Garen Garibian

1st Place, Gold/Platinum

Interview by Marlene Richey

When Garen Garibian moved to the United States from Armenia 20 years ago, he was a surgeon. A short stint filling in for a friend at a jewelry shop in Michigan changed his chosen career path. His winning piece showcases how his skills as a surgeon have translated into his work as a jeweler—each element is painstakingly precise. Garen works out of a studio in the LA jewelry district. He collaborates with jewelry stores and private clients to create custom pieces unlike anything else available on the market. This is Garen's first Saul Bell Design Award.

Marlene Richey: Tell us about your winning piece, "The Queen."

Garen Garibian: The idea and design didn't come to me right away. I bought some stones and the center pink pearl at JCK. I always had a feeling for this ring in my mind. I carved the wings and started changing and adjusting the proportions, then I designed it on the computer. The piece is very symmetrical and had to be precise. The printing took time. Everything about the piece was a challenge. I chose multi-colored sapphires (blue and pink with graduating shades of each) for the piece. You can turn the ring upside down and inside out and easily see it was properly crafted. The pearl is screwed in so it can be changed or taken out. The moonstones on the petals had to be individually cut to fit. There is enamel underneath the stones to bring out the exact color I visualized. It all worked perfectly.

MR: What metals did you use in "The Queen?"

GG: 18k pink and white gold.

MR: How long did the piece take to complete?

GG: I found time in between my regular work, so it took two years but not full time. It was a gradual process. If there was something I didn't like, I would change it.

The Queen
"The Queen," Garen's Award-Winning Piece
Sunflower ring
MR: What did you learn from the piece?

GG: Every project is a learning process, but the most important thing I learned was to change the character of the stones by using other materials such as enamel.

MR: Are you going to sell it?

GG: Yes, I will sell it to someone who appreciates it, not so much for the money, but because they want to have it. My regular work is to do custom orders for jewelry stores. I hate to work on the same ring twice. It has to be something new every time. I enjoy what I do, so it is more like a hobby than a job.

MR: Tell us about your studio.

GG: The coziness and the location are my favorite things about my studio. When I open up my window, I can see a square in downtown LA. When I walk out, there are a lot of restaurants. My building, the James Oviatt Building, was built in 1920, and everything in the building is custom-made. It is a piece of art itself. I love being in this building. All of the building materials and accessories were shipped from France. People are always shooting movies in the lobby. It is very interesting. The restaurant scene in Pretty Woman was filmed in the restaurant downstairs. There is a lot of art on the walls of my office with no empty spaces.

MR: What is your favorite tool?

GG: The microscope. I wear an Optivisor when I am polishing. My laser welder is very helpful and makes the job so much easier. The Graver Max is also wonderful.

MR: When did you discover that you loved making jewelry?

GG: I was a surgeon back in Armenia. When I came to the United States, I was working on getting my green card, at the same time a friend was working in a jewelry store in Michigan. My friend was moving to California, so I took his place doing repairs and setting stones. I fell in love with jewelry and didn't want to go back to being a doctor. Also, I have an arts background. I love to paint and studied painting in Armenia.

MR: How long have you been making jewelry?

GG: A little over 20 years. I work with jewelry stores and I have a base of clients. People come to me to design pieces.

MR: When are you most creative?

GG: When I am hiking. When my brain is free and things come to me. Sometimes I don't even realize how far I have hiked.

Garen Garibian
MR: What do you love about making jewelry?

GG: The challenge. The learning process. The more you learn, the more you find out you have more to learn.

MR: What one word of advice would you give beginning designers?

GG: Never give up. Be serious about it.

MR: What achievement in your jewelry life are you most proud of?

GG: When I came to the point where I didn't have to work for other people but just for the joy of it.

You can see more of Garen's work at


Samantha Freeman

2nd Place, Gold/Platinum

Interview by Marlene Richey

Samantha Freeman's work in 18K gold and silver is an invitation for surprise and discovery. Her winning piece (like much of her work) moves and opens in unexpected and delightful ways. Samantha began her jewelry education at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. She currently lives and works in Philadelphia. Samantha has won the Designer of the Year award from the American Jewelry Design Council and an AGTA Spectrum Award. This is her first Saul Bell Design Award.

Marlene Richey: Tell us about your winning piece, "The Peacock Pin."

Samantha Freeman: It is made of 18K gold, Namibian tourmaline, diamonds and multi-colored sapphires. The piece was entirely hand-fabricated. It is very complex, so I made a silver model first. Making the mechanics for the wings was extremely complicated.

MR: What was your inspiration for the piece?

SF: I guess I have to go back to Fabergé and Lalique, who are my two big influences. I am particularly inspired by the work of Fabergé because his pieces transform from one thing to another. That is something I'd like to achieve.

MR: Did you set aside special time to work on the piece? How long?

SF: I took two weeks off from my regular production work to make "The Peacock Pin." After that time, I still hadn't quite finished, so I gave myself an additional week. Altogether it was three solid weeks.

MR: What did you learn from the piece?

SF: I learned to focus. Every detail is important in a piece like this. It is imperative to take the time to do it properly. The piece turned out to be exactly what I wanted. I was glad I took the time to really think it through.

The Peacock Pin
"The Peacock Pin," Samantha's Award-Winning Piece
necklace pendant
MR: Do you think this piece will influence your work going forward?

SF: Yes, I definitely do. I think the fact that it transforms is particularly powerful. Someone once said my work is often unexpected. I'd like to continue to explore in that direction.

MR: What do you like most about the piece?

SF: When I have shown it to others, I love their reaction when they see the wings opening up. That is a wonderful feeling for me.

MR: Where did you study jewelry?

SF: I went to Parsons in New York. Although I studied jewelry, the school put more of an emphasis on art rather than technique. I had terrific teachers and living in New York City was a huge part of my education. In ninth grade, I started making jewelry. There was a great program I got into at that time where I could make pieces. In college I started out in pre-med and then changed to jewelry.

MR: What was your work experience in the jewelry world?

SF: I worked for a year for Meryl Waitz, who now designs for large companies. Meryl was originally in the craft market then changed to become more of a product designer. This is where I got some of my training and learned about running my own business. As an artist, you are more focused on the art and not the business. Meryl introduced me to shows and some parts of running a business.

MR: Tell us about other passions in your life.

SF: One of my passions is traveling. The Sydney Opera House in Australia was the first place I ever traveled, and it has been a huge influence. Travel influences me and gives me a wide visual vocabulary.

I also do some photography and sculpture, and I participate in competitive gingerbread-house making. I have even won prizes. I made a copy of Gaudi's gingerbread house from Park Guell in Barcelona. It is totally edible.

MR: Who is your design/jewelry mentor?

SF: Conceptually it would be Fabergé. Tom Herman's work is amazing. The other person who was very encouraging and supportive to me when I started out was Alan Revere. He is such a strong advocate for designers.

MR: When are you most creative?

SF: Any time my brain wanders off on its own. Like when I am driving. I used to sit with a pad of paper and sketch listening to Bob Dylan.

MR: Tell us about your business, Samantha Freeman Designs.

SF: I have an 18K and a silver line. I also work in oxidized silver and gold vermeil. One of my very successful lines is Jemlochs. This is a line of earrings I designed about five years ago where the bottom element comes off. They are on French wires and come in sterling or 14K.

MR: What is your artist statement/design philosophy?

SF: The most important thing to me is that I like to create beautiful pieces and add beauty to the world. There are universal things which are beautiful. On my website I state, "Classical yet innovative design is combined with old world craftsmanship to make pieces that last for generations. The giving and receiving of jewelry is not essential, but brings beauty and romance to life."

gold bracelet
MR: What is your differentiator from other designers?

SF: I think it is the surprise element. The pieces look rigid, but in fact they are fluid. I try hard to do things differently. I try to come up new concepts and design something that has not been done before. Traveling has been a huge part of this.

MR: What is your favorite tool?

SF: My jeweler's saw. I have had it since I first went to Parsons. I painted the handle yellow at that time to make it different from others. I have had the same saw frame since then. It becomes art by the wear and tear of your hand. The different saw blade makes it different each time. I love my saw. I could saw all day long. It is very Zen.

MR: What one word of advice would you give beginning designers?

SF: Be brave.

You can see more of Samantha's work at


Tom Ferrero

1st Place, Hollowware/Art Objects

Interview by Marlene Richey

A metalsmith and instructor, Tom Ferrero crafts exquisitely detailed work of metal art. He spent four years creating his winning piece, a mace inspired by Medieval art and architecture. Tom is an assistant professor of jewelry and metalsmithing at NSCAD University in Halifax, Canada. He spends summers as the department head of metalsmithing at Camp Laurel in Readfield, Maine. He has won two NICHE Awards, has work in the private collection of the Kamm Teapot Foundation in California and has exhibited in galleries across the United States, as well as in South Korea, New Zealand and Canada. This is his second Saul Bell Design Award.

Marlene Richey: Tell us about your winning piece, the "Mace."

Tom Ferrero: There is something very regal about the "Mace." I like creating objects that are treasures. Maces started out historically as weapons and later evolved into ceremonial objects and symbols of power. They are also inherently stable forms to design around. The piece is silver and copper. There is, however, some 24K gold over fine silver. Citrine, rhodolite garnets, amber from the Dominican Republic, Swiss blue topaz, blue zircon, diamonds and rectangular stones carved from Italian acetate (like in eyeglass frames) are the stones I used, as well as resin and enamel inlay. I heat-treated the copper to bring out the red patina. Once you have done this, you can only hold the piece with gloves (white jewelry gloves) because the heat-treated copper will change color if it comes in contact with body oils. All the stone setting was done wearing gloves after the heat treatment.

MR: What is the story behind the piece?

TF: Medieval art and architecture has always been a huge influence on my work. I am inspired by fantasy and science fiction movies. My work is inherently balanced. The "Mace" is a group of ideas. When I taught a class on making spicula, some of those techniques became part of this design. I wanted to design something large and complex. The piece is two-feet tall and was built in sections. It easily unscrews, and everything comes apart in individual units. It is very stable and structurally sound.

"Mace," Tom's Award-Winning Piece
MR: What did you learn from the piece?

TF: Perseverance! I am a glutton for punishment. This is by far the most complex piece I have ever made. To keep the vision of the final product in my mind was paramount.

Soldering all the wing units on was a challenge. It took so much heat to solder onto the central piece while making sure things didn't fall apart. The torch had to be at the right temperature. I used an electroforming technique, which was a learning experience. I etched all of the feather pattern into the electroformed copper before I soldered on the silver wire trim only to discover severe blistering between the copper substrate and the electroformed material. This meant I had to file all of the etched pattern and electroformed copper back down to the base metal, solder my silver wires on again, re-electroform the unit and apply the pattern and etching a second time.

I made a lot of tools to use in forming this piece. Sometimes I had to build something three or four times to get it right.

MR: Did you study jewelry?

TF: Yes, jewelry was my focus for my undergraduate work at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Then I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study in New Zealand at the University of Auckland and Manukau Institute of Technology for a year. It was a year of professional freedom. Everything was paid for. They encourage you to go into the country and experience it. I studied the Maori culture, and I was there when they were filming The Lord of the Rings. It was a wonderful experience. When I came back to the States I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do. That is when I started teaching at a children's camp. After that I went to Indiana University for my MFA and took extra classes in the K-12 art education program.

MR: When did you discover that you loved making jewelry?

TF: Before college. I was in a high school in Connecticut that had an extensive art program. It was my junior year when I had taken everything in the art department except jewelry, so I tried it and loved it. It was a perfect fit. Jewelry allowed me to indulge my love of drawing and meticulous detail and was a vehicle to bring those drawings to life. The act of building in metal is fascinating to me, especially using the torch. Being able to marry all of those passions together was just what I was looking for.

Tom Ferrero
MR: Who is your design/jewelry mentor?

TF: Leonard Urso at RIT was a huge mentor in making sure my craftsmanship was held to a very high level, as well as Juan Carlos Caballero-Perez for influencing my early aesthetic. In terms of design, the 19th century English architect Owen Jones said "Decorate construction. Never construct decoration." An object needs to be well designed and harmonious first. No amount of embellishment will make up for weak design. Also, Donald Norman, the author of Emotional Design, has had a huge impact on the way I think about, design and create pieces.

MR: Do you have a jewelry design business?

TF: I make wedding and engagement rings, but the main thing I do is teach. I sell pieces and paintings on the side.

MR: What is your artist statement/design philosophy?

TF: I believe in well-balanced, cohesive work that appeals to the widest audience possible. I want my work to appeal to both children and adults and to people with and without an art background. I love to make complex, beautiful pieces. I try to place things in all of my artwork that will capture people's attention from a distance, and then I try to include additional elements that will hold their attention once they get closer to elicit an emotion or feeling of discovery. I believe strongly in "the wow-factor" and work that brings about a visceral response.

MR: What is your favorite tool?

TF: Calipers. They come in so handy. You always have to measure things in metalwork and you use them all the time. I need them for translating my two-dimensional drawings into metal.

MR: What one word of advice would you give beginning designers?

TF: The most important thing about going into the arts is to have multiple sources of income. It is not an easy path to march down. You might have to cobble together a paycheck from a variety of sources. Applying your creative skills to your career as well as your art is imperative. Creating and maintaining social connections and investing financially in your future as early as possible is essential. Take advantage of compounding interest. I started investing when I was 21 and now wish I had started at 16 when I got my first job.

You can see more of Tom's work at


Sungyeoul Lee

2nd Place, Hollowware/Art Objects

Sungyeoul Lee's winning piece is a celebration of having twins born into his life. His extraordinary candleholder reflects and honors the similarities as well as the differences between fraternal twins. Sungyeoul has an MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. He has been a visiting assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma and an assistant professor at Earlham College. He currently lives in Seoul, South Korea, where he teaches metals at Kookmin University. This is his second Saul Bell Design Award.

Interview by Marlene Richey

Marlene Richey: Tell us about your winning piece, "Symbiotic Relationship."

Sungyeoul Lee: I was struggling to make something for a show when I had twins. By watching and nurturing them, I wanted to make something to help remember these unforgettable moments. It is made of sterling silver, titanium and steel.

MR: What processes did you use to make it?

SL: Fabrication, welding.

MR: What did you learn from the piece?

SL: This piece is one of a body of works. There was an exhibition of my work called "Same Same but Different." It took me some time to figure out how to make two identical forms. Especially when I raised a piece, I had to form the shape exactly the same for the welded piece. First I learned accurate raising skills and second I learned patience, which all fathers need to nurture their babies.

MR: What do you like most about the piece?

SL: I like the story and inspiration behind my piece because it is about my children. My fraternal twins bring me joy, frustration, happiness and suffering, and they arouse my curiosity and aesthetic inspiration.

