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Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection

Ornament as Art: Avant-garde Jewelry

from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection

Mint Museum of Craft + Design

Aug 16, 2008 - Jan 4, 2009


Gijs Bakker

Dewdrop Necklace


PVC, print, and gilded brass

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Helen Williams Drutt Collection,

Gift of the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Family Foundation with love and in memory of Leah Grossberg,


© 2007 Gijs Bakker / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Beeldrecht, Amsterdam


Over her lifetime, Helen Williams Drutt, pioneering scholar, gallery director, and professor in the modern and contemporary craft movement, has assembled one of the most comprehensive collections of contemporary studio jewelry in the world. In 2002, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston acquired her collection of 720 pieces made between 1963-2001 along with 84 works on paper. In all, over 175 artists are represented in this incomparable collection.


Objects on view include necklaces, bracelets, brooches, earrings and rings from 15 different countries. Highlights include a sterling silver and polyester resin Torque 22-D Neckpiece (1971) by Stanley Lechtzin, a leading innovator in electroforming technologies; Claus Bury’s Ring (1970), a revolutionary work that blends precious metal with alternative materials; and Bernhard Schobinger’s Scherben vom Moritzplatz Berlin necklace (1982-1983), a distinctive combination of antique crystal beads with shards of Coca-Cola bottles found in a politically charged section of Berlin.


Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection consists of 275 pieces of jewelry, as well as drawings, water colors, sketchbooks, and sculptural constructions. The exhibition begins with works from the 1960s, when a dramatic shift occurred in Europe in how the world perceived ornament and jewelry. Breaking with tradition, artists placed their works within larger artistic movements, signaling a period of independence in which concepts and ideas were valued more than precious materials. Abstraction, conceptualism, and minimalism were powerful influences at this time as were earlier movements such as the Bauhaus and De Stijl. The exhibition continues with featured works from the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s through today, examining the artist’s sometimes controversial use of scale and form as well as the progressive use of new materials. Performance art and Pop art, and a keen interest in narrative and figurative work define this period. In the 21st century, jewelers, painters, photographers, and sculptors have mined source material simultaneously further blurring the divisions of the art world.


Ornament as Art exhibition page on the Mint Museum website


Helen Williams Drutt

  • Audio interview (link is no longer available) with Helen Williams Drutt about her collection from MFA Houston
  • Read this interview with Drutt when her jewelry was on exhibition in Melbourne in 2004.
  • One of the "first galleries in the United States committed to modern and contemporary crafts" is Helen Drutt: Philadelphia


General Exhibition Resources


Artists in the exhibition whose work is also in the permanent collection of The Mint Museum

Jamie Bennett

  • The Sienna Gallery in Lenox, Massachusettes has a short biography and eleven samples of Bennett's jewelry.

Liv Blåvarp

  • Biography and images from Euran Global Culture Networks website
  • A brief description of Blåvarp's jewelry and an image from a 2004-05 issue of eJournal (scroll to the bottom of the page)
  • Liv Blavarp's (link is no longer available) artist bio from Sculpture to Wear.

Georg Dobler

  • The Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusettes has an online gallery (link is no longer available) of Dobler's pieces.
  • Three examples of jewelry (click to enlarge) by Georg Dobler accompanied by text by Paul Derrez (who is also in the exhibition)

Robert Ebendorf

  • An article from The Crafts Report (link is no longer available) magazine traces Ebendorf's career path and shows images of his jewelry.
  • Tracy Rosolowski interviews Ebendorf in 2004 for the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project For Craft and Decorative Arts in America. The interview is in the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.
  • Ebendorf is the featured speaker for Artist's Forum, the free lecture/reception series at the Mint Museum of Art, on Tuesday, December 2, 7pm - 8:30pm.

Donald Friedlich

Lisa Gralnick

William Harper

Daniel Kruger

Nel Lissen

Bruce Metcalf

  • Biography, Samples ,and Links from the Pew fellowship of the Arts site.
  • Charen Kranson Arts (link is no longer available) - Contemporary Innovative Jewelry - a biography page with detailed photographs of Metcalf's art.
  • Look for the special exhibition of Metcalf's work, "The Miniature Worlds of Bruce Metcalf," coming to MMCD in February 2009! Metcalf will also be speaking at the museum on Sunday, February 22, 2009 at 3pm. Check the Mint Museum website for upcoming details.

