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Volume 33 No.3 2010


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Cover Feature: Cartier King of Jewelers

Cartier King of Jewelers. Felting a Life One Artist's Journey. Elegantly Attired Victorian Fashion in Coastal Maine. The Ghysels Treasures A World-Class Ethnographic Jewelry Collection. Smithsonian Craft Show 2010. Trudee Hill Unambiguously Communicative. Valerie Mitchell A Natural Order. Shoe Arts Beth Levine First Lady of Shoes. Jewelry Arts New Jewelry Georg Dobler and Margit Jäschke. Costume Arts Art of Motion Picture Costume Design. Fiber Arts Nick Cave Meet Me at the Center of the Earth. Bead Arts Teresa Sullivan. Design Study Bamboo Torque. Antique Arts Patterns of Long Ago Reflections of China in Japanese Noh Costume.

by Nancy Ukai Russell  

King of Jewelers
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.

The exhibition (December 19, 2009-May 9, 2010), which will not travel, marks the one-hundred-year anniversary of Cartier in America, an era that began in 1909 when the venerable French firm opened an outpost in New York City to better serve the Astors, Morgans, Vanderbilts, and other Gilded Age clients. Until then, Cartier's American clientele had traveled to Paris, sometimes twice a year via ocean liner, to order their suites of must-have jewelry. Images © Cartier.


  Felting a Life
by Ruth E. Wiedenhoeft Walker

One Artist's Journey
In 1982 I was barreling along in graduate school when I was distracted by a blanket. I had been studying clathrin-coated vesicles of plant cells. The coat subunit, named after a game floor seen in the original Star Trek series, readily self-assembles to form an attractive spherical basket of hexagons and pentagons. But here I was, transfixed by softly gleaming parallel strands of fibers in the yarns of early Navajo textiles at the Heard Museum, in Phoenix, Arizona. From before the Bosque Redondo, they were woven of lustrous handspun Churro wool. I experienced a tremendous compulsion to do “that.”

Later, in Canberra, Australia, I learned to spin (not that gym-bicycling, please, but real spinning, on a wheel), with wool fleece—and not recycled pop bottles, but a real fleece shorn from an animal, long in staple, shiny and full of fragrant lanolin. They say Australia was built on the back of Merino sheep; certainly its wool smelled truly wonderful and glistened in the light. Photograph by Paul Jeremias. Model: Genevieve Yang. Photograph by Helios Studio, Columbia, Missouri.


    Elegantly Attired
by Carl Little

Victorian Fashion in Coastal Maine
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.

From 1850 to 1900 the coastal towns of Maine reached new levels of prosperity, a result of a boom in ship building, lime production in Rockport and Rockland, and a flourishing lumber industry centered in Bangor. At the same time, ship captains, often accompanied by their wives, were traveling the world and bringing back the latest in couture from foreign and domestic ports of call. The well-to-do citizens of Rockland, Camden and Thomaston eagerly embraced the latest styles and accoutrements of the Gilded Age. Photographs by Lorraine DeLaney.


  The Ghysels Treasures
by Robert K. Liu

A World-Class Ethnographic Jewelry Collection
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. If one of the principals in initiating this collection of ethnographic ornaments had not been influenced early in life to love ethnic art, textiles and ornaments by her parents (for example, Colette was given an Algerian fibula as a fourteenth birthday present), or Jean-Pierre had not studied goldsmithing while young and had a very successful career as a sculptor in metal, nor had children who were not only both interested and involved in their parental passions, the Ghysels Collection might not have attained this superlative level, nor probably contribute even more in the future.
Photograph by Dr. Marc Ghysels. Photographs by Mauro Magliani.


Smithsonian Craft Show 2010
by Patrick R. Benesh-Liu

Smithsonian Craft Show 2010
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. Although populated by the distinct smell of age, the Smithsonian’s venue is a distinguished setting. Primarily influenced by classical architecture but with an eye towards economy and functionality, the result is a structure both venerable and inviting. Terra cotta, brick and plaster, used as imitations for marble and granite, and wooden accents create contrasting sensations of warmth and cold. The central grounds are spacious, giving one a leisurely experience walking the floor. Finally, the catering service on the opening night is regularly excellent—an additional good reason to attend this year’s benefit on April 21.
Shown is Alison Sigethy, Joe Graham, and Jane Herzenberg


  Trudee Hill
by Robin Updike

Unambiguously Communicative
In 2005 Trudee Hill was finishing her degree in jewelry and metals at The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, when a professor encouraged her to apply for a Fulbright Fellowship. Hill, a native of Washington state with a taste for adventure, had already traveled in Spain and backpacked through Central America, where she had collected the jewelry and textiles she could afford on her student budget. But as she worked her way through the Fulbright application, she decided to go for broke. “I thought, what place in the world is so beyond my comfort zone, so unusual, that if I was going to take a big leap funded by the U.S. government, where would that place be?”

Having just learned about the Seto, an indigenous people living in what is now Estonia, and the highly-decorated, large silver breast plates traditionally worn by Seto women, Hill set her sights on research and study in Estonia. “The breast plates originally were smaller and were meant to hold women’s blouses together,” says Hill. “But over the centuries they’d evolved into silver domes about a foot across and decorated with long chains of coins and symbols describing who the women were, where they lived, all kinds of information.
I was fascinated.” Photographs by Doug Yaple.


  Valerie Mitchell
by Jill A. DeDominicis

A Natural Order
In one of her first exhibitions, City Limits, artist Valerie Mitchell presented thirteen pieces of jewelry, each one representing an image of the city of Hartford, Connecticut. A pin of silver and ebony interpreted the steps at the city’s Civic Center. A neckpiece in silver, bronze, copper, and ebony mimicked a topographical map of Bushnell Park. Mitchell’s site-specific works were crafted in response and appreciation for her urban environment, and were an attempt to translate these recognizable architectural forms into a wearable scale.

The City Limits show was over twenty years ago, but Mitchell continues to create jewelry inspired by her environment. Working in various arts positions at the time of her first exhibitions, and with an undergraduate arts education degree under her belt, Mitchell decided to invest the energy spent supporting the arts and “working for other people’s dreams” in favor of her own. She enrolled at Rhode Island School of Design, with an emphasis on light metals and jewelry, and honed her skills in metalsmithing. Photograph by Mark Johann. Photograph by Ralph Gabriner.


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