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Forging Modernities: California Metals in Context
A Conference in Oakland and the Bay Area
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
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
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
Susan Cummins shared her experiences as gallery owner and
promoter of modern silversmiths and showed examples of her favorite
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.
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:
part 1 (click here)