Simonne is a metalsmith and jewelry maker. She is also a Programs Manager for Maine Crafts Association (MCA) and is the Director of the Portland Fine Craft Show for Shop Maine Craft. She has been an RWS member in this capacity since early March 2021. Prior to that Simonne worked at RWS briefly when it was opening an onsite gallery that quickly had to pivot due to the pandemic. She cares for several of MCA’s major programs among other responsibilities. Simonne found herself on the jewelry-makers path while attending Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where she was introduced to metalsmithing. She had always been interested in painting and drawing and found the new class challenging. She remembers sitting at the bench for the first time and not knowing where her hands needed to be or how to best hold the tools. Metalsmiths use a lot of hand tools like saws, pliers, and files, as well as fast high-powered equipment like flex shafts and polishing machines, “You make a lot of dust/grime which is funny because the end product is typically pretty and shiny. Plus you get to play with fire.” Crafting with exceptional intention is important to Simonne. She continued on the art jewelers path because it is more sculptural than that of a commercial jeweler. Her thesis project was a series inspired by the industrial design, home decor, and materials of the 1950s atomic era (think laminate, formica, neon, and new plastics) and how these trends coincided with and were influenced by the development of nuclear warheads. Simonne loves working with non-traditional materials, making her own ‘gemstones’ out of fabric or acrylic and setting them in powder-coated base metals. She jokes that she makes “unwearable, unsellable, heavy, sharp jewelry,” and for her the joy comes from the process. She also loves the moment when she gets to hand a piece over to a client and sees how it makes them feel. Her practice has moved to the back seat the past few years as she’s taken on her administrative role, but she still finds time to design and loves using elements that create repetitive patterns and interesting chain work. Her designs continue to be research driven, highlighting cultural dichotomies that coexisted in the same time period. In the case of her thesis it started with the shapes and imagery of the bomb and tanks, but also starburst patterns, wondering, “Where do these shapes come from? How could a decade that birthed Jetsons-vibe wallpaper also teach students to duck and cover in school?” She loves working with artists every day at MCA and SMC as well as the opportunities working there provides like getting to plan workshops with Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine, “I’ve never been so happy to be in a group of people. The whole mood of the campus is beautiful.” Simonne knew about Haystack, growing up in Maine. The hillside campus overlooking Jericho Bay is stunning, but what stood out from the landscape were the people in their practice learning from instructors at the top of their craft and having a great time doing it. Simonne gets this feeling working on MCA’s educational workshops as well, “It’s a great feeling to be able to provide space for people to make things.”
Simonne is slowly getting back to her personal practice, recently having completed a commission, and is in the process of executing another research idea, “It took some time to build a functioning metal studio after graduating out of Pratt’s metalsmithing studio.” She shares a studio with Maria Wolf, the Maine Craft Portland Gallery Manager, in a small room above a small grocery store in the West End of Portland, “It’s the basics, but it’s enough.” They have a couple of benches and a soldering station in a building covered in murals painted by children. They share the building with other artists and creative groups. Simonne’s favorite program to work on is MCA’s Maine Craft Weekend (MCW), an annual state-wide tour of Maine craft studios, businesses, and events. Every fall she gets to travel across the state and experience the craft Maine has to offer. MCW is an educational community event that is family friendly and takes place this weekend, October 1 - 2, 2022! Learn more about events in your area and across Maine at mainecraftweekend.org. Contact Simonne at Simonne@mainecrafts.org.