Remembering: Heikki Seppa

Remembering: Heikki Seppa

"A thorough knowledge of materials and techniques is a direct measure of artistic freedom," metalsmith Heikki Seppa once wrote. An influential artist and educator whose technical and sculptural innovations opened up a world of expressive possibilities in his medium, Seppa died on May 18, 2010; he was 83.

Born in Finland, Seppa trained at a goldsmithing school in Helsinki and at the famed Georg Jensen silver factory in Copenhagen before emigrating to Canada in 1951. A decade later, determined to master English-language terminology so he could more effectively teach his craft, he furthered his studies at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan.

In 1965 he joined Washington University in St. Louis, where he became head of the metals department. There he carried out his pioneering explorations with the shell structure technique, in the process developing a new creative vocabulary that he set out in his classic 1978 book Form Emphasis for Metalsmiths. He retired from teaching in 1992 and later moved to Bainbridge Island, Washington, with his wife, Laurie Lyall, who survives him.

Seppa's distinctive jewelry, hollowware, sculptures, and ecclesiastical objects won him international acclaim. His many honors include induction as a Fellow of the American Craft Council and lifetime membership in the Society of North American Goldsmiths.