Recently one of our favourite jewellery supply companies announced the finalists for in their annual design contest. The 15th Annual Saul Bell Design award, sponsored by Rio Grande, is named after the father of one of the owners of the company. If you are not familiar with the contest or Saul Bell, here is a lovely video explaining the history of the contest and a short biography of its namesake.
The mandate of the contest is clear, “We’re looking for an original vision, a fresh take on traditional methods and materials and a mastery of your craft. We want you to stretch the boundaries of your capabilities as a designer and as a jeweler.” (For more information about the contest and the judging please see their website.) Every year fellow artists enjoy seeing the finalists and guessing as to who is the winner. This year is no different, and so over the next few days we’ll present a brief selection of Q&A’s to the finalists in the metal clay category along with an image of their piece.
First up, we interview two time winner, Ivy Solomon. Yes that’s right–she has won twice in the metal clay category.
Her piece for this year is even more stunning than her past winning pieces. Growth in her talent and skills shows in her new work.
Creative Fire: How long have you worked in metal clay?
Ivy Solomon: I started working with metal clay around 1999 although I had heard about it a couple of years before. One of the first things I noticed about metal clay was it’s ability to capture fine detail.
Do you have a favorite? Do you have any favorite tools for metal clay?
PMC+ is the type I first started using and still use today. It does, beautifully, what I want it to do! I really haven’t tried any others.
Have you run into any trouble or obstacles working in metal clay? Have you worked with metals other than metal clay?
There was a short time when I was getting PMC+ that felt softer and seemed to be more moist than I was use to. I inquired about the formulation and they said nothing had changed. When the metal clay was soft/moist is was more difficult to get good impressions. After a while the new packages seemed to be okay. Not sure what happened. Now, sometimes, I still get packages that seem more moist and just working in my fingers dries it out a bit and then I can get my images crisp.
I work primarily with PMC+ to get my images and sterling silver sheet/wire to create the framework settings. Some of my pieces, that have an area cut out, will have 22k yellow gold accents.
Could you tell us more about your Saul Bell Award piece? What were your Inspirations? What techniques did you use in making this piece?
The Saul Bell piece was a personal challenge. The framework is asymmetrical as are the images inside. Making sure that they visually balanced and flowed was the first challenge. The metal clay inserts are small and thin, (one playing card) so, this was a physical challenge. Mixing and creating the resin color palette was the mental challenge. I wanted the 4 strips within the piece to have an individual personality and to harmonize with each other.
The “Good Fortune” brooch was inspired by the Japanese artistic motif which represents noshi (several long strips gathered in the middle). Noshi (dried strips of abalone) when attached to a gift is considered a token of good fortune.
Were you influenced by any other artists past and present?
Yes, the Japanese artist would often interpret the long strips as decorated kimono fabric. I use many images sourced from antique buttons and silver plated pieces and consider the artists that created them an inspiration. Many of them come from the Victorian-Art Deco period.
Do you have a secret technique to share with our readers?
One thing I would like to share is the mold making material that I use: Super Sculpey! (with Armour All as a mold release when making the mold). This material makes a nice rigid mold that is perfect for capturing fine details. The softer molds tend to blur the image.
Thank you Ivy for the interview!
And I think it is good luck to end an article with more beautiful images of jewellery. Here are two more recent metal clay and resin pieces by Ivy Solomon.