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Volume 34 No.1 2010


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Cover Feature: Desert Jewels North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermès Collection.

Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show 2010. Michael Kabotie A Trickster for the Arts. Mary Hallam Pearse That Little Something. Jane Mohr A Modern Minimalist. John Iversen An Aesthetic of Fragmentation. Stone on Metal Precolumbian Metalworking Techniques and Replicas. Passing the Torch Considering A Life in Metals. In Memoriam Carol Sedestrom Ross. Jewelry Arts Signs of Life. Jewelry Arts Emblems of Ethereal Grace.

Desert Jewels
by David Updike 

North African Jewelry and Photography from the
Xavier Guerrand-Hermès Collection

In perhaps no part of the world are the strands of the Mediterranean cultures of antiquity more intricately interwoven with vibrant local traditions than in the area known historically as the Maghreb (Arabic for “place of sunset,” i.e., the west). Encompassing the present-day North African nations of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania, this region and its original inhabitants, the Amazigh peoples (also known, since ancient times, as Berbers), have been at the crossroads of trade between the Middle East, southern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa for millennia. These interactions, in combination with the craft traditions of the Imazighen (plural for “Amazigh”) and an abundance of natural resources at hand, have yielded a rich and varied aesthetic, as evidenced by the distinctive jewelry, ceramics and textiles produced there. Utilizing indigenous materials such as shells, seeds, fibers, skins, bones, ivory, horn, and coral, as well as silver from Moroccan mines, gold from sub-Saharan Africa, and precious stones from the Middle East, the region’s highly skilled artisans have produced an array of distinctive North African styles that, while widely divergent in their particulars, share qualities of heaviness, bright colors and intricate craftsmanship.

The fruits of this aesthetic tradition are on full display in Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermès Collection, on view through December 5, 2010 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in its newly renovated Perelman Building. This traveling exhibition—which originated at the Museum for African Art, New York, and comes to Philadelphia by way of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum for African Art in Washington, D.C., and, most recently, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan—is drawn from the vast collection assembled by Xavier Guerrand-Hermès, a director and vice-chairman of the eponymous Paris-based firm founded by his family five generations ago. Guerrand-Hermès developed a deep appreciation for Amazigh jewelry while living in Morocco, and most of the pieces in his collection were produced in that country. He is also an avid collector of photography, and the exhibition is rounded out by a fascinating array of nineteenth-century albumen prints taken in North Africa, mostly by European photographers working in the region. The exhibition is accompanied by a handsome (and affordable) catalogue with essays by Kristyne Loughran on jewelry and Cynthia Becker on photography.
Photographs by Karen L. Willis; courtesy of Museum for African Art.


  Jane Mohr
by Jill A. DeDominicis

A Modern Minimalist
Dressed in all black from head to toe, with her leggings tucked into tall motorcycle boots, and stacks of chunky silver chain bracelets on both wrists, it is easy to imagine Jane Mohr in her earlier days as a rock ‘n’ roll photographer, rubbing elbows with such heavyweights as David Bowie and Led Zeppelin to Chicago and Hall and Oates. A visual artist at heart, Mohr always felt drawn to crafting images, using photography as her medium and creative language.


After enrolling in Art Center College of Design to study photography more seriously, Mohr translated this love for delivering an experience from a carefully constructed picture into a successful career as a fashion photographer, flitting across Europe to shoot editorial spreads for magazines like British-based Brides and Vogue Italia. Despite the high caliber of magazines she worked with, Mohr often found herself doing double duty as photographer and stylist, giving her complete creative control and an opportunity to hone her own level of taste and skill. After four years overseas, a homesick Mohr decided to return to the States, bringing with her a European sensibility for style, as well as a treasure trove of connections for Euro clothing and accessories. Back in her native Los Angeles, Mohr decided to open a storefront, settling on an outdoor stall on the trendy Venice Beach boardwalk.


  Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show
by Patrick R. Benesh-Liu

Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show 2010
There is a sense of childish delight when entering a craft show for any lover of art. The thirst for the detail, form and imagery of a crafted object can only be sated by exposure to the object itself. While a single necklace can provoke significant appreciation from a craft devotee, submerging oneself in the smorgasboard of work that exists in a craft show elicits the same response as a kid in a candy store. Whether rapt and attentive or wandering in a dreamlike haze, we all recognize the effect a collection of good craft can have upon us.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, now in its thirty-fourth year, is just such a enchanting repository. Held in the warm environs of the Philadelphia Convention Center, one hundred ninety-five diverse craft artists present work in thirteen categories, with an emerging artist category having been instituted three years ago. With a stable of well-established craftspeople intermingling with newcomers to either the field or the craft show circuit, there is a savory banquet of both the familiar and the novel from which to partake.


    Michael Kabotie
by Carolyn L. E. Benesh

A trickster for the arts
The Hopi Pueblos, given their relative isolation, have enabled its peoples to maintain many of their ancestral religious practices and clan lifestyles inherited from the ancient Anasazi cultures, (the descendents of those who constructed the splendid edifices at Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde and Casa Grande), and also to more slowly adapt to changing fortunes and influences given the powerful European and American cultures that drastically affected Native American lives over hundreds of years.

With their traditions of sacred origin myths, Pueblo cultures developed elaborate, dramatically staged ceremonials which celebrated and impersonated anthropomorphized divine spirits through whom they prayed for the critical sustenance that would support life’s continuance.

Even today many Hopis maintain a strong and privately practiced attachment for their ancient religion and ceremonials. Nature and God are one. Supernatural spirits live under the world or in the sky; and animal spirits, serpents, spiders, or the dead can be friendly or hostile but each deserving of respect and veneration in the formal rituals of the Katsina or Kiva societies.
Photograph by Ruth Ann Border.


Mary Hallam Pearse
by Ashley Callahan

That Little Something
On the wall above a fireplace mantel in her 1920s home in Athens, Georgia, Mary Hallam Pearse displays several of her metal brooches intermingled with a collection of antique silver ex-votos. At first the pairing of the two gives a feeling of whimsy, allowing the viewer the fun of discovering the contemporary anomalies, but a longer examination of the group of objects reveals Pearse’s conception of jewelry as something imbued with a similar religious intensity, ritual and devotion as the treasured sacred offerings. Though wearable, her brooches seem well-suited to the wall, to be observed and interpreted like pictures. Her recent works, however, include playful interpretations of vintage games that must be held to be appreciated fully. From monochromatic brooches capturing ghostly images of jewelry to rings that are portable playthings with diamonds and pearls, Pearse continually brings to her practice that little something that sets her work apart and earns her exhibitions, awards and devoted fans.

Both Pearse’s studio, with its bright aqua back wall (a color she describes as “Tiffany Blue Southern Style”), and her lushly landscaped home are filled with carefully displayed collections: ring-themed novelty items stuck to an air duct near her workbench, modern Milagros pinned in a group on the opposite wall, metal flower frogs on a table in her living room (next to a white sofa with diamond-patterned pillows), and miniature oil cans on a shelf by the kitchen sink. The consideration she pays to the placement of objects is the same for a package of temporary tattoo jewelry as it is for her parents’ sterling silver baby cups, and this effortless flow between popular and precious is reflected in much of her work. Photograph by Mary Hallam Pearse.


  John Iversen
by Carl Little

An Aesthetic of Fragmentation
John Iversen’s “crackle” pieces created over the past two years have gained critical notice. The work earned the Easthampton, New York-based artist best in show at the 2010 Smithsonian Craft Show and a Herbert Hofmann award at the annual Schmuck exhibition in Munich last March. German exhibition curator Dieter Dohr praised Iversen’s “aesthetic of fragmentation,” and writer Ellen Berkovitch, reviewing his show at the Patina Gallery in Santa Fe last summer for the online Art Jewelry Forum, mused on the work’s “gestalt of making that is a masterpiece of form.”

