Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show Volume 39.2

Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show 2016


Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, Pennsylvania Convention Center, November 10 - 13, 2016. Visit pmacraftshow.org for more information.

CHRISTINA AND MICHAEL ADCOCK

Each November, Philadelphia becomes the epicenter of the nation’s craft world for four exhilarating days known as the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, as hundreds of artists and thousands of enthusiastic and discerning viewers flock to the city to immerse themselves in the best that American craft has to offer.

      This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the PMA Craft Show, and it promises to be a landmark exhibit. From more than a thousand applicants, the five jurors have selected one hundred ninety-five artists from thirty-four states. On display will be work representing every major craft medium, including baskets, jewelry (precious and semiprecious), metal, glass, fiber (wearable and decorative), leather, wood, furniture, paper, ceramics, and mixed-media creations. A separate category for “Emerging Artists” helps relative newcomers bring their work to a wider audience. Similarly, the special “Craft-U” section allows students and recent alumni from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, the Moore College of Art and Design, Kutztown University, and Savannah College of Art and Design to display and sell their work at one of the country’s premier venues for fine crafts.

PING WU

      The Craft Show is organized and presented each year by the Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art as a major fundraising event for the institution. Last year’s show generated around $845,000, and since the first show in 1977 more than $11.7 million in proceeds have been raised to fund every aspect of the museum’s mission, including education, acquisitions, exhibitions, programs, and renovations. As the first retail craft show to be organized by volunteers for the benefit of a nonprofit organization, the PMA Craft Show has become a highly successful model for others to follow. In the process, it has also done much to promote contemporary American craft.

Regular attendees will find many familiar faces in this year’s line-up, including ceramicists Cliff Lee and Bennett Bean; jewelrymakers Namu Cho, Rebecca Myers, and Steven Ford and David Forlano; fiber artists Elyse Allen, Andrea Handy, and Ping Wu (winner of last year’s Ornament Award for Excellence in Art to Wear); basketmakers Christine and Michael Adcock; and mixed-media artists Roberta and David Williamson, who will be participating in their thirty-fifth PMA Craft Show!

The show’s organizers, however, are proud to point out that more than a quarter of this year’s entrants are first-time exhibitors, a testament to the rising generation of skilled artisans. “This year we will have fifty new artists,” said Gwen Goodwill Bianchi, chair of the 2016 Craft Show. “It’s very exciting to have so much new work as we celebrate the show’s fortieth anniversary! That keeps contemporary craft fresh and moving forward.” Bianchi has been a member of the Craft Show Committee for ten years, and a member of the Women’s Committee for the past eight years, but this is her first time chairing the show. “The biggest surprise has been how the younger, tech-savvy generation continues to embrace the relevance and importance of handmade work,” she said. 

CLIFF LEE

      Juror Glenn Adamson, a respected author, curator and theorist of contemporary art and former director of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, was similarly encouraged about the future of craft in America. “I was surprised by the high quality of entrants in the ‘Emerging Artists’ category,” he told me. “Though craft is, as they say, ‘long to learn,’ there were many artists who had clearly hit the ground running and had a lot of mastery already.” Adamson notes that while technology has had an impact on these younger artists, its mark is seen more in the aesthetics of the works than in the processes employed in making them. “Certainly you can see the influence of digital technology here and there, not so much in the techniques used (which remain mainly traditional) but in the style of imagery.”

Fellow juror Laura Mays, an Irish-born furniture designer and maker now living in California where she directs the Fine Woodworking program at the College of the Redwoods in Fort Bragg, also noted the (perhaps ironic) influence of digital technologies on the aesthetics of handcrafted art. She sees “a move away from polychromatic patternmaking and exuberant surface, towards a clean-lined, materials-driven, neutral palette, very similar to a design-led approach. Maybe it’s the Apple influence—small radius corners, materials left unadorned though polished, visually tidy.” While acknowledging that “the entrants wish to be selected to show their work for sale,” she adds: “It really struck home that human beings are very driven towards the manipulation of material and to learn and exhibit manual and mental skill... I had a very palpable sense that the energy and commitment that the craftspeople put in is not commercially driven.”

ALEKSANDRA VALI

     Among the ten “Emerging Artists” selected for this year’s show is jewelrymaker Aleksandra Vali. Now based in Geneva, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, Vali was trained as a sculptor and ceramicist in Russia and exhibited widely in her native country and abroad. After moving to the United States, she shifted her focus to metalsmithing and jewelry. “My work with clay has definitely affected my current works,” she said. “For me, metal provides a unique opportunity to create unusual, stylish pieces with fine details and very sharp and clear lines and shapes, something I was unable to do in ceramics.”

Vali’s training as a sculptor is evident in the Calendar from Atlantis/Bells series. These conical constructions of oxidized silver, each about four inches high, feature pitted and grooved surfaces to which the artist adds rune-like symbols and other motifs in electroplated twenty-four karat gold. As the title implies, the overall effect is one of an exquisitely preserved archaeological artifact recovered from an ancient civilization. (Vali notes that although each “bell” contains a clapper and is thus technically functional, they are not necessarily designed to produce a pleasing sound.) Her fascination with the material culture of the past also drives the Measures of Value collection, sleekly modern pendants whose designs incorporate antique elements, including Chinese coins, watchmakers’ tools and mini-calipers, in a clever play on the overlapping objective and subjective meanings that accrue to “value.”

