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.
Author: Matthew Hollern
Stanley Lechtzin is the 2009 recipient of the SNAG Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Society of North American Goldsmiths, presented at the 40th SNAG conference in Philadelphia. His peers have recognized him as an artist and educator for his ongoing achievements and contributions that expand and elevate our field.
Born in 1936 in Detroit, his early experiences included jewelry repair, drafting, and cartography. In 1956 he entered Wayne State University where he majored in crafts and studied jewelry with Philip Fike, earning the BFA degree in 1960. He studied with Richard Thomas and earned the MFA degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art, where his contemporaries included Fred Fenster, Heika Seppa, Brent Kington, and Michael Jerry. In 1962 he moved to Philadelphia to establish and head a new craft department at Tyler School of Art. In 1965 he was appointed founding chairman of the Crafts Department.
“In the 1960s and 1970s, his experiments with electroforming—an industrial process for metal-plating modeled forms—placed him at the forefront of the American jewelry movement and helped establish Philadelphia as a major center for innovative metalwork. Though the process dates to the early nineteenth century, Lechtzin was the first to adapt it for artistic purposes. In his work, Lechtzin took full advantage of electroforming’s potential to yield large-scale objects that are relatively light, allowing him to create full-bodied yet wearable sculptural forms. He also exploited the organic structures that “grow” in the acid bath during the process. These metal accretions bear a welcome resemblance to natural forms found in plants or geological structures.” 1
“Lechtzin next turned his attention to the creative potential of plastics, reveling in their wide color palette and transparent light effects. The great variety of this man-made material held such appeal for the artist that his jewelry became increasingly dominated by plastic rather than metal.” 2
From Lechtzin’s biographical statement (2009): “In 1978 Lechtzin became enamored with yet another means of technology, namely the computer. Since then, he has virtually abandoned handwork, believing that the computer has rendered such labor-intensive techniques redundant. He believes artists are society’s cultural antennae and as such must address current societal issues. This has led to his vision of computer-aided-design / 3D printing as a new craft medium. Lechtzin sees unique objects as always having social importance. Therefore he is engaged in an exploration of how crafts must change, while still maintaining their historical values. In this investigation he is joined by his collaborator, Daniella Kerner. Together this husband and wife team merges their lives . . . their professions . . . their art.”
His creative work and research has expanded horizons and changed the face of the metals and jewelry field: from his early exploration and use of electroforming, to the US patent awarded in 1982 for a method for achieving karat gold electroforms, from the exploration and masterful works in plastics, to the use of vapor deposition imaging, and from the earliest exploration of the personal computer, to his ongoing commitment to CAD-CAM and 3D Printing. In each instance, Stanley Lechtzin has been a preeminent figure responsible for the adaptation, adoption, and advancement of new technologies. The significance and quality of the work is evidenced in the long history of grants and fellowships he has received to support his work including 5 NEA grants and fellowships, 2 Pennsylvania Council for the Arts grants, a Mellon foundation Grant, and a Temple University grant. More important is the way in which collective attitudes toward technology and the ‘unfamiliar’ have been changed. In the fall of 2006, Stanley was once again a founding member of a new organization known as CadLaboration whose mission is “to contribute to the ongoing evolution of the field of jewelry and metals by fostering education and substantive collaboration among artists working with digital technologies.” His commitment to collaboration and research in new technologies continues to provide new opportunities for all of us.
Stanley Lechtzin is among the most recognized and influential artists in our field who has challenged and redefined aesthetic values of our time. He is a prolific artist whose work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions for 7 decades, throughout the United States and the world. His work is held in numerous public and private collections, testament to his achievement by curators, scholars, historians, and his peers. Collections include: The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Cooper-Hewitt Museum, The American Craft Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, Goldsmiths’ Hall, Helen Williams Drutt, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts – Houston, Museum of Arts and Design – MAD, Objects: USA, The Johnson Collection of Contemporary Crafts, Robert L. Pfannebecker, Pforzheim Museum of Jewelry, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, Yale University Art Gallery. In addition, his work and research has been published in more than 70 books, and innumerable papers and articles over 6 decades.