Other people, Iversen reports, are puzzled by the new work. They inquire as to how it was made, whether it is leather—“all sorts of things,” he reports with a chuckle. Looking at the fissured surface, some viewers see shattered glass or ice, others, dried riverbeds. “I like that type of natural phenomenon,” Iversen avers, “where something just happened and that’s the way it is and it’s beautiful.” Photographs by R. Hensleigh.


  Stone on Metal
by Robert K. Liu

Precolumbian Metalworking Techniques and Replicas
To the contemporary jeweler working with metal, this process infers using metal tools. Surprisingly, a number of precolumbian cultures created beautiful metalwork with virtually no metal tools, using stone tools instead, even though they possessed the capability to work and make metal tools and artifacts. Decades ago, as research interest was gathering on precolumbian metallurgy and artifacts, Emmerich (1977) discussed the three primary and distinct styles of goldworking in the Americas: the earliest, that of Peru, where hammering of sheet gold ornaments prevailed; that of Colombia, extending to Panama and Costa Rica, where lost-wax casting of gold predominated; and Mexico and Mesoamerica, the latest to develop metal technology, where delicately detailed and cast gold, silver and copper artifacts were the most common. This did not mean casting or other fabrication techniques were exclusive to any one cultural area, as the Moche and other South American cultures also cast ornaments, weapons and utensils and the more northern cultures utilized hammering or other techniques to some extent.

As a self-taught jeweler, my interest was aroused in how precolumbian craftsmen could work metal with stone tools. I had seen examples of hammerstones and other lithic tools in exhibitions, as well as the variety, size and quality of Peruvian sheet metalwork, like that from the royal tombs of Sipán or Sicán (Donnan 1993; McEwan 2000). Along the north coast of Peru, hammering, including hammering over a shaped mandrel, embossing and incising were all done with stone, augmented sometimes with wood tools, although metal tools were utilized for secondary processes, like chiseling cutout designs (Carcedo de Mufarech 2000, Donnan et al. 2008). Unhafted hammerstones have been tools used by many cultures and for many purposes, from shaping and fitting exquisitely the huge boulders of Machu Picchu buildings and walls (Laurencich Minelli 2000) to hammering of native copper in the upper Great Lakes of the Midwest (Martin 1995). Photographs by Robert K. Liu.


  Passing the Torch
by Robin Updike

Considering A Life in Metals
The exhibition of jewelry, hollowware and assorted metalwork was diverse by any stretch of the imagination. There were rings, necklaces and brooches ranging in style and theme from a sunflower/sunburst ring with an appealing 1960s summer of love look to a pendant/necklace called Piecemaker with an anti-violence theme. (The necklace includes parts of bullets, tiny fabricated guns and snippets of newspaper headlines about war and destruction.) There was also a charming cake server with golden leaves folded back against the handle—Queen Titania could use this to serve magic cake to her trusty fairies—and a quirky crown rimmed with the icons of Seattle’s skyline, including the famous Jetson-era Space Needle.

But one quality shared by most of the fifty-six pieces on display in the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma, Washington, earlier this year was that they would have seemed right at home in a booth at a regional craft fair or in a small gallery. Most were technically ambitious, well-made and inventive. A few were profound in their theme and execution. A necklace/pendant called Badge of Honor made to honor six police officers killed in Western Washington in the last year would be a worthy addition to any notable jewelry collection.


  Carol Sedestrom Ross
by Jill A. DeDominicis

In Memoriam
The craft world lost a major figure and lifelong supporter earlier this year when Carol Sedestrom Ross suddenly passed away in June. Ross lived a rich and inspired life dedicated to handmade arts and the craftspeople behind them. A savvy businesswoman, Ross combined the best of both worlds—a love and respect for crafts with a keen sense of marketability and the possibilities for a better future.

As founder and chief executive officer of American Craft Enterprises (A.C.E.), and senior vice president of the American Craft Council (ACC), Ross and those working alongside her were responsible for a fundamental shift in the American craft movement. Recognizing the untapped potential of bringing crafts into the mainstream market, Ross worked tirelessly toward a goal where artists could not only continue to celebrate their creativity, but also make a living from it.
Photograph by Bob Barrett.



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