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A Metalsmithing Legacy: The History and Artisan Lineage of Jewelry Designer, Anjanette Marie Lemak

Anjanette Marie Lemak

1972 -

Born in 1972 in Euclid, Ohio, Anjanette Lemak demonstrated an early interest in the arts. In second grade, her teacher advised her mother to enroll her in private art classes. She began her study under the tutelage of a fine art student from the Andrews School for Girls in Willoughby, Ohio.

 

Lemak attended high school at Villa Angela Academy in Cleveland from 1984-1990 and studied arts under Sr. Rosaria Perna. There she enjoyed the diverse offerings of the school and had her first introduction to enameling.

 

Lemak attended art camp during her summers at Ox-Bow School of Art in Saugatuck, Michigan.

 

From 1990-1992 she was enrolled at The Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she received her foundation courses in the arts and continued her focus on enameling and jewelry design.

 

She then transferred to The Cleveland Institute of Art in Ohio where she graduated with a bachelors of fine arts degree in metals in 1995. At CIA, Lemak learned from instructors, Matthew Hollern and Kathy Buszkiewicz.

 

From 1997-1999 Lemak was employed by Potter & Mellen, Inc. and worked as an assistant to master goldsmith, James Mazurkewicz. There she refined her knowledge of handcrafting metal and was able to work directly with customers to design unique pieces. Several of her own designs were sold at the firm before they closed in 2008.

James Mazurkewicz

1943 -

Jim Mazurkewicz, who spent decades teaching silver and goldsmithing at the Cleveland Institute of Art, was influenced by Fred Miller and John Miller, both renowned artists who created for Potter and Mellen during its rise to national prominence. Mazurkewicz retired from Potter and Mellen, Cleveland's renowned jewelry studio. His legacy stretches far and wide, in the hundreds of rings, brooches, necklaces and other works he's crafted, from a $10,000 gold and diamond sunburst pendant purchased by Abu Dhabi royalty to an $80,000 piece featuring a 167-carat aquamarine gemstone.

 

"You put everything in a piece that you can," he says. "It was what Mr. Potter wanted. I just felt that I had to do it. Every piece you did was its own little work of art. It wasn't something that was tossed off quickly just to get money. Sometimes you didn't make money on a piece."

 

Mazurkewicz spent his lifetime creating intricately detailed pieces of jewelry that have been purchased by royalty and regular folks alike. "I've got a folder of thank-you's, and whenever I'm having a particularly discouraging day, I'll go back and read one and lift my spirits a little bit," he says.

 

If our city was born of the industry of Rockefeller and Hanna, governed by Garfield and Stokes and entertained by Szell and Freed, then it was Potter and Mellen that sparkled from our lapels and shone from around our necks. Horace Potter opened the Potter Shop in 1899. There, he showcased his elegant jewelry and silver and brass work, created with detailed design and world-class craftsmanship. Today, his pieces are handled with white gloves by museum curators across the country. Along with the likes of Louis Tiffany, Potter and his crew of artists helped spark the Arts and Crafts Movement in America, a push-back against the factory-produced products of the day. Like Cleveland itself, Potter and Mellen expanded throughout the early 20th century, adding fine china, silverware and even garden accessories to its store near East 105th Street and Carnegie.

 

In 1989, Potter and Mellen was purchased by Ellen Stirn Mavec. Soon after, she met Mazurkewicz, who was ready to make a change after 20 years of teaching metalsmithing at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Not only did Mazurkewicz offer Stirn Mavec, and her customers, a link back to the old-world craftsmanship of Horace Potter, his artwork was "spectacular," she says. "He was, quite frankly, a gift from heaven," says Stirn Mavec.

 

When Mazurkewicz designs a piece, he first does a pencil line drawing. From that rough sketch he creates a very detailed drawing, to scale, that allows him to figure out how much gold he needs. "Everything is designed and thought out," he says. "When you're working with precious stones and gold you can't just start hammering. I cannot do that. My nature will not allow me to do that."

 

A master goldsmith needs the magical hands of an artist and the unique mind of a designer, one that knows how to make an inspiration a reality (do-overs are tough when you're working with 18-karat gold). He needs an uncanny ability to sit for hours and focus. Perhaps most of all, he needs to have almost an obsession with perfection. Mazurkewicz had them all.