Symbiotic Relationship
"Symbiotic Relationship," Sungyeoul's Award-Winning Piece
Close view of the colors in the titanium wire from Symbiotic Relationship
MR: Do any of your other passions influence your work?

SL: I like to travel a lot. Making jewelry refreshes me when I am exhausted by the things I have to do. I try not get stuck in the studio all the time and go out to get some fresh air and to see new things!

MR: Who is your design/jewelry mentor?

SL: Professor Billie Jean Theide, who was my formal professor and teaches at the University of Illinois.

MR: What other work have you done in your life?

SL: I mostly make jewelry. I have been working and experimenting with lots of mixed media such as plastic, resin, paper, and even pig intestine.

MR: What is your artist statement/design philosophy?

SL: My fraternal twins bring me joy, frustration, happiness, and suffering and arouse my curiosity and aesthetic inspiration. My interests and affection for them has become a source of creativity. The considerable changes in my daily routine led to changes in my work. My previous jewelry forms were derived from cogitation and exploration in regards to emotional relationships and social connections between jewelry objects and the wearer. In my current body of works, I'd like to communicate with the audience by conveying the emotions and narrative I have been going through every day with these visual forms. I hope the forms of functional tableware and candle holders promote the intimate connection between close relations like twins and broaden the perspective beyond our life together. Therefore, they may strengthen symbiotic relationships and expand communication toward the world.

Two identical but dissimilar forms, which repeatedly appear through the work, remind me of fraternal twins who have different characters. The process of building identical forms, one fabricated by a silversmithing technique and the other one formed with welded wire on a mold achieved from the fabricated one, required more time, labor and endurance. I hope my experience with the mystery of fraternal twins, through their intimate relationship and beautiful rapport, may be conveyed to the audience through my art objects.

MR: What is your favorite material to work with?

SL: Recently I fell in love with steel and titanium. They are very lightweight and have attractive colors.

Close up of the join between the two portions of Symbiotic Relationship
MR: Describe the very first piece of jewelry that you made? When was it?

SL: My very first piece of jewelry was a brooch that was made in 1997 when I was a sophomore. It was shaped like a flower, and I made it for a pin mechanism sample project. I remember what my teacher said about my piece. "Sungyeoul, the back side of your piece where your pin mechanism is located looks a lot prettier than the flower form in the front."

MR: Are you influenced by trends?

SL: These days, many metalsmiths and jewelers work with high technology such as machines, hand tools and even materials. I am also interested in working with laser-cutting machines and micro-welders, which are on the cutting-edge of metal working.

MR: Do you listen to music, book on tape or watch TV when you work?

SL: When I start welding, I usually spend more than six or seven hours straight in front of the machine and I rarely move except to go to the bathroom. So I listen to podcasts because I need some distraction in order not to go crazy.

MR: What one word of advice would you give beginning designers?

SL: Endurance.


Seung Jeon Paik

1st Place, Silver/Argentium® Silver

Interview by Marlene Richey

You can tell at a glance that the art of Seung Jeon Paik is painstakingly crafted. Its universality and inspiration shine clearly through. An MFA student at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Seung Jeon creates work that marries conventional metalsmithing techniques with computer-aided design. His winning piece is part of a collection representing the galaxy using small particles. This is his first Saul Bell Design Award.

Marlene Richey: Tell us about your winning piece, "Unity."

Seung Jeon Paik: Everything in the universe is composed of particles. In this respect, the re-combination of particles can be a suitable aesthetic expression to represent naturally occurring forms. This piece represents the galaxy using small particles. The conventional techniques of making jewelry sometimes have limitations for creating these forms, so I developed a technique for composing the floating particles with minimal distraction. The primary technique I use in my work is traditional granulation, which is the process of joining small balls to base strata. I use 32-gauge silver wire as the base strata onto which I fuse the granules of 18K gold. I utilize Rhino 3D software to arrange the wires and the position of the metal grains. Likewise, I laser weld the wires to the frame based on a CAD drawing.

MR: What did you learn from the piece?

SJP: During the process of creating my collection, including the winning piece, I explored the aesthetics of traditional techniques and applied them in the jewelry making.

MR: Do you think this piece will influence your work going forward?

SJP: Yes, this piece influenced my other pieces, and my future works will also be related to the reinterpretation of traditional techniques.

"Unity," Seung Jeon's Award-Winning Piece
Black wires suspended in a gold-color frame with drops of gold metal
MR: What do you like most about the piece?

SJP: Investigation of the process.

MR: What other types of work have you done in your life?

SJP: I have experience creating tableware and objects using traditional metalsmithing techniques. Also, I create large-scale sculptures using metalsmithing and CAD techniques.

MR: Who is your jewelry mentor?

SJP: Professor Jay Song. She is one of my supervisors who encouraged me to make a balance between academic studies and the real world.

MR: When are you most creative?

SJP: Reading art history books and researching technology trends.

MR: What is your design philosophy?

SJP: I believe an artist has to deal with contemporary issues, so I have dealt with jewelry issues and tried to resolve them through creating my pieces.

MR: Describe the very first piece of jewelry you made? When was it?

SJP: My first jewelry piece was about making form using silicone rubber three years ago. At that time, I was exploring the relationship between the form and tools. So, I created a tool rather than directly creating a form. The silicone was formed on my tool without my touch.

MR: What is the one thing you most love about your studio?

SJP: My friends. Because we discuss contemporary issues and I receive a lot of good feedback from them.

Wires string in a black frame with bits of gold metal forming a circle
MR: What is your favorite tool?

SJP: My caliper. It helps me make sure I have done everything accurately. But also it is meaningful to me because it was a gift from my teacher ten years ago for starting my work after school as a metalsmith.

MR: What is one word of advice you received when starting to make jewelry?

SJP: Just keep going. You'll be fine.

MR: What work inspires you?

SJP: Hermann Junger. Because he was one of the pioneers in the jewelry field and always tried to make a new way at his time.

You can see more of Seung Jeon's work at


Wolfgang Vaatz

2nd Place, Silver/Argentium® Silver

Interview by Marlene Richey

An artist who originally worked in sculpture and painting, Wolfgang Vaatz creates what he refers to as "wearable sculptures," which are meant to engage the wearer and the viewer in a dialogue. He lives and works in Rio Rico, Arizona, and frequently draws inspiration from his natural surroundings. This is Wolfgang's first Saul Bell Design Award.

Marlene Richey: Tell us about your winning piece, "Untitled."

Wolfgang Vaatz: The metal work in the piece is hand-fabricated, shaped and soldered in sterling/Argentium® Silver with fused, unrefined placer gold (which is above 90 percent gold) from the Yuba river in California, along with 22K gold. The design was textured with hammers and engraving tools, then the piece was oxidized. The stone is quartz crystal with natural tubes and was carved by Tom Munsteiner.

MR: What was your inspiration for the piece?

WV: The Tom Munsteiner stone was the inspiration. I liked what Tom was doing with the stone by honoring the natural tube in the crystal. Once I saw the stone, the design started to form.

I cut my own cabochons and always focus on letting the stone "speak" with its pattern or "abstract painting" of different colors, so I appreciated what Tom did with this quartz. The light reflection within the stone became a painting, the dimensions a sculpture with negative space.

"Untitled," Wolfgang's Award-Winning Piece
Two necklace pendants featuring etched metal trees
MR: What do you like most about the piece?

WV: The main thing I like is how the stone and metal meet and work together to create more visual depth to the stone than if it would had been set in a traditional setting. Also, I like the functionality of the box clasp in the last segment of the necklace.

MR: What are the main influences in your art?

WV: Seeing color, shape and form as its own language is very important to me. A line in a composition can tell an entire story. There was a lot going on that revolutionized the art world in the late 19th century and laid the foundation for most of the design elements we know today. Proportion and line were very important. Art history is the basics of my design knowledge. However, the inspiration for my artwork is the natural landscape, not the interpretation by others but the way I observe and experience. It can turn into a realistic motif or an abstract composition. For example, the placement of boulders in a riverbed and the interaction of the shapes and space with constant changing reflections of moving water can lead to an abstract design or a "painting" in metal.

MR: When are you most creative?

WV: When I have spent time outdoors, having been able to truly immerse in the natural environment—that is what keeps me creative. Walking off the trails towards a canyon or along the riverbed where no one goes, just hearing, seeing, and feeling the surroundings—paying close attention to what is going on around me.

MR: What is your company's name?

WV: earth terra erde. All three words mean "earth" in different languages to emphasize earth; my jewelry has an earthy quality. The idea came from having lived in different countries and speaking different languages.

MR: What is your artist statement/design philosophy?

WV: I strive to translate experiences I have had within the natural landscape into my artwork. Having a painting and sculpture background, I use a more experimental approach when creating jewelry, combining different metals and shapes while adjusting the technique to match the material. I play with asymmetry in my jewelry, though having a well-balanced composition and emphasis on a sculptural, painterly look and a textural feel are also important.

MR: Describe your current jewelry collections.

WV: Currently, my work is influenced by wave and water action, forces of nature I experienced at the seashore. In cuffs, little ripples carved in the metal reflect light as it is reflected off the water. Everything that is happening around me when I am in nature is sparking the creative process. I do not design "collections." They are all individual pieces. My jewelry is about observations and experiences. In my "Aspen" pieces, for example, the sun and the wind moving leaves are hard to capture in a painting, but I have been able to capture them in jewelry because unrefined placer gold/gold nuggets reflect the light and the piece sparkles with the movement of the wearer.

MR: What is your favorite material to work with?

WV: I was passionate about cutting stones when I began, but I don't have the patience for the slow cutting and polishing process anymore. I use a mallet when I work in sculpture. So to switch to a hammer to mold and shape metal was a natural transition. I love the malleability of metal and that you can carve in it.

Wolfgang Vaatz
MR: What is the one thing you most love about your studio?

WV: When we moved from Sedona to southeastern Arizona, I needed to shrink my studio, which had been 2,000 square feet, to under 500 square feet. It has forced me to become more organized, which I am happy about.

My studio is on my property. Originally it was a guesthouse, so I just have to walk out the door. The view is towards the west, which looks over our small town, and in the distance I see the mountains with two peaks fairly close. I have an excellent view of the sun setting. I love this time of the day. I stop my work and go outside to watch the sun set. During monsoon season, when there is a thunderstorm, the colors are beyond paintable. Very intense and dramatic. It is amazing. This is all translated in my jewelry.

MR: What is your favorite tool?

WV: The tool that gets the results I am looking for in the design. It can be the torch, the hammer or the flex shaft. Or my engraver. It is all about the result. And I couldn't work without magnification of some sort, such as, an Optivisor, and a microscope.

You can see more of Wolfgang's work at


Debbie Sheezel

1st Place, Enamel

Interview by Marlene Richey

An independent jeweler, enamelist and painter, Debbie Sheezel first began working with enamels on a massive scale. She enameled large-format paintings and murals (including a mural commissioned for the Brisbane International Airport), as well as large decorative copper bowls. She went on to study gold and silversmithing at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia and later taught enameling at the school. Debbie currently gives workshops once or twice a year in her studio and is on the council of the Gold & Silversmiths Guild of Australia. This is her first Saul Bell Design Award.

Marlene Richey: Tell us about your award-winning piece, "Silken Wings."

Debbie Sheezel: The materials used in this piece were 24K, 22K and 18K gold, fine and sterling silver, enamel and faceted blue quartz stones. The technique I love most is cloisonné, and my inspiration comes from the butterfly wing.

Silken Wing
"Silken Wing," Debbie's Award-Winning Piece
Detail enameled box and a white and green pin
MR: What did working on this piece teach you?

DS: Making this piece taught me to try to control my impatience when things don't go entirely to plan and to be adaptable.

MR: How does this piece fit in with other work you have made or will make?

DS: I'm not sure if this piece will influence my future work. It sits comfortably with some of my past pieces, though it is more spectacular and elegant. I would like to make more very special pieces, but all of my pieces are one-off and special in their own way. Wearability is a must for my jewelry. To me, they are wearable art.

MR: What do you like most about this piece?

DS: What I like most about this piece is the vibrancy of color and its elegance.

MR: Tell us about yourself and how you got into making jewelry.

DS: I live in Melbourne, Australia. As a young girl I went to the Victorian College of the Arts to study painting. I accidentally came across enamel because of my aunt. I fell in love with the medium and have been passionate about it ever since. There was no one here in Australia to teach enameling so I taught myself from books and made lots of mistakes! I think one learns a lot from mistakes. After making many very large paintings (I had a huge kiln), large bowls and mural commissions all in enamel, I felt I needed to go back to university to study jewelry and metalwork to enable me to explore the use of enamels further. I eventually became a teacher at the university (used to be the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology).

MR: What do you experience when you are creating jewelry?

DS: My creativity is completely unpredictable. Anything can trigger it. I have been enameling for many years and have found that you need a lot of patience. Enamels are time-consuming and have rules that must be obeyed, but the outcome is so beautiful that the time spent is worth it.

The process of making my jewelry pieces is intuitive. Shape, balance of color and design (usually asymmetrical design) are important in my work. I am an incurable romantic and love beauty in my pieces. The excitement of beginning a piece with inspiration from the delicate tracery found inside an unremarkable rock or the patterning of colors in a butterfly wing really excites me.

MR: What was the first piece of jewelry you ever made?

DS: The first piece of jewelry I made was at university in the very early '90s. A bracelet in sterling silver of a fish, its head biting its tail with its skeleton surrounding the wrist. I still have it and wear it occasionally.

MR: Tell me about your studio and what it is like to work in it.

DS: My studio is large, well set-out and very light. There are two large movable tables on castors, which I can arrange for classes and a great "bench," which was custom-made. I listen to all types of music depending on my mood in there.

Debbie working in the studio
MR: What is your favorite tool?

DS: I have many favorite tools, but my very favorite is my smallest kiln, which I call my workhorse. It heats up really quickly, and I use it almost every weekday.

MR: What advice did you receive when you started making jewelry and what do you share with your students?

DS: "Make sure your piece is well-finished on the back because buyers will always turn it over and look at the back!"

My word of advice to beginner jewelers is: There are two exciting times when making a piece. One is creating the design and the other is looking at the finished piece. All the rest is hard work. It's the same with anything one plans. You have to have a good work ethic.

You can see more of Debbie's work at


Amy Roper Lyons

2nd Place, Enamel

Interview by Marlene Richey

Amy Roper Lyons masterfully combines enameling techniques such as cloisonné with traditional goldsmithing techniques such as fusing and forming. At the point in her career where she primarily sells one-of-a-kind pieces directly to private clients, she is constantly experimenting with her work. Amy's jewelry has been exhibited nationally at museums, galleries and craft shows, including the Smithsonian Craft Show. She lives in New Jersey, about 45 minutes from New York City, and teaches workshops on jewelry and enameling across the country. This is her third Saul Bell Design Award.