MELODIE GRACE

      Other “Emerging Artists” this year include ceramicist Melodie Grace of Nashville, Tennessee, who, according to the artist’s statement, combines “wheel-thrown, handcarved and etched elements with both traditional and naked raku” to create pots whose textures often evoke natural materials such as pine cones. The surfaces of many of her vessels feature sharply defined images of trees, blossoms, leaves, and birds whose colors are created exclusively by smoke during the firing process.

ROBERT COBY

      Glass artist Robert Coby of Cleveland, Ohio, similarly evokes landscape in his handblown and carved vessels. His Topography series, for example, features egg-shaped vessels of molten glass in various hues, into whose surfaces the artist etches intricate patterns of concentric lines resembling the elevation markings on topographical maps. Coby then carves away portions, creating crevasse-like openings bounded by serrated crystalline edges, beneath which lie the exposed luminous interior surfaces. One could easily imagine each vessel as a globe-egg that incubated some fantastical creature, which has now hatched and left behind its multicolored shell for us to admire.

Another artist who evokes the fantastic in his work is first-time exhibitor David Winigrad of Penn Valley, Pennsylvania, who specializes in the wind-activated kinetic sculptures known as “whirligigs.” Winigrad earned a BFA in two-dimensional design from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and spent three decades working in advertising. His mother, Etta Winigrad, is a world-renowned ceramic sculptor, but David told me that he came to kinetic sculpture “almost by happenstance” when he got some woodworking tools from his brother and began experimenting.

“I was first drawn to traditional folk-art whirligigs by virtue of their very unlikeliness as objects of art,” he said. “Whirligigs, in essence, are machines.” As such, they share much in common with their more practical cousins such as combustion engines and electric motors, including the crankshafts, cams, pistons, and rotors that translate energy into motion. In this case, however, the driving force is wind, adding an element of chance to the machine’s performance. “It’s the mercurial nature of wind that makes the whirligig so captivating,” said Winigrad. “Like a marionette, they will suddenly come to life, spin madly, and then, just as suddenly, come to rest.”

DAVID WINIGRAD


      Winigrad’s inspiration for each whirligig “almost always comes from the wood. I gravitate to burls specifically, the deformed growths found on various species of trees... Each burl has a unique grain pattern and often contains voids, bark, spiky caps, and live edges.” These irregular features allow him “to contrast the eccentricities of the burl with the precise geometries I impose on the overall shape.” Along with the wooden elements, which range from ebony, maple, cherry, and walnut to osage orange and wild almond, he incorporates jade, stones, bone, feathers, crystals, coral, fossils, and other materials into these truly mixed-media creations.

EBEN BLANEY

      “My creative impetus is to amaze and delight the viewer through the variety of rotational movement and the beauty inherent in the materials,” explained Winigrad. “I also encourage people to interact with the whirligig through touch. In an incomprehensibly complex hi-tech world, viewers are able to fully understand how each whirligig works and enjoy the simple pleasure that comes with that realization.”

Participating in his second PMA Craft Show is Eben Blaney of Edgecomb, Maine, who has been making custom furniture for twenty years in the studio he built for himself in this small coastal town. Blaney, whose father was a boat-builder in nearby Boothbay Harbor, “resisted being a woodworker, anything to do with wood, for a long time,” he related to me during a studio visit in late August. After attending Hofstra University and the Portland School of Art (now the Maine College of Art), he went through a “soul-searching time” during which he “rolled around a lot.” This he did in a very literal way—by riding a bike all the way across the country. Eventually Blaney both found his way back home and embraced woodworking as his medium. The bike now hangs from the ceiling of the workshop, a reminder of his earlier nomadic life. He and his wife, a massage therapist, have their living quarters below the workshop, and she has a separate studio for her business nearby.

REBECCA MYERS

      Blaney’s first PMA Craft Show outing, in 2014, was “my best show ever, it was incredibly heartening,” he told me. He was particularly impressed by the “caliber of everybody else there,” but also by the sophistication of the viewers. “Philadelphia is a really well-educated population, in terms of furniture. They know what they’re looking for.” The city does indeed have a long historical connection to fine furniture-making, stretching from Colonial times through to more modern figures such as Wharton Esherick (1887–1970), a key inspiration for the resurgence of the craft following World War II. Echoes of Esherick’s aesthetic sensibility can be seen in many of Blaney’s elegant pieces, which combine the crisp geometries of mid-century modern design with a deep respect for the organic qualities of the materials.

An example is his Cormorant, a tall, slim hall table fashioned from walnut and ebonized tiger maple. “This felt very bird-like to me from the beginning,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite pieces because I was able to make it thinner than what you’re used to seeing.” On the in-progress version he showed me in the studio, the smooth, black surface of the elliptical tabletop was interrupted by the irregular edges of a knothole, a reminder of its origin in nature. Like many of Blaney’s pieces, the Cormorant also features exposed mortise-and-tenon joints. “I like to have some evidence that it was done by hand,” he said.

