No. 11 October 2007

Fall foliage shines for the opening of what we fondly call Leaf Peeper Season here in the Hudson River Valley (the peepers invade by the busload, and I think they find us locals as "colorful" as the trees). All this color provides a wonderful backdrop for writing my first issue of AJFconnection.

Here we go. First, I must thank Sally von Bargen for graciously passing the editor baton and still (thankfully) continuing to help me with my first few issues. We all owe Sally a big round of applause for launching AJFconnection and providing such great content. Here, here!

In this issue of AJFconnection, we:

  • recap our amazing trip to Houston for the premiere of the Helen Williams Drutt jewelry collection, where we were the "first peepers,"
  • interview outgoing AJF Board Treasurer Elizabeth Shypertt, co-owner of the Velvet da Vinci gallery in San Francisco,
  • meet AJF Emerging Artist 2007 winner Andrea Janosik, and
  • preview SOFA Chicago and the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, both early November headliners.

When you have AJF-related news to share, please email it to me ([email protected]) by the 5th day of each month and we'll get your information into that month's newsletter (or let you know when it will appear). We aim to distribute AJFconnection during the second or third week of each month. Please also send me your ideas for topics or people you'd like to see featured here.

And now, on with the show!

AJF Members Meet in Houston for an Historic Exhibition

Whatever words you want to use to attempt to describe the 275 pieces of art jewelry from Helen Drutt's collection on display at the Museum of Fine Art Houston, no words seem to live up to the reality.

Even the professionals were at a loss. "We risk burying this exhibition in a heap of superlatives," confirms Glenn Adamson, Victoria & Albert Museum, "In any context, this show would be a milestone." As example, he points to the "contemporary feel and timelessness" of Helen's jewelry, collected from the 1960s on.

AJF member Cindi Strauss serves as curator for this superlative exhibit, called Ornament as Art: Avant- Garde Jewelry in the Helen Williams Drutt Collection, which premiered at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) on Friday, September 28.

AJF Houston trip planners Susan Cummins and Sally von Bargen didn't miss a beat - we were on the go, learning, seeing, doing, dining, exploring, shopping, collecting, and experiencing a variety of wonders in Houston. Here are some highlights:

We honor Pat Rodimer - At dinner on our first night in town, on behalf of all AJF members Sally thanked outgoing AJF board members Elizabeth Shypertt, Rikka Mouw, and Jo Lauria, and gave a special thanks to Pat for her service over the past nine years, seven of which she served as President. Pat has researched, planned, and orchestrated many AJF trips; edited the hard copy newsletter in earlier years; and created our website. She received a Ford and Forlano brooch in recognition of all she's done for AJF.

AJF gets a first peep, er, peek - Cindi guided us through Helen's collection the day before the official exhibit opening. After Helen, we were the first to see the completed installation, which dazzles us with its great use of light and the resulting shadows the jewelry creates-the suspension of necklaces and brooches in cases where you can view them from a variety of angles-and in the inventive use of mannequins (which Cindi admits she normally hates) to demonstrate clearly how certain pieces fit on the body. (Like that gorgeous collar of roses with a drop of dew by Gijs Bakker, ah, now I know how to wear it!)

And, we loved it. "It brought tears to my eyes, to see these pieces in person that I had previously only seen in books," says collector Susan Beech. "I wanted to rip those three gold and plastic rings by Claus Bury right out of the case."

Helen's "aha" moment - Cindi explained to us how she organized the exhibit, and she pointed out the specific Stanley Lechtzin brooch that started Helen's journey (her "aha" moment, as it were).

As you can see from the encyclopedic eight-pound exhibition catalog, a must-have for every serious jewelry collector (available from the MFA Houston at a reduced price of $90, see, then go to "shop" and then "exhibition catalogs"), Helen's collection spans 18 countries and numbers more than 700 pieces.

Helen's collection also offers one common denominator that her dear friend Ann Tucker, curator of photography at MFAH, succinctly clarified for Helen and the rest of us, "Helen, your intelligence shows in every choice you made."

While this is true, Cindi needed to present Helen's collection in terms that would help both the knowledgeable and the neophyte understand and appreciate. Here's how she did just that-the exhibit begins with a chronological overview featuring key works, and then continues by examining three themes in depth:

  • narrative impulses,
  • the influence of 20th- century art movements on contemporary jewelry, and
  • the role of the body and performance jewelry.

If you miss this exhibit in Houston, it will travel, perhaps to a venue near you - the Renwick (March to June 2008), the Mint, Tacoma, and a possible European venue. It will be back in Houston in time for SNAG's 2010 conference.

