SNAG is proud to present the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award to J. Fred Woell
J. Fred Woell has had a successful career in art and education that spans 50 years. He’s taught quite a number of well-known jewelry artists, and is noted for being the first in the field to work with cast found objects and found objects in his metalwork for political and social commentary.
“I make things I hope people can laugh at and yet take seriously. I use my work as a platform to express my reaction to things I see around me. I use humor in my work to make the serious nature of those things bearable.
It is my aim to make an object look complete and posses a quality that gives the work a presence or life of its own. I try hard to keep the freshness of my fingerprint on the work and to maintain an intimate, spontaneous quality that will give it a timeless character. I work largely with found objects that come into my life by serendipity. I do my best to allow these “things” I assemble to come together and form unique objects. Taking the chance of assembling these things means some things must be changed and even destroyed when they are assembled. It makes the work a discovery and keeps the creative process edgy. ”
His pieces are in the permanent collections of museums across the country, including the American Craft Museum, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian, the Contemporary Museum of Honolulu, the Detroit Institute of Art, and the Cranbrook Academy of Art Museum.
Woell’s work has been published in Metalsmith and Ornament magazines, numerous jewelry reference books, and he’s the author of Handouts from the 20th Century: A Collection of Teaching Aids Created and Gathered by J. Fred Woell During 20 Years of Teaching.
His teaching career has included teaching positions at Boston University; Swain School of Design, New Bedford, Mass.; Haystack Mountain School of Crafts; and the State University of New York at New Paltz.
Woell has received 3 National Endowment for the Arts Grants, an American Craft Council award (1995), a Society of Arts and Crafts Arts Award (2004), a “Master Craft Artist Recognition” by the Maine Crafts Association (2009), and in 2010, The Florida Society of Goldsmiths named Woell the recipient of their National Metalsmith’s Hall of Fame award.
My SNAG Educational Endowment Scholarship Experience
By Bifei Cao, 2011 Recipient
I came to the United States to pursue an MFA in Jewelry & Metals at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. After learning about the SNAG Educational Endowment Scholarship, I decided to apply but I never expected that I would be awarded first place when faced with the competitive applicants from different schools.
After I received word that I had won, I immediately called my advisor, Lynda LaRoche. She instilled in me a hunger for knowledge, brought me to a new world, and at the same time, respected my own artistic language. Since then, I am still surprised what I have achieved…and think I might be for the rest of my life.
The scholarship helped me not only with my financial situation, but most importantly, with my confidence. In China, I had nearly lost my faith succeeding as a metalsmith as I was defined there as a non-talented student during my MA studies. But later, a Shanghai University professor encouraged me to apply to her graduate school, Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I cherished the opportunity and worked as hard as I possibly could. I appreciate the educational system of the United States that has allowed me to discover myself, and I’m happy to say that I’ve started to receive invitations from galleries for themed exhibitions.
I believe that the SNAG Educational Endowment Scholarship is an invaluable help to students. It brings emerging artists with diversified works and cultures to our jewelry and metals field. It builds students’ confidence and brings new blood into the field.
As a student who has received the benefit from the scholarship, I will purchase raffle tickets this year, and I would like to ask every artist to support the scholarship fund. It is really a way to build futures of young artists.
2011 Educational Scholarship Winner & Raffle Double Winner
By M. Annie Kilborn, 2011 Recipient
It was a delight and honor to find out that I was one of the SNAG’s Educational Endowment Scholarship Awardees. Although I have previously submitted work for past SNAG student exhibitions, this was the first year I applied for the scholarship. Since I was pleased with the work I created for my BFA creative project, I figured I had nothing to lose by applying. As a student, I know the importance of getting your work out there, hoping for positive encouragement and being willing to accept rejection.
The annual conferences are always inspirational and are a wonderful way to make lasting connections in our field. I really wanted to attend the Seattle conference, but unfortunately, the financial burden of moving my family across country to San Diego for graduate school seemed to make my conference attendance unfeasible. However, the exciting news that I had been awarded the scholarship came early enough that I was able to book my travel for Seattle!
At the conference’s final dinner and dance party, I was not paying much attention to the names being called for the raffle. My mentor informed me that my name had just been called. I won a free photo session from Steven Brian Samuels Art and Jewelry Photography! I had purchased a single raffle ticket–not because I had high hopes of winning, but to support the Educational Endowment Scholarship. As a student, I am well aware that every opportunity counts and being awarded even the smallest honor is stimulating and encouraging. It is important to promote opportunities for those who are building futures as artists.
