Profile: Ayelet Stewart
by Jane Ledwell
Ayelet Stewart makes jewellery out of precious materials: metal, gems, inspirations, and time.
Of these, time is most precious, since she schedules her craft in and around young children. “I get three hours in the morning to work, while they are at school,” she says, “and to do whatever I can squeeze in. But there’s more experimenting because there’s no luxury of time; rather than repeating an idea over and over, I move from idea to idea.”
As one thing leads to another in Ayelet’s artistry, “the materials take me away,” she says. “When there is a bead I like, I want to get it involved in something, and then I get drawn away.…. I am always eager to tell a story with things.”
For Ayelet, “everything is an experiment.” An element that doesn’t fit in one piece becomes the starting point for another. “I just go from one idea to another to try to create something really great, really original, really beautiful. I’m never satisfied,” she says. “I think that’s the artist in me—and it’s a good thing, not a bad thing at all.” She smiles, “But to try to get a good word out of me about my jewellery—that’s work.”
What she hopes for her work is “that it works well on the body; that it is not heavy; that it is artistic, but practical too; that it looks better on…” and that there is “attention to detail.”
Ayelet has gathered the tools of her craft from many places. Initial inspiration to create jewellery came from a gallery exhibition, viewed when she was fourteen. She did her initial training in design in her home country of Israel and gained business acumen hand-drawing and etching hairpins, no two identical, in a street market there. She gained additional training through a scholarship to study in Japan, where she completed a master’s degree and learned Japanese techniques for inlaying metal and creating fascinating layered “mokume gane,” or “woodgrain metal.” And she continues to collect inspirations, from traditional and contemporary metal-stamping tools gathered during a recent trip to India to a new enamelling kiln, purchased through a grant from the PEI Arts Council here—here where she has made a home for a young family in PEI.
“I love shells and sea and moss, so it was very convenient for me to move here,” she says. “To find natural water is very hard in Israel. Here, you do a wonderful job maintaining beaches as they are. It is inspiring to see small creatures moving around on the beach, so they are not only pictures in a book.”
An early enamelled copper piece maybe anticipated a move closer to the beach: a bikini top of white, green, and copper shells. A recent piece she created for a craft exhibition at Eptek Centre this year featured etched metal shells, inspired by beach walks with her girls. An award-winning design for the Northern Lights Awards featured freely drawn starfish. Ayelet’s studio, in her Stratford home, overlooks the water.
“I have lots of influences,” Ayelet says. “My style is not architectural, not clean modern, but more organic. I think there are Israeli influences in my work. It’s my culture; I can’t define it. Maybe I use the material differently. I like contrast maybe more…In Japan the aesthetics affected me—very clean, neat, precise.”
Ayelet Stewart is excited to incorporate her influences in new pieces that use her kiln to enamel copper. “Copper is more whimsical. I’m not sure why…I like playing, and with enamel on copper, there’s more play. Copper is very organic. As a material, it has that freedom. Each time the material gets more precious (gold, silver), it gets very precise. You feel less free. It’s harder to experiment. With copper, there’s more possibility.” With her work in copper, she hopes to incorporate designs that show her love of shapes, colours, and textures from textiles and inspiration from three-dimensional forms.
Her work will continue to pull together precious elements—from life, from nature—to create jewellery of great artistry.