Etched in Stone
By: Ilene Dube
Jeweler Maxine Rosenthal is one of 140 artisans featured at Crafters' Marketplace at Princeton Day School Nov. 23-24.
The first time jeweler Maxine Rosenthal saw
polymer clay beads was about 15 years ago in the gift shop at
the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y. She mistook the
man-made clay for painted glass and was fascinated that someone
could paint such tiny little designs into the glass. Then a
sales associate explained how the clay was worked in canes,
or tubes, that were elongated and rolled until they became tiny
swirls of color. While they were talking, Ms. Rosenthal's husband
surprised herand bought the bracelet.
|Jeweler Maxine Rosenthal, one of 140 artisans featured at Crafters' Marketplace, works in metal and stone (above and below). |
As soon as she returned home, Ms. Rosenthal, who had dabbled in pottery, got books from the library and taught herself to work in the new medium.
With her organizational skills and time management, Ms. Rosenthal could be a spokeswoman for the Franklin Planner company. During her long career with DuPont in Wilmington first as an analyst, later as a corporate manager Ms. Rosenthal worked up to 60 hours each week. In addition to managing a family, she sought to make her life full and enriched by working out physically, contributing philanthropically and creating artwork everything from watercolor and fiber arts to pottery and jewelry.
In 1996, she took early retirement and devoted herself full time to jewelry. The Wilmington resident is one of 140 crafters who will sell their wares at Crafters' Marketplace in its new home at Princeton Day School Nov. 23-24. The juried craft show benefits the Pearl Bates Scholarship fund of the YWCA Princeton and this year will showcase many new artisans from the Northeast.
Ms. Rosenthal's first step after retirement was to go back to school for metal smithing at the University of Delaware. Enrolling entitled her to use the studio there, as well. "Metal intrigues me more (than polymer clay) now," she says.
Ms. Rosenthal had long been enchanted by the textures and patterns of textiles and the shape and forms in architecture, and these have been her inspirations with metal. "I used to create my own patterns with color in polymer clay. Now, in metals, I create it with depth," she says. Working primarily in sterling but also with bronze, brass, copper and occasionally gold, Ms. Rosenthal torches, etches and weaves the metal. Sometimes she adds stone, as well.
The pendants in her "My America" series combine silver with beach stones from her native Rhode Island. She frequently travels to Moonstone Beach on Block Island and Sakonnet Point at the tip of Narragansett Bay to collect these. "I use the stones to define shape, color and texture, and then I build homes for them to live in," she says.
This led to her discovery of lapidary work and Picasso marble, a soft stone found in Utah with striations of gray, black and brown. "The marble has wonderful linear and triangular patterns, and I started to use it as centerpieces. I'd pick one I knew I could design around and carry out the pattern into the silver," says Ms. Rosenthal, who has ventured into working with windowpane agate, as well. She goes to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in February to get much of her stone, or she may order over the Internet from a vendor she has met in Tucson. These pieces take much longer to make than those of metal alone.
In starting her own business, Ms. Rosenthal knew it was important to keep moving the merchandise. While still at DuPont, she sold her polymer work through a local gallery. "It seemed to fill a void for me, and my primary reason for selling was so that I could keep on making more, rather than having it accumulate in my home.
"In the business world, I was dealing with abstract ideas I never knew when a project started or ended," she says. "When I left corporate America, my emphasis changed. I still enjoy what I do, but now I also do it as a business with the goal of combing what I love and generating income. Working in crafts, I end with a concrete product and that's very self-fulfilling
to see, touch and feel a product, and then sell it."
Ms. Rosenthal has dabbled in weaving and took a workshop in indigenous weaving in Guatemala in 1999. In jewelry, she had hand woven polymer clay with metal foil but was ready to take the step toward weaving in metal. Back in the United States, she took a textile-in-metal workshop at Peter's Valley and has recently purchased a table loom to weave copper.
The imagery in her metalwork is inspired by travels to Egypt, Thailand, Bali, Cambodia and Guatemala, but she also gets ideas from African mud cloth purchased in Santa Fe or Philadelphia.
The process begins with a sheet of metal, such as sterling, that is cut with a jeweler's saw. She uses a torch to bend tubes, which can be square or round, wire (square, triangular or round) and rods, which are bent using a heat torch. Once everything is meshed up the way she wants it, she uses silver solder to hold it in place. This process is called fabrication and is used for one-of-a-kind pieces.
Then there is also the etching process, raised pieces and darker shaded areas. Ms. Rosenthal marvels at how technology helps. She can create a pattern in the computer, iron it on with resist and then put it in an acid bath for an etched design.
Crafters' Marketplace will be held at Princeton Day School, 650 The Great Road, Princeton, Nov. 23-24, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Admission costs $6, $10 for a two-day pass, $5 seniors and under age 16; free under age 6, but no strollers. For information, call (609) 497-2100. On the Web: www.ywcaprinceton.org. Maxine Rosenthal on the Web: www.rosenthalgroup.net/artweb/bymax
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