I highly encourage everyone to buy raffle tickets. Each ticket purchased goes to the Educational Endowment Scholarship Fund to help achieve students’ career goals. Plus you might be a lucky winner of one of the great prizes, which are generously donated each year!
My Experience as a Hoover & Strong Scholarship Winner
by Heejin Hwang, 2011 Recipient
I am greatly honored to become a Hoover & Strong Scholarship recipient and so thrilled to receive this award. I have applied for a variety of scholarships every time if given opportunities, with the conviction of ‘strike while the iron is hot,’ but it has special significance for me this time. This is because I have thought that I would like my current work to be recognized by the public so far as a student artist, and I was more sure about and confident in my works of art through this opportunity.
What I shouted with joy when I was informed of this news was “Yes!!”
In addition, I still vividly remember that I was thinking with a chuckle of buying tools and materials I had long wanted with this scholarship. Subsequently, there have been many changes to me actually. Among them, the biggest change is that it is more pleasant to create works of art. I am enormously grateful to SNAG for giving me such an important experience.
The 2011 Educational Endowment Scholarship recipients:
Bifei Cao, graduate student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania
M. Anne Kilborn, graduate student at Ball State University
Emily Eversgerd, undergraduate student at East Tennessee State University
The 2011 Hoover & Strong Scholarship recipient:
Heejin Hwang, graduate student at University of Wisconsin, Madison
The 2009 Educational Endowment scholarship recipients:
David Choi, graduate student at State University of New York, New Paltz
Jee Young Han, graduate student at University of Wisconsin, Madison
Rebekah Frank, undergraduate at Texas State University, San Marcos
Honorable Mention in 2010:
Loring Taoka, graduate student at the University of North Texas
Amy Weiks, undergraduate at Western Michigan University
The 2009 Educational Endowment scholarship recipients:
Vincent Pontillo, Undergraduate student at State University New York, Buffalo
Davina Romansky, Undergraduate student at Rochester Institute of Technology
Rachel Shimpock, Undergraduate student at Long Beach City College
Honorable Mention in 2009:
Elliot Gaskin, Undergraduate student at Academy of Art University, San Francisco
Andrew Kuebeck, Graduate student at Indiana University, Bloomington
The 2008 Educational Endowment scholarship recipients:
Eun Yeong Jeong, Graduate student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Soyeon Kim, Graduate student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Robert Longyear, Graduate student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Honorable Mention in 2008:
Gemma Draper, Graduate student at Cranbrook Academy of Art
The 2007 Educational Endowment scholarship recipients:
Masako Onondera, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Sun Kyoung Kim, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Lilyana Bekic, San Diego State University
Honorable Mentions in 2007:
David Choi, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Kristi Sword, SUNY-New Paltz
Jennifer Halvorson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Tracy Lee Black, Indiana University
The 2006 Educational Endowment scholarship recipients:
Gary Schott, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, graduate student
Masako Onondera, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, graduate student
Kristi Rae Rader, Stephen S. Austin State University, undergraduate student
Honorable Mentions in 2006:
Sungyeoul Lee, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Corey Ackelmire, Kent State
The 2005 Educational Endowment scholarship recipients:
Miel Paredes, University of Wisconsin, Madison, graduate student
Tzu-Ju Chen, Cranbrook Academy of Art, graduate student
Nichole Bowes, University of Kansas, undergraduate student
Honorable Mentions in 2005:
Eliana Arenas, New Mexico State University, graduate student
Nisa Blackmon, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, graduate student
Rachelle Lim, San Diego State University, undergraduate student
Ayuko Izumi, California State University, Long Beach, undergraduate student
The 2004 Educational Endowment scholarship recipients:
Megan Auman, Kent State University, graduate student
Kim Lucci-Elbualy, Kent State University, graduate student
Tzu-Ju Chen, Rhode Island School of Design, undergraduate student
Honorable Mentions in 2004:
Frankie Flood, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, graduate student
Hye-young Suh, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, graduate student
Christine Bossler, Wayne State University, undergraduate student
Swan Kim, Rhode Island School of Design, undergraduate student
Author: Kris A. Patzlaff
Society of North American Goldsmiths has awarded the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award to Brent Kington, and honored him at the SNAG conference in Seattle, WA. Kington is being recognized for more than 40 years of significant contributions to the field as an educator, as well as his lifelong commitment to professional organizations and the art of blacksmithing.
