By Janet Kelly
SPRINGTIME. It’s all about rebirth, renewal and rejoicing—as Passover and Easter recently reminded us. Speaking of rejoicing, that’s exactly what the 2022 Smithsonian Craft Show is doing on the occasion of its 40th anniversary. Not to mention that the event, which kicks off this evening with a Preview Night Party, is the first in-real-life show in two years. Welcome back.
Looking ahead to a future, post-pandemic, we’re imagining our own renewal/reinvention as we emerge from a prolonged hibernation. We’re not thinking of anything as extreme as a wholesale makeover but would happily embrace a tweak or three. To that end, our eye is focused on the work of Smithsonian jewelry artists Tiara and Tai Kim, Susan Mahlstedt, Linda Kindler-Priest and Melissa Schmidt, all top-tier craft artisans recognized for their inventive designs, processes and new materials. Strands of pearls and diamond studs have their place, but for distinguishing yourself from the crowd and having some fun at the same time, we’ve found four objets d’art we’d love to shake up our repertoire.
Madeleine Albright understood the value of a jeweled pin when it came to matters of State, so did Lady Gaga with the enormous Schiaparelli dove brooch she wore to the 2021 presidential inauguration. Tiara and Tai Kim‘s one-and-only In the Garden Pin/Pendant, a combination of 18, 22, 24k gold and platinum, fused on oxidized sterling silver, coral and ivory, may have no political connotations, but it will add texture, intrigue and elegance to whatever you’re wearing, whether you use it to cinch the waist of a loose dress or pin one to a grosgrain ribbon for a makeshift choker.
Inspired by the shapes and textures of leaves, sand dollars, shells, bamboo and pebbles, Kansas City, Missouri-based Susan Mahlstedt is driven to solve the technical challenges involved in creating the looks she wants. Mahlstedt uses sterling silver, 18k and 14k gold, which she accents with precious and semi-precious stones to create her signature jewelry that’s not only graceful and artistic but also comfortable to wear. She accomplishes the contrast of white and black on these Bright Sand Dollars—with 18k gold centers and 14k gold wires— by depletion gilded sterling silver (a heating process that makes the silver a white color) and by oxidizing the edges.
A graduate of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Linda Kindler-Priest has taught at the DeCordova Museum and the Massachusetts College of Art, as well as at the Museum of Fine Arts, where her work is in the permanent collection. Kindler-Priest uses the repoussé technique to sculpt realistic images onto metal, which she then mixes with both precious and non-precious stones. For this hinged-cuff bracelet, a wild rose bush on the beach was the inspiration. The single rose on the front is 14k hammered gold. Chased flowers float encircle the cuff, as do little pink sapphires on this wearable sculpture.
“Glass is pure and predictable and yet has endless possibilities,” notes Melissa Schmidt, who works out of her 120-year-old St. Louis studio creating whimsical, original pieces of jewelry like this Paper Crane Necklace, composed of three bubbles of handblown pyrex. Inside the center one is an origami paper crane that looks as if it’s flying; the other two bubbles contain hand-cut paper butterflies and swallows. They’re set on a sterling silver neck wire, which is adjustable from 16 to 19 inches.
The Smithsonian Craft Show opens to the public tomorrow, Thursday, April 21, 2022.
Show hours: 10:30am to 5:30pm, Thursday, April 21, to Saturday, April 23; and Sunday, April 24, 11am to 5pm. You may use your ticket on the day of your choice.
Admission: $20 at the door or in advance online at Smithsonian Craft Show.
Group tickets (10 or more) are $10 each; student tickets are $10.
Vaccinations are encouraged but proof is not required.
Masks must be worn indoors, regardless of vaccination status, unless actively eating or drinking.
The Smithsonian Craft Show is produced by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, an all-volunteer organization that supports the education, outreach and research programs of the Smithsonian Institution. The awe-inspiring National Building Museum is located at 401 F Street NW (202-272-2448). The closest Metro stop is Judiciary Square.