSEMBLE (detail) of silk twill jacket, silk vest, cotton shirt, silk twill, satin, and damask scarf, Fall/Winter 2009-10.
JOHNSON HARTIG FOR LIBERTINE ENSEMBLE (detail) of wool twill and felt, mother of pearl buttons, with wool cap, Fall/Winter 2012-13.

 

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Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell is an art historian specializing in fashion and textiles, anda frequent contributor to Ornament. She has worked as a curator, consultant and educator for museums and universities around the world. In this issue, she goes behind the scenes of LACMA’s groundbreaking menswear show, “Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015.” Chrisman-Campbell is the author of Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, published by Yale University Press.

Julie Shaw Volume 39.1

BROOCH of sterling silver, twenty-two karat gold, cobalto calcite druzy from South Africa and enamel, 7.62 x 2.54 centimeters, 2016. “This piece gave me such joy to make, loving the bright pink, as I was texturing the top, I felt like I was channeling Van Gogh starry nights!”

Stones speak to Julie Shaw. Not in words, of course, but in signals and messages that are perfectly clear. The gunmetal gray hematite offers emotional protection because it repels negativity. Rose quartz stands for unconditional love and good will. Yellow-green citrine opens the heart to wonder and delight and is immune to ill will. Stones of nearly every kind have been the foundation of Shaw’s jewelry for more than forty years, and she describes her lifelong attraction to stones in spiritual terms.

     “Stones have an energy to them, and I like using stones that have metaphysical qualities,” says Shaw. “I put stones together in a piece because I like the way they go together. But then I’ll get a call from a gallery with a customer asking what the stone stands for, so I try to talk about what I know, though it’s more about the person just tuning into the stone’s quality because they like the jewelry. I think many people pick up on energy from certain stones.”

She laughingly refers to herself as a “stone-aholic,” but she might be better described as a stone whisperer. Her house is filled not only with stones for use in her jewelry, but also with mineral specimens and crystals. “Whatever town I’m in, I always find the rock shop and see what they have. When I’m on a beach I’m looking at the ground for rocks and shells. I get a little obsessive about it. Stones captivate me and take me to places in my mind that I wouldn’t get to otherwise.”

The other reason Shaw loves stones is that they are beautiful. Over the years she has used a treasure trove of quartz, opals, turquoise, moonstones, amethysts, lapis, coral, tourmaline, rubies, and virtually every precious and semiprecious stone you can name, and she uses them in relatively large sizes. One of her rings is typically one and a half inches across. A brooch could be up to four inches in length. A pendant might be four inches long and two inches wide. The stones that are the focal point of these pieces have nearly the same dimensions. She selects stones that throb with brilliant color, frequently designing two or three color saturated stones into a single ring or brooch. The compositions are framed in twenty-two karat gold and sterling silver, usually oxidized. The effect is invariably regal—these are head-turning pieces to be worn with self-confidence. They are also exuberant and joyful, a celebration of color and the natural world.

BROOCH of sterling silver, pyrite druzy from Russia and enamel, 8.89 x 3.81 centimeters, 2016. “While I was doing the enamel for this piece, I thought it was a riot how wacky it was and how it was coming together. It’s one of my favorite pieces.”

      “In the ‘90s I did larger pieces, and at craft fairs women would say how much they liked the work but that they could never wear such a large piece, which was funny. Because I was standing there wearing something big and I’m five feet two, and they’re telling me
how great I look in it. I always tell women, if you like it, wear it. It’s an attitude. I have fun trying to get women to expand their ideas about what to wear. I want them to feel good about themselves, to feel beautiful.”

NECKLACE of sterling silver, twenty-two karat gold, faceted lapis and enamel; pendant 3.81 x 5.08 centimeters; necklace 55.88 centimeters long, 2015. “The lightning bolt on top reaching to the sky was my inspiration.”

