Mary Schimpff Webb
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Mary Schimpff Webb began studying jewelry making at a very early age. As a child growing up in Illinois, Webb was exposed to the arts through her parents, who were devoted art enthusiasts. Her mother Frances was an accomplished artist and jewelry maker. Webb’s childhood was surrounded by art. Her regular visits to art museums and enrollment at the Peoria Art institute greatly influenced her future career as a designer.
Webb’s unique jewelry making talent was recognized early in her career. During a brief move to St. Louis she met and worked with influential teacher Sue Fuller, an accomplished jeweler who also worked for Georg Jensen Jewelers in New York. After relocating to Illinois she continued her education at the Illinois State University. After her college career she and her mother branched out throughout the county. They worked privately with goldsmiths, jewelry makers, stone setters and enamel artists. These experiences greatly influenced her during her formative years and later served as the catalyst for her career in jewelry making.
In the 1970s, Webb opened a jewelry studio with her mother in Glen Arbor, Michigan. The mother daughter team honed their talents working side by side. While Frances worked on fused texturing, Mary spent time on hand construction. Their collaboration produced an environment where creativity and ideas flowed freely. The team was at the forefront of the American Modernist jewelry movement, introducing many innovations into the art form. The Schimpffs were among the first artisans to pair precious and semi-precious gems in contemporary jewelry making. They also began to experiment with mixing gold and platinum which was unheard of at the time. Like their modernist counterparts, Schimpff designs were unconventional and innovative. The pair were frequently recognized for their exceptional talents, earning many awards during their career, such as winning the DeBeers Diamond International awards for unusual design four times and the Diamond International Academy awards, an exhibition specifically established for repeat winners like the Schimpffs’. Their designs were also exhibited at the American House Galleries and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Among their numerous accolades, Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson commissioned them to create one-of-a-kind parting gifts for his staff after leaving office. Their successful partnership continued for many years. After Frances passed away in 1987, Mary continued the family tradition with husband Bruce Webb. The pair toured outdoor art festivals and entered jewelry shows across the country, earning many honors along the way. She and Bruce traveled to Idar-Oberstein, the German capital of gemstone industry, to study gem cutting and goldsmithing. In the early 1990’s, they founded the Northeast Chapter of the Florida Society of Goldsmiths.
Mary Schimpff Webb has been plying her art form for more than 60 years. Over the years, her distinctive use of materials and techniques has set her apart from other jewelry designers. Her lovely wearable works of art are fluid, highly sculptural and textured forms utilizing unusual combinations of precious and semi-precious stones with gold, platinum, silver and bronze. All of her work is handcrafted, including the gems she often shapes herself. When beginning a new piece, Webb draws much of her inspiration from nature. “I create from these ideas and you never run out of them. Ideas are everywhere, the shape of clouds, structures and even blades of grass.” Having such a keen sense of her natural surroundings has imbued her jewelry with a special quality. Her creativity knows no limits. In addition to making jewelry, Webb also creates sculptural boxes, fine silverware, belt buckles and other unique pieces. During her prolific career, Webb has continued to challenge herself with new styles and techniques to apply to her artwork. She has firmly established herself as a fine craftsman of modernist jewelry.
Webb has taught extensively in the United States at locations such as Wild Acres, North Carolina, for the Florida Society of Goldsmiths and Southeastern Federation of the Gem and Mineral Society, the Florida Museum of Art (formerly the Deland Museum of Art), DeLand, Florida and Atlantic Center for the Arts at Harris House in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Her work has appeared in numerous books and magazines on jewelry making including The Metalsmith’s Book of Boxes and Lockets, and The Penland Book of Jewelry: Master Classes in Jewelry Techniques and American Craft magazine among others. Marbeth Schon, the renowned expert on modernist jewelry making, published an article on Mary Schimpff Webb’s contributions to the art form in her book, Modernist Jewelry 1930-1960; The Wearable Art Movement. Mary Schimpff Webb has exhibited her work nationally and internationally. Her work has been selected for exhibition in La Triennale di Milano, Milan, Italy; Tendenzen (an international jewelry exhibition) Schmuckmuseum, Pforzheim, Germany and at the Internationale de Bijoux in Toulouse, France. In the 70’s she was named Jeweler of the Year for Art in America. In November 2009, she won “Best in Show” for a Marriage of Metals Box in a Beaux Arts competition at the Art League of Daytona, Daytona Beach, Florida.
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