John Paul Miller, the revered Cleveland Institute of Art professor, 2005 recipient of SNAG’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and one of America’s greatest goldsmiths, passed away last weekend at the age of 94. Miller designed exquisitely crafted brooches, pendants and rings. His work has been compared to those of Rene Lalique and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Miller’s body of work was also collected by notables including the late New York art dealer Lawrence Fleischman and the late Sherman Lee, a former director of the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Miller was born in Huntingdon, PA, in April 1918. He spent most of his career at the Cleveland Institute of Art while producing custom jewelry for clients of Potter & Mellen, a renowned Cleveland jewelry store. He is well remembered by friends, students, and collectors for his gentleness and modesty, along with his artistic skills.
Miller’s work includes spiders, crabs, and other creatures that crawl or fly, along with jewelry inspired by geological formations. His work is said to have achieved such recognition, in part, due to his ability to draw inspiration from the natural world, including from his many hiking trips in the Rocky Mountains and Tetons. He is also recognized for his skill in design and technical perfection. While less known, Miller also produced work including films, photographs and paintings.
Miller is remembered with admiration in the goldsmithing community for his revival of an ancient Egyptian technique called granulation, in which tiny beads of gold are fused to an underlying gold surface to create a glittering, stippled, effect. Miller has been called “one of the great jewelers and metalsmiths of the century,” by Cleveland Art Institute President, Grafton Nunes. Nunes also recognized Miller as “one of the giants” at the Institute due to his excellence in teaching and his long-time role as director of the exhibition gallery. Nunes also commented that Miller “is going to be very sorely missed,” by students and faculty alike.
Miller was one of only two Cleveland artists who have been honored with a retrospective exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art during their lifetimes. Museum curator, Stephen Harrison, has made note of the incredible power of Miller’s show and the depth of his work. Harrison said “I’ve had curators who have come through [the show] recently, and everyone who’s seen it has been laid flat. it’s had real impact, which is fantastic.”
A memorial celebration will be scheduled at the Cleveland Institute of Art.
L. Brent Kington
The legendary blacksmith, L. Brent Kington passed away on Thursday February 7. Brent was one of the founding members of SNAG, the first SNAG President, and the recipient of our Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. He built the metals dept at Southern Illl. Univ at Carbondale in the late 60s and early 70s. He brought blacksmthing into the program and it is today still the only school that offers an MFA in Blacksmithing.
he has a long record of accomplishments as educator, blacksmith master and mentor. He has also received honors from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Artist-Blacksmith Association of North America, and received the Gold Medal from the American Craft Council.
For more information on Brent Kington’s life and work read 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 at http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections.
Grosse Pointe Park resident Clare Morison died Sunday, December 2, 2012, at the age of 66. Clare was pre-deceased by her long-time partner, Phillip Fike, professor and head of the Metal Arts Department at Wayne State University, and a founding member of SNAG.
Widely known for her artistic talents, she developed “Studio Clare” into a thriving business to create and market wax and metal art work. She developed innovative technologies such as high-temperature wax to expedite her work. Some of her ornamental works have won prize recognition as serious works of art. She also crewed on the beloved family sailboat, Sunshine, a frequent competitor in the Bayview/Mackinaw race and worked tirelessly on its upkeep as a true labor of love. Claire was also an enthusiastic participant for Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Clare Morison very generously left a $10,000 bequest to SNAG, naming the organization as the beneficiary of one of her IRA’s. We are deeply grateful for her support.
Bill Moggridge, Director of Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, died on September 8, 2012, after a battle with cancer. He was 69.
Bill joined Cooper-Hewitt at a critical juncture, overseeing the completion of a $54 million fundraising campaign for the Museum’s renovation, which will increase exhibition space by 60 percent, create a new National Design Library, restore the Carnegie Mansion’s historic fabric, and accommodate growth of its permanent collection with a new off-site collection-storage and conservation facility. Cooper-Hewitt will celebrate its grand reopening in 2014.
