ORNAMENT Volume 33 No. 3

Cartier. King of Jewelers
Felting a Life. One Artist's Journey
Valerie Mitchell. A Natural Order
Elegantly Attired. Victorian Fashion in Coastal Maine
The Ghysels Treasures. A World-Class Ethnographic Jewelry Collection
Trudee Hill. Unambiguously Communicative
Smithsonian Craft Show 2010


If anyone doubts the power of diamonds to draw crowds, just visit the spectacular Cartier and America exhibition at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco to bear witness. Audible gasps and appreciative murmurs greet the diamond-studded tiaras, Elizabeth Taylor’s ruby and diamond necklace, and a long diamond sautoir from the 1920s that cleverly can be converted into two bracelets and a short necklace.


Ruth Walker gives her retrospective on a life of felting. "Felt has about as much resemblance to sheep as bread has to wheat. The world’s oldest textile, felt is defined as a matted, non-woven material formed of damp wool under repeated compression; additional definitions include 'anything that resembles' this, including roofing felt and boiled wool. When I talk about felt, however, I am referring to the first definition."


Following graduation, Valerie Mitchell moved to Los Angeles and continued to develop her body of both one-of-a-kind pieces and a successful and enduring production line. What remained constant over the years since, and through the division between one-offs and production pieces, is Mitchell’s interest in structure and form. This, combined with her impulse to glean inspiration from her surroundings, means Mitchell finds stimulation in even seemingly common junctures.


Drawing for the most part from its permanent collection, the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, has organized a gem of a show devoted to an endlessly fascinating subject: the fashion ways of the age of Queen Victoria. Elegantly Attired: Victorian Apparel and Accessories in Coastal Maine (November 7, 2009 – April 25, 2010) offers an array of dresses, fans, hats, and jewelry, as well as paintings, photographs and vintage advertisements, all dating from the second half of the nineteenth century.


How does an assemblage of objects, like those obtained by Colette and Jean-Pierre Ghysels, become a world-class collection? The simple answer is dedication, a large investment in time, effort and passion, but many other factors are at play, some intergenerational.


As graphic symbols of cultural and political identity, Trudee Hill’s Estonian-inspired pieces are extraordinary. And though the twenty-seven-year-old artist, who now makes her home in Seattle, has barely begun her career in jewelry and metalsmithing, the breastplates signal that even in her first post-college projects Hill wanted to communicate as directly as possible.


Ambience is an essential component to a craft show. As much as the quality of the work presented, the atmosphere engendered by the show’s physical environment is of tangible importance. When both of these elements are successfully achieved, the harmonious result can be labeled “great.” The Smithsonian Craft Show, situated as it is in the historic National Building Museum, succeeds on both levels.