Nature has always been a primary inspiration for jewelrymaker Rebecca Myers of Baltimore, whose work features forms derived from seedpods, branches, flowers, and bees, among other motifs. “Most recently I’ve been working on an animal print collection of jewelry,” she told me in early September. “It’s made with layers of metals pierced to achieve the leopard and zebra patterns.”

Myers has done the PMA Craft Show “a handful of times” during her twenty-plus years as a jewelry designer and maker. “It’s always been a beautiful show and one of the most difficult to jury into,” she said. For Myers, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and attended Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, it is also something of a homecoming. “I have clients, family, teachers, and friends that I love visiting with at the show. Philadelphia is also such a great art and craft city. The public art is terrific. There’s a high interest due to the abundance of local art schools and museums.”

Like many of the participants, Myers finds hope for the future in an event that brings so many people together around the notion of putting beauty and creativity at the center of our everyday lives. “I think shows like the PMA Craft Show are cultural touchstones,” she said. “It’s so important to continue to educate a new generation of students and possible future collectors about incorporating art and craft into their lives. It’s very doable. To be an art collector you don’t need to go to a Sotheby’s auction. You can start at a show like PMA.” 

ROBERTA AND DAVID WILLIAMSON, BENNETT BEAN AND STEVE FORD AND DAVID FORLANO

 

      Get Inspired!

 
 

David Updike is an editor and writer living in Philadelphia. A regular contributor to Ornament, he most recently reviewed the “Immortal Beauty” exhibition of garments and textiles from Drexel University’s Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection. In this issue, he previews the 2016 Philadelphia Museum of Art Contemporary Craft Show, which celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year, and found in the process encouraging evidence for the continued relevance of fine, handcrafted objects in our increasingly digitized world. Updike has, in addition, contributed articles on jewelry artists Rebecca Myers, Namu Cho and Michael Manthey in past issues. 

David Freda Volume 39.2

THREE TENORS BROOCH of Zygo Pink/Zygopetalum, Buttercup White/Trichoglottis briachiata hybrid and Epidendrum Pacific Sunsplash orchids; cold-joined and hollowcast, made 2008; enameled twenty karat gold, set with five diamonds, 8.9 centimeters (cm) long, weighing 91.1 grams. The intricate enameling and fabrication process is similar to that described for the butterfly brooch in this article, in contrast to erroneous accounts stating that the actual orchids were dipped into wax. Since 2002, Freda has made a series of about fifty orchid brooches for Tiffany & Company (Jazzar and Nelson 2015). In the 2008/2009 Tiffany catalog, this orchid brooch was priced at forty-five thousand dollars. Private Collection. Photograph by David Behl. 

How do you look at a piece of art, or for our readers, an artist-made piece of jewelry? Does your reaction differ if you base your opinion on merely what you see, or does knowing about the underlying materials and processes affect your reaction? Most of us decide quickly if we like or dislike something, even if we have the background knowledge to engage in more deliberate consideration. This may occur even during the judging of a competition or a show, although one would certainly then further appraise the design, crafting and other relevant factors before arriving at a final decision.

      After looking critically at jewelry of all types for over four decades, I am still shocked when what I thought I knew differs from reality, as with the case of Pat Tseng’s fiber and stone jewelry (Liu 2015). Similarly, even though I have known David Freda since at least 1981, (he won the 1984 Ornament competition Juror’s award by Lloyd Herman [a jewel box/neckpiece with black rat snake eggs and hatchlings, along with the mother snake]), had attended one of his moldmaking workshops, and photographed his earlier work, my recent studio visit with him revealed a complexity, intricacy and difficulty of execution in his work that was well beyond what I knew. 

DAVID FREDA AND TRISH MCALEER’S SECOND FLOOR STUDIO, wonderfully flooded by light, partially blocked by removable blue window panels. Visible are enamel powder vials on tabletop (each with fired samples on lids), kilns, vacuum caster, metal melter, wax injector and metalworking tools, as well as biological study specimens and live plants, mostly orchids. Cabinets hold projects in progress.  Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament Magazine, except where noted.

DAVID FREDA AND TRISH MCALEER’S SECOND FLOOR STUDIO, wonderfully flooded by light, partially blocked by removable blue window panels. Visible are enamel powder vials on tabletop (each with fired samples on lids), kilns, vacuum caster, metal melter, wax injector and metalworking tools, as well as biological study specimens and live plants, mostly orchids. Cabinets hold projects in progress. Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament Magazine, except where noted.

DAVID FREDA

DAVID FREDA

      With my background training and research as an ethologist who studied fish behavior, Freda and I share common interests. In 1986, I traded a long run of Copeia, the leading journal for ichthyologists and herpetologists, for an enameled pupfish, which is still in progress due to the challenge of this project (to get the correct color of a breeding male pupfish, Freda went to Salt Creek in Death Valley to photograph them). His grandfather was a jeweler and Freda still has his riveting hammer. His father was a skilled machinist, so he acquired much technical knowledge working summers with him. He is perhaps the metalsmith with the most knowledge of nature and easily qualifies as a true naturalist jeweler. Freda has extensive working experience as a wildlife illustrator, raptor bird bander, falconer, taxidermist, and past curator of a wildlife center, as well as certified scuba diver, technical rock climber and avid mountain biker. Any visitor to the home of Freda and his partner Trish McAleer, also a metalsmith, cannot help but be aware of his deep interests in nature, which she shares. A full scale and accurately detailed replica of a Latimeria coelacanth hangs on a wall, something rarely even seen in a museum. A cat, two Siberian huskies and some walking stick insects share their home, along with numerous plants (especially orchids) and outdoor beehives.

