Lapidary Journal

Gems to Sing About

Iris Sandkühler's progress as a jewelry designer is a rags-to-riches saga — or, more accurately, a glass-to-gems tale. Initially, glass shards and fused glass figured prominently in her work, mainly because this material was easily available — and her limited finances prevented the purchase of gemstones. Now, this assistant professor of fine arts at Georgia Southern University can afford to splurge a little.

Her reputation and expertise have won her several commissions, including one of the tuxedo studs and cuff links pictured here. The pieces were fashioned of 14-karat gold in 18-gauge sheets, hollow square wire, round wire, and some prefabricated fancy baroque bezel strips. The trapezoid-shaped cuff links feature cabochons of fire agate, citrine, and garnet. These pieces were made this past summer at the request of teaching colleague Joseph Robbins. Robbins, a music professor and opera singer, had them made to wear to the opening banquet of the International Congress of Singing convention in Auckland, New Zealand. "The best thing about this commission was that I was given free reign to come up with the design," says Sandkühler, whose jewelry work is evenly split between glass and gemstones. "I showed him my progress at every stage of the project, and he said to do whatever I wanted, because he trusted me." Sandkühler, 36, also is an accomplished sculptor and creator of photomontages and collages. Having three artistic outlets from which to choose helps keep her output fresh and exciting, she says. "When I feel burned out on one, I can do the other," says German-born Sandkühler. She exhibits regularly at the Mavetty Gallery, Glenedon Beach, Oregon; Riley-Hawk Glass Gallery, Columbus, Ohio; Touchstone Gallery, Hendersonville, North Caroline; and Gypsy Moth, Savannah, Georgia. She's also designed a copper electroformed chain ornament for the White House Christmas tree. Her artistic voice must be a strong one, as she was invited to apply for the privilege of exhibiting her jewelry , sculpture, and artist's books of collages and photomontages at the 1996 Cultural Olympiad in Atlanta, to be held in conjunction with the Summer Olympics which that city is hosting.

Her full-time teaching position allows Sandkühler the financial freedom to experiment with her jewelry. "I know there are those who believe you should give up everything and be an artist 100 percent of the time," she says. "But that's hard to do when you're trying to pay the rent. It's my nature to teach, anyway."

Lapidary Journal
December 1994
Posted by permission of Lapidary Journal

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