Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ed Levin

Many years ago I worked in a small shop that featured work by artists from all over the US. Aside from being a dangerous place to work (dangerous to my wallet) it was the place where I learned first hand about the value of handcrafted goods and those who produce them. That job was an introduction to a world that I would one day participate in but more importantly it was an introduction to the talent of many extraordinary artists. One of those artists was metalsmith and jewelry designer, Ed Levin.

Levin's work has always had the uncanny ability to look flawless and modern in design while maintaining an elegant simplicity. Good jewelry design doesn't need to be complicated. In fact, the very best of modern jewelry design is able to convey a sense of monumentality while being sneakily simple and unexpectedly comfortable. Ed Levin's work has possessed those qualities since the 1950s when he began his role as a pioneer in modern jewelry design.

Last week I was thinking about Levin. For a while now I have wanted to write a short piece on his work in an effort to encourage people to look to the artists who have come before, who paved the way for the so-called "craft revolution" that is taking place today. Just as I was trying to formulate my ideas and write down notes I received an email with the information that Ed Levin had passed away. He was 87. As I read his obituary I learned things about Levin that I never knew. He was an artist in every sense of the word - incorporating creativity, sensitivity and compassion into every aspect of his life.

The next day after hearing the news I decorated myself like a Christmas tree, layering on every piece of Levin jewelry I own. I stacked on the bracelets and rings, wore my favorite neck collar and earrings - I looked pretty ridiculous but somehow it made me feel better. For me the passing of Levin feels like the end of an era. He was my connection to the past, to the astounding artists who cultivated the modernist movement and influence in jewelry design and production. And while there are many extraordinary artists working today they are simply a continuation (and less of a revolution) of those who paved the way. I encourage everyone to take the time and learn about Levin's work and the work of his contemporaries. You will be inspired and encouraged to push your own creative endeavors even farther. What a fitting tribute to a man whose influence will be felt for years to come.

Two of the photos above are of pages from Marbeth Schon's wonderful book, Modernist Jewelry 1930-1960: The Wearable Art Movement. This book is a must have for anyone interested in jewelry history, modernist design, or simply those looking to be inspired. You need this, trust me. :)


Becca said...

Gorgeous pieces of jewelry, a piece of Mr Levin will live on in all of those whose work he influenced.

Rachel Saunders said...

A beautiful tribute to Ed. It filled me with warmth reading your thoughts of him. Having worked with him for years I was fortunate enough to know him personally and have him share his passion and child like wonder vision with me. I will miss him. He was an amazing inspiring man.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful, fitting tribute to Ed - and wearing all of the jewelry would have made him smile I imagine.