BEST of SHOW – Lineal Alchemy
This year’s Best of Show is an extraordinary piece of wearable art, breathtaking in its detail, artistry, craftsmanship, engineering and color. Australian enamel artist Debbie Sheezel has captured the feeling she described as “finding the elixir of life.”
Why did you choose this name?
Because the structure of the necklace and the interior design are very linear, the piece is called “Lineal Alchemy.” Alchemy was a medieval chemistry that tried to turn base metal into gold and find the elixir of life. I am going back thousands of years, depicting in my own way the designs of alchemy utensils and artifacts.
What was your inspiration for the necklace?
I was inspired by tribal implements and artifacts crossing many cultures. Simple geometric sculptural design with magical colors translates my thoughts of inherited artistry, using the science and craft of enamel.
How long did it take you to make this piece?
It took me 11 months from the visual design to the finished article. The mechanics and articulation of the piece were a big consideration for the comfort of wearing.
What did you feel when you heard you had won? And who did you first tell?
When Mikel Garrett, Events Coordinator at Rio Grande, rang me, at first I didn’t know who she was. Then when the penny dropped, I realized I had won the enamel competition. “No,” she said, “You’ve won the Best of Show!” Well I was shocked and it didn’t, and still hasn’t, really sunk in. I rang my husband who was overseas at the time and told him, then I told my mother who is in an aged care home.
Name three fun facts about yourself.
I love my family and, of course, my dog Milo. They come first. I enjoy the company of like-minded people. I love reading a good book. (When I have time late at night when the phone doesn’t ring.)
How would you describe yourself?
Warm, easy going, focused, subjective, introspective and loyal.
Of all the arts and crafts, why did you choose jewelry?
I began as a painter/artist, and my aunt talked me into going to jewelry classes at night school when I had a small baby. There they had a kiln, and after the teacher showed me what it was used for, I was hooked!
What or who do you think has been the strongest influence or inspiration on your work?
There have been so many influences in my life, Japanese art influenced me greatly.
Do you have any advice for those starting out in the jewelry world?
Do the very best you can and follow your dream.
What would you say you know now about living a happy and successful life that you didn’t know when you were 20?
I do know that when I was 20 I was completely naive and sheltered to some degree. Now, I think love, tolerance and respect are most important. Try to be optimistic and happy.
What artist, dead or alive, do you most admire? Why?
I have always loved the works of Matisse, whose work was sensuous with beautiful use of color. Hundertwasser for his design and also for his use of color. Lalique for his superb jewelry designs and his use of enamels.
What do you want people to know about you and your art?
I want people to know that the integrity of my work is 100%. This is shown by the marks on the back belonging to the Gold & Silversmiths Guild of Australia along with my maker’s mark. I want people to know that all my pieces are made with enthusiasm and enjoyment of the craft.
What other awards or honors have you received in your career?
I won the Tool Traders Award in 1993 at RMIT University, Award of Excellence in the 19th International Cloisonne Jewellery contest—Tokyo, and the 2016 Saul Bell Award for Enamel. I have also won Best Enamel Piece in the Australian Design Awards for 2019 and “Overall Best in Show” in the same competition.
Who has been most supportive in helping your business grow?
My husband is my most supportive person helping me in whatever goals I set. My metalsmithing mentor is Ken Gray. He is a wonderful jeweler who has always helped me with anything I ask of him.
Is the product or the process more important to you?
I feel that both the process and the product are important to me. The process is therapeutic and it keeps your mind busy, and the product is important for its finish and integrity.
Interview by Marlene Richey