George Sawyer

(Up)Setting the Stone Juror Statement


When asked to help jury (Up)Setting the Stone, I was attracted to the idea of focusing an exhibition on a component of jewelry that is both elemental and central to the jewelry artist’s work but often presents difficulties because of the strong visual attraction of a stone. When entrancing stones or objects with a strong emotional content are added to metalwork, a delicate balancing act comes into play.

The creativity of the jewelry artist is always focused on the execution of an idea in a form or story that can be transmitted intellectually and emotionally to another person. If the artist uses small set stones to emphasize important elements in the metalwork, the metalwork will remain the subject of the story.  However, if the designer chooses to use a set element that is especially engaging (and why use anything else?) it often will dominate a piece to a point that the metalwork is forced to assume a secondary role. Really great pieces have metalwork that creates a look and a story that is strong enough to play an equal role with the set object. 

In the world of art and designer jewelry, where the highest regard is given to creativity and originality in metalwork, the balance between a set object or stone and the metalwork can be rather delicate. If the relationship between metalwork and stone is correct, the result can be stunning.  Creating a beautifully balanced piece with a setting that is functional, stylistically appropriate and executed with an elegant simplicity can be challenging experience.  Once the design decisions are made, the artist has to confront the problem of actually attaching a stone or non-metallic component to their metalwork and often finds that what was so simple conceptually can be so difficult in reality.  What works mechanically is often inappropriate aesthetically and what seems correct aesthetically often just doesn’t work mechanically.

The pieces in (Up)Setting the Stone present a wide range of creative solutions to the challenges of the set object. The setting of Tyler Stoll’s “Green Beanis” molds the shape of a formable material to create the central object, while the central stone in Jim Cotter’s “Amethyst in Cement” molds the formable material of the setting to its shape. Andrew Meers’ “Running For Shelter” has a secret in a setting within a setting. Liaung Chung Yen’s “Reflections From a Lakeshore” has a beautiful balance of color, stone and form and Anna Johnson’s arrangement of a delicate bird skull surrounded by vanadium crystals, pearls and antique castings in her “Sempur Brooch” creates a strong mystical/spiritual quality. My multiple excursions through the collection have resulted in new discoveries and new favorites with each pass. I hope you will enjoy the opportunity to closely examine the great variety of work represented in (Up)Setting the Stone.

- George Sawyer