A Hometown Exhibition of Bill Smith’s Jewelry

A Hometown Exhibition of Bill Smith’s Jewelry

  • Bill Smith: Madison’s Visionary Jewelry Designer confirmed in Smith’s Indiana hometown
  • It ran Oct 18–December 9, 2022, at the Heritage Middle of Madison, IN
  • JoAnne Spiller, the Training Coordinator at the Jefferson County Historic Society (JCHS), structured the exhibition

In September 2022, I documented the lifestyle and function of Bill Smith for an posting for Art Jewelry Discussion board. He had so unfortunately been overlooked in heritage. I hoped to get started the procedure of rebuilding his legacy. However, my key objective was not just to generate about Smith and his improvements with untrue pearls. I also required to see his talent captured and exhibited so a wider viewers could possibly see the attractiveness of his function. I am pleased to see some of the first techniques to carry Monthly bill Smith to the environment, by using the JCHS’s exhibition on Smith and his work. I was delighted to discuss with the curator of the clearly show, JoAnne Spiller. We reviewed the exhibition alone, and Smith’s complicated romance with the group in his hometown.

Sebastian Grant: How did you first face Monthly bill Smith and his perform?

JoAnne Spiller: My curiosity in Monthly bill started when we had been placing jointly a checklist of “famous Madisonians” for a guide I plan to produce. We experienced a newspaper clipping from the Louisville Courier as very well as a donation of his horse pendant and a few of lapel buttons. On examining our paper and object archives, we recognized we had nothing at all else on him. I’m not from Madison, so I had no plan that Invoice Smith experienced been forgotten by his hometown.

What led to the JCHS’s decision to exhibit Smith’s perform?

JoAnne Spiller: His story bought below my pores and skin. I begun scouring all types of internet websites, museums, libraries, and many others., to locate every little thing I could about him. I’ve got a 4½-inch-thick binder of the study I’ve done on him over the previous two+ yrs, and have spoken to a family members member and a previous co-worker about Bill’s life. Just one day, we found out that we had a truly extraordinary collection and adequate information and facts to explain to his story. It then turned my objective to have an exhibit so that our local community could rediscover the skills of a single of their individual.

Considering that Invoice Smith’s function is unusual, how did the JCHS obtain so a lot of excellent examples of his pieces in its long-lasting collection?

JoAnne Spiller: We ended up obtaining a few parts of his jewelry pretty inexpensively online when we commenced putting his story with each other. That led to my (some would say) obsession with locating a lot more parts to establish our permanent collection. I’m on line for at the very least 30 minutes every early morning checking a variety of auction web-sites for parts to include to the collection. My lofty aim is to have 100 parts. I’m not guaranteed I can attain that, especially if the phrase gets out once more about his expertise! The level of competition at auctions may possibly become tricky!

How did Invoice Smith healthy in with the group of Madison? Do you consider this romantic relationship is reflected in his do the job?

JoAnne Spiller: Invoice grew up in an period of segregation. From what I have been informed, Madison was a normal small town at the time: the pool was off restrictions, there have been independent entrances for Black folks, and so on. The point that he was able to go to an built-in higher school was quite incredible. The good news is, he experienced an artwork teacher who encouraged him to pursue his ambitions. He labored really hard to get into Indiana College (IU) and pay his tuition. His art instructor/mentor at IU saw more than enough talent in him that she encouraged him to go to New York.

He didn’t come to feel especially welcome on his rare visits residence, so he just quit browsing. He had a challenging romantic relationship with his father. According to Briton Sargent, his terrific-niece, Bill’s father experienced originally disowned him for his homosexuality. They look to have reconciled prior to Robert passed absent. Madison has usually been a small, conservative local community in regards to race and sexual orientation. Bill would not have experienced a lot of allies right here and wasn’t close to most of his family members.

His spouse and children relocated to Indianapolis in the late 50s, when he was in his mid-20s, and I guess he did not have the connections in Madison to continue to keep him coming again. He was constantly attempting to carry up other Black youth and was associated in the civil rights motion. Some of his perform demonstrates the worth of his ethnicity. Others—like the hand-formed jewelry he manufactured for Georg Jensen—reflect his perception about hands that, as he reported, “They caress or combat. They give everyday living or eliminate. It’s the inescapable enjoy-loathe probable that I find interesting.”

Exhibition watch, Bill Smith: Madison’s Visionary Jewelry Designer, image courtesy of Jefferson County Historic Culture

Why do you feel Smith’s work has fallen into obscurity?

JoAnne Spiller: That’s a hard query to response. Bill handed away so numerous yrs in the past that most people who labored with him or knew him are no for a longer period close to to request what his last couple many years as a designer had been like. His jewelry was definitely “in your facial area.” When you glance at traits, patterns go in and out of vogue promptly. Also, Monthly bill did not have contracts to sign all of his get the job done, so there are a lot of collections out there that are attributed to him but not signed by him. It frequently will take a ton of investigation to corroborate a piece with a selection. I’m confident there are parts out there that are his, but the owner possibly has no concept who developed them. His great-niece said he was even now coming up with up until finally his loss of life, but I am not absolutely sure if all those styles at any time manufactured it to manufacturing.

What are some of your beloved pieces from the exhibit?

JoAnne Spiller: It depends on the day! Some I am partial to mainly because they are so lovely: the peacock pendant. I feel related to some others mainly because they have been challenging-won at auction: the sea dragon. We’ve been jogging a poll on visitors’ favorites. So significantly, the elephant medallion necklace is the winner.

Do you approach to travel the display to other destinations wherever much more men and women can see his work?

JoAnne Spiller: It is my hope that other museums will see this show as a thing they would like to borrow from us. I’d hate to assume that Bill’s story would only continue to be regional. The show has gotten some really excellent push in the Louisville Metro location, so that is a start!

What do you consider is the the very least a visitor really should just take from the exhibit?

JoAnne Spiller: Apart from his evident expertise and small business acumen? That somebody from a small town in southeastern Indiana can make it large in the Major Apple, no matter their daily life circumstances. If you have obtained expertise and drive, you can do everything you set your head to.

Design by Bill Smith
Layout by Monthly bill Smith, picture courtesy of Jefferson County