Brent Kington was born in Topeka, Kansas in 1934. In high school he excelled in art and was encouraged to attend the University of Kansas, where he studied with Carlyle Smith and Robert Montgomery. Graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1957, he continued his study at Cranbrook Academy of Art under Richard Thomas. During his years at Cranbrook, his peers included Stanley Letchzin, Heikki Seppa, Fred Fenster and Michael Jerry.
Immediately after receiving his MFA from Cranbrook in 1961 Kington began the odyssey of resurrecting a failing metalsmithing program at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Equipment was sparse, but with little more than a few hammers, stakes and a buffing machine, Kington created a program that would become one of the most important metal programs in the country, most notably for blacksmithing.
During his early years in Carbondale, Kington’s work revolved around creating small, whimsical sculptures and toys cast in silver. Reflecting his early interest in cartoon drawings, his toys were humorous, playful and kinetic. The importance of movement and implied movement continues to be an element in his work.
It was in 1964, while attending the first World of Craft Council in New York, that Kington visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The visit to the arms and armory galleries of the museum would send him on a path that would forever change the direction of his work, the program at SIUC and the practice of blacksmithing in the country.
Kington was inspired by the work, noting the technical detail, rich surfaces and forms produced in iron that were as accomplished and thoughtful as works in silver and gold. Upon returning home, he collected as much information, books and tools as he could on blacksmithing. With very little written on the subject, Kington sought out local southern Illinois blacksmiths, including Ben and Jim Deal, in order to acquire information. From 1964 through 1969, he continued to learn about blacksmithing, devoting a week or two each month to this new skill, while creating other work for exhibitions.
In 1970, Kington and his students hosted a blacksmithing workshop at Southern Illinois University with Alex Bealer, author of The Art of Blacksmithing. Although it was expected to be primarily for his students, over 60 people attended, bringing together educators and craftspeople from all over the country. Attendees included Michael Croft, Stanley Letchzin, Nilda Getty, Richard Mawdsley, Garrett DeRuiter, Robert Ebendorf, Ronald Pearson and Bill Furhman, among others. This conference is considered seminal in bringing blacksmithing and iron into the arena as a viable material and process for contemporary expression. A number of conferences followed at different venues, with greater attendance, leading to the formation of ABANA, the Artist-Blacksmiths Association of America.
By 1976, the conference returned to SIU, bringing 490 attendees from across the U.S, Italy, England and Canada. Kington and graduate students Jim Wallace, Daryl Meier and Joel Schwartz, along with the Director of Art and Exhibits at the SIUC University Museums, organized an unprecedented exhibition of contemporary and historical ironwork, Iron Solid Wrought/USA, which later traveled to the Museum of Crafts in New York and the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian. It was also during this time that Kington and his students were exploring and conducting research on pattern welded steel and mokume-gane.
By 1972, the first university-taught blacksmithing classes were offered at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, which offers the only MFA in Blacksmithing in the country. The blacksmiths studio was designated the “L. Brent Kington Smithy” in 2003.
Kington was now committed to his ferrous metal work, sharing information in the University smithy and working in his studio, leaving his cast silver toys and objects behind. Creating a series of works, including weathervanes, the Icarus series (early 80s) and the Croziers, Crescents and Spires series (mid 80’s to the present), Kington pushed the art of blacksmithing as a sculptural medium, exploring alternative surface treatments and elements of movement or implied movement.
Kington’s extensive exhibition record includes venues across the country and abroad. Most recently, a retrospective exhibition entitled L. Brent Kington, Mythic Metalsmith opened in 2007 at Southern Illinois Art Gallery in Whittington, Illinois. The exhibition, curated by Debra K. Tayes, traveled to the Illinois State Museum, Chicago Art Gallery in Chicago, the Southern Illinois University Museum in Carbondale, the National Ornamental Museum in Memphis, TN, the Illinois State Museum in Lockport, and ended its tour in 2011 at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. This retrospective featuring more than 45 years of work, brings together pieces from private and permanent collections for the first time. Kington worked closely with Tayes for two years, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces Initiative. A beautiful catalog accompanied the exhibition.