Albert Paley

  • Biography (link is no longer available) from the Solway Gallery
  • Paley's website provides a view of his larger, architectural work

Ruudt Peters

Joyce Scott

  • Biography (link is no longer available) from the Maryland Art Source website
  • Kickin' It with Joyce J. Scott, a thirty year survey of her works at the Seattle Museum of Glass in 2006. Note the links to the MOG blog (on the right of the page) which contains video interviews with the artist

Helen Shirk

Kiff Slemmons

  • Article from Ornament magazine on her "Re: Pair & Imperfection" exhibition. The catalog from this traveling exhibition is available in the Mint library.
  • A review by Jennifer Dietz of "The Thought of Things: Jewelry by Kiff Slemmons", an exhibition at the Palo Alto Art Center in 2000

Janna Syvanoja

David Watkins

  • David Watkins and his Students - review of an exhibition from 2005 at Contemporary Applied Arts in London, "a registered charity set up to promote and champion British craft"

Nancy Worden

  • From the Washington State Arts Commission site, Worden is asked about her approach as a Teaching Artist (link is no longer available).
  • A review of an exhibition at the Tacoma Art Museum in 1998 mentions Worden and also includes contemporaries- Ramona Solberg, Don Tompkins, Ken Cory, Mary Lee Hu.


Other significant artists in the exhibition

Gijs Bakker


Claus Bury

  • Like Paley, Bury creates work on a much larger scale. View this artist's site.

Stanley Lechtzin

  • Some samples of Lechtzin's jewelry and an exhibition and awards list at the Temple University site. Lechtzin is the Head of Metals/Jewelry/CAD-CAM Area at the Tyler School of Art at Temple.

Gerd Rothmann

Berhard Schobinger

Olaf Skoogfors

Romona Solberg

  • An article from Carolina Arts about Findings: The Jewelry of Ramona Solberg at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, 2002.
  • Video (RealPlayer) of a 2004 program, Living Treasures: Ramona Solberg, Jeweler, Teacher, Traveler from seattlechannel.org

Emmy van Leersum


Artists in the Drutt collection and in the permanent collection of The Mint Museum

(not appearing in this exhibition)

Sophie Hanagarth

Linda MacNeil

  • Artist website
  • Carolina Arts review of the 2003 exhibition at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, Sculptural Radiance: The Jewelry and Objects of Linda MacNeil and the archived webpage (link is no longer available) of the exhibition with images.

Lucy Sarneel


Resources from the Mint Library

  • A list of Ornament as Art resources from MARCO (The Mint Art Research Catalog Online)
  • Halper, Vicki. (c2001.). Findings : the Jewelry of Ramona Solberg. Seattle, WA : Bank of America Gallery in association with the University of Washington Press.
  • Joris, Yvònne G. J. M. Jewels of Mind and Mentality : Dutch Jewelry Design 1950-2000 's. Hertogenbosch, Netherlands : Het Kruithuis, Museum of Contemporary Art.
  • Linssen, Nel. Nel Linssen : Papieren Sieraden = Paper Jewelry. Nijmegen : N. Linssen, 2002.
  • Lucie-Smith, Edward. (1996.). The Art of Albert Paley : iron, bronze, steel. New York : H.N. Abrams.
  • MacNeil, Linda. United in Beauty : the Jewelry and Collectors of Linda MacNeil. Atglen, PA : Schiffer Pub., c2002.
  • Manhart, Tom. William Harper : Artist as Alchemist. Orlando, Fla.: The Museum, c1989.
  • Norton, Deborah L. (c1991.). Albert Paley : Sculptural Adornment. Washington, D.C. : Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution in association with the University of Washington Press.
  • Peters, Ruudt. Change. Amsterdam : Voetnoot, 2002.
  • Renwick Gallery. Skilled Work : American Craft in the Renwick Gallery, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Washington, D.C. : Smithsonian Institution Press, c1998.
  • Strauss, Cindi. Ornament as Art : Avant-garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Stuttgart, Germany : Arnoldsche Art Publishers in association with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2007. -500 + page catalog features essays by MFAH organizing curator Cindi Strauss and scholar and collector Helen Williams Drutt English. Its encyclopedic coverage of contemporary jewelry makes it much more than an exhibition catalog. The catalog won the 2008 George Wittenborn Memorial Book Award From the Art Libraries Society of North America. HIGHLY recommended! (and available in the Mint Museum shops!)
  • The Eloquent Object : the Evolution of American Art in Craft Media Since 1945. Tulsa : Philbrook Museum of Art, c1987








Page created by Joe Eshleman, Library Assistant for The Mint Museum