Now in his 50th academic year, Professor Lechtzin continues to head the Metals / Jewelry / CAD-CAM Area. The Tyler program has evolved and prospered through his dedication and vision, providing thousands of students and hundreds of graduates the opportunity to acquire new knowledge and abilities, to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills, and to aspire to contribute meaningful new ideas to the world. One of the most significant contributions of any teacher and program is the successful practice of their graduates. While many understand the Tyler program through the lens of technology, the success of its graduates is far more complex: artists, designers, teachers, writers, critics, scholars, gallerists, and advocates. A partial list would include myriad and diverse contributors to our field: Paley, Moty, Griffin, Maniscalco, Quigley, Yoo, Metcalf, Kerner, Threadgill, Berman, DePaul, Ross, Lalik, Farrell, Tatalick, Bucci, Strzelec, Starrett, and so many more emerging. Each student experience at Tyler shapes thinking, goals, and careers.
Curriculum is critical to the advancement of a program, and the educational experience through which artists and designers are cultivated. It requires continuous redesign to ensure the growth of a program and a field. Stanley Lechtzin leads by example through his efforts to design and implement innovative curricula. By his dedication to practice-based research, he has challenged the field to look forward, to explore new materials and technologies, and to contribute to the rethinking and advancement of aesthetic values. He has led by example, invited our collective participation and exchange, and provoked us all. He has exemplified the artist/educator as researcher and designer and cultivated many educators to seek to establish other meaningful curricula and programs. Over the past 50 academic years, the graduates of the Tyler program have conducted innumerable artist interviews as historical research, and technical research projects, both of which are archived in audio/visual collections at Tyler, and are part of a plan to be shared with the field, once digitized. In 1989 Temple University recognized Lechtzin for his teaching with the Great Teacher Award.
In 1969 Stanley Lechtzin was one of 9 founders of SNAG, and over the period since then he has advocated vigorously and without cease for the best interest of our field, for education and professional practices. His work ethic is remarkable, his dedication and advocacy for others, tireless. He has served on juries and reviews, presented papers and panels, provided consultation to education and industry, all as part of the best practice. On the 40th anniversary of SNAG in Philadelphia his peers shared their great respect in bestowing SNAG’s highest honor on Stanley Lechtzin, an exceptional person who has dedicated his life to the advancement of our field.
1 Crafting A Legacy: Contemporary American Crafts in the Philadelphia Museum of Art ((Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2002), p. 140.
Images (top to bottom, left to right):
Stanley Lechtzin Portrait
“TORQUE #82C” , 1970, Electroformed Silver Gilt & Biwa Pearls, 11″x6.5″x2″, Private Collection
“NECKPIECE #17D”, 1971, Electroformed Silver Gilt, Amethyst Crystals, Moonstones, 8″x18″, Collection of the Artist
“BROOCH #56C”, 1969, Electroformed Silver Gilt, Agate, 96 Biwa Pearls, 6.5″x3″x1.25″, Collection of the Artist
“TORQUE #33D”, 1973, Electroformed Silver & Gilt, Polyester, 12″x7.5″x2.5″, Collection of Yale University
“TORQUE #66D”, 1978, Electroformed Silver Gilt, Cast Acrylic, 200 Pearls, 10.75″x 10.5″x 1.25″ Commissioned by K. Mikimoto & Company; Permanent Collection of Tokyo University of Fine Art & Music
“CAMEO BROOCH #56D”, 1975, Electroformed Silver & Gilt, Cast Acrylic & Photo images, 6.5″x6.5″x3″, Collection of the Artist
“CAMEO CORSAGE” BROOCH #83D, 1979, Electroformed Silver & Gilt, Cast Acrylic & Photo Images, Pearls, 6.25″x3.75″x3″, Collection of the Artist
“BRACELET #28F”, 1988, CAD-CAM, Acrylic, Anodized Aluminum, 4.25″ x 4.5″ x 1.25″, Collection of the Artist
“PLUS=MINUS” BROOCH #58F2, 2000, CAD/Rapid Prototype, SLA Resin, 14K gold, 6″ x 3.25″ x 1.75″, (Daniella Kerner, Collaborator) Collection of the Artists
“RAREARTH 3 DICHOTOMY” BROOCH #65F2, 2004, CAD/RP Stereolithography Resin, Selective Laser Sintered Glass filled Nylon, Rare Earth magnets 6 1/2″h x 4 1/2″w x 1 1/4″d, (Daniella Kerner, Collaborator) Collection of the Artists
“PYNCH BROOCH #73F”, 2011, 3D Print, Resin, O-Ring, 4.5”, (Daniella Kerner, Collaborator) Collection of the Artists