His work is in many permanent collections, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, The National Ornamental Museum, Society of Contemporary Crafts, Friendship Hall in Nakjo, Japan, and the Mint Museum of Art + Design, among others.
A major contributor to the American Studio Crafts Movement, Brent Kington received the prestigious “Gold Metal” from the American Art Council in 2000. He has been honored with the Outstanding Artist Educator Award in 2009 by Penland School of Crafts, the Lifetime Member Award in 2006 by the Artist–Blacksmiths Association of North America, and awarded the American Craft Council Trustee Emeriti in 1994. Other honors include: Artist-Blacksmiths Association of North America’s Bealer Award for Distinguished Service in 1983, the National Endowment for the Arts’ Craftsmen Fellowship in 1982, the American Craft Council’s Academy of Fellows in 1978, and the National Endowment for the Crafts’ Craftsmen Fellowship in 1975.
In recognition of Kington’s contributions to blacksmithing and as an educator, an anonymous artistic foundation donated $1 million to SIUC to create the L. Brent Kington Chair in Blacksmithing. Richard E. “Rick” Smith, head of the metalsmithing specialization in the School of Art and Design and a former graduate student, was the first to hold the Chair. This endowment supports research, travel and materials.
Kington’s long-term commitment to professional organizations in the field began as a founding member of the Society of North American Goldsmiths. Serving from 1970-1973, he was the first President and served as Director from 1973-1977. The many organizations in which he has served include the National Ornamental Museum as a trustee from 1987-1997, the Artist-Blacksmiths Association of North America as Director from 1976-79, and the American Craft Council as Trustee from 1976-1980. He currently serves on the Resource Committee for the National Ornamental Museum and the Program Advisory Committee at the Kentucky School of Craft in Hindeman, KY.
The list of Kington’s students who have become successful metalsmiths and blacksmiths, whether owning their own business or becoming educators themselves in universities, craft programs and museums across the country, is enormous. Leading by example, Brent Kington’s service to SNAG, ABANA and the metals community at large was an inspiration to those who studied with him. Many have chosen to serve SNAG and other professional organizations through committee and board service. Graduates of SIUC Michael Croft, Mary Lee Hu, Harlan Butt, and Kris Patzlaff have all served as Presidents of SNAG.
Brent Kington’s life story is engaging. To gain an in-depth appreciation for the magnitude of his contributions to the field I suggest reading the transcript of an interview conducted by Mary Douglas for the Archives of American Art, Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, for the Smithsonian Institution.
The catalog of photographs and essays from the retrospective exhibition L. Brent Kington, Mythic Metalsmith is available through SNAG.
Brent Kington retired from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale in 1996. He continues to have an active studio practice in Mikanda, Illinois where he lives with his wife, Diane.
Author: Anne Barros
For a Canadian woman in the late 1940s to be attracted to silversmithing in the Design Department at the University of Kansas is not very remarkable. But for that same woman, Lois Etherington Betteridge, to have forged a successful sixty-year career as a silversmith and become a leader of the studio craft movement in Canada is worthy of great admiration.
After graduating with a BA from Kansas, Betteridge entered the fledgling Canadian arts scene in 1952 with studios first in Oakville and then in Toronto where she made both jewellery and hollowware. Liturgical commissions were particularly important as she worked full-time to support herself in a conservative city then known as Toronto the Good. On Sundays the curtains were drawn on department store windows in order not to violate the Sabbath. It took both pluck and vision to compete in a male-dominated profession that had barely enough clientele for the few craftspeople already active. Silversmith Harold Stacey and Goldsmith Hero Kielman, both among the founders of the Society of North American Goldsmiths, welcomed her. Kielman with his Dutch training gave her instruction in chasing and repoussé and it soon became her favored technique.
Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, awarded Betteridge a scholarship in 1955 and she spent two years there studying under Richard Thomas, a strict but encouraging mentor. Betteridge found herself happily influenced by the fluid lines and flowing surfaces of the International Style and Scandinavian modernism as she worked in the beautiful buildings designed by Eliel Saarinen.