Past and contemporary depictions of nature, whether botanical or zoological, were often caricatures of the actual plant or animal, frequently overly ornamented with jewels. G. Paulding Farnham’s orchid brooches made for Tiffany in the late 1800s-early 1900s were a mix of naturalistic blooms with excessive gemstone-set floral components and stems, although at least one example was devoid of gemstones. The Farnham orchid brooches may have been partly electroplated, which may be the basis for internetstatements about the orchid blooms being dipped in wax, as electroplating can involve wax. Lalique was the least susceptible to this tendency of overusing precious stones, and set only a few gems, although his enameled plants and animals were more impressionistic than realistic. 

STUDY OF NORTHERN BLACK RAT SNAKE NECKLACE, closeup showing eggs and hatchlings, of enamel over fine silver, with gold jumprings and Czech glass beads. Multiples of this necklace have been made from 1984 to 2000, his only limited production design; this necklace is 24.1 centimeters long, with eggs 2.7 cm each. The late Barbara Rockefeller owned the first snake egg and hatchling necklace made by Freda. Mobilia Gallery Collection. 

      For someone like Freda, who both loves nature and intimately knows and appreciates the anatomy of plants and animals, it would be almost a sacrilege not to replicate them fully and accurately. When he talks about his jewelry depicting members of the natural world, he states it is “pretty sacred, making these things.” I think his pride would not permit him to make replicas of nature that did not satisfy his high standards. When you couple this commitment to his superb technical prowess, it is easy to understand his devotion to the process of making a piece, from which he certainly gets his high. If one understands the technical and engineering challenges involved in each step of his fabrication process, one can begin to also realize the satisfaction that must reward the maker when making progress with such difficult procedures. His jewelry usually takes months to complete, so daily positive feedback is vital. This passion no doubt holds for many craftspeople when producing art in their studios; many remark that time often appears suspended, like being in a zen state.

As an undergraduate at University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, he studied with metalsmith Marcia Lewis, at a time when he was making leather falcon hoods. His graduate studies were at State University of New York, New Paltz, with Bob Ebendorf and Kurt Matzdorf, during 1980-1983, when Freda experimented with enameling on aluminum, as seen on the example on page 49. In the 1990s a Cooper-Hewitt exhibition of the great French master Lalique further pushed his talents toward enameling. About the time Freda won Rio Grande’s 2002 award for his stag beetle necklace, he was approached by Tiffany and Company to make enameled orchid brooches in gold. Up to then, he had only enameled on aluminum and silver; using the Rio Grande award to buy gold, it took
him a year of experimenting before he was ready to start producing the gold orchids, as it is much harder to enamel gold than silver, in part due to the alloys in gold (Fabergé enameled on silver but Lalique used gold, although he did use aluminum for structural elements of his jewelry, Harrison et al. 2008).

CABINET TOP WITH BUTTERFLY BROOCHES IN PROGRESS, along with color photocopies and photographs of the individual species. The photocopies of the actual wings are part of the documentation process that Freda follows to ensure accuracy of the intricate mosaic enameling on his butterfly brooches. The far left piece in progress is that of a moth. Photograph by David Freda.

      Freda took about a year to work out the molding of the orchids, their hollow core casting and enameling. The blooming orchids, or other specimens to be cast, are actually dissected into components, which then have silicon rubber compounds poured around them to make two part molds, from which the hollow waxes are made by injecting molten wax into the molds. He achieves hollow waxes by a clever process of blowing into the mold after the outer layer of the wax has set, with the force of the air from his mouth expelling the still molten portions of the wax from the mold. Such waxes are what enables him to do hollow casting. Because of the small spaces involved in his casts, he needs to use syringes to place the investment within the tiny apertures of the hollow waxes, as well as filling other spaces and gaps inside the investment flask used for lost-wax casting. If his casts were solid metal, the varying coefficient of expansion (COE) of the metal and the enamel could result in cracking or crazing of the enamel, similar to what happens when one attempts to work with glass of different COE. Since the butterfly wings of his brooches are solid but very thin, such problems do not occur when they are enameled. Additional factors in favor of hollow casting are the need for the jewelry to be as light as possible when worn, yet be strong enough to bear the stress of being worn, and that enamel looks better on hollow metal.

WESTERN TIGER SWALLOWTAIL BROOCH IN PROGRESS, with lower wings enameled, upper still bare gold, all cold-joined, 9.3 cm wingspan; actual butterfly was collected in southern California. Compare this to experimental work on facing page, of another swallowtail butterfly. His enameled jewelry is twenty karat gold, but findings are eighteen karat.

