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The State of Metalsmiths by Salt Magazine

PressHsiang-Ting Yen

I'm so excited and honored to be one of the featured artists at Salt Magazine this month, to know more about this article, here is the original link:



The State of Metalsmiths

Wilmington is home to some of North Carolina’s most acclaimed metal crafts people — a tradition that now spans the state        

By Emily Colin

North Carolina is known for its deep-rooted “maker” tradition, where crafting has risen from a traditional way of life to a finely honed art form. This is certainly true of metalsmithing, a field where an incredible community of designers has emerged over the past century — all dedicated to creating original, inspired personal adornment. The art has evolved, even as the tools of the trade — torches, hammers, pliers, anvils, files and roll mills — remain constant.

“One of the reasons that there’s such a rich tradition in the western part of the state is the craft movement that took place in the early 1900s,” says Melissa Manley, Wilmington metalsmith and Cape Fear Community College professor. Driven by economic initiatives, schools like “Arrowmont in Tennessee and Penland in the (N.C.) Blue Ridge supported local people by educating children and giving trades to adults, like jewelry making,” explains Manley. Penland School of Crafts (est. 1929) — northwest of Asheville — was at the epicenter. “(Students) wanted to learn from the finest people in the field, and (Penland) kept those fires stoked.”

Penland still thrives today, offering multidisciplinary workshops led by a rotating faculty. Asheville metalsmith Joanna Gollberg took her first-ever class at Penland, which “really changed the course of my life.” She is now an instructor there. “It’s a small community and everyone’s making something. Everyone’s supportive, and it’s a beautiful environment in terms of learning and sharing.” Though an anchor for the state’s tradition, Penland doesn’t offer a degree program.

North Carolina’s eastern stronghold, East Carolina University’s School of Art and Design, was forged in 1962, bringing the state’s tradition to the coast and refining it. ECU offers both B.F.A. and M.F.A. programs. Celebrated instructors and internationally acclaimed artists Linda Darty and Robert Ebendorf helped shape an entire generation of metalsmiths, many of whom settled south in Wilmington post graduation. Ebendorf has retired, but Darty founded and directs ECU’s study abroad intensive in Certaldo, Italy.

Another ECU professor, the late John Satterfield, played a seminal role in teaching several of the metalsmiths featured in this piece, such as Wilmington’s Will Olney. “He intrigued me,” says Olney. “He had technical knowledge about everything. The way he constructed pieces, with mechanical, moving parts — it was steampunk before steampunk was cool.”

Goldsmith and designer Mary Ann Scherr’s role in shaping the metalsmithing scene — not just in North Carolina but in the field as a whole — cannot be overstated. Scherr passed away just last year, but lived in Raleigh and was a highly sought-after instructor, teaching at Penland, Raleigh Fine Arts and many others. A treasure beyond the Triangle, her work has been displayed in the Vatican Museum of Contemporary Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian.

Raleigh metalsmith Sarah Tector served as one of Scherr’s studio assistants and later helped to found a Triangle metalsmithing group in her honor. “It was just such a gift to know her. She was an inspiration as a woman and as a creative person,” says Tector. “And it wasn’t just metals. She was the first female designer at Ford Motor Company, she did extensive work in commercials and graphics, she designed clothing — some of her cookie jars wound up being things Andy Warhol loved. To be doing this, as a female, in times when it was such a struggle to get recognition was amazing.”

This small but formidable group of instructors blazed the trail for the thriving and diverse community of metalsmiths that calls our state home today. From seasoned metalsmiths to emerging artisans, gallery owners to college professors, here is a glimpse into the world of North Carolina’s metalsmiths — from our backyard to the hills.

Hsiang-Ting Yen, Raleigh

Hsiang-Ting Yen was an undergraduate business administration student in Taiwan when inspiration struck. “My parents were afraid ‘you’ll starve yourself if you become an artist.’ I studied business, so I’d definitely have a job when I graduated. But I wasn’t happy,” Yen says. Then, an end-of-semester metalsmithing show at her university transformed her perspective.

Yen went on to attend Savannah College of Art and Design, graduating with an M.A. in metals and jewelry and an M.F.A. in jewelry and objects in 2012. Now living in Raleigh, she participates in the Triangle’s monthly get-togethers founded in honor of Mary Ann Scherr.

“Right now, my business’s main strengths are custom designs, craft shows and wholesale,” Yen says. She loves revealing the end result of a custom design — it’s “like a kid opening a candy box.”

In a departure from earlier nature-inspired influences, today Yen leans “more toward geometric and sculptural forms. I love Art Deco, the Art Nouveau era — I like how they interpret the design and the color.”



Where to Learn

Cape Fear Community College, Wilmington.

East Carolina University*, Greenville.

Pocosin Arts, Columbia.

Cary Arts Center, Cary.

Pullen Arts Center, Raleigh.

The Crafts Center at NC State University, Raleigh.

Sawtooth School for Visual Art, Winston-Salem.

Haywood Community College*, Clyde.

John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasstown.

Penland School of Crafts

*degree program

Where to Shop in Wilmington

Blue Moon Gift Shops

203 Racine Drive,

Cameron Art Museum Gift Shop

3201 South 17th St.,

Edge of Urge

18 Market St.,

Jonkheer Jewelry & Cicada Metals

4410 Wrightsville Ave.,

Spectrum Fine Jewelry, 1125 Military Cutoff Road, Suite J