of Small Collectors

article # 23 (part 2)

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by Dorothea Burstyn, member of ASCAS and President of Silver Society of Canada
(click on images to enlarge)

Forging Modernities: California Metals in Context

A Conference in Oakland and the Bay Area
-part 2-

November 13 and 14

Paul Price, manager of the silver department of Gump's, held a very interesting lecture on the history of this high end San Francisco retailer. Gump's promoted Californian silver, had Porter Blanchard working in the store window and sold Blanchard and Adler silver not only in San Francisco but also in their elegant Waikiki, Honolulu store. Today Gump's offers a wide range of George Jensen, Puiforcat and Buccelati.

The rest of the second day was dedicated to modern studio artists. Christina Y.Smith, silversmith and assistant professor of Art, California State University, Fullerton, gave a very comprehensive Power point presentation on contemporary silversmiths.
I list the names of the presented silversmiths, so that you can google them, if more info is wanted.
Jeffrey Clancy, Anne Hallam, C.Greg Wilbur, Charlene Weidell, Jesse Mathers, Dana Roth, Candance Beardslee, Anne Wolf, Catherine Griser, Cynthia Schlemlein, Jack da Silva, Helen Shirk, Jennifer Monroe, Ingrid Psuty, Junghyun Woo, Michelle Ritter, Yuko Yagisawa, Nancy Megan Corwin, Susan Elizabeth Wood, Chris Lowe, Steven Donelly, Dally Keng, Marilyn da Silva, Robert McCall and Christina Y.Smith. Charlene Weidell, Candance Beardsley, Helen Shirk and Christina Y. Smith all made fish slices for Dr. Benton Seymour Rabbinovitch, a patron of modern silversmiths – but also a name very familiar to collectors of Georgian English silver.

Jen Monroe
corset cuffs 
in silver, brasse, 
18K and rubies I loved the works of Cynthia Schlemlein, whose Judaicas use lots of feather- and wing motifs, symbolizing souls moving to heaven. I want to mention Jen Monroe's witty output of handbags – one saying," Why buy the cow, when you get the milk for free" – a participant in the conference, she told me that this was a saying her father used often to promote her chastity. Many of the creations of contemporary silversmiths are not so much items for domestic use than expressions of their personal feelings, such as the work of Susan Elizabeth Wood – there was a winged heart with ball and chain and another heart with thorns resting on a pedestal saying LOVE FEAR, LOVE FEAR….
Jen Monroe: corset cuffs in silver,
brasse, 18K and rubies

Marilyn da Silva, professor and program chair, Jewelry/Metal Arts Department, CCA Oakland, spoke about her oeuvre and the events in her life, which inspired her work.

Mary Lee Hu's talk was most impressive, through experimental work with weaving techniques, which she applied to metalsmithing, she developed a very specific style and breathtakingly beautiful jewelry.

Mary Douglas, curator Southern Highland Craft Guild in Ashville, NC., and Myra Mimlitsch Gray, Professor of Art in the Metal Program, SUNY New Paltz, gave a more academic perspective of craft and modern silversmithing.

Susan Cummins shared her experiences as gallery owner and promoter of modern silversmiths and showed examples of her favorite pieces.

The last day brought an invitation to the Oakland Campus of the California College of the Arts, where we had the opportunity to see many of the young craftsmen and women in action. Most impressive was the work of Curtis H. Arima, whose work follows nature inspired motifs and who applies innovative techniques of oxidation and acrylic painting on silver. We also had the chance to view an exhibition of work by program students, alumni and faculty on the campus.

by Curtis H. Arima
Auxim by Curtis H. Arima

° ° ° ° ° ° ° °

Thanks to the generous support of Mike Weller, Argentum-The Leopard's Head, Ark Antiques, Bonhams & Butterfields, California College of the Arts, Decorative Arts Society, Gump's, San Francisco, Oakland Museum of California, Style 1900, Shreve & Co., Silver Magazine, Society of North American Goldsmiths, The Exeter Group, and The McNally Company Antiques the conference was a marvelous success, both from educational and social points of view.
Californian hospitality was spectacular - Shreve & Co., gave a reception on Friday evening, the modern and estate jewellery simply breath-taking, only small disappointment maybe – the silver wine cooler was not a product of Shreve & Co., but supplied by the caterer.
At Argentum, Mike Weller pulled out all the stops and gave us marvelous food and looking through the showcases, filled to the brim with antique silver, one could go home, body and mind fully satisfied.
Gump's had us over for a breakfast reception on Sunday. Paul Price showed us Gump's excellent collection of Puiforcat silver, the selection of flatware and china patterns is out of this world and the sumptuous jewellery totally Californian.
Even the CCA students gave us refreshments and lunch.
The attendants of the conference - a mixed lot of collectors, modern silversmiths, dealers and academics- were a pleasure to be with, everybody was so friendly, helpful and forthcoming, that I can hardly wait to go back to California.


further bibliography upon request
Dorothea Burstyn - 2004 -
member of ASCAS and President of Silver Society of Canada - email:

back to part 1 (click here)