Marlene Richey: Tell us about your winning piece, "Orbit #2."

Amy Roper Lyons: Orbit #2 is part of a series I am currently working on. The series is inspired by photos of outer space taken by the Hubble Telescope. I have always been inspired by the natural world. Five to ten years ago I was doing very representational work based on animals, insects and plants.

Imagery of the circle is a central element of Orbit #2. The circle is a powerful symbol, which signifies woman, motherhood, the cycle of life, things dying in the fall and being reborn in the spring. It has often been an inspiration for me. It is important to me because I first make the piece and then acknowledge all the things that intuitively come together and make sense afterwards.

Inlaid lapis pieces have been carved to specific shapes in my piece. And I use 18K gold and 24K gold wires in the enamel, which is traditional for cloisonné.

Orbit 2, front and back
"Orbit 2," Amy's Award-Winning Piece
Enameled gold pins
MR: What are the processes you used?

ARL: The piece is fabricated and enameled. I set the diamonds as well as setting the lapis in a bezel. I am a bit of a perfectionist, therefore I do all of it myself. I know how I want things done.

MR: What did you learn from the piece?

ARL: I learn from every piece. "If only I could start this piece over again" is something that we all think. If I had this opportunity, I would approach it a little differently. Getting the lapis to fit exactly was a challenge. I would have done that first then made the enamel parts.

MR: What are the dimensions of the piece?

ARL: 1.75" across. I wanted something that was a statement piece. Orbit #1 was a lot smaller but I wanted something that was more bold.

MR: What do you like most about Orbit #2?

ARL: I think all the different elements come together so beautifully, the gold work, enameling and stones. It is simple and not complex or ornate. There is an elegance to the piece.

MR: Will you to sell it?

ARL: I sell everything. There are a few pieces that haven't sold for one reason or another. My work has changed radically over the years, and there is nothing to put with some individual pieces left from a specific collection. I love it when people buy my work. It means so much to me that someone else wants to buy it. One of my favorite parts is the connection to the people who buy my work.

I started selling in the 1980s making sterling and bone jewelry. I went to a wholesale butcher to purchase bones to use in my work. At that time I was very inspired by historical traditions—Japanese, African and Muslim work.

I exhibited at a lot of craft shows in the '80s and sold my work in galleries. I don't sell wholesale anymore, and my work is all one-of-a-kind. My materials have changed from silver to gold, enamel and gemstones, putting the work in a different price category. These days I mostly sell directly to private clients.

MR: When did you discover that you loved making jewelry?

ARL: When I was a kid my mother took a jewelry class and made a ring for me. Since that moment I was fascinated with the idea that someone could shape metal. It seemed so hard and unmovable. I took a class at a local art center and was immediately hooked.

My grandfather was a jeweler on 47th Street in New York City, and he made beautiful gold cigarette cases and lighters that sold at Tiffany's. He didn't want me to go into the business. However, he did leave me his tools, so he came around in the end. It took me many years before I knew what to do with some of them.

MR: When are you most creative?

ARL: After I have been out to a conference on the arts or to a museum. I find those get me excited and make me want to go back into my studio and work.

I do a lot of teaching, and I always learn from my students. I love to take classes as well, even if it is something I don't expect to use. Sometimes things unintentionally influence my work because of exposure to new techniques and approaches. As jewelers we spend a lot of time alone; we need to get out more with other people who share our passion.

MR: What is the one thing you most love about your studio?

ARL: My studio is two stories high. Even though it is in the basement, it has huge windows and skylights, which I love. It is full of art, paintings on the wall and pictures of things that inspire me. Insects. Shells. Seahorses. Beach stones.

Amy Roper Lyons
MR: What is your favorite tool?

ARL: My favorite tool changes from time to time but the micrometer I got from my grandfather is really special. It measures things precisely. I love this tool.

Another favorite is a steel stake for metals might that belonged to Richard Reinhardt, one of my professors from art school. It is dear to me because I think of him every time I use it.

MR: What one word of advice would you give beginning designers?

ARL: Try to be true to yourself in your art. Don't be influenced by all the trends. And never stop learning. It makes life exciting to continually learn.

MR: With what designer would you like to have dinner?

ARL: Daniel Brush, he makes amazing steel and gold boxes and sculpture. Another person is Joe Arthur Rosenthal, known as JAR, whose atelier is in Paris. I saw his work at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. It was amazing.

You can see more of Amy's work at


Zoltan David

1st Place, Alternative Metals/Materials

Interview by Marlene Richey

Zoltan David has been creating impeccably crafted jewelry for more than 40 years. He received training as a goldsmith and diamond setter from Swiss and German masters before establishing his business, Zoltan David Fine Jewelry Design, in 1980. He has won numerous industry accolades, including multiple AGTA Spectrum awards and AGS Excellence Awards. This is his second first-place Saul Bell Design Award in the Alternative Metals/Materials category. Zoltan lives and works in Austin, Texas.

Marlene Richey: Tell us about the materials in your winning piece, "Moonshine."

Zoltan David: Pure platinum, platinum 950, cobalt chromium steel, 316 stainless steel, D-E-F color/IF-VVS clarity, hearts and arrows ideal-cut diamonds, moonstone.

MR: What processes did you use to create it?

ZD: CAD design, casting, cold-forged fabrication, hand engraving, bead setting, proprietary finishing techniques and laser welding. A combination of high-tech tools and methods married to old-school traditional goldsmithing techniques.

"Moonshine," Zoltan's Award-Winning Piece
Silver signet-style ring with a branch motif
MR: What is the inspiration behind it?

ZD: The beauty of moonlight reflecting on nighttime water.

MR: What did you learn from the piece?

ZD: How to manipulate light with texture, form and materials.

MR: What do you like most about the piece?

ZD: The magical alchemy of transforming black metal into moonlight reflected on water.

MR: When did you discover that you loved making jewelry?

ZD: I have loved the creative process as far back as I can remember. I had a goal in mind for my jewelry-making career: to make exceptional work. I loved the challenge of it all, but I did not "love" making jewelry until I started to master it, and that took me about 20 years. It was at that point when I named my studio "Dancing Metals Studio" because it took that long for me to feel like I was now in control of the process. I became the choreographer, and the metals and gems became my dance team.

MR: When are you most creative?

ZD: When I am in solitude.

MR: What is your artist statement/design philosophy?

ZD: "Artists do not follow trends, they create them."

This statement must be supported with good design. For me, good jewelry design rests on a foundation of originality, functionality, durability and beauty.

MR: Describe your current jewelry collections.


  • Duchess collection: using high-karat gold, platinum and fine rare gems, it is a couture body of work.
  • Elfin collection: reminiscent of art nouveau and fantasy, inspired by Lord of the Rings.
  • Knight Dreams: a highly technical collection of black metal married with precious metals and gems.
  • BronZe Age: a collection combining, through inlay, overlay and diffusion bonding, the living metal bronze with non-reactive precious metals, incorporating unusual patinas and fine gems.
Zoltan David
MR: What did you feel when you found out you were a Saul Bell winner?

ZD: Pleasantly surprised! I thought my piece may be a finalist, but I did not expect it to win first place because I had won first place in 2014 and to win first place twice in three years, well ... what are the odds?

MR: What is your favorite material to work with?

ZD: Metals. I love the secrets of metallurgy as they are revealed to me along my way. How metals behave and why, how their characteristics can be used to my advantage and how to manipulate them. Sometimes even to make them do things that science says they can't do. Science also says bumble bees shouldn't be able to fly.

MR: One word of advice you received when starting to make jewelry/run a business?

ZD: "Never lose momentum."

MR: What one word of advice would you give beginning designers?

ZD: Innovate.

MR: What achievement in your jewelry life are you most proud of?

ZD: I have seen a lot of talented artisans be crushed by this jungle we call the jewelry industry. I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to survive and even flourish in this challenging and unforgiving environment. My business and art continues to be vibrant and full of life.

You can see more of Zoltan's work at


Kathleen Nowak Tucci

2nd Place, Alternative Metals/Materials

Interview by Marlene Richey

Kathleen Nowak Tucci creates intriguing and beautiful art jewelry from discarded materials. Her pieces force us all to look at everyday objects with new eyes and appreciation while disregarding preconceived notions of what jewelry should be made of and its value. Her work has appeared in the Smithsonian Craft Show, the Craft2Wear event, and the Museum of Art and Design NYC shows, and it will be in the Racine Museum "Sensory Overload" show beginning in late September. It has also been featured in numerous magazines, including on the cover of Italian Vogue, in Marie Claire and in Ornament. This is her second Saul Bell Design Award in the Alternative Metals/Materials category. Kathleen lives and works on the Gulf Coast of Alabama.

Marlene Richey: Tell us about your winning piece, "Secret Garden Necklace."

Kathleen Nowak Tucci: I used recycled rubber bicycle inner tubes and motorcycle inner tubes sourced from Harley-Davidson motorcycles, recycled Nespresso coffee capsules, epoxy clay, copper, stainless steel jump rings and a hand-formed stainless steel clasp, all e-coated. The rubber pieces were hand-cut and die-cut with custom and commercially available dies. These pieces were then connected to a rubber base made with a motorcycle inner tube.

I got the inspiration at the last Santa Fe Jewelry Symposium. I learned so much and had so much fun in Albuquerque that I realized I wanted to return. I could either write a paper to present or make another Saul Bell Design Award-worthy piece. When the presentation about the Enigma of Color was given, I came up with the idea of this necklace.

An important part of the "Secret Garden Necklace" is the back. It's the secret. Color was added using recycled Nespresso coffee capsules as the center of some of the flowers. The "Secret Garden Necklace" was inspired by a dark, mysterious vine- and foliage-filled garden. I wanted both the viewer and the wearer to discover and delight in finding new plant and floral shapes in the same way you would with each visit to a secret garden. Much like a secret, its knowledge is only available to the wearer of the necklace. Secrets can be dark and hard to keep, but a secret can also be exhilarating to own.

It took four months from inspiration to completion. Mulling over how to make a piece is an important step in my creative process. I didn't finish the piece until two weeks before the final deadline. In those two weeks it had to be photographed. Nothing like the last minute!

Secret Garden Necklace
"Secret Garden Necklace," Kathleen's Award-Winning Piece
Black rubber flower brooch
MR: Tell us about your collections.

KNT: My jewelry is made with recycled rubber and recycled Nespresso coffee capsules. I also work in metal clay and have recently added some etched aluminum to my work.

MR: What is your artist statement or design philosophy?

KNT: I find it intriguing and challenging to have the dichotomy of using items that are trash and destined for a landfill but instead recycling these materials to construct architectural high-fashion jewelry that has been featured in top fashion magazines.

I have always made my work in components—smaller parts of a whole work. With my rubber jewelry, I like to have many parts pre-cut, ready for whatever combination strikes my fancy.

In my designs, I like C and S curves juxtaposed against geometric shapes such as squares, circles and triangles. I am strongly influenced by Art Deco furniture, architecture and fashion. Working with the raw material of recycled rubber and other materials allows me to make dramatic pieces with very little weight.

MR: How do you get the word out about your work?

KNT: I have a really nice website. I use social media and winning an award like the Saul Bell Design Award keeps me in the public eye. I also show my work in New York City during NYC Fashion Market Week. Stylists often use my work in magazine photo shoots.

Necklace with rubber bear-claw look
MR: What do you love about making jewelry?

KNT: I love most everything about making jewelry, but I think designing is the part I like the best. I also like that moment when what you imagined and what you are making gel. It's the moment you say to yourself, "Yes this will work!"

MR: Are you influenced by trends?

KNT: I'm aware of trends and consider some of them in my production pieces. For instance I notice the lengths of necklaces. But overall, I design what I feel inspired to design and ignore the trends.

MR: Do you listen to music, book on tape or watch TV when you work?

KNT: I listen to audio books. Lots and lots of audio books! I listen to more nonfiction than fiction but I do enjoy both. Listening to audiobooks is an integral part of my studio routine. I only shut off an audiobook if I have to do some calculations.

MR: What one word of advice would you give beginning designers?

KNT: Perseverance! But if I gave more than one word of advice it would be to make work no one else is making. Make your own statement.

You can see more of Kathleen's work at


Rodica Frunze

1st Place, Metal Clay

Interview by Marlene Richey

Everything Rodica creates comes from her fascination with the relationship between the body, the mind and The Divine. A full-time jewelry artist and metal-clay instructor with a doctorate in psychiatry, Rodica uses her jewelry to explore the healing capacity of archetypal forms. She is the artist behind Sky and Beyond jewelry, which she runs alongside her husband. Rodica resides in Nanaimo, a town on Vancouver Island in Canada.

Marlene Richey: Tell us about your winning piece, "Adore."

Rodica Frunze: The materials are Goldie bronze metal clay, bronze bezel wire and an artisan-cut spectrolite (labradorite) cabochon. Each metal element (excluding the chain and bezel wire) were hand-formed or carved into the clay. The patina and textures were applied in the finishing process to enhance the "endless visual path" objective.

The asymmetric elements of my piece are designed to collaborate in order to produce a continuous flow. This is a replication of the reflection of light by the gemstone that, though static, creates an endless visual path. Neutral space is used around the stone to maintain proportion and balance, allowing all elements to share the attention of the eye.

MR: What did you learn from the piece?

RF: Quite simply, that allowing intuition to drive the implementation of the design elements produces a deep sense of partnership in the result. I had a conceptual design in my mind, but rather than investing time sketching, I allowed elements to evolve naturally.

"Adore," Rodica's Award-Winning Piece
Inner World necklace
MR: Does it reflect your current look/designs/brand?

RF: Someone who follows my work would definitely recognize certain elements. However, I am constantly exploring new techniques. "Adore" reflects my "look" today but will evolve into the foundation of tomorrow's design. I feel creating art is the result of experimenting with the limitless possibilities. Placing constraints such as adhering to a "style" or "brand" would be limiting to my creative possibilities.

MR: What do you like most about the piece?

RF: The stone is the story. My love of spectrolite (labradorite) is readily apparent. It reminds me of ever-changing perspectives and to observe details as part of the whole. Known as the "Spirit Stone," it has influenced me to keep the whole in view. As light is reflected and refracted, I feel that to design around its qualities can only be achieved by integrating its beauty as part of the whole design. I see this as a replication of living with grace, bringing all things into a perspective of the totality of life.

MR: Did you study jewelry?

RF: Not in a traditional academic sense. I couldn't find the variation of diverse technical skills I needed for my designs being taught locally. However, with the amount of talented artists sharing their skills and companies like Rio Grande producing a wealth of resources online, I was (am) able to follow a traditional learning path.

