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Perpetual change: Zilberschmuck artists interpret ‘transformation’

By Jacquie De Almeida

It would seem transformation is all around us—in nature, science, the body, and the mind.

The word itself conjures all sorts of meanings, but for the jewellers and metalsmiths who participated in the Ninth Annual National Juried Exhibition of Canadian Fine Jewellery and Metalwork, it served as inspiration for this year’s design theme. Organized by the Zilberschmuck Art-Jewellery Gallery in Toronto, the contest invited designers to interpret the word ‘transformation’ through metal, diamonds, and gemstones.

This year, Best in Show went to Robert K. E. Mitchell of Toronto for his ‘The Evolution of Adornment Bracelet.’ Created using sterling silver, 18-karat gold, and Canadian diamonds, the piece depicts the transformation of man’s history of adornment through its links, starting with a silver cast salmon backbone and moose hair, which illustrates tribal and hunter-gatherer peoples. Next comes a piece of carved Plexiglass representing the Industrial Revolution, followed by a bubble-cut citrine for new technologies of gem cutting. The final link is a 16 GB USB flash drive symbolizing the Information Age.

It was Mitchell’s first win at Zilberschmuck. “You never really know how others will receive your work,” Mitchell tells Jewellery Business. “When I applied to ‘Transformation,’ I thought my piece fit in perfectly with the call, but you can’t know if others see the work the same way you do. I never get my hopes up, especially when it is a national call. We have so much talent in this country and few venues to showcase this kind of work, so the competition was fierce. I would have been happy just getting into the show when I heard people like Charles Lewton-Brain and Don Stuart applied as well.”

Contest owner and gallery organizer Cheryl Fraser says the size of the designs stood out.

“It appears many were making a statement piece,” she explains. “They were oversized in length, height, as well as volume. Several used one metal only, like sterling silver, but many incorporated a variety of metals in a single piece, including stainless steel, sterling, and different karats of gold, too. A number of artists used copper for the entire piece or as a component or structure of enamel, for example.”

As with past exhibitions, each artist’s definition of the theme was always interesting to note, Fraser says.

“There were numerous ‘physical’ transformations submitted, but the jury chose ‘conceptual’ transformations by far,” she explains. “The most dramatic and successful physical transformation for me was Andy Pomorski’s chainsaw chain forged into a bracelet and ring. My favourite conceptual transformation was [our Best in Show winner]. I’m always amazed at the thought and effort that goes into all the pieces. I imagine if we could tally up the total hours, it would be phenomenal.”

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