 

Before joining Potter and Mellen, Mazurkewicz visited some monasteries and came close to becoming a monk. The idea of meditating the mysteries of life appeals to him. "If I were to come around again," he says, "that's what I would do." He admits that his work is the cathartic perfection, the "balance, beauty and completion" that are often missing from other parts of his life.

 

From “Treasured hands: Potter and Mellen goldsmith Jim Mazurkewicz retiring as Cleveland institution closes its doors” by John Campanelli for The Cleveland Plain Dealer

John Paul Miller

1918 - 2013

Born April 23, 1918, in Huntington, Pennsylvania, as a young boy Miller (whose mother died when he was two) moved with his family to Cleveland. There he attended Hough Elementary School and Shaker Heights High School, Saturday morning classes at the Cleveland Museum of Art and later at the Cleveland School of Art (CSA), where he studied enameling with Kenneth Bates, awakened an interest in painting and design. And in the fall of 1936, Miller enrolled in CSA’s industrial design program.

 

It was the accomplished silver jewelry of a fellow first-year student, Frederick A. Miller, that made John Paul want to master the techniques of working with silver. Soon he was producing rings and brooches, drawing on what would remain two lifelong sources of inspiration: classical music and the natural world. He would also be deeply influenced by several of his teachers: Kay Dorn Cass, Paul Travis, Walter Sinz, Carl Gaertner and Viktor Schreckengost. John Paul and Fred Miller would later share a studio, influencing and enriching one another’s work, for many years.

 

After graduating in 1940, John Paul taught for a year at CSA before he found himself learning to drive an Army tank. Perhaps prophetically, he was to spend his entire tour of duty illustrating field manuals on tank tactics at Fort Knox, Kentucky (famous as the repository of the U.S. government’s gold supply). In any case, he became obsessed with the idea of rediscovering the lost Roman technique of gold granulation.

 

It was shortly after returning to his faculty position at CSA in 1946 (the school’s name was changed to the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1949) when he came across a treatise written by an archeologist at the American Academy in Rome that speculated on the ancient technique of granulation. It was enough to push Miller in the right direction. It seems gold melts at a much lower temperature in the presence of copper than either metal does normally. By causing copper to oxidize on the surface of gold granules, then heating the gold, Miller provoked a reaction that allowed him to join even larger pieces of gold with no visible joints, making possible the creation of exquisite shapes and designs.

Frederick A. Miller

1913 - 2000

Born in Akron in 1913, Frederick Miller moved to Cleveland, a city known both for its encouragement of fine craftsmanship and the production of items crafted in silver, to attend the Cleveland Institute of Art. After graduating in 1940, Miller divided his time between his own studio and the local firm of Potter and Mellen, where he was given the opportunity to create unique pieces on commission for the store’s upscale clientele. Having this kind of freedom gave Miller’s special genius with silver the space to flower and deepen.

 

When he worked with silver, he told his mesmerized students at the Cleveland Institute, where he was an illustrious member of the faculty for nearly 30 years (1947–1975), the substance seemed “almost human,” acting “as if it understood you and [was trying] to help.” Indeed, many of Fred Miller’s pieces have the feel of living things.

Horace Ephraim Potter

1873 - 1948

Horace Ephraim Potter was born in Cleveland, Ohio on December 10th, 1873. In 1899, The Potter Shop was opened to showcase his decorative metal work and jewelry. Potter was a graduate of the Cleveland School of Art. His artistic expertise involved incorporating decorative design elements and historic ornament into hand-wrought brass and silver objects, as well as fine jewelry.

 

In 1907, Potter traveled to England where he gained inspiration from the Arts and Crafts Movement. This experience encouraged him to appreciate the tradition of handmade objects versus those made in the factory. He and acquaintance Louis Tiffany were instrumental in introducing the Arts and Crafts Movement in America. Potter exhibited his jewelry and holloware in the Studio as well as in major art museums throughout the country.

 

In 1928, The Potter Studio became The Potter Bentley Studios with the addition of partner Gurdon W. Bentley, and the firm moved to its [present] location at East 105th Street and Carnegie Avenue. The firm expanded its product lines to include fine china, silver jewelry and garden accessories.

 

In 1933, Bentley withdrew from the company, and Louis Mellen became partner. Potter and Mellen, Inc. was established as a new corporation.

 

Horace E. Potter died in 1948, and in 1967, Louis Mellen sold the firm to both Frederick Miller, a renowned designer & silversmith, and Jack Schlundt. Together both maintained the tradition of hand-wrought jewelry and hollowware.

Excerpt from Chicago Silver, SM Publications

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