Starting with wire wrapping provided the opportunity to learn and practice a number of metalsmithing skills and study the properties of metals and gemstones. With metal clay, I saw the potential to create my designs.

MR: Who is your design/jewelry mentor?

RF: There are so many jewelry artists who inspired me to make art jewelry. Styles from Eastern Europe and the Middle East also have had a profound influence on me. Maybe it's the result of having grown up in a similar environment that creates the affinity, but there is a certain rebellion towards convention I identify with in their work.

MR: What is your artist statement/design philosophy?

RF: Through the integration of archetypal forms, my works aim to touch the viewer's deepest personal feelings and self-perceptions. This is done with the objective of invoking a juxtaposition of individuality within the context of unity. "For we live in a beautiful dream we call reality."

MR: What is the one thing you most love about your studio?

RF: I love that though my working rituals are quiet, my husband is right by my side. I really appreciate his input in my work and that he keeps the business from being a distraction.

MR: What is your favorite tool?

RF: Flex shaft! Besides my Temple of the Goddess of Fire (kiln), my flex shaft is the only tool I am not able to improvise. I have improvised other tools, but I am not able to attain the quality of finish I look for with my creations. This and its versatility make it indispensable.

Rodica Frunze
MR: When working, what do you listen to?

RF: I usually have some quiet ambient music or sounds of nature playing, but most of the time I cannot say I'm actively "listening." Once I start a piece, I become fully immersed in the creative process or "flow."

MR: Tell me the most powerful word of advice you received when starting out.

RF: "Feel it, do it." Without my husband saying "feel it, do it," I would probably be building another career in medicine or scientific research. I would not have made my submission to this contest if I had not applied these words. This is how I approach my designs and how we operate our business.

MR: What one word of advice would you give beginning designers?

RF: Accept. It is challenging and intimidating when your passion says to do it and your community says that you need to answer all the questions first. Accept that there is no failure, only learning. Accept that what makes you happy doesn't require others' acceptance. Accept yourself as an expression of The Divine. Accept others along with all the things which arise on your life path as the manifestation of the The Divine.

MR: What work inspires you? Jeweler? Architect? Painter? Actor?

RF: I can be inspired by so many forms of artistic expression. The word artist Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (Rumi) has the greatest impact on my inspiration. I feel that to paint a mind's image of divinity in such an eloquent form is like feeling the breath of God. I feel the same listening to Armenian Duduk music. I find myself deeply influenced by visual arts that express archetypal symbols (trees, mushrooms, doors, fish, sun, moon, mother, healer, etc.) and, undoubtedly, Mother Nature as the supreme designer.

You can see more of Rodica's work at


Patrik Kusek

2nd Place, Metal Clay

Interview by Marlene Richey

Inspired by his mother's struggle with dementia, Patrik Kusek's winning piece is a story of "memories lost but hopefully not forgotten." A prolific metal clay artist and instructor, Patrik has been immersed in the worlds of design, fashion and art his entire life. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and The Academy of Art University, he has been published in numerous books and publications and has appeared on HGTV. This is his second Saul Bell Design Award in the Metal Clay category. He lives and works in Fairfield California.

Memory Interrupted
"Memory Interrupted," Patrik's Award-Winning Piece
Marlene Richey: Tell us about your winning piece, "Memory Interrupted."

Patrik Kusek: My mother has dementia, and this piece is specifically designed for and dedicated to her.

Pearls, simulated citrines and peridots were used in the necklace. I made molds of cameos from the 1800s, when people went on their Grand Tour of Europe and collected [cameos] along the way in various towns and cities. I have purchased many of them online and use them in my current body of work. The necklace is made of silver PMC with a layer of 22K gold. The piece is created with a special 960 silver metal clay, which is a custom mix of enriched silver. The 22K gold is also a special product made in PMC that fuses to the silver surface. I originally manipulated the mold of the cameos by cutting the PMC cameo apart, then I reassembled them to appear cracked.

I work not only in metal clay but also in numerous other metalsmithing techniques.

MR: How much time did it take to create?

PK: This collection started with a brooch, and I worked out a lot of the technical issues making it. The necklace grew out of this body of work. But actual time to design and make the necklace was approximately two weeks, working on it part time.

MR: What did you learn from the piece?

PK: I learned to be a little more satisfied with simple solutions and, at the same time, to be more restrained in my execution of the piece. A couple other pieces I made with this same idea and concept were much more fragmented and weren't as strong. They had a lot of cracks in them. This time I accented the single crack in each of the cameos. I guess I am saying that I learned to pull back a little bit and be more restrained.

MR: Did you study jewelry?

PK: I have taken a lot of classes, à la carte. I had a graphic design and branding business during the dot-com period and was making a lot of money. After a while, I was stressing out during the daytime and so I took a class in metal clay. After taking the class, I realized my love for working in metal clay. I was really happy making jewelry. At this point, I made a career change to jewelry and opened a business.

I have a degree in merchandise marketing from FIDM, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. A while later, I went back to school at The Academy of Art University and received a second degree in graphic design.

My first job was with Macy's. I helped in the accessories department there and had some wonderful experience in the bridge/fashion jewelry area. I worked on special event fashion shows and therefore had a good knowledge of this area of jewelry. I was helping other people put their ideas forward but often in my own voice.

MR: Who is your design/jewelry mentor?

PK: One of my biggest influencers early on was Celie Fago. She opened up all the potential possibilities of working in metal clay. Her work is really great. I hadn't seen anything like it up to that point. It is so beautifully produced. She has a great style. Years later, I got to meet and know her personally while we were both teaching classes at Rio.

MR: Do you have a jewelry design business?

PK: Metal clay has a low cost to start up, either as a career or a hobby. Now I mostly study metal and all the ways it can be formed. I do a lot of teaching all over the country. And I am filming videos. My work isn't in galleries or on store shelves. I sell primarily to a limited number of collectors. My business is more about how I want to spend my time, energy and passion. I like the freedom of not having to produce. And I am passionate about talking and sharing in the metal clay classes I teach. It is so great to see students' reactions to this amazing material.

MR: What is your favorite material to work with?

PK: I don't limit myself to metal clay. I also love fabrication. Harold O'Connor and Judith Kinghorn have been a huge influence in my metals career. I have worked in granulation. And I like to combine metal clay with more traditional smithing skills. Using materials in combination with PMC opens up a whole new world. Metal clay comes in so many varieties of metals that it is an exciting time to be working with it.

Pendant or Brooch with insignia in the center
MR: What is the one thing you most love about your studio?

PK: I love the commute from the living room to the studio—about 100 feet. I arrange all of my tools in containers of milk-ware glass. My tools are displayed beautifully. Creating little pockets of displays that aren't particularly jewelry-based makes the space more welcoming. Having beauty around me is always an inspiration. I also have a collection of antique watch trays in my studio. I try to make it a very personal space.

MR: What is your favorite tool?

PK: Currently, my favorite tool is the JoolTool. It is used for polishing. Instead of being horizontal, it is vertical. It is small and has a bunch of different components you can use. The JoolTool is in between the flex shaft and a polishing machine. The amazing thing is, you can see your work while you are polishing.

MR: What is one word of advice you received when starting to make jewelry?

PK: Don't sweat the cost of the materials so much. What we do as jewelers is not cheap. We have programmed ourselves not to make mistakes because of wasted materials. You can always send your mistakes to the refiner and have them melted down. Don't let the cost paralyze you. You can make it work. I pass this on to my students. You can't be afraid to make mistakes with metal you can reuse in so many different ways. I tell my students that part of being an artist is to make mistakes and learn from them.

You can see more of Patrik's work at


Justine Quintal

1st Place, Emerging Jewelry Artist

Interview by Marlene Richey

Just out of college, Justine Quintal has already developed an artistic voice that guides her work. Though she has been making jewelry since she was a child, she completed formal studies at l'École de Joaillerie de Montréal (Jewelry School of Montréal) this year. She currently resides in Carignan, a small town close to Montréal, Canada, where she is working on developing her line.

Marlene Richey: Tell us about your winning piece, "L'oiseau de la Nuit."

Justine Quintal: My winning piece is a sterling silver articulated necklace with pavé-set blue sapphires, blue topazes and peridots, set on a rolled-mill texture. The hinged clasp at the back of the piece features two bezel-set sapphires.

The majority of the necklace is made using square wire to create volume without being heavy. Everything is articulated, so the necklace can sit well on a woman's body. The centerpiece features a beautiful sterling silver sheet with the rolled-mill texture.

L'oiseau de la Nuit
"L'oiseau de la Nuit," Justine's Award-Winning Piece
Silver color bracelet
MR: What does the name of your piece mean and how did you choose it?

JQ: To make this necklace, I was highly inspired by nature. Tropical birds and the sunset were the two main ideas I used to create the design. I wanted to express the lightness and imposing character of tropical birds with the wing-shaped and textured piece at the front and the feather-shaped pieces on each side. The succession of colors from dark blue to light green were used to give the impression of a slight sunset. This is why I named my necklace: "L'oiseau de la Nuit" which means "The Bird of the Night."

MR: Do you have a design/jewelry mentor? If so, who is it?

JQ: Many of my teachers have been great mentors to help express my ideas and designs in jewelry and help me evolve as a jeweler. I could name Gustavo Estrada, Lynn Légaré, and Christine Larochelle as a few of them. They really helped me see jewelry from another eye. They were also highly supportive of me when I announced I wanted to try presenting my necklace for the Saul Bell Design Awards.

MR: When are you most creative?

JQ: I feel most creative when I'm just about to go to bed. I always keep a notebook and a pencil on my nightstand in case of late-night ideas.

MR: Since you are no longer in school, what is your current work situation?

JQ: I am currently working for someone else as a jeweler, but I am starting my own business on the side, slowly. My company's name is Créations Justine Quintal, but I am changing it to Justine Quintal Joaillière (jeweler) since it better represents what I am doing.

MR: Do you have a website?

JQ: My website is really a portfolio, a place where you can see my creations. But I mostly focus on social media like Facebook and Instagram to show my custumers what I can do. I post a lot of "at work" pictures where you see unfinished pieces, tools and such, so people understand how I create their jewelry.

MR: Tell us about your current work.

JQ: I currently have two completely different collections inspired by different themes. One is a nature-inspired collection. There are a lot of flowers, textured cast pieces and many gemstones. I love to keep the metal white to express the purity and simplicity of nature in this collection. The other one is a more geometric, architectural-inspired collection. I use bright polished metal with center stones and square wire to recreate a constructed look.

Silver color ring with a flower motif
MR: What is your favorite material to work with?

JQ: My favorite materials would definitely be colored gemstones. Whatever type of gemstone it is, I always revolve my design around its shape and color so it really pops out. I then decide if yellow gold, silver or other metals would go best with it. This also gives me the chance to try something new!

MR: What do you love about making jewelry?

JQ: I love that everything is possible in the jewelry world. Especially with the new technologies and tools that exist to make our work easier. But I also love that you can express your creativity in such a way that people will remember you while wearing your art.

MR: What is your favorite tool?

JQ: My favorite tool is a torch, whether it is a Little Torch or a Mecco Torch. I love the possibilities that it gives me. I also love assembling elements when I am making one-of-a-kind pieces. There are usually so many little pieces to solder together.

MR: What jeweler would you most like to have dinner with or visit?

JQ: There are so many jewelers I would like to meet! If I had to choose one, I would probably choose Thierry Vendôme. He is a world-known French jeweler. His work has wonderful textures, a mixture of beautiful gemstones and lots of gold. What I find most impressive about his work is how he easily integrates other materials such as rusted metals on a very classical design. I think that is why his work is like no other's.

You can see more of Justine's work at


Justine Gagnon

2nd Place, Emerging Jewelry Artist

Interview by Marlene Richey

Justine Gagnon's winning bracelet shows how a single piece can honor movement and structure at the same time. Justine just completed her studies at l'École de Joaillerie de Montréal last year, and yet her designs have a fresh perspective that is uniquely her own. She is influenced by underground culture, and yet her work is fashion-forward. It is defined by contrasts and contradictions while still being consistent. Justine is currently working as a repair jeweler and lives in Montréal, Canada.

Marlene Richey: Tell us about your winning piece, "Monsieur."

Justine Gagnon: My bracelet is made of silver sterling and plastic tube. I had a very hard time trying to find the perfect tube with good flexibility and the right size. I had to be very organized because it was a complex piece. This project was way too ambitious for the time I had to do it, so I had to make it fast and hope everything would go well. It took around 40 hours to complete.

"Monsieur," Justine's Award-Winning Piece
Oxidized Silver Necklace
MR: What was your inspiration for the winning piece?

JG: I was inspired by Brutalist architecture, movement and the contrast between straight lines and textures. Minimalist design is also present in my work.

MR: What did you learn from the piece?

JG: I learned to never underestimate any design, even if it looks simple. Also to keep calm; you can always find a solution to your problems.

Silver color ring made of many thin layers
MR: Do you think this piece will influence your work going forward?

JG: For sure. Two years ago I couldn't think of doing something like this. It has certainly taught me I can accomplish pretty much anything I want. It makes me feel secure for the future, whether it is in the jewelry industry or somewhere else.

MR: How does your winning piece reflect your current look/designs/brand?

JG: I have an obsession with repetition, movement and contrast. I try to apply this to most of my designs.

MR: What is your favorite material to work with?

JG: I don't know yet. I want to try working with new materials, such as wood, resin, pigment and plastic. I want to try something other than precious metals. I want to add colors to my pieces.

MR: Are you influenced by trends? If so, what is the one trend you like the most?

JG: I try not to be. I'm am influenced by underground culture. Strangely, these days underground culture is becoming a trend.

MR: What work inspires you?

JG: A lot of work inspires me, especially the work of the wonderful visual artist David Altmejd, the jeweler Seulgi Kwon, the metalsmith Gabrielle Desmarais, the jeweler David Bielander, the jeweler Aurélie Guillaume, the visual artist Ted Noten and the performance artist Marina Abramovic.

MR: What jeweler would you most like to have dinner with or visit?

JG: Seulgi Kwon, because I'm obsessed by her work. I don't understand how she makes her pieces and that is why her work is so beautiful. She is simply amazing.


Jason Baide

3rd Place, Emerging Jewelry Artist

Interview by Marlene Richey

Jason Baide possesses metalsmithing and design skills that are well beyond his years. He was born into a family where making jewelry was a part of daily life. His father owns a jewelry gallery in Bozeman, Montana, where Jason quite literally learned at the feet of the master. His first ring required him to saw, file, hammer, form and even solder the piece—and he was just 6 years old. Jason is currently a student at Montana State University in Bozeman, where he is studying studio arts in metalsmithing and business.