Under Bill’s leadership, Cooper-Hewitt is reimagining the entire museum experience, working with Diller Scofidio + Renfro on the conceptualization, transformation and creation of immersive museum spaces and memorable visitor experiences, along with Local Projects on the development of innovative media and storytelling approaches to content delivery. His passion for and expertise in interaction design is informing the Museum’s plans to make design stories come alive in its new exhibition galleries with multiple interactive components focusing on the design process, and transforming the museum visit from passive to participatory.
Written by Harold Nelson, provided courtesy of the Enamel Arts Foundation
Harold B. “Bill” Helwig (1938–2012), a masterful artist and widely respected educator, passed away in Newport, Kentucky on July 12, 2012. Best known for his extraordinarily well-crafted enamels done using a painterly Limoges technique, Helwig was a leader in the late 20th-century enameling field.
Bill Helwig’s enamels are enormously inventive, both formally and technically. While he typically used round, plate-like forms in his early work, around 1972 Helwig began to pierce, cut, open, and eventually give sculptural shape to his copper plates, creating objects of extraordinary beauty, elegance, and power. Similarly, through near-obsessive exploration, he discovered several nearly-lost enameling and glazing techniques and reintroduced them to the contemporary enamels field.
Bill Helwig enthusiastically shared what he learned with his students through classes, workshops, lectures, and demonstrations. In 1989 Beverly Semmes described Helwig’s generosity in an article in Metalsmith. She wrote, “There are no sacred cows in Helwig’s enamel lexicon. He’s an enthusiastic, prolific risk-taker in the enamel studio, and his expertise is unmatched. He encourages students to learn the logic of the process, rather than the process itself. Unencumbered by an academic’s strictures, he reinvents the artform daily, both technically and esthetically.”
In 1982, he served as cofounder and editor of Glass on Metal. Helwig served on the board of the Enamelist Society, and received the Society’s prestigious Creative Arts Award. He also served on numerous Fair Committees for the American Craft Council, chairing the Committee in 1970.
The subject of numerous one-person exhibitions throughout the course of his life, Helwig was most recently featured in Painting with Fire: Masters of Enameling in America, 1930 – 1980, a publication which accompanied an exhibition of the same name at the Long Beach Museum of Art in California (2007). Helwig’s work is in numerous private collections across the country. He is also represented in the collections of the Long Beach Museum of Art and the Enamel Arts Foundation in Los Angeles.
In 1977 Helwig became head of the Vitrearc division at Carpenter’s Ceramic Coating Company in Newport, Kentucky (which later became Thompson Enamels). In his role at Thompson, Bill Helwig became an invaluable resource to artists, educators, and the industry, alike on the properties and possibilities of the enameling medium.
Written by Baunnie Sea and Jennifer Cross Gans
merry renk was born in New Jersey in 1921. While in high school she attended Fine Art classes at the School of Industrial Arts in Trenton, NJ. She attended the Institute of Design the American Bauhaus, Chicago from 1946-47, and left after completing the foundation course to open 750 Studio, a contemporary arts and crafts gallery with fellow classmates Mary Jo Slick and Olive Oliver. The gallery was one of the first of its kind and well-received by the press, showing the work of well-known artists such as Henry Miller, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Harry Callahan, and Margaret De Patta.
merry spent a year learning enameling techniques through trial and error. She sold the gallery and moved to San Francisco, where she connected with local metalsmiths such as Peter Macchiarini and Margaret De Patta. In 1951 De Patta invited her to attend the first meeting of the Metal Arts Guild (MAG). merry became a founder of MAG as well as its President in 1954. She remained an active Lifetime member through her 90th year.
During the 1960s, merry lost the sight in her right eye and switched to constructing large sculptures of iron, bronze, copper and brass, using the same interlocking ideas she’d used in jewelry. In the spring of 1981, the California Crafts Museum hosted, “merry renk, Jeweler: A Visual Biography and Retrospective, 1947-1981”. After that, she resumed her jewelry production until 1983.
The San Francisco Art Commission presented merry an Award of Honor for her “extraordinary contributions to the Bay Area community,” and she was also named an American Craft Council Fellow. Her oral history is in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution.
merry’s work is in collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Arts & Design, e Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), the Oakland Museum of Fine Arts, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as well as in MAG’s Permanent Collection.