Departments 34.5


JEWELRY ARTS. Saul Bell Design Award 2011

NATIVE ARTS. Life in Miniature

INTERNATIONAL ARTS. New Latin American Jewelry




INNER GOLDEN FACETS VESSEL, Grand Prize Hollowware, by Wayne Meeten, of Hackney, London, England; also Grand Prize winner in 2010, his superb technique for the inner vessel stumped the judges. Studio jewelry images courtesy of Rio Grande, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
SAUL BELL Design Award 2011

jewelry arts



Increasingly we experience a world where the virtual replaces the actual; the digital, the printed; and service industries supplant manufacturing. This trend has penetrated into the jewelry world but did not prevail at the Saul Bell Design Award Competition judging, where I was one of five on the panel choosing the final winners. This remarkable competition has been covered before by Ornament (2009, 32.5; 2010, 33.5), so I only discuss what I observed. Briefed by Audrey Arnold, coordinator for the Saul Bell Design Award, the judges went through seven rounds of thirty minutes each, for the respective categories of jewelry of gold/platinum, silver/Argentium silver, metal clay, beads, enamel, and hollowware/art object, as well as the work of emerging artists. Initial submissions of photographs or renderings from throughout the United States and around the world had been reduced through the first round of judging by another panel, from hundreds to five in each category. The work of these five entrants in each of the seven categories was sent for judging. We were able to look carefully, aided by loupes, and handle each item, shown as both an image and as displayed; after fifteen minutes, three Rio Grande female staff members wore the pieces for the judges, changing outfits after each round. How jewelry functions on the body is often the acid test, not possible to determine from a static image.

REBIRTH BRACELET, First Place Enamels, by James Carter.

For those who have served as judges or jurors in jewelry or craft competitions/shows in recent years, being able to examine the submitted object, as well as its images, definitely ranks as a rare occurrence and a pleasurable bonus. More often than not, hurried viewing of sets of standardized format slides is the norm. But jewelry, like any handmade object, needs close scrutiny and study from all sides. For example, in one of the jewelry categories there was an entry that was produced through a CAD program, output by RP (rapid prototyping) and cast. Quite elegant, it was completely marred by a very poorly designed and executed method of converting the pendant into something wearable, which may very well have escaped notice if seen only in a cleverly shot photograph. This may have been an example whereby the jeweler depended too much on software and technology to resolve the design but lacked handskills to transition between the RP product and traditional jewelry common sense.

GREEN MOONSTONE BRACELET, First Place Gold/Platinum, by Robin Waynee.

Being able to discuss the jewelry being judged with the others on the panel, of whom a fair number had extensive technical and aesthetic knowledge, as well as exposure to jewelry of all kinds, was a valuable aid in helping each of us delve more fully into the work and judge in a more informed manner. Tim McCreight, who had served before as a Saul Bell judge, advised us to compensate for the dazzle factor of jewelry and to consider content as a judging category. For some of the emerging artists, who are jewelers eighteen or under, political statements or content were definitely part of their jewelry’s purpose. This category, only added five years ago to the competition, hopefully will attract more entrants. Jewelry, like the other craft fields, needs to engage more of the younger demographic in a meaningful manner.

While the sample seen is small, several in this category showed admirable skills for their age. While the purpose of a competition is to challenge the practitioners in a field and hopefully raise their level of competence, it is also a valuable learning experience for those who judge. This competition, with its careful attention to ensuring professionalism and fairness, should be a model adopted by more organizations sponsoring such events, although everyone is aware that tight funding means many cannot follow suit. But in a field where design, technique and execution are tangible and paramount factors, I hope more will emphasize the actual over the virtual.



More Saul Bell Design Award 2011 images


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