A Gothic Melody
"A Gothic Melody," Jason's Award-Winning Piece
Silver color basket-weave pins
Marlene Richey: Tell us about your award-winning piece, "A Gothic Melody."

Jason Baide: "A Gothic Melody" was inspired by the ornate architecture of Gothic cathedrals. Each of its parts is completely hand-fabricated. The hand-woven Roman chain represents the twisted columns of northern Gothic style. The chain transitions with a capital forged and twisted from hollow tubing into the blossoming wires, which curve and interweave like the intricate vaulting systems of the iconic Gothic period. The wires framing the pear-shaped topaz create a pointed Gothic arch similar to cathedral entryways. It is accented with bezel-set diamonds, which contrast with the strong lateral symmetry. Three bezels function as prongs to support the central topaz. This piece started as a metalsmithing class assignment at my university; we were assigned to take a historic style and remake it into a modern piece of jewelry. Gothic architecture has always stood out to me for its overwhelming grandeur paired with its focus on details.

MR: What did you learn from the piece?

JB: This piece represents a coming together of all the skills I have been collecting so far in my short jewelry career. On top of general goldsmithing skills, it features chain-making techniques my father taught me in high school, inspiration from my art history classes, and my new abilities in stone-setting, which I just learned last summer. The whole thing felt like a fairly monumental moment in my career, even before I entered it in the Saul Bell competition.

MR: Do you think this piece will influence your work going forward?

JB: I thoroughly enjoyed drawing from architectural themes and could see myself creating a body of work around it. As an emerging artist, I'm still defining my personal style, but I feel the general aesthetics and focus on sweeping lines will be a recurring theme.

MR: What do you like most about the piece?

JB: My favorite element to the necklace is the way the silver wires interweave as they meet around the center topaz. It's hard to see in photographs, but they stack and create a 3D space for the topaz to sit in.

MR: Who is your design/jewelry mentor?

JB: My father is a jeweler and started The Gem Gallery some 20 years ago. Like many family businesses, I started working at the store at an early age. In elementary school I would play in the wax-carving room after school, doodling in wax with the flex shaft. My dad showed me how to cast some of the better snowman landscape scenes I had carved, and soon I was interested in jewelry making. I gradually learned a lot from my dad and the other goldsmith at the store. I was also extremely fortunate to have several jewelry classes at my high school and an amazing teacher who gave me a more creative experience with jewelry than a goldsmith shop provided. I have also done several technique-specific workshops in CAD, stone-setting, chasing and repoussé, and mokume gane, which have all greatly shaped my career so far.

MR: When are you most creative?

JB: One of my favorite times to work is during my weekly volunteer monitor shift at my university's jewelry studio. It's a unique opportunity to work alongside my peers without the formality of being in class. Everyone shares ideas and techniques and jams out to music. It is a time to try new things and not be pressured by class or client deadlines. Plus our studio has a great view of the colorful Montana sunsets.

Twist wire ring with blue stone mounted
MR: What is your favorite tool?

JB: It's so hard to pick a single tool as a favorite. I love the way a hammer feels when shaping metal, and I have a few favorite hammers. But I also love the finesse yet sharpness of engravers. Pliers might have to be my favorite overall. I have a set of matching purple pliers that are each named after dwarves from The Hobbit.

MR: Describe the very first piece of jewelry that you made.

JB: It's hard to remember that first piece I made, since I grew up around jewelry, but the first ring I made when I was 6 years old. My dad was showing my older sister how to use a jeweler's saw, and I, being the curious younger brother, wanted to try too. I must have broken five blades sawing out a simple straight strip. My dad showed us how to file the edges, hammer it around a mandrel, and solder the seam. He guided our wrists as we held the torch. I still have that silly brass ring with its wobbly edges. The brass is all oxidized now, but the messy gold solder still shines.

MR: Do you listen to music when you work?

JB: Music is an essential part of my studio. As a musician and a swing dancer, there is hardly a moment I'm not listening to music. It sets the mood in the studio and greatly influences what I make. I always pair my music to what I'll be working on. If I know I'm doing a lot of hammering, I like a nice heavy beat. Sawing reminds me of playing my violin, so I tend to listen to classical music when piercing.

MR: What work inspires you?

JB: I have a passion for quotes. I keep a quote list on my phone and am continually adding to it from books, movies, songs and people in my life. Many of my pieces are inspired by or greatly influenced by my quotes. Oscar Wilde is probably the greatest single source of quotes on my list.



2015 Winners


Kent Raible

1st Place, Gold/Platinum & Hollowware

Kent Raible of Mossy Rock, Washington, a winner in the 2015 Saul Bell Design Award competition, broke ground when he received not one, but two 1st Place honors in a single year—an achievement never before realized in the competition. In the Gold/Platinum category, Kent won for his gorgeous necklace design, "From the Deep"; in the Hollowware/Art Object category, he won for his inspired sculpture, "The Pregnant Chalice." We wanted to find out a little bit about these imaginative and beautiful designs, so we went to talk to Kent about his work.

How did you come to be designing jewelry?

It was an accident, really. My girlfriend in high school was taking a jewelry class and that's how I was exposed to working with metal. I took classes myself after that and I just never stopped. Through three years of high school, then into college. It was such an opportunity to explore. And growing up in an artistic family, I was always encouraged. My dad even gave me my first set of jewelry tools—tools he used in his college years. I use the ring mandrel he gave me to this very day. Also a saw frame, pliers and a few others. It was the casting class that really got me excited; carving wax and the whole process. I still use the centrifugal casting machine I bought myself back then to do my production casting.

What is it about designing that you especially love?

I love challenges, doing things that inspire me to bend and stretch. I always like to incorporate something new so there's an evolution in my work as I'm going—it can be even the smallest thing. I just like figuring things out.

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Kent's necklace, 'From the Deep,' won first place in the Gold/Platinum category in the Saul Bell Design Award competition.
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Kent's winning hollowware piece, 'The Pregnant Chalice,' represents a holding place or womb for the sacred, or for creative potential.
What part of the process do you find demands the most discipline from you? And what part do you find comes the easiest to you?

Discipline … hmm … patience. Sometimes, with a major piece, if I run into a block, I just have to wait until I feel like it's the right time to start it up again. I never feel like I have to make myself do anything. And, if there's a flow happening, I don't care how mundane the task is or how long it takes, it gets done, and I just kinda have the end view in mind, how it's going to look when it's all done and that spurs me on.

I like the whole process, but my favorite part is when it gets close to being finished and I can see the vision coming together. It either meets my vision or sometimes, if I'm lucky, it exceeds what I envisioned. That's the most exciting part for me…getting to the final stages.

What is your favorite tool? What tool (if any) do you struggle with?

I have thousands of tools. The amazing thing about being a jewelry person is that you can have as many tools as you want, and you can still get more! I think my rolling mill is my favorite tool because it has given me an immense amount of freedom in the shop to build whatever I need when I need it. I alloy my own gold, and I need different thicknesses and cross sections of wire and sheet at any given moment. It's so satisfying to be able to create my own stock so quickly and consistently. I call it my 'freedom tool' because it gives me the ability to make whatever I want as a fabricator. It's the bedrock of my tool store.

If you're struggling with a tool, it just means you need to practice a bit more, or learn more about it. It's mostly a matter of figuring things out; when I find myself struggling, I stop and ask myself pertinent questions about how I can use it better, or why is this not working. Usually, it's a matter of support, of holding a piece properly if you're struggling with a tool. I find that the number one thing is holding the work secure.

Where do you turn to find your best or most reliable inspiration?

You know, the inspiration has always been there; it comes at different times and in different ways. I guess it's being always open to the possibilities. I look at my stones and the ideas will come. Like the idea for "The Deep"—that took a couple of years to come. I had that amazing stone and wasn't willing to set it 'til I had something I knew was good. I'm always working on five to 15 projects at any given time; if something's not flowing with one, I'll put it aside and work on something else until BOOM the idea comes.

How do you work through the challenges that arise as you are working to bring a design to life?

I just ask the questions. How can I do this in a way that is not compromising the design and in a way that is functional and works with all the elements? I don't try to answer these questions right away; I simply ask them and wait for the answer to come … usually one comes. Sometimes instantly, sometimes days, weeks, months or years later. As I said, I just wait.

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Kent Raible with his silver sculpture, "Water Pipe," which took second place in a 1977 competition.
Describe your ideal work area. How close is that ideal to your current reality?

I've been working in a 'temporary' situation for quite a while. I've been working on designing that ideal workshop. My perfect area now is changing because I want to start doing some small classes. The new workshop has to have six to eight stations and have the room to accommodate students. There'll be an area for smithing, a forging area with tools hanging handy from the ceiling, a casting area, wax-working area, a new lapidary area—even possibly a new blacksmithing area to do larger-scale work—and, of course, a cleaning area. It'll have a bank of windows facing north so we have good, long-term, but not direct, sunlight—diffused light coming from the north. They will face out on the view of Mount Rainier; I can just see it now…

If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?

Sure, I would probably do things differently, but … actually, I think I did very well. I didn't know I was going to make jewelry for a living until my twenties. I had done a lot of work by then, and it wasn't until I won an award that I ever thought: 'I could make a living at this.' I don't think there's any other career I would choose or any other way I would've built my business. I've pretty much done the work I want to do all along.

Are you where you thought you would be (or wanted to be) when you started out as a jewelry designer/maker?

I've achieved a lot of what I thought I would. I didn't really want to be a huge designer, have employees and stuff like that. As far as what I'm doing and the level of my work, I'm pretty satisfied, but I will still get better. There's still lots of inspiration these days … there's more to come.

When you think about your work in the overall pattern of your life, how do you define that work in your own mind?

Hmm … how do I put that into words? In a lot of ways, my work has been a real anchor for me over the years. I think one of the reasons I got into it was the way I could create a world all my own and not be bothered by anybody else or the world out there. It's my own world, so it's really been kind of a fun exploration of just being able to do my own thing. I feel very blessed to have these talents and have the faith to use them and develop them. It's been the base camp outside of my relationships and family, the one solid thing I've had my whole life, and it's always been something I could fall back on, not that I've needed to. It's been a source of continuing amazement. I still surprise myself; 'gosh, look what I just made!'

Find out more about Kent's work at Many thanks to Kent for spending some time with us and talking about his design work; we look forward to seeing where his design will take him next!


Susan Blennerhassett

2nd Place, Gold/Platinum

Susan Blennerhassett of Nedlands, Australia, a winner in the 2015 Saul Bell Design Award competition, received 2nd Place honors in the Gold/Platinum category for her incredible earring design, "Starstruck." We wanted to know more about the creative energy behind these stunning earrings and spent some time getting to know her.

How did you come to be designing jewelry?

I took a jewelry course option for art in year 10 at high school and really enjoyed the fine detail that could be applied to making jewelry. I had always been artistic and creative, so making it my chosen career seemed to be a natural progression after school.

What is it about designing that you especially love?

Being able to create something unique; investing ideas, shapes, patterns, and concepts into one wearable piece of art

What part of the process do you find demands the most discipline from you? And what part do you find comes the easiest to you?

The part that demands the most discipline is to not design a piece so complicated that it becomes impossible to make. For example I thought about making the diamond-set balls at the bottom of "Starstruck" interchangeable with pearls (not feasible). The thing I always find easiest is to add more diamonds!

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Susan's earrings, called 'Starstruck,' won second place in the Gold/Platinum category. They rotate 360 degrees and are designed to make an outfit, not just complement it.

What is your favorite tool? What tool (if any) do you struggle with?

My favorite tool would be my Pastorino half-round pliers that I have had for 34 years now; they're just the perfect shape. I don't struggle with any particular tool; though, on a bad day, I might struggle with just about all of them!

Where do you turn to find your best or most reliable inspiration?

I'm always inspired with unusual gemstones, but I also turn to everything around me, be it nature, architecture, people or animals—anything can be inspiration in design!

How do you work through the challenges that arise as you are working to bring a design to life?

With determination. And patience. And the odd glass of wine… With complex designs, I will often make a mock-up in silver to finalize a visual or to invent articulating sections that challenge the traditional methods.

Describe your ideal work area. How close is that ideal to your current reality?

My ideal work area would be one with good music and no phones. Unfortunately, I have a persistent phone right next to my bench that needs attention often.

If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently…and why?

Everything I have done has led to me being where I am today, so therefore I wouldn't really change anything.

Are you where you thought you would be (or wanted to be) when you started out as a jewelry designer/maker?

You can always want more, but at this point I am very happy with where I am and what I have achieved. Owning my own business with my husband, being free to design and create fine jewelry, and having a loyal following of clients, a lot of whom allow me to have creative control. Also having been recognized on a national—and now international!—level with the awards my work has achieved.

When you think about your work in the overall pattern of your life, how do you define that work in your own mind?

When I look back at my 34 years in jewelry, I am astounded by the variety of pieces I have made. I have been fortunate to come across the opportunities I have had but, at the same time, I've worked hard and put in long hours to get to where I am today. Due to this devotion, I have missed out on many other things during my life, but I don't regret that choice.

Find out more about Susan's work on her website.


Genevieve Flynn

2nd Place, Hollowware/Art Objects

Jeweler and hollowware artist Genevieve Flynn won second place in the Hollowware/Art Objects category of the 2015 Saul Bell Design Awards for her elegantly crafted teapot. She shared a little more about her background and her work with us.

Tell us how you became a jeweler.

After being out of high school for two years and working in the secretary field, I decided that I was ready to go to college. I had taken some ongoing silversmithing classes and the instructor suggested that I look into classes at a trade school called the Kansas City School of Watchmaking. Evidently he felt that I had some talent, as I was interested in pursuing a career in archaeology and anthropology. I did take a year to attend the watchmaking school, which also taught jewelry skills and hand engraving. I landed a bench jeweler's job right out of school.

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Genevieve Flynn's silver teapot, titled "Ssssssumptuous Tea," won second place in the Hollowware/Art Objects category.
What inspired the shift from making jewelry to making hollowware?

Being trained as a goldsmith and working small presented its own challenges. After leaving the trade world, I continued to design and work with jewelry while making some "show" pieces in hollowware. I realized that my passion for hollowware surpassed the jewelry aspect.

At the time I was participating in the ACC shows, and interest was waning in buying a higher-end item in silver jewelry, as many new "jewelry" materials were being introduced into the craft world. Materials such as paper, glass and ceramics made it more difficult to sell a higher-end silver item. It was the start of people being able to buy a disposable or throw-away item. I felt, and still feel, that my pieces are collectables and are to be passed down to others who appreciate and love my work and processes.

I began to make hand mirrors, combs and vanity pieces and then pursued ceremonial items in both the Jewish and Christian religions. I had a great response and following with my fine, sterling silver Judaica, so I chose to do only Judaica items. After leaving the craft show world I really began exploring vessels and hollowware. I have only been making hollowware for the last four or five years.

