Brilliance: Bruce Metcalf

Brilliance: Bruce Metcalf

Bruce Metcalf, Hagemann’s Blossoms

Bruce Metcalf, Hagemann’s Blossoms, 2013, painted and gold-leafed maple, sterling silver, gold-plated and patinated brass, epoxy resin, putty, 13 x 10.5 x 1.25 in. Photo: Bruce Metcalf

“There is no jeweler on earth who gives more thought to each object he produces,” says Ulysses Grant Dietz of Bruce Metcalf. His work draws “on the visual language of traditional ornament that works on both conscious and subconscious levels,” adds Ursula Ilse-Neuman. Metcalf, co-author of the craft text Makers (2010), is steeped in the history of the decorative arts, and his expertise informs his jewelry – and his preference for craft over art. “I have no ambitions to make what passes for art today. No installations. No performances. No videos. No piles of abject stuff. No aspirations or references to conceptual art. No spectaculars. No labor farmed out to gremlins. I am a craftsman, and I am a jeweler,” he says.

How he describes his work: “The illicit love child of a three-way between Fabergé, Hans Bellmer’s dolls, and Robert Crumb’s cartoons.”

His biggest artistic influences: “Too numerous to mention, but includes Brent Kington’s toys; J. Fred Woell’s badges; many pieces from the arts and crafts movement, particularly by Lucia Mathews; Dagobert Peche; American cartooning; scientific illustration around 1900; decorative arts manuals from the same period.”

Why he makes jewelry: “Jewelry best fits my way of working, which tends toward making small objects. And I need to work with my hands, in much the same way that I need to breathe.”

His biggest challenge: “Finding the sweet spot between innovation, seduction, and intellectual satisfaction.”

His biggest reward: “Very occasionally, to know that I made a truly good piece.” 

What’s next: “More.”

Read the rest of the profiles of jewelry artists in this issue.