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2017 SNAG Lifetime Achievement Award, Helen Shirk

SNAG is pleased to announce the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Helen Shirk.

Helen ShirkHelen Shirk and her twin sister Judy were born in January 1942 and grew up in Buffalo, New York. Their father was a doctor serving overseas at the European front when they were born. In 1975 Helen moved to sunny southern California where she taught jewelry/metals at San Diego State University for 35 years, made metalwork in her studio, raised her son Nathaniel, and planted many hundreds of botanicals in her garden.

Shirk received her undergraduate degree from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, where she was fortunate to take classes in painting, enameling, and jewelry, taught by well-known jeweler, enamelist and painter Earl Pardon. In 1962 she had her first piece accepted to a national exhibition, Young Americans ‘62 at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, in New York city. Shirk graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1963, and spent the next year in Denmark on a Fulbright Grant that Professor Pardon had encouraged her to apply for. In 1967 Shirk returned to the U.S. to enter the MFA program in metalsmithing and jewelry design at Indiana University, headed by prominent jeweler and silversmith Professor Alma Eikerman. For Shirk, Eikerman was a persuasive model of an inventive, skilled artist/craftswoman, and an inspiring, demanding teacher. Shirk received her Masters of Fine Arts degree from Indiana in 1969.

Helen Shirk-1979-Silver-DecanterAfter teaching metalwork at IU and the Des Moines Art Center for several years, in 1975 Shirk received a faculty appointment to teach jewelry/metalwork in the School of Art and Design at San Diego State University. She set up her home studio and taught at SDSU for 35 years, retiring as Professor of Art Emeritus in 2010. During these years Shirk actively invested herself in the advancement of the SDSU metals program and its students, encouraging each student’s unique artistic voice, developing their range and expertise with traditional and contemporary metal techniques, and promoting innovation and professional excellence.

In her own studio Shirk has worked with both jewelry and object formats, exploring a broad range of materials and innovative processes to express her ideas. Her work gradually shifted from the cool sleek silver objects she made in the ’70s to a more personal approach and larger scale through the ’90s. Her Double Bowl series, begun in 1987, examines the relationship of two symmetrical parts and the unique expression of those parts within or without each other. Other works observed patterns of growth in nature, beauty and resiliency, tenuous structures, and inevitable disintegration.

Helen Shirk-1995-Sustaining-Spirit-XVShirk became recognized for her use of spray etching, patina, and colored pencils on large spun and hammered vessels. A later series of exuberantly colored botanical vessels reflects the lasting impact of her 1993 teaching exchange in Western Australia and the influence of her home territory of southern California. Most recently, she has returned to the intimacy of jewelry, using the strength and lightness of mild steel to create intricate ‘thickets’ for the body.

Shirk has lectured and taught in both the U.S. and abroad and her distinctive metalwork resides in the public collections of museums in the U.S., Australia, England, Germany, Italy, and Russia, to name a few. The international renown of Helen Shirk’s work and teaching helped sustain the San Diego State University Jewelry and Metalwork Program for 35 years, bringing students and colleagues from across the US and abroad to study or visit SDSU. Shirk’s skillful and expressive use of various metal coloring and surface altering techniques, ranging from anodizing, chemical patination, acid etching, and plating, to colored pencils, altered hammers, and china paint distinctively identify her pieces, both large and small. Her resume reads as a record of the most significant national and international exhibitions and publications in the field of jewelry and metalwork. Even such an extensive and impressive resume reflects only a small part of her significant legacy to the world of metalsmithing and the lives of many grateful and accomplished students. – Sondra Sherman, 2016

Helen Shirk-2014-Neckpiece-NP7-Fronds-Pods-jpgShirk received National Endowment for the Arts Craftsmen’s and Visual Artists’ Fellowships in 1978 and 1988 respectively. In 1989 she was named Master Metalsmith of the Year, a Distinction awarded by the National Ornamental Metals Museum, and in 1999 was honored to be designated a Fellow of the American Craft Council.