What is the most challenging aspect of creating a piece of hollowware vs. a piece of jewelry?

Jewelry can be very challenging, but I find that what challenges me with the hollowware pieces is the process of putting the piece together.

What's the inspiration behind your winning piece?

I have always loved nature, which is shown in past and present pieces I have created. I had just finished another piece that had an ocean theme and thought it would be a nice challenge to incorporate my love of bugs with a snake idea.

What are you working on now?

I am in the process of finishing a contemporary teapot in brass along with a sterling silver form; I have not decided if it will be a teapot or a box.

What is your favorite part of making a new piece?

I love the process of making something. I am a self-taught artist, so drawing is not a strong suit of mine. However, I do a very basic drawing. I am a visual person, so I can see what it is I am making without a very detailed drawing.

What is the one tool you couldn't live without?

Chasing tools and pitch

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Genevieve's Sealife Vessal is made of copper and embellished with sterling silver.
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Genevieve accepts her Saul Bell Award from Alan Bell, the president of Rio Grande and one of the sons of Saul Bell, the jeweler who the award was created to honor.
If you could only wear one piece of jewelry for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I have a beautiful repoussé bracelet that was just finished. It would have to be that until I sell it! I don't have any problem with letting go of my pieces at this point in my life as I truly enjoy the fact that people wear my work or display it in their homes.

You're also an instructor. What do you enjoy about teaching?

I enjoy the satisfaction that students walk away with from believing in themselves. From believing that they ARE creative and that they can do anything that they put their minds to.

What is your greatest extravagance?

At the present time it would have to be to be able to pick out items/materials from the Rio Grande catalogue that will allow me the joy of working on a new creation!

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Much of Genevieve's hollowware features chased and repoussed elements depicting forms found in nature, which is a common source of inspiration for her.
Describe your bench or studio.

My studio is a warm and inviting place to work within. I have a door that leads to my garden and pond. My bench is situated by a corner of southwest windows that are shaded by a 100-year-old silver maple tree and an equally old pine oak tree. It is only 400 square feet, if that, of working space adjoined with a separate polishing room and sink area. Everyone who comes in comments on how welcoming the studio is. I love it!

What does it mean to you to win the Saul Bell Award?

This is such an important award to me because I started entering competitions and exhibitions a year ago. I had been dormant in the art world for 15 years as I was teaching classes. It was time for me to break out of that mode and be creative again. This award has been a springboard for me in inspiration and an ego boost!

You can see more of Genevieve's work at


Kate Hubley

2nd Place, Silver

Kate Hubley's jewelry-making techniques revolve around challenge and innovation, which led her to win second place in the ilver/Argentium® Silver Saul Bell Design Award competition in 2015. Her winning necklace, "MagiSphere Concept," is a piece of two fold design, which has a pendant that can be worn collapsed or collected into a neat circular locket. The name itself speaks to her futuristic and inventive methods of creation. We were able to get to know Kate a bit more and learn of her daring dive into becoming a full-time jeweler.

Kate Hubley Winning Piece
Kate's winning necklace can be worn in multiple ways.
Kate Hubley Winning Piece
When open, the necklace becomes a longer, swinging chain.
What led you to become a jeweler?

Firstly, I am a raven. I have always been drawn to shiny things. Even more, I have always been fascinated by the stories behind the jewelry people wear. My actual journey as a jeweler is little meandering.

I am an ad girl, working as a writer in Montreal's fast-paced advertising world for the past 20 years, but jewelry design has always been a huge part of my life. I took my first class at NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) with Charles Lewton-Brain (cool, right?) in the '80s while I was struggling through computer science and accounting at university. Quit that! Moved to Montreal to do my BA in translation and ended up doing a two-year apprenticeship with a local designer.

After I finished my MA, I kept exploring design and went to jewelry school evenings and/or weekends, mostly at L'École de Joaillerie de Montréal (Montreal Jewelry School) I always had a studio in my home.

Three years ago, I decided that I had to break up with advertising and focus all of my energy on my one true love: jewelry. So, I took the leap from the super secure to the vast unknown, and here I am today—pretty happy with my decision.

Describe your bench.

My bench is a little fancy. It was custom-built with love by a long-lost friend and cabinet-maker, and it has a lot of design details that are perfectly "me." For example, I have two catch drawers—one for metal, one for wax—because I am always switching back and forth. The storage drawers are upcycled from a weird and wonky piece of furniture I got an auction.

Mostly, my bench is my happy place, a place of design and technical breakthroughs. This is where I meditate and challenge myself, away from everyday distractions.

And, truth be told, it's a little bit messy. But, I'm working on that.)

Kate Hubley
Kate Hubley
What does "great design" mean to you?

"There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations." - Mark Twain

Great design is all about the extra turn you give to a concept, and that turn has to engage or fascinate the viewer or wearer. It also has to push some boundaries to make it memorable, and have depth, balance and beauty.

What motivates you to spend hours working at your jeweler's bench?

I am stubborn. Jewelry design involves a lot of engineering, architecture and even some chemistry. I usually start with an idea and try to figure out how I am going to do it, which often means researching and learning. I can't remember the last time I made something I knew how to do before I sat down to create. Bringing an idea to life is indescribably rewarding, especially if it is loaded with challenges.

What does winning the Saul Bell Design Award mean to you?

Where do I begin? Designers create in virtual isolation (at least I do), and to have my work recognized by a distinguished panel of judges is beyond an honor. It has put such wind in my sails and opened up new horizons. Not to mention all the amazing people I have met over the past few months thanks to this competition. Quite life-changing.

What is your favorite part of making a new piece of jewelry? How do you feel about making custom-order pieces for clients?

I love coming up with a concept that is beyond mere aesthetics. I guess this is where jewelry-making evolves from a technical discipline to a full-on art form. This emotional investment is something that I share with clients who ask for custom or commissioned work, and the sharing is reciprocal because they are asking me to be part of an important moment or commemoration in their lives.

Describe your jewelry design style in three words.

Playful, elegant, conceptual.


Jennifer Park

1st Place, Enamel

"Streaming Turquoise," a layered enamel piece designed and created by Jennifer Park, won first place in the enamel category at the 2015 Saul Bell Design Awards. All of Jennifer's works, as part of her Wear Ever Jewelry brand, draw discernable, visual connections to the sacred, safe, natural elements of the world. This ranges from streaming aqua rivers to representations of playful-looking tigers. We were given the opportunity to discuss the journey of how she became the award-winning artist that she is today. In her responses, you can see that Park has developed a nuanced and inspiring concept of what jewelry means to her.

How did you become a jeweler?

I was a graphic designer for 25 years and it became very computerized. I wanted to work with my hands again, so I was very attracted to jewelry techniques where metal was manipulated by hammering, sawing, and using fire.

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Jennifer Park's 'Streaming Turquoise' brooch won first place in the enamel category of the Saul Bell Design Award competition. It consists of cloisonné enamel set in 22K gold with turquoise and diamonds.
What is it about nature that inspires you?

I am visually drawn to line and color and that translates very well to cloisonné enameling. I love to draw, so many of my pieces incorporate undulating lines and swirls. My color palette has been jewel tones in purple, fuchsia, turquoise, yellow, and green, many of the colors found in flowers. Earth tones don't really work for me.

Your 2012 Saul Bell Design Award piece has a much different aesthetic than your 2015 piece; can you shine some light on this shift in style?

I love the bright, bold colors that I can achieve with the leaded Japanese and French enamels, but while working on my Master's thesis from 2010-2012, I started thinking of jewelry as amuletic—protective elements that are worn on the body. I wanted to use enamel to create portable, protected, spiritual spaces. In my more recent works, matte opaque black enamel surrounds glossy, transparent colored enamel, creating little windows into beautifully clear and serene spaces.

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Jennifer at her bench.
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Jennifer's sketchbook.
Would you be able to elaborate more on how you think of jewelry as "amuletic—protective elements that are worn on the body?"

There is a very long history in virtually all cultures historically of wearing amulets, usually necklaces worn on the body that provide protection for the wearer. In many religions, there has been the practice for pilgrims to carry with them portable altars or pictures of saints. The altars are portable sanctuaries to be carried with the pilgrim on his journey. Carrying a picture of a saint on your journey was another way to gain the protection of the saint. I am using enamel to create a small space that is sacred to me to fortify my journey in life. The opaque black enamel is similar to a rock or fortress, and that surrounds transparent enamel representing a beautiful, light and safe space.

This concept is kind of an umbrella that guides many of my significant works. Often, I am inspired by beautiful flowers and wildlife that I abstract into my own little drawings, which are then translated into enamel. The abundance of great photos of plants and animals on the web provides a wealth of source material for me.

What piece of advice would you offer someone who has never done cloisonné before?

Be prepared to be patient, because cloisonné involves a lot of steps. I like to plan my design beforehand because it's a lot of work if you don't know what you want it to look like. Make test samples because it is very hard to remove color from a piece. Don't be discouraged if you make mistakes because that is how you learn to do it better the next time.

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An enamel and gold ring by Jennifer.
What has "design" come to mean to you? What defines great design?

Good design should balance elements of color, line, texture, and composition. But a great design to me is one that reaches my emotions, makes me feel something about it. It might be awe-inspiring or breathtaking. It may remind me of something. Often it will make me think, "that's clever; I wish I had thought of that." A great design has a purpose.

Describe your bench.

My bench has a lot of paper towels that contain different projects in progress. I think if it's on the paper towel it won't get lost (not necessarily true). For me, making art is a multi-step process. I have an idea and get started, and then I often need to set it aside (on a paper towel) for a day, a month, or longer to give my unconscious mind time to confirm my plan for the next step. When I rush to complete something, I might end up taking it apart later.


Sandra McEwen

2nd Place, Enamel

Sandra McEwen brings playful, magical stories into the world through her jewelry. The storybook imagery she portrays, combined with her immaculate attention to detail, creates a compelling dichotomy of fun and fine art. McEwen was awarded second place in the enamel category at the 2015 Saul Bell Design Awards. Her piece is titled "Empress Theodora" and has a regal, dignified nature. When making her jewelry, color, light, and balance sit at the forefront of McEwen's mind. She works in both the abstract and the figurative, and we had the opportunity to ask her about how she came to develop her unique style.

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Sandra McEwen's "Empress Theodora" necklace won second place in the Enamel category of this year's Saul Bell Design Award competition.
Your degree is in illustration, which is represented in your jewelry. How did you move into creating wearable art?

I was never all that comfortable with illustration. To be honest, I only majored in it because my parents wanted me to have some sort of employable skill. (And being a children's book illustrator was all the rage back then, so it seemed like a fine idea.)

Don't get me wrong, I love drawing and sketching! But I also love actually making/building things. I think it's because my Dad's an engineer. In my senior year of college, I took a stained glass class and just loved it. After graduation, I did a three-month apprenticeship in leaded glass restoration in Italy, and it was just glorious. I especially loved painted panels with rich colors that told whole narratives in each panel.

I focused on the leaded glass for a couple of years, but I found my pieces getting smaller and smaller. Stained glass is a very public art, and I wanted to make something that was more personal and private. Then one day, I stumbled into a cloisonné enamel class and that was it for me. It was my total "aha!" moment. Seriously, within a week, I packed up all my stained glass stuff, got myself a little kiln (that I still use) and just went to town with it. Never looked back.

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One of Sandra's etched brass plates, which she is embossing on the back of some of her pieces.
What is the one jewelry-making tool you couldn't live without?

You and I both know that jewelry-making and special, ridiculous tools that only do one tiny thing each go hand in hand. That minor rant aside, it would be sort of hard to do my enamels without a kiln. Or my brain. (Should have led with brain.)

What does "design" mean to you? What defines great design?

I suppose that good design would be the most elegant solution to a difficult problem.

Your pieces seem to have specific origins or backgrounds; where do you find your inspiration comes from?

I read a lot: history, biographies, sci-fi and fantasy. I love looking at ancient and medieval art and sculpture and all that. For example, the unicorn necklace I just finished was inspired by the Unicorn Tapestries in the Cloisters Museum in Paris. Of course, I loved the lady and unicorn, but all the little animals nestled in the greenery really captivated me—they were so charming.

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Sandra's unicorn necklace
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Vivid colors and imagery, as seen in her Fox pendant, define Sandra's work.
You work is so colorful and upbeat; it is imbued with happiness. What's the figuratively darkest piece you've ever made?

My darkest piece ever? I tried to be all dark and arty in college, but it didn't work out all that well. I did a lot of pretentious comic art with lots of inky shadows, but I don't know if it was all that dark.

Who has had the greatest impact on your work?

Probably my husband, Warren. He's always been good at focusing on the task at hand, quelling that little nay-saying voice in your head and just going for it. I've learned that skill from him. Also, he's a great sounding board for ideas and has been incredibly supportive of my artistic goals.

Describe your bench.

If you looked at my bench, you would think I was a neat and tidy person. But, that is not true! My bench is well organized because when I first started out, I only had a 4 x 5 foot space to work in, so I got in the habit of keeping things very well organized. Every hour or so while I'm working, I stop and play the "what don't I need?" game and just put back all the tools I'm done with. I've got a ginormous studio now, but I'm in the habit of keeping things just so.

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Sandra at her bench.
I noticed the blog on your website has very detailed pictures and explanations of how you put your works together. Can you tell me why you began doing this?

I'm pretty much self taught, jewelry wise. When I was starting out, there wasn't a whole lot of info out there, and I had to figure a lot out on my own through trial and error. There's also a sense among some artists that if they share their process, people will just start copying their work and stealing their ideas. I know it happens, and that definitely sucks. But, I also worry that if we don't share the process and get other artists, especially younger ones, excited about the craft, it'll just be gone. New technologies are exciting; I get that. Maybe in a generation all jewelry will be made with 3D printers and that's fine (Ugh. It's not.), but I hope that a few people will still want to explore more traditional techniques.

I remember hearing a story about granulation (and this story could totally be wrong). It was super popular for a thousand years, but then around the turn of the century, they developed all these new modern jewelry tools and processes, and the ancient technique for granulation was lost. No one living knew how it was made. Someone had to use science and microscopes and whatnot to try to figure out the process. It would be such a shame to lose techniques just because new and quicker and easier tools come along.

What are you up to now?

I just finished up the unicorn necklace. It's fine silver granulation (my first granulation!), and I had it plated with 24K gold vermeil at Red Sky. I'm also working on making settings for several cloisonné pieces I finished earlier this year. They are pretty simple, but I wanted to tell a little story on the back of the piece, so I etched brass plates and then embossed them onto the reverse.