      To be able to make good molds and the requisite air venting, waxes, their sprueing, investing, burnout, and casting all demand a high level of skill, luck and magic, although proper utilization of the vacuum in mold making, investment preparation and metal casting are all critical to success. Since Freda does all these steps himself, it is a given there are strict standards of control and quality in his artwork. While these fabrication procedures are difficult and time consuming, it is his enameling that is awe-inspiring. Since I have had a long interest in insect jewelry (Kuehn 2003; Liu 1998, 2003), I am aware that none of the historic or contemporary interpretations of insects begin to approach Freda’s representations in accuracy of anatomy or coloration, both vital in characterization of such animals.

PROCESS FOR MAKING DANIS DANIS BUTTERFLY BROOCHES; the actual Danis butterflies are native to Australia and New Guinea. The finished brooch, of twenty, eighteen karat gold and platinum, has a wingspan of 5.7 cm, weighs about twenty-nine grams and has two marquise-set diamonds on the platinum antenna and thirty pavé-set diamonds in the abdomen. Due to the intricacy of the processes in the fabrication of these brooches, only some of the enameling and assembly steps are shown and described. 1 shows enlarged color photocopies of the wings, the lower wings partially enameled, and enameled gold cutouts with gold granules, and thin gold strips with white enamel, to be placed and fired onto wing. 2 shows the photocopies, lower wing with additional enameled elements, bare gold upper wings and actual butterfly wings on the plex block to the right. The wings and body have been scaled up from the real specimen. 3 Mirrored stencils for the turquoise decorations on the upper wing, placed onto the bare gold. 4 Upper wings now enameled in black/white, with wing areas ground to bare metal for placement of counter-enameled turquoise wing pattern pieces, shaped like the stencils. 5 Both wings cold-joined to temporary body, and a few of the turquoise decorations in place. 6 Wings completely enameled, with finished abdomen and wax components of the body in place. 7, 8 Obverse/reverse of finished Danis danis brooch, laser-welded and cold-joined, after three months work. All screws have tube-set diamonds on top.
Process photographs by David Freda except 7, 8 by Robert K. Liu/Ornament. 

      Just looking at part of the processes involved in his enameling of butterfly wings provides a good indication of the complexity of his techniques in this media, which Freda terms “mosaic enameling”. Besides the overall patterns of the upper and lower wings, which are based on color photocopies of the actual wings, smaller, contrasting spots of color are often separate cutouts of gold sheet, copied from precise stencils. These tiny pieces, some only millimeters long, are adhered onto wires protruding from a wire trivet, using his own adhesive mix of Klyr-Fyr, water lily root and saliva (the latter is also used by Mauritanian women bead artists when they wetpack glasspowder for Kiffa beads). Two hundred grit enamel, either Ninomiya or old Thompson leaded enamels are sifted onto these pieces of metal, then fired briefly at well-controlled temperatures for up to ten times, with the color checked against the actual specimen depicted (Gans 2003). These fired pieces are placed in precise patterns on the wings, often after the underlying enamel has been ground off to expose the gold. These steps are repeated until obverse and reverse sides of the wings are fully patterned accurately. Fabrication of a butterfly brooch takes three months of constant work.

FREDA’S JEWELRY BENCH, with an orchid brooch project in progress. All the rotary tool bits are neatly laid out in rows on gray felt, as well as his hand tools. All parts are in small containers. Visible to left is casting and kiln equipment, plants and biological specimens.

      Freda sets gemstones, like diamonds, into the platinum body and antenna of his butterflies, as well as gold granules onto the wings. These embellishments add to the perceived and real value of a piece, possibly at the request of the firm or individual commissioning the piece. While his jewelry is not really priced according to the value of the precious metal and gemstone content, they are at the top end of contemporary artist-made ornaments. Nowadays, the clients are often from China, Japan or the Middle East. One of his older orchid brooches sold at auction for ninety-four thousand dollars, with a beginning bid of thirty-four thousand; this hammer price is rare for living jewelers.

While Freda is still young and in the prime of health, he has already attained a level of achievement that future jewelry historians might regard as somewhat reminiscent of Lalique and Blaschka, the Bohemian father and son team of the nineteenth, early twentieth century who made astounding painted botanical and marine invertebrates in glass, including orchids. Freda’s vast practical knowledge of biology, derived often from living plants and animals, and his largely self-developed metalsmithing and enameling skills have undoubtedly been the foundations of his success, along with a dogged determination at solving problems. An admitted dyslectic, he appears to have compensated by arranging his studio environment so neatly and logically as to fit his particular way of working.

BRAZILIAN RED LAND CRAB AND HEAD OF BLACK INDONESIAN RAT SNAKE, both hollowcast, respectively of gold and fine silver, crab 7.0 cm wide; entire snake was thirteen feet or over 396 cm long. The crab consists of carapace, legs and claws, all cast separately, then cold-joined. Eventually, both will be enameled. 

      David Freda is very much a jeweler in transition, now that he will concentrate more on selling to private clients or collectors. Since his pieces are so time-consuming, he needs time to build up an inventory. With his inquisitive and inventive mind, it is hard to predict how his work might change, especially with his intense fascination of nature and willingness to challenge himself even more, especially if there were less restraint on his artistic license.

 

      Get Inspired!

 
 

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. Recently he has been teaching one-on-one photography lessons at our offices, as well as teaching workshops on bamboo jewelry. In this issue Liu writes about David Freda, who is as much a naturalist as he is a superb enamelist and jeweler. His techniques are among the most complex the author has seen in over four decades of writing about jewelry.

