2017 Foldforming Winners: The Lewton-Brain Competition for an Innovative Metalsmithing Technique

How many new metalsmithing techniques could possibly be developed in a craft as ancient as this one? Not many — and yet, in the 1980s, Charles Lewton-Brain did just that. He invented foldforming. Score, fold, forge, and anneal in various combinations, and then unfold metal sheet to reveal a new form.

ABOVE: Jurors’ Choice, Amir Nasiri, Tehran, Iran, “Sound of Silence” (5 cm H largest link), silver, vitreous enamel, gold amalgam, pearl; photo by Hamid Aghaei
ALL COMPETITION IMAGES COURTESY OF www.foldforming.org

Foldforming is a popular metals technique because it offers the smith and jewelry maker so much. It is a relatively easy way to create three-dimensional pieces, and lends itself readily to leafy, floral, organic, or draped looks with an especially gracious sensibility. It can also be challenging and complex, and being so new is a natural for experimentation.

2017 Foldforming Winners: The Lewton-Brain Competition for an Innovative Metalsmithing Technique

First Place: Ferruccio Maierna, Rome, Italy, “Curva” (23 x 72 x 20 cm), metal sheet from cans; photo by Ferdinando Gatta

The Lewton-Brain Foldform Competition exists to foster this experimental impulse and provide an environment where the technique of foldforming can blossom and grow. In August I had the great fortune to join the technique’s inventor, Charles Lewton-Brain, and Seth Rosen, owner of the International Gem Society and Ganoksin, in selecting winners and honorees from among this year’s entries.

2017 Foldforming Winners: The Lewton-Brain Competition for an Innovative Metalsmithing Technique

Second Place: Dorian S. Custodia, Sellersville, PA, U.S., “Silver Mouth Pitcher Plant” (6 x 6 x 18 in), copper, Argentium Silver, silver plating, brass, red copper oxide, green verdigris, clear acrylic enamel

Well Done and Innovative

Here are the criteria for the competition:

  •  well-crafted use of foldforming techniques in the metal arts
  • in a fully realized work
  • excellence of execution and bold explorations
  • complexity carries weight
  • but so does creativity and fresh expression
2017 Foldforming Winners: The Lewton-Brain Competition for an Innovative Metalsmithing Technique

Third Place: Chelsea Dyck, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, “Freedom” (14 x 9 in), niobium, sterling silver

Furthermore, artists are often recognized for simple folds that are:

  • deftly repeated
  • used in mixed media
  • combined with other metal techniques
  • and last but not least, prize-winners from previous years are asked to introduce substantive change or evolution in their new entries.
2017 Foldforming Winners: The Lewton-Brain Competition for an Innovative Metalsmithing Technique

Honorable Mention: Amir Nasiri, Tehran, Iran, “Chess Set” (45 x 45 cm board), copper, pure silver; photo by Hamid Aghaei

Weighing Those Criteria

Judging took place in two parts. First, there was a rough sort based on a numeric score. After the entry deadline had passed, each of the jurors was given independent access to the jurying part of the website. We were asked to review each entry in its own right and give it a score from 1 to 10. So early one morning in late July, I cranked up my laptop, poured myself another cup of coffee, and settled in. I went back and forth between the work and the competition’s criteria, keeping those foremost in mind.

2017 Foldforming Winners: The Lewton-Brain Competition for an Innovative Metalsmithing Technique

Honorable Mention: Alex O’Connor, St. Just, Cornwall, England, U.K., “Straze Rocking Vessels” (14 x 20 cm), Britannia silver, lemon gilding, rhodium plate; photo by Paul Mounsey

Looking over all the entries and deciding which pieces ought to rank among the highest was challenging and interesting, and I certainly enjoyed that privilege. It got to be even more interesting in the second round of judging, which involved live discussion among the jurors.

I’ve always chafed at the notion of a work of art being reduced to a number, and the criteria, while very specific, are not specifically weighted, giving us a lot of flexibility. It was up to us to decide when simplicity might win out over complexity, or when innovation might trump even materials, for example, as in “Fold Forms in Glass.”

To create this piece, the artist foldformed thin copper, enameled one surface, and placed the piece in an etching bath. The etch removed the copper so that the resulting piece is all glass. I rolled that one around in my head for a long time, and finally concluded that it met the requirement that the piece showed “well-crafted use of foldforming techniques in the metal arts.” There was nothing that said the piece actually had to be metal, and I found it absolutely intriguing. Would the others see it that way, too?

 

2017 Foldforming Winners: The Lewton-Brain Competition for an Innovative Metalsmithing Technique

Innovation Award: Ed Lay, El Cerrito, CA, U.S., “Fold Forms in Glass” (1 cm to 3 cm), glass.

Yes, they did, as you can see in the photo above. A couple of weeks after our separate reviews, we went back online together and joined a Skype conversation. Then we spent a morning or so explaining how we’d arrived at our initial ratings, our reservations and certainties, and gradually worked out a consensus for all of the final decisions.

Jurors’ Choices

Awards include First, Second, and Third Places, and the competition may also recognize an entry with its Innovation Award and Honorable Mentions. At most, that’s just a handful of pieces, though. Because there are so many entries worth sharing, the competition also recognizes other work that meets its criteria as Jurors’ Choices. Here are just some of these other outstanding entries from this year’s event.

You can learn more about the competition and see all of the recognized pieces at www.foldforming.org. The competition expects to accept entries for next year about mid May, so start planning your pieces now. And don’t forget, this competition is judged solely by photograph, so make sure your photographs do your designs justice.

Merle White is Editor-in-Chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and Editorial Director for the Interweave Jewelry Group

Try It Yourself

If you haven’t tried fold forming yet or want a refresher on the technique, download the video Metalsmith Essentials: Basic Jewelry Fold Forming with Travis Ogden. Maybe you’ll receive honors in the 2018 Lewton-Brain Foldform Competition!

Then get professional advice on photographing your pieces from Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist’s own Jim Lawson. Whether you’re shooting for competition entries, online sales, or promotion anywhere, learn to shoot effectively in How to Photograph Your Jewelry, How to Photograph Your Jewelry: Beyond the Basics, and Shoot, Share, Sell: How to Get the Best Jewelry Photos from Your Smartphone all with Jim Lawson.


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