Kathleen Nowak Tucci

1st Place, Alternative Metals/Materials

Kathleen Nowak Tucci's recycled jewelry embraces a rebellious spirit. It defies traditional notions of what fine jewelry is supposed to be, instead inviting us to consider a new (and delightful) vision of what it can be. Her innovative use of materials (her winning piece was constructed almost entirely of recycled Nespresso™ coffee pods), the scale of her pieces, and the playful spirit behind her collections are as liberating as they are unexpected.

Kathleen's jewelry has been featured on the cover of Italian Vogue, as well as in Marie Claire, Ornament, Art Jewelry and many other magazines. We sat down with her to learn a little more about her work and her winning piece.

Tell us how you became a jeweler. What do you most love about it?

I think of myself more as an artist than a jeweler. The pieces I make are art pieces that can be worn. I can't imagine not being an artist. Even while I started my studies at university in computer science, I always had a creative project going on the side.

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"The Hummingbird Necklace" won first place in the Alternative Metals/Materials category in the Saul Bell Design Award competition.
Do you see any connection between your work as an artist and your background in computer science?

I believe that art and science are very close cousins. In the end they are both mostly about problem solving. I tend to approach my work very analytically. I envision the finished pieces and then figure out the steps needed to accomplish the work. Of course things don't always go as planned and either more analysis is needed or another direction is taken. I experiment often and have a studio full of failures. I usually don't throw them away because months or even years later I look at them and figure out what is needed to make them into good pieces.

What is the difference between art and jewelry to you? Where do the two intersect?

I feel that I make art to wear. My work is not an accent to an outfit; it is the outfit. It's the main focal point, much like a work of art on a wall. I try to elevate body art from mere decoration to the level of fine art. To do that I take in consideration color theory, design, artistic expression and wearability.

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Kathleen Nowak Tucci
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your winning piece?

A friend of mine saw a photo of a fiery-throated hummingbird and sent it me with a note that said: "This reminds me of your jewelry." I saw what she saw—the colors of the hummingbird's feathers, the shape of the feathers … it all looked like pieces of the aluminum Nespresso™ coffee capsule that I was experimenting with in my studio. Arranging the crimped, colored aluminum into a necklace that would have pieces overlap was an engineering challenge I enjoyed.

You work with a lot of unexpected materials. Do you have a favorite?

I like working in recycled bicycle and motorcycle inner tubes because of the rubber's properties of flexibility, strength, and being so lightweight. But I also have really enjoyed working with the bright metallic colors of the Nespresso coffee capsules. It's nice to work with color after only working in black for so long.

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A brooch in Kathleen's Nespresso™ pod series
Where does your desire to work with recycled materials stem from?

The inner tubes have great properties and they are readily available. They are, however, quite labor intensive to prepare, from gathering them at the bike shops to sorting, cleaning, and buffing. But it is so nice to work in a medium that I feel I can freely experiment in and not worry about the cost of wasting materials.

Do you have a favorite bench tool?

I don't have a traditional jeweler's bench; I have a motley assortment of tables and workbenches. I prefer to have my work at a comfortable level and my materials and tools within reach.

As for tools, it's hard to pick just one, but I guess I'd have to say nothing beats a really good pair of pliers. I particularly like Swanstrom pliers because they fit my hands so well and I can work all day with them and not have hand fatigue. I've learned you get what you pay for when it comes to tools, and that it is best to invest in good ones.

Who has had the greatest impact on your work?

I think growing up in a house with a mother who was very creative was impactful. She is one of the most creative people I know. Growing up she made all of the clothing, including my father's suits, for a family of seven. My favorite article of clothing she made was a dress with long silky white fringe for the sleeves. My mother truly can make something beautiful out of nothing. Both my mother and father instilled a very strong work ethic. It doesn't matter how artistically talented you are, to be a successful artist you have to put in endless hours into your pieces.

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A necklace and pair of earrings in Kathleen's Nespresso™ pod series
16. What does "design" mean to you? What defines great design?

I work with materials that are not usually found in jewelry and that pushes my designs. I love it when people are trying to figure out what my piece is made from or how I did something.

My pieces are designed from the inside out, which means I know what the general finished shape will be, but then I set about designing the interior structure and working my way out to the edges of the piece.

I think pieces of jewelry with great design have all sides thought out, all components work perfecting, and they wear well. I make art jewelry that excites me and is fun, but I always also think about the weight of the piece, how it will drape on the body, what it will sound like when it moves and whether it is comfortable.

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A necklace and pair of earrings in Kathleen's Nespresso™ pod series
Describe your bench or studio.

My entire house is my studio, much to my husband's chagrin. Slowly over time, each room gets converted into something new. What was a dining room is now the shipping department. The formal living room is my main working room, the spare bedroom houses inventory and supplies—I think you get the idea.

I like having my studio in my home. I work very long hours, and I tend to work late into the evening. It is also nice to check on my work throughout the day. I would not get near as much work done in a remote studio.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I'm experimenting with salt etching on aluminum. I'm also working on my new recycled rubber jewelry and Nespresso™ collection. I show my work twice a year in NYC during Fashion Market Week at the Atelier Designer's Show. Because I work in many mediums, including metal clay, there are always many projects in different stages of completion.

You can see more of Kathleen's work at


Sandy Mikel

2nd Place, Alternative Metals/Materials

The American poet Muriel Rukeyser is known for saying that "the universe is made of stories, not of atoms." Perhaps more than any other piece in the 2015 Saul Bell Design Award competition, Sandy Mikel's "Phases of the Moon" necklace tells us a story. It may not be apparent at first, but dig a little deeper, and you'll find the tale of one night encapsulated in the black water buffalo horn, rivets and moonstones of her winning necklace.

Sandy took the time to share a little more about the winning piece and her own story as a jeweler with us.

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your winning piece?

For a long time I wanted to make a necklace showing the phases of the moon, but I couldn't find a black material I was happy with for the sky. When I came across cut slabs of black water buffalo horn, I realized it was exactly what I needed and got to work. The design I came up with required two pieces of horn for each segment with a moonstone set between them in a beveled opening. I wanted to incorporate stars as well, so I decided to use silver rivets to connect the two pieces and place them where the stars would be for the night represented.

To select a specific date to base the necklace on, I asked myself what was the most memorable full moon I had ever seen. I knew immediately that it had to be the night I saw the space shuttle arching across the just risen full moon directly in front of me as I drove home from Gainesville, Florida on February 7, 2001.

Even though I live about 130 miles inland, any time the weather was clear across the state I could see shuttle launches from my front porch. I watched all the launches I could, but the rare coincidence of clear weather and a launch after sunset was something I really didn't want to miss. Unfortunately it looked like I wasn't going to get home in time, and since I was going to be even further west I wasn't optimistic about my chances of seeing anything. I was hurrying home hoping for enough of the usual short holds in the countdown when I came around a curve and saw the huge full moon directly in front of me with the shuttle rising over it. Luckily the road was straight, giving me a perfect view for as long as the shuttle was visible. I wish I had been able to get a picture so that I could show it to other people; I will always remember that sight.

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Sandy's "Phases of the Moon" necklace won second place in the 2015 Saul Bell Design Award competition.

The large silver rivet above the moonstone on the center segment of the necklace represents STS-98, and the rest of the rivets are stars in the sky at the different phases of the moon, starting on the clasp with the new moon on January 24, 2001. I used software from to see what stars would have been in the right part of the sky, but I did take the liberty of removing the Earth's atmosphere and selecting which stars to show based on aesthetic and structural needs. And yes, there is a moonstone on the clasp, but it's the new moon so you can't see it.

You work with a lot of unexpected materials, including the black water buffalo horn you used in your winning piece. What draws you to them?

I think what usually interests me is the texture and pattern of a material, the variations and imperfections. If you start with the idea that jewelry can be made out of almost anything you like, you notice materials everywhere. I keep my eyes open for anything that appeals to me. As long as it's not too large, heavy, or fragile, I figure I'll eventually find a way to use it. Sometimes that means using the material or object as the starting point of a design; other times, if I have an idea that I can't quite work out, I just pull out a bunch of different materials and see what clicks.

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Made of bronze clay from a mold of a dead beetle she found, this pendant typifies Sandy's use of found materials and her affection for ancient- and organic-looking pieces.
Who has had the greatest impact on your work?

The fact that I even have any work is probably due in large part to The Splendor of Ethnic Jewelry, France Borel and John Bigelow Taylor's book documenting the Colette and Jean-Pierre Ghysels collection. I came across it when I was first starting to work with metal clay, and it was a revelation about what jewelry is and can be. You can't look at a photograph of ear ornaments made from beetle wing cases, seeds, and toucan feathers and not realize there may be possibilities that you haven't considered.

Tell us how you became a jeweler.

I think of myself as an accidental jewelry artist and a reluctant metalsmith. I enjoyed fiber crafts like knitting, quilting, and weaving. I loved working with wood. But I never even thought about making jewelry and couldn't see how anyone would want to work with metal. As an owner of an old house, my experiences with metal involved work hardened copper wiring, recalcitrant plumbing, and metal plaster lath that shreds knuckles—all very useful and necessary … but not very enticing.

My epiphany came in the library when I saw a book on metal clay. Intrigued by the idea of being able to actually shape metal with my hands, I took a few minutes to glance through it and thought: "Wow, I could do this!"

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Ancient jewelry influences much of Sandy's work. This metal clay necklace was inspired by a Bronze Age necklace from the 2nd millennium B.C

I read through the book and started thinking about the possibilities but didn't pursue it until I saw a metal clay class being offered by the Santa Fe College community education program. The opportunity to have someone show me how this stuff worked was too good to pass up, and six weeks of classes was enough to get me hooked.

As time passed I found myself working unnecessarily hard at doing things with metal clay that could be done more quickly and easily with traditional metalsmithing techniques. As much as working with metal clay had made me appreciate the material, I was still less than enthusiastic about the idea of sawing, filing, and soldering, but I finally had to acknowledge that it was time to broaden my range of skills.

I signed up for an excellent jewelry construction class offered in the community education program, and it gave me a good introduction to basic skills and techniques. Because the instructor, Dieter Dohrmann, is so patient and willing to share his expertise, I have been able to return to that class as a way to work on specific skills, focusing each session on whatever I feel the least comfortable doing in a setting where I can get the help and advice I need. Feeling comfortable mixing materials and techniques in whatever way seems best gives me a lot more freedom in design.

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Sandy's bench, which she describes as "controlled chaos."
Do you have a favorite technique or process?

I really like working with a hammer, fold-forming and forging, but I also like etching, maybe because they're all processes that add dimension.

You mentioned wanting to make "ancient and organic looking things" when you started working with metal clay. Does that desire still underpin your work?

Yes, I think that's still where much of my work comes from. I sometimes base my designs on examples of ancient jewelry. Shortly after I started working with bronze, I came across an article on ancient scripts that have not yet been deciphered. I have incorporated examples of them into much of my work. The ten scripts span four continents and over 3,000 years and are dramatically diverse in style, so they provide many design opportunities. When I use bronze and copper clay I have the additional advantage of being able to tear or break pieces before firing to create fragments of text with a more realistic aged and distressed look than I could achieve otherwise. And while much of my work is "organic" in a general sense, involving natural materials and texture, I have also incorporated leaves and vines into a lot of my designs, as well as the occasional insect.

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Named "Counterpiece," this necklace is made of bronze clay with Proto-Elamite script, carved mammoth fossil ivory and lava rock.
What is your favorite part of making a new piece of jewelry?

What I really enjoy about making jewelry is that it requires working with your brain in a creative way to imagine a piece, working in a more precise and analytical way to design and engineer the piece, and working with your hands to create the piece. The best part is when all that comes together and the idea becomes a design, and the design becomes the actual piece of jewelry you imagined.


Ivy Solomon

1st Place, Metal Clay

Ivy Solomon is a three-time Saul Bell Design Award winner: 2004, 2006, and now 2015. Her winning metal clay creations have had a similar aesthetic stringing them together over the years, a deceptively simple, colorful, playful sentiment. This style blossoms in her 2015 "Good Fortune" pin with deeper colors and stricter lines. This piece won first place in the Metal Clay category this year. Her development as an artist is compelling, and we wanted to know more.

Have you worked in mediums outside of metal clay before? What made you choose to perfect this medium?

Yes. As a maker I have explored many mediums including but not limited to clay, wood, fabric, and food! Metal clay, however, has the unique ability of quickly capturing details, fine details, from surfaces like antique buttons and patterned silver-plate pieces, as well as textures found in nature (leaves, concrete, rocks, etc.).

This allows me to bring images, textures and graphics together from different sources to create a piece of jewelry. I recall that I would put together many clothing patterns to create an article of clothing that I didn't find in the ready-made world. I would also mix different patterned fabrics together. I really enjoy this sort of alchemy.

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Ivy's Solomon's winning metal clay brooch is made of sterling silver, PMC+ and colored epoxy resin.
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Another piece in Ivy's "noshi"-inspired collection.
Your works often incorporate nature. Tell us more about how and why nature influences you.

Nature has long influenced many artists, and I incorporate many images produced by other artists. I am intrigued by the overlap of nature and geometry. The structure and divisions found, for instance, in flowers and leaves is mesmerizing to me. I look to nature for natural color palettes as well as balancing color placement.

What is your conceptual process for designing your work?

I enter the design process through many different doors. I might start with an image and that becomes the focus. Many antique buttons call to my mind, a mandala, or a round cathedral window. I have also started with a structure/outline and then searched for images to enhance it or began a story for the wearer/viewer to continue. Starting with a color palette is another way I begin work. Images such a leaves fill a green area, roses fill a red area, blue fills an area that might be water or the sky.

The "Good Fortune" pin appears to be inspired by Japanese tradition; is this correct?

Yes, the "Good Fortune" pin was inspired by the Japanese artistic motif that represents noshi. Noshi are long dried strips of abalone that are gathered in the middle. When they are attached to a gift, it is considered a token of good fortune. The Japanese artists would also interpret the strips as patterned kimono fabric.

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Ivy at her bench.
How did you come across the concept of noshi?

One of the books I have is called Symbols of Japan Thematic Motifs in Art and Design, written by Merrily Baird. It is a lovely, informative book that I peruse from time to time. I had come across noshi a few years ago and only this past year figured out a way to interpret it in my work.

The pieces that you won the Saul Bell Design Award with in 2004 and 2006 are lighter, quaint and homey, if you will. Would you agree? What do you think sparked the transition into the intricate depth of this year's 'Good Fortune' pin?

Yes, I agree. I developed my technique in 2002. I experimented for about a year. The 2004 and 2006 pieces would be considered early pieces. I have been drawn to the fine details I see in antique items and sought out pieces that I could use in my work. My skill level has also increased, allowing me to present more precisely these intricate details and more colors in my pieces.