      Shaw’s long career as a professional artist could be a template for how to find fulfillment as an artist and support yourself at the same time. Born in Detroit in 1946, she was an artistic kid who took piano, ballet and art classes before attending the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, where she studied painting. After a year, she headed to London to meet up with an older sister living in Europe. Soon she was enrolled in the Sir John Cass Art School in London, studying ceramics. After eight months in London she packed up for Israel, where she lived on a kibbutz. Despite the military tensions and the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, she managed to hitch-hike through the Negev Desert. Shaw eventually returned to Michigan, where she rented a studio near a foundry, which inspired her to try sculpture. She also did some photography and built herself a darkroom.

Two years later she was ready for a change. Along with art making and her love affair with stones, Shaw’s life has been defined by travel and a periodic urge to move around the country, or across the globe. Her travels are motivated by curiosity and a deep interest in learning about other cultures and people. When she was almost forty she spent two months in Turkey, a place she says still inspires her. “The architecture. The food. The people. The kilims. The spice markets. The light. Everything about Turkey was wonderful and has stayed with me.” She has also visited Africa, where she was deeply impressed by the artifacts of ancient Egypt. But those travels came later. In 1971 her interest was in the highly imaginative arts and social milieu that defined San Francisco in that era. She supported herself there as a window dresser for an upscale department store. “It was creative work, always changing and very immediate. I could do what I wanted to do and use lots of great colors and textures with clothes, shoes, glass, and wine bottles. I worked with very creative people. It was a happy time and I loved that job.”

RING of sterling silver, faceted rose quartz from Brazil, and enamel, 2.54 x 2.54 centimeters, 2016. Photographs by Ryder Gledhill.

      A chance conversation with a friend of her brother’s, a man she did not even know well, pulled her back to making art. “This guy said to me, you’ve had all this art education, why aren’t you working for yourself? Why aren’t you making art?” Something clicked and she borrowed four hundred dollars from her brother and bought jewelry equipment. She had not made any jewelry since junior high, but jewelry seemed saleable, and she enjoyed it. Soon she was back in Michigan selling what she describes as “feather-and-bead” jewelry along with her paintings at mall shows. When a couple at a mall asked her to make them wedding rings, she agreed. She laughs about that now. “I had no idea how to make rings, so I went to my metals supplier and he suggested I take a metals class at a community center, which I did.” She ended up making vacuum-cast silver rings for the couple, who loved them. She quit painting and focused on jewelry. “I’ve always liked using my hands, and once I started making jewelry I realized that I was not using my hands in the same way with painting. I like holding the tools and metal, and I like seeing the work in my hands. With jewelry, it’s instant gratification, and I like instant gratification. I’m not a person who works for weeks on a piece. I know right away if I like it and if I feel good about it. If I don’t like it, I scrap it.”

Shaw took a soldering class and honed her skills making jewelry full time. Soon she was adding stones. The only other time she had made jewelry with stones was when she was twelve and had a volunteer job at the gift shop of the Cranbrook Institute of Science. Part of her job was to polish the rocks sold at the shop, and to select inventory from the vaults in the basement. She loved the work, and was paid in rocks. She got the idea to make pendants out of the rocks by attaching chains to them, and she talked the manager of the local dime store into displaying them for sale. She is still surprised they sold.

RING of sterling silver, twenty-two karat gold, opal, and amethyst, 3.81 x 2.54 centimeters, 2015.

      By the late 1970s Shaw was a regular participant at prestigious, juried craft shows on the East Coast. She was wholesaling to galleries around the country. She moved to Rhinecliff, New York, and started a production line. At one point she had six employees. “One day I realized all I was doing was directing traffic. I didn’t want to do that.” She downscaled her production and moved outside of Durango, Colorado. She lived in Colorado making one-of-a-kind jewelry and limited production work for twelve years. During those years Shaw apprenticed with a shaman and studied Reiki, a Japanese approach to alternative medicine. She ran a sweat lodge. Her interest in spirituality and cross-cultural philosophy has always been important. Some of her jewelry from her Colorado period has a Southwestern look, with elements of native design and traditional symbology mixed with what could easily be read as elements of Catholicism. “Periodically crosses show up in my work. I’m not religious, but I am spiritual. The crosses for me tend to be more about the four directions of the Southwestern cross, not a Christian cross.”