Shirk’s work resides in the permanent collections of museums in the U.S. and abroad, including: The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia; National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, Australia; The Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C; Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, NY; the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England; National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, Japan; the Schmuckmuseum in Pforzheim, Germany; the Museo Del Gioiello in Vicenza, Italy; Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, CA; the Helen Drutt Collection at Huston Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, TX; the Oakland Museum in Oakland, CA; the Mint Museum of Craft and Design in Charlotte, NC; the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, PA; the Contemporary Museum in Honolulu, HI; the Museum of Art and Design in New York, NY; the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, TN; the Indianapolis Museum of Art in Indianapolis, IN; the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA; the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA; and the Minnesota Museum of Art in St. Paul, MN.

The 2017 SNAG NEXUS: A Connection of Ideas conference will be dedicated to Helen Shirk and she will receive her award during the opening remarks in New Orleans, Louisiana on Wednesday, May 24th, 2017.

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2017 SNAG Raffle

NexusThe Raffle supports SNAG’s Educational Endowment Fund.

SNAG’s 2017 raffle will be held during the Nexus conference in New Orleans, May 24-27, 2017.

Potter Press raffle prizeOnline raffle tickets sales run April 3-May 17, 2017. Tickets will also be sold at the conference. $20 each or six for $100. Drawing held at the SNAG conference. You do not need to be present to win.

See all the prizes! Purchase tickets online beginning April 3, 2017.


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2017 Silent Auction

silent-auction3Thursday, May 25, 2017 during the SNAG conference in New Orleans

SNAG’s Silent Auction looks for items of a certain value that people have come to expect to bid on during every conference: Art books, jewelry, findings, metals, gemstones, small handmade objects, and brand new tools are most welcome. Please donate new, never used items only, unless their value is increased by their age, as in the case of antiques.

What to Donate:
Anyone can donate! Your items will go to a good home and you’ll be sharing with your community. Please consider clearing out some space in your studio and donating items such as:

-Art books
-Rare Tools
-Small Handmade Objects
-Brand New Tools

See all the details about how to donate>>>

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Candidates Announced for SNAG’s 2017 Election

The 2017 Election will determine four (4) members of the Board of Directors, and one (1) member of the Nominations & Elections Committee.

The list of candidates is as follows. More information about each can be found at the Nominations/Elections page. Voting takes place in May.

Board of Directors Nominees:

  • Dianne deBeixedon
  • Anne Fiala
  • Nicole Jacquard
  • Becky McDonah
  • Emily Stroehrer

Nominations & Elections Committee Nominees:

  • Andrew Kuebeck
  • Lawrence Woodford

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SNAG’s 50th Anniversary Planning

SNAG 50 years logoCall for Volunteers:  SNAG’s 50th Anniversary Planning Committees

Did you know that SNAG’s 50th anniversary is coming up in 2019? We want to celebrate this event BIG TIME and are looking for people like you who would enjoy helping us plan. No prior knowledge necessary, we are looking for YOUR ideas on any of these committees:

Exhibitions + Events – This committee will think about and plan special events and exhibitions taking place during the 2019 and 2020 conferences.

Fundraising – This is a big birthday for SNAG and we are hoping it will also be a big year to help our organization be financially stable for the next 50 years.

Print – We will be putting together a booklet which will detail SNAG’s history. It’s a wonderful opportunity for a SNAG history buff and  those with writing and editorial skills.

Digital Activities –  In addition to the conference activities we would like to post several web-based projects such as stories from past presidents or interviews with current members about what they envision the future of SNAG to be. If you are digitally savvy or a good social media person, we would love to have you on board!

Interested in volunteering for a 50th Anniversary Committee?  Email our Executive Director Gwynne Rukenbrod Smith. We can’t wait to have you join the team and hear your ideas. Thank you!