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Volume 33 No.5 2010


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Cover Feature: Wanted: The Cowboy Boot How to make an American Legend.

Saul Bell Design Award A Beacon to Creativity. American Craft Week Crafting a New Legacy. David Watkins The Precise Aesthetic. The Animal Outside Us All Fursuiting and the Furry Culture. Celebrating 70 Seventy Jewelers Seventy Challenges. Icelandic Viking Age Beads Their Origin and Characteristics. Jon Havener Energy in the Abstract. Inside the Studio Artist-made Tools. Museum News The Bead Museum. Ancient Arts Secrets of the Silk Road.

Wanted the Cowboy Boot
by Leslie Clark  

How to Make an Amercian Legend
Toy Story 3 hit movie screens this summer, and once again its old-fashioned hero, Woody, rushed forth to save the good guys and vanquish the bad. As everybody knows, the movie is animated, the characters are toys, and Woody is that enduring symbol of American legend, lore and romance—a cowboy. We recognize him by his hat, his six-gun and his boots: Especially his boots.

It is impossible to overestimate the allure, the mystique, the lasting popularity of cowboy boots. Even though most people who wear them have rarely or never seen the backside of a horse, cowboy boots grab the imagination and persist in holding on to a star-studded, fabled status. In Texas, which might reasonably be called the motherlode for handcrafted boots, they are considered an artform and a gloriously proud tradition. Bootmaking is passed down through generations in the same families, and faithful customers are known to buy their boots for decades from the same maker. It has been remarked that Texas men are more loyal to their bootmakers than to their first wives. Photograph by Blair Clark; courtesy of the New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe.


  Saul Bell Design Award
by Carolyn L. E. Benesh

A Beacon to Creativity
Full Disclosure: I was one of five jurors in the second round of jurying for this year’s tenth annual Saul Bell Design Award competition. Joining me were Ronda Coryell, Geoffrey Giles, Linda Kaye-Moses, and Whitney Sielaff, consisting of three artists and former Saul Bell Design Award winners, and two editors of jewelry publications. So my particular perspective is somewhat that of an insider (albeit totally temporary, lasting for one day) to Rio Grande’s sponsorship of the Saul Bell Design Award.

The jurying in February of this year, administered by Rio Grande’s Audrey Arnold, was a well-paced, but still contemplative day, in the privacy and solitude of a hotel off site from the Rio Grande operation, and in a room selected for the best natural light in which to view the artworks. While Arnold ensured that the atmosphere was relaxed and informal, the hours spent were highly professional and increasingly demanding as the day transpired. The various permutations of the design competition’s unique jurying process brought forth qualities that jurors are rarely asked to consider anymore.


    American Craft Week
by Jill A. DeDominicis

Crafting a New Legacy
A new, exciting tradition in craft launches come autumn of this year. American Craft Week, taking place from October 1-10, 2010, will bring together all those in the craft world—makers, dealers, craft lovers, educators, and supporters—for ten days filled with festivities, exhibitions and shows, lectures and classes, open studios, and more. This new nationwide week of observance serves as a celebration both of our rich craft history and legacy, but also of the promise of a new era and a new generation of artists.

Spearheaded by CRAFT, Craft Retailers and Artists for Tomorrow, in partnership with Craft in America, the idea hinges on the notion that craft enriches all of our lives, from a primal, purely aesthetic sense, and a deeper, more spiritual connection between creativity, heart and hand. The concept for a national craft day was not entirely new, but in realizing the immense effort to get such an idea off the ground for just one day, Co-chairs Diane Sulg, Ann Pifer and Carol Sauvion set their sights even higher, planning a longer stretch of festivities that would help bring craft into the public view.
Photograph courtesy of Craft in America.


David Watkins
by Nancy Ukai Russell

The Precise Aesthetic
The artist David Watkins believes that everything to be said about a piece of jewelry lies in the work itself. “Otherwise, why bother doing it?” he says. The artist speaks in her or his chosen artform because, “you don’t have any other way of expressing yourself.”

Taking this line of thinking to its logical conclusion, there should be no need for words in appreciating jewelry artwork—only the eyes to see and
the body to feel. Visually, one can see the form, design and color. If one is lucky enough to don one of Watkins’s pieces, one would use the senses to feel, say, the weight of a neckpiece on the shoulders or the texture and coldness of a metal ring on the shank of a finger.

