Gold has been a principal store of wealth and unsurpassed as an object of desire for the entirety of human history. Cultures have historically fashioned their treasures from gold. There may be no culture with access to gold that has not fashioned its treasures from it whether these treasures were of personal significance (in the case of engagement and weddings rings) or intended to express or reinforce the central religious tenets of the society.
Initiatives in Art and Culture’s Second Annual Gold Conference “GOLD: Vision, Value and Values,” taking place in New York City on April 12-13, showcases contemporary artists who make jewelry and beautiful objects with gold, as well as historical work and techniques. We are honored to have contemporary Italian goldsmith Giovanni Corvaja on the program; a master of intricate work and of transforming solid gold into webs, grids, and patterns Corvaja performs alchemy turning gold into simulacra of other substances such as fur, and into glorious contemporary adornments. Michael Good, another master goldsmith participating in the conference, developed the technique known as anticlastic raising which has its origins in the metal works of master goldsmith Heikki Seppa. The process involves forming a flat sheet into a compound curve, using simple hammers and stakes, so that it curves in two opposing directions like a saddle. A goldsmith and teacher since 1969, Good has expanded the definition of jewelry to include sculptural forms that are a natural extension of the human form. He develops complex and unusual designs for pieces that are extremely lightweight yet structurally durable, striving for purity of movement in his work, a goal he refers to as “the search to stay simple.”
A group of contemporary jewelers on the program are particularly concerned with gold as a vehicle for highly personal and emotional messages. Monica Rich Kosann began as a fine art photographer her portraiture led her to create lockets and charm bracelets to hold special photographs or personal messages: modern heirlooms.
Trained in art restoration and art history, Rebecca Koven incorporates organic elements, dream sequences, and art historical references into her lush jewelry. At her New York studio, Koven sketches her ideas, and then carves some of the elements in wax or silver; to send delicate designs long distances, some are then rendered in CAD. These are then cast in gold or carved in stone. The gold is hand-cast and -tooled in India and Turkey, and master craftsmen in Germany, Brazil, Hong Kong, and Thailand carve the precious and semi-precious stones. Koven herself completes the piece, creating a one-of-a-kind work or a limited edition.
As an art student, Heather Moore was enamored of and challenged by the metals as well as the tools designed to work with them. Her final art school show focused on incorporating friends’ and family’s quotations or favorite words in silver plaques and rings; the quotes were elaborately framed in glass. In 2004, returning to the personalization and the tools from her art school days, she made four silver pendants framed in gold, stamped with each of her children’s names; she pursued creating work that conveys emotional bonds and uses gold, other metal, and stones. The line has evolved to include objects from necklaces to belt buckles, but the studio, located in Cleveland, still employs the original tooling used for the first necklace and creates its own tools, so every font, shape, and symbol is specific to the company.
Temple St. Clair draws inspiration from varied sources: color in a Mannerist painting, Venetian and Japanese architectural elements, shifting shades of the sea. She spent time in Florence where the Renaissance inspired her to create her own work and to partner with the centuries-old Florentine jewelers guild. Her designs continue to draw on classical motifs by combining exquisite materials and traditional craftsmanship with an independent, modern aesthetic.
George Sawyer has always had a fascination with Asian art. After finishing his studies, he developed his design and metalworking skills while working at a small company that designed and built some of the era’s most famous racing cars. In 1971 he began to create his signature style and was the first to develop special techniques for creating patterned jewelry metals from colored gold alloys and precious metals. He has folded and forged precious metals into beautiful patterns that suggest wood grain, swirling water, or ancient and mysterious impressionistic forms.
A central focus of this conference is gold’s unique place in cultures and economies. For example, rising consumption of gold characterizes the rapidly developing economies of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), as well as cultures in which the significance of gold is particularly deeply embedded such as India where its central cultural significance is evidenced in its role in dowries. Discussion also centers on gold as an investment and asset in its many forms and the various ways individuals and institutions can invest in gold (from bullion to ETFs). We also examine gold as an investment relative to other financial instruments, as well as to other precious substances. Participants will also address challenges and opportunities faced by artists as the price of gold continues near record levels.
Related to this notion is the idea that to delve into gold one considering ecological ramifications. One such approach has been the use of reclaimed metal which is re-refined and put to new uses. Similarly, important emphases are now being placed on innovative approaches to minimize mining’s ecological footprint and social impact. Related to this is the emphasis on protecting those who work in the mines, employment of local workers, and compensation at a level that can lift the miner out of poverty. Intertwined concerns pertain to sustainability and legislation addressing chain of custody and third party certification.
Fusing concerns with the environment, handcraft, and aesthetic, Toby Pomeroy, President of TOBY POMEROY, believes that the jewelry industry can be pivotal in instituting responsible mining practices by demanding transparent chains of custody from mine to market. Pomeroy exemplifies a designer and goldsmith who is also an activist for social and environmental responsibility in the jewelry industry. Creating jewelry since 1973 in Corvallis, Oregon, he starts with a single piece of sheet or wire, the article is cold-forged allowing for a unique lightness and resiliency; the piece is then set with diamonds and colored gemstones and polished or matte finished. In 2005, Pomeroy became committed to playing an active role in reversing the environmental and social impacts of conventional mining. One of the first jewelry designers in the US to use exclusively reclaimed gold and silver, Pomeroy has become a dedicated advocate for responsible mining; he is a member of the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), an NGO whose purpose is to empower socially and environmentally responsible artisanal and small-scale mining. He is also a pioneer in creating jewelry with Oro Verde gold from the Choco rainforest of Columbia, the world’s first certified Fairtrade and Fairmined gold.
To learn more about the conference: visit www.artinitiatives.com; Readers of HAND/EYE Magazine receive a discounted rate of $225 (in lieu of $350); a student rate of $125 is also available. To register, go to http://goldconf.eventbrite.com and use the promo code Handeye.