|- AK Photography
Megan Broner is an alchemist, of sorts. She turns words into gold.
Broner is a classically-trained, Saskatoon goldsmith and designer
who's attracted a world-wide clientele by creating fine jewelry
to fit personal tastes. And that can be more difficult than it sounds,
even for an accomplished designer.
"People often aren't able to articulate what they like or don't
like," says Broner. ""They usually say, "If I saw it in front of
me, I could tell whether I like it or not'. I mean, most people
say they want 'something different'."
In 20 years as a professional designer, Broner has fine-tuned a
process that begins with asking the client a series of specific
questions calculated to elicit her aesthetic choices.
"I usually ask them whether they're drawn to geometric forms, or
whether they like organic shapes, symmetrical or asymmetrical. Whether
they like diminutive things or large, bold things. Whether they
like clean, simple, classical lines or whether they like things
to be very active and kinetic.
"People are often very surprised by the process because they find
themselves actually pinpointing their own preferences and tastes
- the things that actually speak to them. Their aesthetics."
courtesy of the artist
Broner transforms these articulated preferences into two-dimensional
sketches and collaborates with the client on final design. Then
it's off to the studio and the age-old art of alloying precious
metals and manipulating the product into a three-dimensional piece
that reflects both the client's personality and the artist's style.
"I assume when someone comes to me they've seen my designs, they've
seen my work, they like my aesthetics."
Broner, born and raised in New York, began making jewelry when
she was 12. She was encouraged by her father, an artist who bought
her tools and books, and even set aside a work area for her in the
house. By the time she graduated from high school at 17, she had
decided to forgo university and head off to Europe to find a mentor.
Through a friend who was studying at the American Academy in Rome,
she met Italian goldsmith Carlo Vitali.
"I was very lucky to find someone who was willing to take me in.
The goldsmithing community in Italy is like a brotherhood. It's
a fairly closed community."
In typical old-world fashion, Broner began her Roman apprenticeship
by hovering over Vitali's shoulder and monitoring the techniques
used by he and the other designers in Vitali's studio. As space
became available, she was granted "bench time" to practise her technique.
Eventually, and under the watchful tutelage of the master, she was
allowed to pilot projects from beginning to end.
"I think one of the most profound things I learned from (Vitali)
was a physical approach to the work. . . that you have to use your
tools like hands and your hands like tools.
"(Gold) is not like clay, where you're working with a plastic material
that just kind of forms whatever you're creating. There are many
technical aspects in jewelry making that require other tools, the
handling of those tools, your posture, your approach and how you
direct the piece - these are the kinds of things I learned from
Vitali taught Broner how to cast designs, set gem stones, and mix
precious metals to produce gold alloys appropriate in strength and
quality for the pieces being crafted. He taught her how to roll
ingots into sheets and how to produce wire of varying gauge by drawing
it through a draw plate.
While her five years of jewelry crafting in New York did not account
for much compared to the technical knowledge of an old-world goldsmith,
it did provide Broner with a style quite different from Vitali's.
Aesthetically, she says, she was influenced more by other Italian
When Broner returned to North America, she decided to pursue her
post-secondary education. She studied philosophy and biology at
Dalhousie University in Halifax, and for a time considered pursuing
a career outside of the area to which she'd dedicated so much of
life. But she never stopped making jewelry. And when fate and serendipity
found her living and creating jewelry in Regina in 1977, her path
was fixed. She moved to Saskatoon in 1985.
Few of life's experiences are wasted on the creative mind - Broner
says her interest in philosophy and biology continue to color her
work. Her best pieces, she says, relate to the organic nature of
the world and appeal to people in a way that connects them to the
earth. In a more literal sense, gold and silver are of the earth.
If many people are drawn to jewelry because of its intrinsic value,
that's not what moves Broner to create it.
"Jewelry's very personal. It becomes an expression of yourself,
and it has to say something about you that you're comfortable with.
"I like to produce beautiful objects that speak on many levels
to the wearer and the observer."
Megan Broner can be reached by phone, at (306) 244-4773.
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