The wonderful problem with David Watkins’s case is that when it comes to his wide-ranging body of work—which he has been creating for forty years, which people follow closely, and which international museums have been collecting for decades—there is a great deal to see and one feels that words, indeed, are necessary to explain the artist’s process and ideas. Photograph by Michael Hallson. Photograph by David Watkins.

  The Animal Outside Us All
by Patrick R. Benesh-Liu

Fursuiting and the Furry Culture
It is difficult to fathom today that only a few hundred years ago, the culture of North America was based not around celebrities, reality TV shows, YouTube, and hip hop, but ceremonies, dances, the hunt, and the harvest. Prior to colonization, life centered around survival; there were few cities and roads, and certainly neither television nor computers to separate oneself from the environment. Housing was carved from a cliff, built of mud or stone, or formed from hides, with the trampled grass or dusty desert just a few feet outside the entrance. People dressed in the skins of animals, or from woven plant material, if that. They ornamented themselves in a wide variety of ways, utilizing bone, feathers, stones, and shells. They lived in such a fashion, although surely undergoing gradual changes, for millennia.

Of course cultures were different in Europe and on the other populated continents of Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America. Each had their own traditions and rituals, which had up to some point in time worked for them. Then the European settlers came to America, setting in motion a radical series of changes that lead to the present day’s hip hop and YouTube.


  Celebrating 70
by Robin Updike

Seventy Jewelers. Seventy Challenges.
Once upon a time there was a little girl in Spokane, Washington, who loved, loved, loved her birthday celebrations. All children delight in their own birthday parties, but this little girl, Karen, was even more excited than most kids when her special day rolled around each year. That is because every August 19 she could count on her mother throwing an inventive birthday party for her and all the neighborhood children. One year Karen’s mother turned the backyard into a circus by stringing up clothes lines and blankets and making up silly circus acts, like floating hot dogs in buckets and telling the kids to imagine that the lunch meat represented Rex and his team of Olympic swimming dogs. And then there were the presents.

“My mother was a great birthday party giver,” says Karen Lorene, founder and owner of Facèré Jewelry Art Gallery in Seattle. “Mine was a very modest family. My father was a mailman and my mother was a waitress. But every year on my birthday I’d wake up knowing there were presents at the end of my bed. You could feel them with your toes. And I knew there would be a wonderful party.”


  Icelandic Viking Age Beads
by Elín Hreiðarsdóttir

Their Origin and Characteristics
Iceland is located in the North-Atlantic, on the Mid-Atlantic ridge, lying between the northern part of Norway and Newfoundland. It was settled in the late ninth century largely by people from Norway, but also from the British Isles as well as Sweden and Denmark.

The Icelandic Viking age can be dated from the time of settlement, around A.D. 870, until the second half of the eleventh century. Archaeological excavations of about three hundred burials and over thirty settlements from this period in Iceland reveal a material culture with close similarities to contemporary settlements in Scandinavia. From these excavations beads have only recently been investigated in any detail, despite being one of the largest categories of finds.
Photograph by Elín Hreiðarsdóttir.


  Jon Havener
by Glen R. Brown

Energy in the Abstract
To the physicist, energy is quantifiable. Any mystery that it might seem to possess in those moments when rationality drops its guard and reason yields to wonder can be quickly dispelled by the compact exactitude of a five-word definition. In the scientific context energy is the ability to do work. For the artist, however, such a concrete and practical representation will never do, because the mystery of energy––its elusive ubiquity, its indispensability to the living and its ready associations with spirit––is precisely what seems most worthy of pursuit when one deals in the incommensurable. Artistic intuition responds best to the perceived intangibility of energy. In fact, attempts to form material analogies to that intangibility have accounted for some of the greatest works in the history of art. To grapple with the elusive properties of energy through the density of an artistic medium is a grand, if endless, task.

After more than thirty years of engaging in such a pursuit, metalsmith and University of Kansas professor Jon Havener has lost none of his enthusiasm. From his large-scale public sculptures to his more intimate copper and stainless-steel brooches, his compositions display the evidence of obsession. Torque, tension, compressive force, gravitational potential energy, and the momentum of moving mass are conveyed through his works by the disposition of elements, and in most cases these allusions prove fully adequate as content. Only rarely has Havener felt the urge to represent things in realist terms. At the same time, all of his works must be considered representational in some key sense, since their forms are clearly vehicles of expression rather than ends in themselves. They unite specifically to convey the impression of motion, both linear and vibrational.
Photograph by Aaron Paden.



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