What advice do you have for an individual who wants to pursue metal clay?

Metal clay is a versatile material. Find the thing about it that you love. For me, it has been the fine details that it can capture. Experiment. Pose "what if" questions for yourself, and then answer them. Repeat until you find a path. Then, follow.

What is your greatest fear?

In terms of my work, it would have to be that I have a wonderful idea and not have the ability to realize it.

Has the meaning of being a Saul Bell Design winner changed at all for you over the years, from '04 to '06 to now?

Not really. I have always considered winning the Saul Bell award as a tremendous honor. Being a Saul Bell winner has been a confidence builder, and the recognition for my work is uplifting. Winning this award has been and will always be a touchstone for me.


Holly Gage

2nd Place, Metal Clay

Holly Gage's relationship with creating art is unique, personal, and deep. For her, it is a means to convey a language, a feeling, or an idea. Holly feels more comfortable working in an artistic medium than she does with the English language because of strong visual-spatial abilities.

Her work has been featured in more than 50 publications and she has authored multiple articles on the art of metal clay. She also offers a plethora of ways to teach and share the talent she has developed since her childhood, including workshops and mentoring programs. We were given the opportunity to delve deeper into her artistic experience following the 2015 Saul Bell Design Awards, where she won Second Place in the Metal Clay category for the "Je T'aime–Dual Flame" necklace.

We love how you write on your website that "the need to create is essential." How long have you felt this way?

Probably since I was a kid. Creating art and objects has always been the way I communicate to the world. From the after-school clubs to jobs and jewelry apprenticeships, I have always taken on activities where my hands did the talking. As a dyslexic it has been my most accurate and gratifying form of communication.

My best self is the one who is creating for self-expression, for others, teaching others how to use their creative voice to communicate. This form of interaction and connection with materials and people is an important way of sharing. It is personal and meaningful for me, and hopefully the other person.

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Holly Gage's necklace, 'Je T'Aime-Dual Flame,' tells the story of passion and love as two dancers emerge from a flower blossom in the final act of their dance. It won second place in the Metal Clay category of the competition.
Your words and works have been published in numerous books and articles. How important to you is teaching and sharing your metal clay knowledge?

Transferring knowledge has tremendous meaning for me because, as I teach and transfer a new vocabulary of techniques and design skills, the students often reveal something new about themselves that, together, we are discovering for the first time. People gravitate toward my classes not only to learn new techniques, but also to learn a new way to express themselves. Being the facilitator of that process is fun and exciting, especially when you bare witness to the "ah-ha!" moments.

Your "Empowerment" collection is so different from the Je t'aime – Dual Flame necklace. Where do you find such diverse inspiration to create varying styles?

As I explain to my students, different lines of jewelry represent the different facets of your personality. I can be serious, funny, romantic, silly, political, etc. Each line of jewelry represents those different aspects of my personality. Je t'aime represents romance and love; it fits in a line of jewelry using dance as a metaphor for the love and vulnerability in a relationship.

The Empowered Goddess collection, on the other hand, has beautifully sculptural and colorful pieces of titanium in them. The titanium, named after the Greek gods for its mighty strength, usually inspires the goddesses' story.

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Another piece in Holly's collection depicting dancers.

I'll sketch around the piece of titanium, trying to bring her story and her personality to life. By studying and understanding what body gestures suggest, I pose the titanium in a setting to help the viewer see what I see—a powerful woman, a sea goddess, or a Greek goddess. By creating a setting and environment, the story is completed. Most of my goddess pieces possess powers I wish I had. By wearing the necklace, a woman can feel empowered to take on those traits and be invincible.

Are there any special techniques in metal clay that you used in your winning piece?

Repoussé Effects in Metal Clay is a technique I developed in 2005. I named it as such because it loosely echoes the process and look one would achieve in traditional repoussé and chasing work.

Obviously, a moldable metal will not act the same as sheet metal. Instead of pitch, I wet work a reverse mold in polymer clay. Instead of hammering sheet metal supported by the pitch, I tamp the moldable metal with a tamping tool into the mold.

To create the details in the sheet metal, it is flipped over and worked on the front side with chasing tools. I too flip the piece over and develop the details with various tools. The two are quite different, yet I feel a synergy in the processes.

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Holly Gage
What advice do you have for someone just starting out in metal clay?

Take a class from a person with passion, someone who is patient and loves getting people hooked on Metal Clay, someone with infectious enthusiasm, someone who will have you addicted like it is a drug.

Research and find an instructor who knows what they are doing and teaches in a style that matches your goals. A good teacher with a good reputation can teach you good, sound practices to expedite the learning curve and take you on the fast track to success.


Lisa Krulasik

First Place, Emerging Jewelry Artist

Lisa Krulasik was awarded first place in the Emerging Jewelry Artist category of the Saul Bell Design Award this year. Her piece, "Hollow Brooch," represents complexity in simplicity, a balanced experimentation in geometry. Krulasik spent her adolescence working with colored pencil, pastel, 3D sculpture, and a variety of other mediums. She is a recent convert to the jewelry-making industry, but she's already making waves.

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Lisa Krulasik's 'Hollow Brooch' won first place in the Emerging Jewelry Artist category of the 2015 competition.
When did art first come into your life?

My parents have told me that I was very creative ever since I was a little child. I would make architectural models and doodle all the time, even if it was not always on paper and instead was on the walls of my home, conveniently behind furniture. People would always say I had a great eye for color and told my parents to never let me lose my creativity. I never really thought I had any artistic talent until my freshman year of high school at The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica Estates, Queens, New York. There, I started off taking the regular studio art class. Towards the end of my freshman year, my teacher, Mrs. Durkin, asked me if I would be interested in becoming an art major. This would allow me to continue taking art classes for the next three years of high school. I was surprised and honored, so of course I agreed.

My sophomore year, I was in drawing, and I fell in love with Prismacolor colored pencils and pastels. Junior year I was in painting, and I used watercolor and acrylic paints for the first time. Towards the end of my junior year, I was asked to be a part of AP studio art program for my senior year, which of course I accepted. I also was lucky enough to take sculpture my senior year as well, which opened the doors to 3D design.

Throughout my time at The Mary Louis Academy, I learned so much about art and myself. I never would have thought that I would have such a "hidden talent," as Mrs. Durkin called it, and I knew I was doing something right when I was awarded for my art during those four years. I applied to four colleges, all for art, and chose Pratt Institute. I went to Pratt MWP for illustration, which changed to painting, and then finally changed to jewelry within my first two years there. Now here I am.

In your opinion, does your age influence how others perceive your work?

From the reactions I have received after being a finalist and then winning the Saul Bell Design Award, I think people are surprised that I am so young and that I only have two years of jewelry making experience under my belt. I wanted to be an architect from age five to when I was a freshman in high school. My sophomore year of high school, I fell in love with chemistry and started studying to be a chemical engineer. But, my senior year of high school, when I was applying to colleges to study chemical engineering, something clicked and I wanted to see what would happen if I went to art school. Sure, it was a terrifying few months not knowing if I would get in, and my 10 year plan was going out the window, but I wanted to prove to myself and others that you do not have to be a scientist, engineer, politician, etc. to "be someone." You can be someone by following your true passion and heart. And that is exactly what I did.

Now I am slowly finding myself, but I love being surprised by what my life has to offer. And, I love surprising people with my "hidden talents," whether they are science and math related or art related. I love seeing people's faces when I show them something I made. It brings so much pride and happiness to my heart when I can change someone's life in anyway.

How did you come to master hollowware sculpture?

I am very flattered but I do not think of myself as a "master" quite yet. I definitely do enjoy making hollowware sculpture pieces. They are always a challenge but give you so much pride and happiness when complete. Over time I will make fewer and fewer mistakes along the way, maybe then I will be considered a master.

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The copper and brass components of Lisa's winning brooch were die cut and then soldered together.
What is one jewelry-making tool you couldn't live without?

This is such a tough question. Of course the basic tools with the widest range of workability are very important, but if I had to pick one tool, I would have to go with my jeweler's saw. Almost every piece starts with a sheet of metal and a saw. There are countless things you can do with your metal once it is cut out, but the first step is always a sharpie outline and your saw blade.

What defines great design to you?

A great design is very well balanced. Whether through the forms or materials used, there is a harmony throughout the piece that keeps your eye moving and your mind guessing.

Describe your bench.

My bench is in my small personal studio and is my sanctuary. Every tool and material has a "home," and when I think of my studio, I instantly get very happy. I love walking into my studio with a cup of coffee, turning on my old, beat up MacBook to either play music or Netflix, and getting to work. My bench is where I can think, problem solve, get away, and create.

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An unfinished component in Lisa's winning brooch.
What does winning the Saul Bell Design Award mean to you?

Winning the Saul Bell Design Award is the biggest honor I have received to date. I am still in awe that this happened to me, but I am so incredibly thankful to everyone involved. I think winning this award showed me that I have a talent making jewelry and that I should stick to it and keep going.

What are you working on now?

Right now I am working on my BFA Jewelry Thesis. I need to make at least fifteen major pieces for my show, which is opening spring of 2016. To keep things still under wraps, I am going to be combining my love for structural, man-made geometry with nature's geometry found in reptiles, specifically. I will also be working on making a piece for my next Saul Bell entry. So keep an eye out!


Elly Cernohorsky

2nd Place, Emerging Jewelry Artist

Elly Cernohorsky is a recent graduate from The Central Institute of Technology, Perth, and was awarded second place in the Emerging Artist category of the 2015 Saul Bell Design Award competition. She began working in the arts as a child drawing on the walls. In high school, she focused on wood design. She gained an interest in jewelry design after a family friend recommended it to her and has since proven her skills in the craft.

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Elly's bracelet, titled "The Pinnacles of Ha Long Bay," won second place in the Emerging Jewelry Artist category. The blue enamel component in the center spins, allowing the wearer to interact with the piece.
When did art first come into your life?

Art has always been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. It was a memorable part of my childhood; I was always drawing or painting or making something with my hands. And I can still remember drawing all over my newly painted bedroom door in bright crayons when I was 2 years old … oops.

Do you have a favorite technique/ process?

Enameling for sure. I love the colors and effects I can achieve with it and how I can express mood and meaning with different applications of the glass. Enamel has quite a vast range of techniques, and I would like to travel and continue my studies alongside world-renowned enamelers.

What defines great design to you?

Great design to me is pushing the boundaries and creating something new and innovative. A well-designed piece/product has been completely thought out and executed in a way that reflects the passion of the artist.

Describe your bench.

My bench is my favorite place; I can be as creative and as messy as I like!

Has there been a single person in your life that has influenced your work in an irreversible/unchangeable way?

I actually can't pick one person … Claire Townsend and Philip Noakes are the owners of the school I attend, Contemporary Metal, and I met them when I first started studying jewelry at TAFE. I remember how engaging and enjoyable they made their classes, which is why I am still studying with them today. They have supported me from the start and are the reason why I have had the opportunities I've had. Their work is quite different in style, and I love aspects of both their designs, which have been influential to my own work since day one.

What does winning the Saul Bell Design Award mean to you?

Placing second in the Saul Bell Design Awards this year was an amazing experience, and I am so happy I had the opportunity to come over for it. I met some amazing people and saw beautiful work, and I feel like the luckiest person to have been a part of it. It's really nice, when I am so passionate about what I do, to have my work recognized and appreciated by others, especially other jewelers.

What are you working on now?

Now, I'm working on the design for next year's Saul Bell Awards …

In your opinion, does your age influence how others perceive your work?

I feel like people are surprised sometimes that I am so content with what I do yet am still quite young. I think I am lucky to have found a potential career I love so much, straight out of school. I work hard and am passionate about what I do, and it's nice to have that recognized in competitions. However I understand that I still have limited experience in the jewelry industry and know that there is so much more to learn.


Ella Calas

3rd Place, Emerging Jewelry Artist

As one of the young individuals honored in the 2015 Saul Bell Design Award competition, Ella Calas represents the burgeoning youth that is the future of jewelry design. She placed third in the Emerging Artists category (which is reserved for jewelers 21 years of age and younger) for her piece, "Windows."

Ella studies art at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, where she expands upon her already impressive skills as a jeweler. We asked her a few questions about her development as an artist.

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Ella Calas' third-place winning piece, 'Windows,' is actually a jewelry set that includes a pair of earrings, a brooch and a ring (pictured here) with tube-set gemstones.
When did art first come into your life?

I can remember art always being a part of my life, but I remember specifically when I started middle school wanting to be a designer. I loved to draw so I did a lot of that. I took some classes in school and a couple of extra classes that kind of lead me in the direction I wanted to go.

Tell me about your education as an artist.

In high school, I was fortunate enough to have an intro jewelry class offered, which is where I got started working three dimensionally. Now, I am going to be a senior at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunities so far with my education. I have learned so much from my professors there.

Do you have a favorite technique/process?

Last semester I took a casting class; I am really interested in the combination of cast and fabricated pieces. I love that when modeling wax for casting it can be additive or subtractive depending on the way you want to handle it. You can go about the process in a more sculptural way. I am looking forward to doing more of it this semester.

Describe your bench.

My bench is generally unorganized. Once I get working I tend to lay out all of the tools I'm using, so it starts to get messy! I keep all of my files and small hand tools in holders on my desk. I have a torch and a small soldering station set up, and an old drill that was given to me.

Has there been a single person in your life that has influenced your work in an irreversible/unchangeable way?

I'm not sure if I can say a single person has, but many of my teachers have. My three metalsmithing professors at CCS have taught me so much, and my teacher in high school really allowed us to have freedom to just experiment with metal and jewelry making. If I hadn't had such a positive experience, then I'm not sure I would have continued on to study it in college. My professors at CCS have taught me to really focus on form, technique, craftsmanship and design. They have influenced me in numerous ways.

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Another of Ella's jewelry sets
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A few of Ella's sketches, which she uses as a guide to her designs.
What defines great design to you?

To me, great design can often be something that's simple or subtle. There is a focus on form and it's well thought out and functional. Maybe it illustrates a new take on something that has been done or referenced many times before.

In your opinion, does your age influence how others perceive your work?

I can see where my level of experience could influence how others perceive my work. I know that I have a lot to work on, but I feel that it's my passion. I can only hope to keep improving and learning.

What are you working on now?

Lately, I've been trying to work on some designs and renderings of earrings I want to make in the fall. I'd like to build my portfolio a little bit over the summer. Also, I'm working on a couple of small pendants and rings that were commissioned pieces.

What does winning the Saul Bell Design Award mean to you?

For me, placing in the Saul Bell Design award makes me feel confident that I am going in the right direction. I feel so grateful to be part of this opportunity! It's really exciting for me and it was a great chance to get my work out there.

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