Meeting with Helen - the day before the exhibit opening, we benefited from some private time with Helen and a few of the jewelry artists whose work she has collected: Bruce Metcalf, Peter Chang, Robert and Louise Smit, and Peter Skubic.

Noting the genealogy aspect of Helen's collection - she bought from artist professors, and then from their students' MFA exhibits, and beyond - Robert Smit advises, "When you finish the school, you have to kill the teacher." Bruce Metcalf adds, "When it's been codified in the academy so that one can teach it, its moment is over." Peter Chang changes the subject, just slightly, "Just as music is art, so is jewelry."

We learned new terms - social jewelry is what Helen calls the jewelry made of precious materials worn on mainly formal social occasions. For Helen, an extremely important aspect of her collection stems from the friendships she developed with the artists-they became an extended family. In fact, more than 25 artists arrived from all over the world to celebrate this event with Helen - quite a tribute.

Answers to three questions you desperately want to ask:

Why Houston? How did MFAH get Helen's collection? The answer is not easy to summarize, but it all started when Helen's friend Ann Tucker celebrated her 25-year anniversary with the MFAH, and Helen came to Houston for the occasion, and Cindi asked Ann if she could meet Helen. At that point, the MFAH jewelry collection consisted of one piece by Art Smith. So, Cindi's lunch with Helen was the first step in a long, wonderful journey.

What jewelry did Helen wear to the exhibit opening? A Claus Bury brooch.

Amazingly enough, we didn't spend all our time at MFAH. We watched the sun set slowly and dramatically at the James Terrell installation at the Quaker's Live Oak Meeting House - we toured the Project Row Houses and met the Flower Man - and we appreciated the Menil collection as well as jewelry artists Diane Falkenhagen, Sandra Zilker, and Jan Arthur Harrell, who were featured at Goldesberry Gallery, and we benefited from a private tour with curator Francis Marzio of the MFAH's Glassell Gold Collection.

One of the most memorable, and educational, aspects of the trip was the symposium held before and after the exhibit opening. Speakers included Helen Drutt; curator Cindi Strauss; Glenn Adamson, Victoria & Albert, London; Grace Cochrane, former senior curator, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney; and Sharon Church, studio jeweler and professor, the University of the Arts, Philadelphia.

Did I mention food? No? Well, it would be too cruel for those of you who were not there. Let's just say we did toast Sharon Campbell for her excellent restaurant choice of T'afia even though she wasn't there to enjoy it.

It was a trip! We were jockeying with secret service people and the president of Ethiopia to get out of our hotel some mornings, and we certainly caused a stir at some stops with our adornment, and yet it seems that a good time was had by all.

"I went kicking and screaming into a great trip and art jewelry experience," says Ron Porter of his first AJF trip. "Next time," he predicts, "I will go peaceably and with enthusiasm!"

Please do come join us next time - peaceably and with enthusiasm, it's really a great way to travel and learn in good company.

Andrea Janosik Wins AJF Emerging Artist 2007

Andrea Janosik of Brooklyn, New York, received the AJF's Emerging Artist 2007 Award along with a $2000 cash prize. Nancy Worden headed the judging committee, which also included Harriete Estel Berman and Jean Mandeberg.

Andrea was also honored earlier this year with an Award of Excellence from the American Craft Council, Baltimore, MD.

She earned a BFA in product design/metals and a BA in creative writing from Parsons School of Design, New York, and also studied at the New York Studio School for Sculpture and the Lern Ort Studio in Duesseldorf, Germany.

Born in Slovakia, Andrea lived in Zambia and Germany before coming to the United States to complete her studies. Her work has been featured in the Schmuck 2006 exhibit in Munich, Germany, and at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York.

"My fascination with combining leather and silver has only grown over the years," Andrea says. "Their contrasting qualities-soft and hard, pliant and sturdy, colorful and achromatic-create challenges, but also endless possibilities. Squeezing, stacking, pulling and rolling one into the other lets me explore and discover yet new ways of holding them together."

AJF Sponsors Gerd Rothmann at SOFA

At SOFA Chicago on Friday, November 2, from 11 a.m. to noon, in Room 309, AJF will introduce our 2007 Emerging Artist Winner Andrea Janosik followed by our featured speaker Dutch artist Gerd Rothmann, whose talk is entitled The Space Between Thumb and Forefinger. Gerd's work will be presented at SOFA by Ornamentum and Andrea's work will be presented by Charon Kransen Arts. For more information about SOFA. Visit SOFA online using the "Quick Link" to the right.

AJF will also host a wine reception at SOFA from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Friday, November 2, for AJF members and their guests.

