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Silver Designs Celebrate Idaho's Sterling History

October 21, 1990|By Lynn Williams

Julia R. Woodman, who also studied at Georgia State, took third-place honors for her curvaceous tea set, which is, Mr. Johnston says, "a stunning thing -- it's a little reminiscent of something Georg Jensen, the famous Scandinavian silversmith, would do.

The piece that garnered fourth prize was certainly the most unusual of the entries: a woman's silver evening gauntlet and matching earrings which, as Mr. Johnston says, "looks like something Cher would look good in." The gauntlet has articulated sections for wrist flexibility, and hooks over the middle finger with a silver chain. James Arlen Gillaspie of Northern Arizona State University crafted the piece using medieval armoring techniques. While the competition was in progress, he flew to London to repair armor for the British Museum.

Fifth place went to a sensually interlocking "sugar and cream set for the boudoir," by Matthew Sterling Morrow of Texas Tech University.

The honorable mention pieces, winners of $100 cash prizes, display a wide range of invention. They include a goblet on whose handle are etched nudes inspired by Greek mythology; a whimsical, bulbous candy dish; flatware sets whose handles recall pea pods and flower petals; a sinuous centerpiece in the shape of a milkweed pod, and charmingly lopsided cream and sugar pitchers with inlaid nickel Xs and Os.

Before the winning pieces are returned to their owners, they will be admired by thousands of silver aficionados both in New York and in their host state of Idaho. (No plans have been made to display them in Baltimore, however.) The winning designs are now on display at the art museum in Boise, Idaho, and beginning in January, can be seen in Tiffany's Fifth Avenue store in New York.

The exposure, more than the prizes (which range from $100 to $750), takes top priority for the entrants. Silver companies watch such competitions carefully, and a number of their leading designers have been award-winners in Sterling Silversmiths Guild contests.

"We have found that the amount of money is not important to them," Mr. Johnston states. "It's winning, and getting the recognition. One teacher explained it in a wonderful way. He said, 'You can be a fair football player or basketball player on a campus and everybody knows you, but you can be the best silver designer, and nobody knows you. These kids are starved for recognition.' "

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