Maria Eife, whose craft has been on display across Europe, returns to Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.
Last year, during a plane ride home to a residency in California, Whitman resident Maria Eife allowed her creative mind to wander, envisioning and sketching the outlines of a woman on a piece of paper.
The feminine silhouettes were more than absent-minded doodling but would instead become a catalyst for one her newest pieces of jewelry — a silver mother-of-pearl design called “Lady Links.”
“It’s sort of just a celebration of women and women forms and how they vary and how they’re all wonderful,” she explained.
While the craft, which inspired brooches and necklaces, went on to showcase at an exhibition in Germany this year, it can soon be seen — and worn — at the 42nd annual Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, which will be held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center from Nov. 2 to 4.
While more than 800 regional, national and even international artists applied for the show, Eife, who is actually participating for the fourth year, was automatically enrolled after winning an Excellence in Jewelry Prize at the show in 2017.
Eife, a graduate of Tyler School of Art who is now based at the repurposed space of Bok, recalls attending the esteemed show as a college student in the mid-1990s.
“I thought it was the coolest thing,” she said. “It was just kind of mind-blowing to see all of those artists and craftspeople in one place.”
Before starting at Tyler, where she’d eventually earn a bachelor’s of fine arts in jewelry/metals/CAD-CAM, the Haddon Township, N.J., native started off as an undeclared arts major at The College of New Jersey.
Knowing she wanted to make a life doing something creative, she didn’t ultimately fall in love with jewelry design until taking a class at The College of New Jersey, where she discovered the mechanical yet exquisite nature of the craft.
“I think I was actually surprised at how much I liked my jewelry class, because it’s very precise and technique driven, and I hadn’t ever really thought that that was something I enjoyed until I started learning how to do it,” she said. “There’s just something about the ability to mix technical skill and also still be able to create something that’s artistic and a work of art. And — you can make something and then put it on, and that’s pretty great.”
After unearthing this skill, she transferred to Tyler where she could specifically study the motif of jewelry, metals and CAD-CAM, or computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing, which came to serve as Eife’s predominant and preferred method of creations.
Shortly after graduating in 2000, she was employed by a fine jewelry store and interned at a industrial designer, as the two fused works fostered her signature practice of designing creations using CAD-CAM software and manufactured through 3D printing — a technology that was in its infancy during Eife’s college studies.
“Even if form and inspiration changes, there’s always been a technique that sort of stayed true throughout,” she said.
As she established this skill over the next nearly two decades, Eife’s work was featured in nearly 50 shows and exhibitions around the world, including the Joya Art Jewellery Fair in Barcelona, the Sieraad International Jewellery Art Fair in Amsterdam and the Munich Jewelry Week.
Locally, one of her most notable shows was actually her first exhibition that was held in Brewerytown in 2009. Inspired by secret messages, Eife created “binary necklaces,” which were not only made of felt but actually included an inscribed binary code converted it to a graphic form spelling out “What?” which was intended to be a statement on digital communication.
Today, having recently moved into Bok where she works in the same studio space as five other local jewelers known as the JV Collective, Eife says she feels especially stimulated, as they, too, produce designs with many metaphorical layers.
“I think we can sort of feed off each other quite a bit,” she said. “And we all have different skill sets, too. Everybody has their strong suits, so we can bounce things off each other. …
A lot of us here make jewelry that is more than just adornment.”
While Eife is also preparing for the JV Collective’s showcase of its latest collection “Sirens: New Work” at the inaugural New York City Jewelry Week in Brooklyn in mid-November, for now, she’s focused on flushing out ideas for the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.
Despite having her work worn and displayed around the world, something draws her back to the Philadelphia show each year.
“I get really inspired by all of the work that I see around me. It’s just an honor to be there amongst all of the other great artists. … One of the other great things about the craft show is just getting people in there and trying things on,” Eife said. “I mean, it’s nice if people buy stuff but I really just have fun putting jewelry on people and watching them try it on.”
Info: To see Eife’s work, visit: http://www.mariaeife.com/.
To learn more about the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, visit https://www.pmacraftshow.org/.