Juried Show of Jewelry, Holloware, Small Sculpture
By definition, a juror is someone who impartially judges a competition. Judging the members show of the washington guild of goldsmiths presented a slightly different task in that the competition was within each member to present his or her best work for consideration for inclusion in the members’ show. As i first got an overview of the entries, it was apparent that each member had certainly taken up the challenge of excellence. I was impressed by the quality, sophistication and the ambition of the work. In the past i have juried shows for similar organizations and have been confronted with a “hobbyist” sensibility in some or even several of the members. This was certainly not the case for the washington guild. I was particularly impressed with the diverse nature of the entries. I believe it is a healthy environment that promotes and supports a broad spectrum of aesthetics and technical investigation. I found myself continually impressed and engaged by both the creative design and high level of technical achievement as i proceeded through the day. I was also impressed with the professional manner that infused all aspects of the organization. It was apparent that everyone; from professional goldsmiths and jewelers to those with an abiding passion for the craft and beauty of jewelry and metalsmithing, was committed to excellence. In summation, i would like to congratulate the guild on what i am sure will be a first class exhibition and thank all those who made this experience a rich and rewarding time.
First, i would like to thank the wgg show committee for inviting me to jury this show. I found it as fun and satisfying as a dessert buffet: the variety of techniques, the wide range of objects, and the opportunity to “taste” the entire menu with my curious hands and eyes, all made for a wonderful experience. I also appreciate how the structure of the wgg jurying process provides a level playing field that welcomes equally students, passionate amateurs, faculty members, and working professionals. Dressed only in numbers and their own merit, these pieces appear simply as what they are, and you granted me the opportunity to listen carefully to each one. Some of them spoke with clear confidence, others were brash; some spoke with quiet eloquence, others sang. A few were so shy they stuttered, but i suspect that given time and guidance, the voices they embodied would grow stronger, and in later years will grace these tables with all the poise of their senior fellows this year.
I like the fact that wgg allows jurors to make specific remarks about each artist’s work, so it’s only fair that i explain how i made my evaluations. When i look at a piece, i consider three things: is the maker’s intent clear? does the maker understand these materials? does the maker show a true command of the processes they used? these three factors are quite different and i don’t weigh them against one another; it’s more a matter of deciding how well they work together toward a greater whole. It is very difficult to describe in words this quality of wholeness, but if i may borrow from margery williams’ classic fable the velveteen rabbit, it is very like what she describes in a toy as being real, the unmistakable but elusive quality of having intrinsic value beyond that of the materials, the time, the skill, and the maker’s vision because all those things fit so neatly together the thing stands freely on its own in the world, for its own sake. The piece has a kind of confidence, introduces itself to us, invites us to wear or use it, and we consider adding it to our lives.
There are two pieces from among those that dick posniak and i granted juror’s awards to that, for me, demonstrate this quality of being real especially well. The first is a small tea set in the form of a priest, nun, and altar boy. Winifred anthony distilled the essence of these characters with whimsy and accuracy, then conveyed that essence with elegant simplicity in fabricated sheet silver. She chose her details so perfectly that even her minimal presentation of them is enough for us to grasp her intentions exactly. These pieces are not complex or ornate, they are spare and precise. Simplicity like this cannot disguise uncertainty or errors in technique, so it is very risky.
This gives the set its cheerful confidence and completeness:
Her clear vision, well made in sheet that she uses as sheet so her choice of materials exactly compliments her design and technique. The second piece that stays in my mind is louise rothenberg’s forged coffee scoop. The scoop fits so comfortably in the palm, solid and reliable with an air of easy familiarity that we need more of in our lives, particularly in those bleary morning moments when we’re making the day’s first pot of coffee. The coiled tendrils of the piece please me both as a user of hammers and as a gardener. I appreciate the subtle marks of the forming tools on the surface because they are a greeting between her hand and mine. The botanical energy of the curled metal reminds me of the way some vines will wrap around themselves, creating their own support, and in the round forms of this spoon, a graceful self-sufficiency. The spoon’s design fits its function exactly, it is an excellent bit of forging, and the dark, solid, informal surface makes me feel that this is a presence around whom i can be myself, whether or not i’ve been sufficiently caffeinated to start my day.
In emphasizing these two pieces i do not mean to diminish in any way my delight and admiration for so many others in the collection. The number of superb enamels pleased me immensely, as did the variety of small containers and the presence of purely sculptural pieces such as the hieronymous bosch flying boat. The washington goldsmiths guild should congratulate itself on the diversity of its member’s voices and the enthusiasm of their participation, both of which indicate the quality of support and the importance of this kind of community to the health of this craft we all love.
The wgg biennial show is always the highlight of any president’s term, and this one is no exception. Open to all members who wish to participate, it’s an opportunity to showcase our work and to have it viewed by the public. For some, it’s the first experience of being a part of an exhibition, for those more seasoned, an anticipated occasion to share with others a love of metalworking.
The guild is among other things an educational institution, with many excellent workshops on all aspects of technique, booth design, photography, and anything else deemed useful for metalsmiths of all levels of ability. From student to professional, the guild welcomes all who are interested in metals and what can be achieved with them.
Information is readily shared within our community, and there is always something new to be learned, regardless of skill level an informative newsletter keeps all abreast of happenings in our world, both locally and nationally.
In its third decade, the guild mounted its first international show, in moscow, russia, with many members taking part, and it is hoped that the experience will be repeated.
The guild has an excellent national reputation, thanks to all of those who are, and who have been members, who have worked hard to make it so. The show committee has done an excellent job, with special thanks to marla rudnick, who has organized everything, to ted and bonita curtis, who do anything asked of them, ably and willingly, to dana bussell, participating fully despite living on the west coast, to nick barnes, exhibit designer extraordinaire, and to winifred anthony, who is invaluable to all of the guild’s endeavors. Many others have lent their time to making this show a success. We thank the target gallery for again hosting us, and all of those who come to view it.