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.

 

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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. 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.

Politically Speaking Volume 39.2

POLITICAL THEATER NECKPIECE by Laurie Hall, 2016. Photograph by Dan Kvitka. 

The intensity of our socio-political climate, marred by divisiveness and disillusionment, has come to a head this election cycle. One positive end-result exists; jewelers have turned lemons into lemonade ala Beyoncé, mining this disenchantment like a seemingly endless supply of creative fossil fuel. Work in the recent exhibition “Politically Speaking: New American Ideals in Contemporary Jewelry” at the Craft in America Center explored the way that jewelry engages with current American politics and events. As a communicative channel, jewelry has long been employed to signify political protest, allegiance or affiliation, and pride. In the case of the exhibition’s fifteen artists, political views are given visionary form through various techniques and material choices. Scaled to the body, the force of their messages is undeniable, direct and immediate.

YAZIDI SEX SLAVE NECKLACE by Joyce Scott, 2016. Photograph by Madison Metro.

      Thirty-five objects were selected to touch upon a myriad of topical issues that are the cornerstone of the presidential debate in 2016. From economic recovery to racial profiling, gun laws, campaign spectacles, war, oil, human trafficking, privacy rights, and global technology, the issues that are on the table are captured in these objects, ready to spark discussion.

Oil is a naturally occurring element in this show, as would be expected. Sandra Enterline, who can be categorized as the forensic scientist in the group, views materials as specimens that carry their own multilayered stories and histories. Collecting samples of modern existence with the focused precision of an urban archaeologist, Enterline consistently places the industrial in harmony with the organic throughout her work. For her Pretty Crude series, created for a show in 2011 at Velvet da Vinci in San Francisco, she focused on petroleum, the ultimate symbol of wealth, power and fear in our global world. She began the project by siphoning oil off of a historic well just a few miles away from where she was born in Pennsylvania. She transferred the liquid, which she calls a “curiously beautiful substance,” to petite glass ampoules with golden caps. In one piece they dangle in tandem with pieces of blood red coral, an allusion to the massive destruction caused by the BP oil spill in 2010.

Karen Lorene of Facèré Gallery in Seattle has represented many of the artists and sustained jewelry with a strong narrative and political bent. Collector Cheryl Berenson, who was initiated into the art jewelry world by Lorene, has focused on political commentary, building a formidable arsenal of biting and humorous pieces that mirror landmark events in America’s recent history. “I love it because I get a rise out of people,” she says.

GEORGE WASHINGTON BROOCH by Roberta and David Williamson, 2016.

      Berenson’s collection provided a backbone for the exhibition. Berenson has political activism in her veins, having served as a national advocate for various causes and working in public health primarily with refugee and low-income, at-risk populations in areas of Seattle. She cites these experiences as providing fodder for the fire of her beliefs. In terms of her collection, she is guided by political persuasion and personal experiences, both of which must “fit into the equation” of each piece in order to speak to her. She gravitates to work that says, “the things that need to be said in a way that’s a little sneaky.” It must be no small coincidence that artist Laurie Hall, whose most exceptional Political Theater necklace is showcased in the exhibition, was her daughter’s teacher one year.

Berenson commissioned a humbling, simple tribute by Trudee Hill to honor the memory of Dr. George Tiller, a doctor who was murdered point-blank for providing abortions. Her friend, jeweler Jana Brevick, incorporated rifle targets into a brilliant series of pendants that hang close to the heart and open the dialogue about gun law, another issue that is near and dear to Berenson, who is on the board of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility Foundation in Washington state.

Always willing to tackle the hardest subject matter, Joyce Scott, in her distinct approach to beadwork as social criticism, created a piece dedicated to the Yazidi women who have been enslaved and raped by ISIS since 2014. In June, a UN report estimated that the terrorist group holds about thirty-five hundred slaves. A 2016 MacArthur Fellow, Scott is a true trailblazer who strives to, “use art in a manner that incites people to look, and then carry something home.”

MANTLE FOR TEXTUAL ASSAULT by Nancy Worden, 2015. Photograph by Rex Rystedt.

New technologies have transformed how we communicate, who communicates and how much is communicated. The fundamentals of human interaction and dignity are at stake in a world now dominated by social media, which has created an atmosphere of hyper-saturation for information and news. “We expect more from technology and less from each other,” states Nancy Worden upon her Mantle for Textual Assault, which is the closest one might get to armor for the modern woman.

The show ranged from outright declarations to musings on American iconography. Kat Cole works in enamel and decals to depict the smoky haze of oil fields with ghostly steel towers in the Texas landscape. Ohioans Roberta and David Williamson’s quietly subversive pins, formally referencing official military medallions with their striped ribbons, appear as patriotic tributes to our nation’s first couple but clever puns lie not so deep under the surface waiting to be revealed.

