Painting and sculpture primarily exist in ideal space that it is not dependent or related to the specific space which exists in order to be understood, whereas jewelry exists primarily in concrete space. It is understood as it relates to the body or to wearing, either conceptually or physically.

Jamie Bennett

Modern Handmade Jewelry

Toni Greenbaum

Jewelry is one of the most graphic indicators of personal identity. In sync with the body, it helps to define the individuals who wear it. Jewelry is also among the most revealing examples of material culture. The necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings, and brooches worn by people throughout the ages contain powerful clues about the eras, traditions, habitations, and societies in which they lived.

To this day, jewelry continues to act as an important signifier. The twentieth century, along with the first two decades of the twenty-first, is particularly rich in what we refer to as “studio jewelry.” Studio jewelry, which is invariably handmade, can simply celebrate process and provide an alternative to fine or costume jewelry, but it can also harbor deeper meanings—concepts far beyond jewelry’s usual function as decoration, commemoration, or talisman. Studio jewelry exists at the nexus of art, craft, and design, often reflecting aesthetic concerns, theoretical doctrines, political agendas, or popular trends. Most studio jewelry is either unique or produced in limited edition. It can be fabricated from precious metals and gemstones, or created from materials outside the norm, or both. Studio jewelry may be easy to wear, or present tactical challenges. All in all, it is a most compelling adornment—whether we regard it technically, stylistically, artistically, or even existentially.

Work by Otto Künzli (left). His iconic Gold Makes You Blind bracelet, is featured in this sale. ES1 Ring by Ettore Sottsass (right).

Jamie Bennett b. 1948

Jamie Bennett is widely considered to be one of the most innovative and accomplished enamelists of our time. Born in Philadelphia and raised in New York City, his mother worked for a prominent dress manufacturer which led to Bennett gaining an early understanding of both the sacrifices involved in an artist’s life as well as basic pattern making and construction. He went on to study business administration at the University of Georgia where, as a senior, he took several classes that sparked a passion for art. This led him to earn an M.F.A from the State University of New York, New Paltz where he studied with master silversmith Kurt Matzdorf who, incidentally, introduced him to what would become his life’s work: enamel.

Intrigued by the medium, he enrolled in a workshop at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina with innovative artist William Harper and he subsequently studied with another master enamelist, Harold Helwig. Bennett himself became a master of his chosen craft and taught at several universities in the Midwest and Northeast before returning to SUNY: New Paltz where taught from 1985 until 2015. He attained Professor Emeritus status, directed the Metal/Jewelry Program, received the 2016 James Renwick Alliance’s Outstanding Educator Award, and is a three-time recipient of the National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship and the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship as well as the Aileen Osborn Webb Award for Fellow of the American Crafts Council.

Bennett’s work is delicate and exceptionally well-crafted. Unlike traditional enamel which depend on wire frameworks, his pieces are made of electroformed shapes which are self-supporting. The resulting creations are as astounding in their technicality as they are elegant and beautiful in their execution, and gracefully straddle the lines between fine art, design, and bodily ornamentation. His enamels were the subject of a traveling retrospective exhibition from 2007-2010 entitled Edge of the Sublime: The Enamels of Jamie Bennett, and he has participated in many pioneering exhibitions of contemporary jewelry such as American Masters at the Victoria and Albert Museum; Jewellery Moves at the National Museum of Scotland; New Times, New Thinking Jewellery in Europe and America at the National Museum of Whales. Bennett’s work can be found in the permanent collection of over twenty-five museums internationally, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Auction Results Jamie Bennett