Marriage to British veterinarian, Kieth Betteridge, led to a period of six years in England that offered opportunities not only for bearing two children, but for continuing her craft, registering her maker’s mark at the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, London, and exhibiting annually at the Bear Lane Gallery in Oxford. When the history of women silversmiths is updated it will be interesting to read the stories of how Twentieth Century women managed households that included not only nurseries and kitchens, but carpools and studio practices.
Returning to Canada in 1967, Betteridge began receiving important commissions for presentation pieces from members of the Canadian government. A series of sterling silver letter openers reflects the harmony of her hammer and chasing tool at that time. Betteridge’s ability to satisfy the needs of the client and her own design aesthetic have been important over a lifetime of commission work. Standing her in good stead have been her direct and friendly manner and the guarantee that if the client did not like the piece, it could be returned – an offer that has yet to be taken up.
Stylistically her smithing has changed with the zeitgeist and as she interprets life in metal. At times, textured surfaces are important. At other periods, it is the idea of the volume of the piece that holds sway perhaps in contrast to a chased element. She is best known for her celebratory objects – teapots, brandy snifters, spice shakers and honey pots. Raising silver from a flat sheet into a three-dimensional work is her forte. To find silver controlled and moved in so masterful a way in our machine era is like coming across a finely embroidered napkin in a fast food outlet.
It is not that she avoids faster methods of construction, but her personal satisfaction lies in the symmetrical rows of planishing marks on a satisfyingly heavy piece of silver. Her surfaces are richly reflective. Herein also rests her reputation for high quality craftsmanship. No shortcuts are allowed that would detract from the final finish of a piece. Details are relished – screws and bolts are handmade; stones are set in hidden places. Function is important, but may be disguised or embellished so at first glance a teapot is a bird.
If a piece of silver can speak something of its time, Betteridge’s would talk of the freedom of a woman artist to imagine strong fanciful forms that function with flare for owners who relish the tradition of wrought objects. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of her career is that she was able to work in an uncompromising way, secure in her own aesthetic.
Canada is richer not only for Betteridge’s body of work, but for her passing on of traditional silversmithing techniques and her enthusiasm for the field. She taught for almost 20 summers at the Haliburton School of the Arts, Sir Sanford Fleming College, Ontario, and has given countless workshops and lectures in jewellery and metal departments in Canada and abroad. Perhaps the most magnanimous teaching has occurred in her own studio where apprentices lived the life of a silversmith from talking ideas to cleaning the polishing machine. One apprentice, Lisa Ridout of Ontario, attributes her own learned perfectionist tendencies to Betteridge’s “high benchmark” of quality craftsmanship.
Contemporary silversmithing has a presence in Canada today that is surprising given the population of the country and its historic indifference to handmade silver objects. Betteridge has bred a community of makers of hollowware who have banded together to organize exhibitions across the country. For her 70th birthday, the MacLaren Art Centre in Guelph, Ontario, staged an exhibition of her work. In her generosity Betteridge asked other silversmiths to exhibit with her, and a permanent collection of silver work was established by the Centre. Her 80th birthday brought about a similar exhibition at Jonathon’s Gallery in London, Ontario. Another exhibition of silversmithing is planned to coincide with the 2013 SNAG Conference n Toronto.
Aside from the talent, vision and drive needed for sixty years of continuous making, physical stamina and fun have also been essential to Betteridge’s success. Whatever ailment came her way, she courageously overcame it. With the loving support of her husband (also her photographer) and her family, she never quit the bench. Socially, she looks for opportunities to connect with people. There is never just an opening reception; there needs also to be a dinner or a party afterwards.
Internationally Betteridge has exhibited widely and her work is in important collections from Scotland to Greece. With 26 solo exhibitions, hers is an enviable record.
In recognition of Betteridge’s creative work and her generous sharing of skills, she has received numerous honors: the Order of Canada, the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee medal, the Saidye Bronfman Award, The M Joan Chalmers 15th Anniversary Award, election as a distinguished member of SNAG whose board she served on from 1984-88, and to the Royal Canadian Academy of Art.
Canada has many other fine women smiths including Kye-yeon Son, Brigitte Clavette and Karen Cantine. Among the men are silversmiths Don Stuart, Mike Massie and Ross Morrow. All acknowledge Betteridge as Queen and, like Victoria’s reign, it is proving to be a long and productive one.
Anne Barros is a silversmith and author of Ornament and Object: Canadian Jewellery and Metal Art 1946-1996.