Hailing from elsewhere in Ohio, Detroit metalsmith Tiff Massey filters cultural anthropology through the lens of jewelry. She generates work that redefines the “conversation piece.” Provocative and forceful, her installation is a focal point of the show, in which she pairs four oversize neckpieces with multi-texturally adorned mirrors. The wearer is invited to potentially view oneself while bedecked in her work, although each mirror offers a comment rather than a mere reflection. In two cases, the mirror surface pattern mimics chain link fence, in another, the surface is covered in plastic googley eyes and in the fourth, the surface is black and surrounded by rings of black pompoms. Massey delves into racial stereotypes—from the Rastafarian to the street gangster—racial profiling, consumer culture and profoundly, identity. The overblown scale of her neckwear comically emphasizes the superficial traits that become identifiers, inviting us to consider how surface appearances shape perception.

The artistic medium of jewelry is enjoying a moment in the spotlight, particularly in Los Angeles. On the occasion of the Lois Boardman jewelry collection being gifted to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, modern jewelry finds a new home, albeit one of few, in a major American institution. In a city where global fashion and culture originate, art jewelry will carve a niche of its own. 

There was ample proof in this body of work that beauty can come from unlikely sources and ugly places. Hope lies in the hands of these artists, who create magnetic and alluring pieces that draw us in and force us to look deeper in an age when so many have felt compelled to tune out and turn away.

The Craft in America Center is located at 8415 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, CA 90048. Visit craftinamerica.org for more information on “Politically Speaking,” where you can view the exhibition online, as well as find a Q&A with Laurie Hall and an interview with Tiff Massey.

 

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Emily Zaiden is a craft, decorative arts and design curator who has served as Director of the Craft in America Center since 2010, shortly after the Center opened in Los Angeles. Craft in America is a nonprofit organization that promotes handcrafted work through a variety of platforms, including a PBS documentary series, website and the Center, which organizes exhibitions, public programs and educational outreach for local schools. As a material culture historian by training, Zaiden views the pieces included in the “Politically Speaking: New American Ideals in Contemporary Jewelry,” exhibition as both wearable art objects and documents of recent American history that will have expanded meaning over the course of time.

Glitterati Volume 39.2

Glitterati
Portraits and Jewelry From Colonial Latin America

TIARA of gilt silver, emeralds, pearls, Colombia or Ecuador, circa 1690. 

Despite its titular implications of spectacle and vanity parade, the Denver Art Museum’s exhibition “Glitterati: Portraits & Jewelry from Colonial Latin America” offers an unexpectedly intimate and contemplative experience of some important pieces from the institution’s core holdings. The general scarcity of Spanish sixteenth- to early nineteenth-century jewelry with documented or even plausible New World provenance precludes the kind of overwhelming display that can be found just one room over, where the museum’s collection of colonial silver hollowware dazzles the eye through sheer expanse of gleaming surfaces. Moreover, the exhibition’s curators Donna Pierce and Julie Wilson Frick seem to have deliberately cultivated an effect of dignified reserve. Surrounded by deep red walls and guarded by somber portraits enveloped in baroque gloom, even the most bejeweled objects in the exhibition appear as small, bright accents rather than aggressive contenders for the spotlight. This is entirely appropriate. The portraits, selected because of their in-situ depictions of jewelry, suggest that Spanish fashion of the colonial period, even in its farthest forays into ornamentation, conveyed a somber strength that restrained the impulse to excess and resisted the frivolity that at times thrived in the salons of Europe. Even in the colonies, the subdued aesthetic of Velazquez and Murillo seems to have been more reflective of Spanish taste than the exuberance of Rubens or the delicacy of Watteau.

      Pearls figured prominently in the jewelry of wealthy colonial women, though given the high rate at which bracelets, necklaces and pendants were later cannibalized in the interest of keeping up with mercurial fashion, it is not surprising that only three pieces among the jewelry displayed in the exhibition actually contain pearls. The portraits serve as more accurate indicators of historical practice. A painting of Doña Maria del Carmen Cortés Santelices y Cartavio Roldán, the creole wife of a Spanish-born judge in Trujillo, Peru, depicts the blue-eyed eighteenth-century matron adorned with earrings of gold-framed mother-of-pearl disks with triple pearl drops, pearl bracelets of four strands on each wrist, and a silver foliate cross suspended from a three-strand pearl necklace. From a century later, a staid three-quarter-view portrait of an unknown elderly Colombian woman, whose presumably thin gray hair is entirely hidden by a close-fitting black cap, features a single gold and large pearl drop earring as sufficient proof of her wealth and social status.

 

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Glen R. Brown, a professor of art history at Kansas State University and a frequent writer on jewelry and metalwork, has a longstanding interest in the decorative arts of Latin America. The Denver Art Museum’s exhibition “Glitterati: Portraits & Jewelry from Colonial Latin America” provided a rare opportunity to study some particularly fine surviving examples of seventeenth- to nineteenth-century work in gold and silver, but he was most impressed by the juxtaposition of jewelry and its representation in period paintings: “what may be the best way to look at historical objects and remember why they were made.”

Heavenly Bodies Volume 39.2

Heavenly Bodies: The Exhibition
An Idea, Its Implementation and A Compelling Result

WILHELM BUCHERT BANGLE of gold, opal and pearl, 1969. Collection of Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim. Photograph by Rudiger Floter.