 

“Whatever town I’m in, I always find the rock shop and see what they have. When I’m on a beach I’m looking at the ground for rocks and shells. I get a little obsessive about it. Stones captivate me and take me to places in my mind that I wouldn’t get to otherwise.”

      In 2004 Shaw was lured to Paducah, Kentucky, by a generous civic program aimed at drawing artists into the community. Through the program she was able to buy a large, older home for very little money, as long as she agreed to fix it up and live there for a while. Which is exactly what she did. After supervising a major remodel, she spent the next ten years living in the home, where she also had her studio and ran a commercial gallery. “I called the gallery Aphrodite. It was a nice gallery, if I do say so myself. I sold my own work there, but also blown glass, ceramics, fiber art, and jewelry made by other artists.” It was also during her time in Paducah that she took up enameling. There were certain colors and finishes she wanted that she could not achieve with stones. So she took lessons from an enamel artist and started adding enamel to her jewelry. Today, six years after she seriously started experimenting with enameling, it has become integral to her work, and it has expanded her color palette. Her work is now a harmonious, colorful mix of stone and enamel, usually in the same piece. As a painter she was drawn to color, and enameling allows her to approach jewelry with a painter’s eye.

 

NECKLACE of sterling silver, azurite druzy from Morocco, and enamel; pendant 8.89 x 2.54 centimeters, 2016.
NECKLACE of sterling silver, dyed quartz druzy, and enamel, pendant 6.35 x 2.54 centimeters, 2016.
NECKLACE of sterling silver, opal, chrysocolla druzy from Arizona, pearls and apatite beads, pendant 6.35 x 2.54 centimeters, 2015.

      Shaw does not drag her feet when it is time to move on. In 2014 she left Paducah for Cocoa, Florida. Earlier in the year she had fallen on ice in Paducah and had broken her wrist. While healing, she made jewelry by taping her torch to her wrist. She decided she had enough of ice. She chose Cocoa for its balmy climate, but has also come to admire the natural world of Cocoa’s beach and seashore. Her latest work is distinctly tropical, as though the pink, white, blue, and gold shapes of her brooches and pendants are sea creatures darting through tide pools. Her work has always been partly inspired by the flora, fauna and geography of wherever she is living at the time. “I know my work has been influenced by the sea in the last couple of years. To me, some of my brooches are like sea beings, though I don’t know that you’d see anything that looks like them in the sea.”

 

BROOCH of sterling silver, acid-etched agate and enamel, 5.08 x 5.08 centimeters, 2015.

      Shaw’s work has sometimes touched on the narrative. After 9/11 she made jewelry showing flowers rising out of the flames of devastation. She has also made pieces in honor of Hindu gods whose spiritual qualities she admires. But her current work is abstract, despite its resemblance to brilliantly colored marine fauna. There are no heads or eyes on these creatures, though in a few brooches you might see the suggestion of tentacles or a dorsal fin.

At a time in life when many people think of slowing down, Shaw still works at least five days a week, all day, in her studio, and is “grateful that these hands have supported me all these years. In a broader sense, it makes me think of all these amazing artists who work with their hands, soul and spirit to do what they love and bring it to the public for them to glean something for themselves, whether they buy it or just look at it, or hold it in their hands. What a gift for all of us.”

 

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Robin Updike is a Seattle-based arts writer with a deep attachment to artist-made jewelry. As a former newspaper art critic she also has an interest in artists and the difficult choices they often face when it comes to their careers. For both reasons, she was pleased to have the opportunity to interview Julie Shaw, a jewelrymaker whose life as an artist is notable not only for the remarkable work she has made, but for the joyful, open-hearted way in which she has created a life wholly dedicated to art. In this issue Updike also reviews a handsome exhibition about indigo-dyed textiles at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. The exhibition is a serene reminder of why blue is such a primal color for us all.