Philadelphia Museum of Art Sponsors Craft Show

From November 8 to 11, the Philadelphia Museum of Art hosts their 31st annual Craft Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Featuring 195 craft artists (53 new to the show this year) selected from 1,380 applicants, plus 26 guest artists from Canada, you'll find at least 45 booths featuring art jewelry. See for more details, sample work from each artist, and information about the craft show auction.

In the Forum
Helen Drutt


Dear AJF members,

I want you to know how very much I appreciated your attendance at the opening of the exhibition - it was quite special. Your enthusiasm was also deeply appreciated. I loved seeing the next chapter of our field on your bodies. Each day revealed your acquisitions. The time to acquire Lechtzin, Skoogfors, Paley, Reiling, Bury and Junger may not be as accessible - but there is a world of artists for you to "conquer" - come to Washington March 13th when Ornament as Art opens at the Renwick - surprises awaits you!

Fondly, Helen


"You can gain or lose weight, but your shoes and jewelry are always going to fit"

Co-owner of Velvet da Vinci gallery in San Francisco (the name was inspired by an old Perry Mason TV episode) and outgoing AJF Treasurer, Elizabeth Shypertt recently answered some questions posed by Sally von Bargen. As always, Elizabeth's point-of-view is insightful and wonderfully light hearted.

Sally: How did you learn about AJF and why did you join? Elizabeth: Fellow member Carol Windsor took me to an early AJF event at California College of Art and Craft to see the Ken Cory exhibit. I met a few fellow members who I liked very much and thought the organization was on the right path.

Sally:What is the most important acquisition you have made? Elizabeth: I recently bought a piece by Ramon Puig Cuyas. He told me he considered this his "master" piece. It is a large brooch, which I don't wear, but have on my bedroom wall. I think this is a wonderful piece by a master artist at the top of his field. Just as with fine art, this doesn't mean Ramon won't do another even better piece in the future.

Sally: Art jewelry lovers often have personal stories about how they discovered it-where and how did your interest in art jewelry begin? Elizabeth: I started making jewelry in high school when it was just called jewelry. The "art" part came later on, after college, taking more jewelry classes, first at the de Young Museum school in San Francisco, then at SF State University when the museum school closed. I was always a hobbyist and after opening the gallery, I realized that my background in jewelry-making gave me some insight. I knew I would never be as good a maker as the artists we were showing, but I did understand how things were made. The more good work I saw, the more I loved it.

Sally: What do you enjoy most about art jewelry? Elizabeth: The variety and scope of art jewelry is amazing. The different materials, techniques, and again, the intimacy. There is no other art form that I know of that is so personal. Think about the wedding ring. Often, people have a wedding ring made that they never take off, and will wear to the grave. It's a very powerful thing. I wear a Peter Macchiarini wedding ring and every time I notice it on my hand I think of Peter. He is now dead, so in a very real way, his art is keeping him alive. From an artist's standpoint it must be a remarkable thing, knowing that people are carrying around a little piece of you.

Sally: How does owning a gallery effect the jewelry you purchase? Elizabeth: I have the advantage of being able to "test drive" my jewelry purchases before actually committing to them. I generally buy pieces that I fall in love with immediately, wear for awhile, and when they end up at my home more than at the gallery, I pay for them. Most of what I buy I want to be able to wear. I want my pieces to hold up so that I can wear them a lot. Occasionally I buy pieces that are not really wearable and I buy them as art pieces, not jewelry, and they usually end up as small sculptures on my walls.

Sally: What is it about art jewelry that continues to captivate you, what would you like to tell new or other collectors? Elizabeth: I am continually surprised by the range of art jewelry. Just when I think an artist can't top the fabulous last batch of work, he or she comes up with something even better. I love how personal it is, how intimate. Another advantage I have over some other collectors is that I personally know almost all the artists whose work I own. Wearing something next to my skin made by someone with whom I have a relationship makes the piece even more special. To the contrary, I can't wear work by people I don't like.

Sally: When do you wear your jewelry? < b>Elizabeth: I wear almost all my jewelry. I normally buy things because I think they look good on me. I'm not particularly into clothing and tend to dress down. My jewelry makes me feel much more dressed than if I don't wear it. In other words, I feel I can get away with plainer, comfortable clothing and FAB jewelry. There is also the whole shoe-like philosophy: you can gain or lose weight, but your shoes and jewelry are always going to fit.


  • Helen Drutt
  • Elixabeth Shypertt
  • Ramon Puig, brooch
  • AJF Members in Houston
  • Susan Beech and Gijs Bakker at exhibition opening
  • Andrea Janosik, bracelet, 2007, sterling silver and leather.
  • Gerd Rothmann, silver, 2006 silver

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