It all began in Saint Petersburg in the fall of 2013, during a conversation with Anna Vladimirovna Ratnikova, one of the jewelry curators at the Russian Museum of Ethnography, which, along with the Hermitage, the State Russian Museum and the Kunstkamera Museum, ranks among the city’s major museums. We talked about potential exhibition projects, about themes hitherto not contemplated, about new approaches to showcasing the rich diversity of jewelry in terms of appearance and forms of expression. Anna sparked a great idea by asking whether there had ever been an exhibition themed around celestial bodies, i.e. the sun, the moon and the stars in jewelry.

      An idea was born: an idea that was intriguing, an idea whose implementation opened up a new area of research, an idea that eventually led to the “Heavenly Bodies: The Sun, Moon and Stars in Jewellery” exhibition at Pforzheim’s Jewelry Museum (Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim), probably a worldwide first and with the participation of renowned international partners, such as the Louvre and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts) in Paris, the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History) in Vienna, the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in London and the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen (State Art Collections) in Dresden, to name just a few, as well as private collectors and contemporary artists from both Germany and abroad, who all responded generously and unhesitatingly to the Jewelry Museum’s request for loans.

From the start, the intention was to cover the theme, both in the exhibition and in the accompanying book, in a manner that reveals the global dimension of “heavenly jewelry.”

The preliminary work was widely ramified. Our considerations included the visual arts, literature and music, as well as religions and myths from many of the world’s cultures and regions, and we explored the diversity of the celestial bodies’ representation in the artistic crafts, for example. New dimensions regarding our understanding of the cosmos, of the universe, emerged, also and particularly in terms of its extensive relations to jewelry. After all: the Ancient Greek word for cosmos, κόσµος, means universe, order and jewelry as well!

 

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Fritz Falk, a master goldsmith and jewelry historian, began his career as a research assistant at Pforzheim’s Jewelry Museum, and became its director in 1971. Since then, he has significantly expanded its collection, and has developed it into a specialized museum that is unique worldwide, one whose exhibits are much sought after as exquisite loans for exhibitions all over the planet. While the main focus of Falk’s activity was on collecting jewelry from classical antiquity, the Renaissance and the Art Nouveau period, he also felt particularly committed to highlighting modern, contemporary jewelry trends. After retiring in 2004, he curated “Serpentina: The Snake in Jewellery From Around the World” in 2011 to mark the Reuchlinhaus’s fiftieth anniversary.

Peter Antor Volume 39.2

ARCHITECTONIC RING #3 of silver, ebony, cement, powder coat, twenty-four karat gold leaf, 7.62 x 10.16 x 7.62 centimeters, 2016.

There is a secret realm where imagination resides. It is right in front of us, yet unseeable. It is always present, yet so often hides itself from view. It can be accessed at any time, but cannot be forced, or it is as ungraspable as a gust of wind. This is the universe in miniature that Peter Antor seeks to unlock in all of us with his work, and it is a project both ambitious and passionate.

      The incubation room for this passion is architecture. Antor’s sense of wonder with human-made structures is reminiscent of a child’s awe wandering into a toy store for the first time. “Living in Grand Rapids, it’s not a big city, but it has the vibes you get from big buildings,” he observes, “the hustle and bustle. There’s a Frank Lloyd Wright house right in Grand Rapids called the Meyer May House, and I’ve always been fascinated with Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs.” Antor goes on to say how enclosed, finite spaces can seem vaster than the sky. Being within a colossal building somehow relates a difference in scale that peering into infinity cannot.

 

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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. 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.

Susan Bradley Volume 39.2

Susan Bradley
An Elegant Minimalism

NEOPRENE COAT with silk quilted belt, 2007. Model: Sara Rogers. Photographs by Paul Weber.

When you encounter Susan Bradley’s work at an American Craft Council Show, Smithsonian Craft Show or Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, you might be surprised to learn that she works from a studio and showroom in Minnesota. Her work is sophisticated, flexible and strikingly contemporary—not qualities people from other parts of the country tend to associate with the Midwest. Yet Bradley’s work stems directly from her Midwestern heritage and experiences.

      Born in Wisconsin, Bradley grew up in Hudson, a small quiet town on the western edge of the state. She was the only girl in the family and people fussed over her. Her mother worked, but still found time to sew for herself and for her daughter. Many of the mothers of her friends also worked, and they took great care with their appearance, their make-up and how they dressed, punctuated by weekly trips to the hairdresser. (Think Mad Men without the promiscuity!)

This young girl’s environment was already saturated with thoughts of clothes and fashion design. The mother of her best friend in grade school made wedding dresses and clothing for other people. She and that friend got the scraps from those projects and others. While their mothers were at work, the girls would disappear into the sewing room after school to design and sew clothes for their dolls. Bradley admitted feeling more than a little envious of the beautiful clothes that her friend’s mother made for the little girl, and did once get a dress made by the seamstress, too. Even then she appreciated the quality of the sewing and construction.

 

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Kathleen Richert has run a studio business since 1995, designing and creating clothing and soft props for museums, theater, commercial, and private clients. She specializes in historic reproduction clothing, primarily from the Regency, Georgian, American Fur Trade, and Civil War periods. She also is in the process of writing a children’s book about various species of birds, which she will be handpainting herself. Richert met with Susan Bradley, fashionista extraordinaire, and discovered a life-long wanderer who became inspired by a foreign culture, bringing back the materials that sparked her career in creating fetching clothes that feature a timeless appeal.