Best of 2020

Dec 16, 2020 | News, General

Every year, the Curating Team at AMCAW recognizes metal clay artists who created noteworthy work during the year. “Pieces are selected for their ability to stop us in our tracks and command our attention,” say the jurors, “for their concept, design, construction, or simply their ability to evoke an emotion.”


Ellen Cole, Tufted Titmouse

Ellen Cole is known for her jewelry featuring fauna of all sorts, especially birds, inspired by the character and form she sees in the stones which she uses in her work. To paraphrase the title and subtitle of Lisa Barth’s book, Ellen is an artist who truly takes her inspiration from the stone and designs from it. In this gorgeous titmouse, the black onyx eye and blue-gray lace onyx body are so well integrated that the stones are genuinely a part of the bird. Ellen’s masterful use of oil pencils and black patina breathe life into her design. You can almost see this little guy outside on your birdfeeder!


Rae Evans, Rising From the Ashes

evans rising from the ashes

Rae is an experienced midwife, and during the year of Covid-19, she’s been on the front line but she found the time to create this amazing piece in copper clay. It was chosen as one of the best of 2020 not only for its design and construction, but for what it symbolizes and how it captures a feeling. In Rae’s own words: “My copper phoenix is inspired by all parents who have a baby born sleeping. They rise from the ashes of their broken dreams and carry on despite their devastation. Dedicated to Lyla-Rae 17th April, 2020.”


Danielle Ferreira, Bypass Ring

Dani bypass ring

This bypass ring is by a relative newcomer to metal clay, Danielle Ferreira, who only began working in metal clay two years ago but who has worked tirelessly to improve her designs and master the medium. In this well executed design, Danielle has integrated both the interior and exterior of the ring by texturing both. She has carefully refined each element, whether hand modeled or molded. While the roses were molded, she filed and finished them so that you cannot see where they came out of the mold. The embedded CZs are well set and look as good on the inside as on the outside of the ring.


Holly Gage, Hope

Hope by Holly Gage

Holly created this unique pendant for her Creative Hope Jewelry Project challenge and virtual exhibit, an online event to unite artists in an uplifting expression of hope during a summer of unrest due to coronavirus, social distancing, and social injustice. The back of the piece is the coronavirus which has a flower seedling breaking through it, showing that nothing lasts forever; the front of the pendant is a scene of regeneration, which the earth experienced when all our modern pollution sources were stilled for a month or so at the start of the pandemic. “We don’t think or talk much about the ‘good’ side of COVID-19, understandably, but satellite photos showing the lack of pollution over most major cities earlier this year was as eye-opening as the actual virus,” noted our jurors. “Holly perfectly captured the theme ‘hope’ in her well-designed piece, as well as the event which shaped the year.”


Annemarie Klappe, Sleeping Beauty

Annemarie Klappe necklace

The Bits and Pieces Challenge on Facebook is all about getting artists to explore outside their comfort zone. This piece by Annemarie Klappe was created for the September challenge, which required five elements: prongs, something made with polymer clay, metal clay donut(s), a repeating element, and a toy used for texture or used in the design. “Everything about this piece is so well integrated,” noted the jurors. “It works together so well, it’s difficult to determine where the central focal point ends and the chain begins. The shape of the focal element matches the repetitious motifs of the chain creating wonderful harmony in the piece and the color match is extraordinary. The lovely polymer flowers fit just right and give a pop of color which lifts the whole design.”


Helga van Leipsig, Erosion

Helga van Leipsig lives on a farm in the Netherlands and gleans much of the inspiration for her forms and textures from the landscape around her. One of the aspects of this work which is so appealing is the scale. Helga has quite masterfully juxtaposed the textures and patinas so as to give viewers the impression that we are part of the piece. “It feels to me as if I can “experience” these works,” said one juror. “When I look at the work, I sort of shrink down and enter them. Once inside, I regain my normal size, and these landscapes get larger around me so that I could actually walk on the gold ridges and in between the rectangular blocks. Helga’s ability to create this vast space in a small object makes this some of the most compelling work I’ve seen for some time.”


Etsuko Nakayama, Bouquet de Princesse

Etsuko Nakayama

Etsuko is a Japanese metal clay artist whose work is truly stunning; she’s continually pushing the boundaries of what silver clay can do. Her 2020 piece Bouquet de Princesse is an example of very delicate work created with a lot of components. It’s often missed by beginners that silver clay is perfect for component work as you can glue it together after it’s dry when it’s much more stable to use. Etsuko kindly shared a video with AMCAW showing how she produced this remarkable piece.


Victoria Petlach, Bronze Ring

This ring is made of bronze clay with inset gemstones; it comes apart in three sections which may be worn together (as in the photo) or separately. This piece immediately made our jurors think of the low relief carvings on the walls of pyramids and other buildings in Egypt. The impact of the piece was summed up by one juror. “I quite like the way my eye is drawn in to wander over the surface where various images and textures are revealed.” Victoria’s use of bronze in the piece also heightens the reference to Egypt for the jury as it mimics very closely the colors of the stonework and the surrounding sand of the desert.