Merrick, NY—The Centurion Jewelry Show is pleased to announce the three winners of the Centurion 2018 Emerging Designer Competition, sponsored by Stuller. The three winners are Shelly Purdy, Wolfgang Vaatz, and Tara Hutchinson. All three designers will make their U.S. jewelry tradeshow debut at the Centurion Scottsdale Show, January 28-30 in Scottsdale, AZ.
The Centurion Emerging Designer Competition--this year celebrating its 10th anniversary--is open to independent jewelry designers who have never exhibited at a U.S. fine jewelry trade show. Each year, hopeful entrants from around the world vie for one of three coveted spaces at the Centurion Scottsdale Show.
Centurion president Howard Hauben says, "Every year Centurion brings together the top prestige jewelers in the United States with an outstanding collection of high-end manufacturers. We're proud to also introduce such a high level of innovative new talent that adds to our tradition of bringing the best retailers and designers together under one roof."
Ashley Brown, Stuller’s executive director of marketing and public relations, says, “Stuller has been proud to sponsor the Centurion Emerging Designer Competition for the last six years. We know that innovation and creativity are essential to the future of the jewelry industry, and finding new talent is where it begins.”
A panel of expert judges from the jewelry industry narrowed down the entries to 17 finalists. This year’s first round judges included Maren Rosen, vice president of merchandising for Stuller, blogger Monica Stephenson of iDazzle, and jewelry author and historian Marion Fasel.
The Centurion Retailer Advisory Board then reviewed the finalists and voted for the three winners who each will receive a free exhibit space at the Show and a $1,000 merchandise credit from Stuller. These are the three Centurion Emerging Designer Competition winners for 2017:
Shelly Purdy, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
A trained goldsmith, designer Shelly Purdy’s work is uniquely Canadian and internationally recognized. Her Canadian diamond collections and bespoke designs celebrate personal milestones—her Opulence commitment bands embody the love of a lifetime, while her Achievement rings symbolize a woman’s accomplishments.
A native of Whitby, Ontario, Purdy originally studied business in college, but quickly realized her calling was to be an artist. In 1991, she followed her entrepreneurial instincts and opened her boutique jewelry studio in the heart of Toronto’s fashion district, crafting handmade diamond engagement rings and wedding bands and giving consumers the choice of pledging their commitment with locally made, ethically sourced jewelry and Canadian diamonds. Since then, she’s amassed a loyal and international client base, speaking volumes to the trust she’s established as a Canadian jewelry designer. She has even crafted 25-year anniversary bands for couples whose wedding and engagement rings she designed when she first started her business.
Jewelry designer Shelly Purdy proudly incorporates her Canadian heritage into all her work.
Since visiting Canada’s Ekati Diamond Mine when it opened in 200, Purdy has become known as a prominent supporter of Canadian diamonds and was described as the “Diamond Diplomat” in a cover story by Canadian Diamonds Magazine. She is also an award-winning and acclaimed jewelry designer, receiving the De Beers Diamonds Today Award and participating as a featured designer in Rio Tinto’s ‘Diamonds with a Story’ campaign, which highlights Canada’s Diavik Diamond Mine.
Helping to shape the next generation of Canada’s jewelry makers and artists, Purdy is a member of George Brown College’s advisory committee for the jewelry arts program, from which she graduated in 1987. A personal highlight every year is to mentor and host a jewelry student at her studio, passing on her experience, knowledge, and passion for her craft.
From Purdy's Vintage Opulence collection, "Amelia" ring, “Genevieve” ring, "Alexandra" ring, and "Jacqueline" ring.
Wolfgang Vaatz, Rio Rico, AZ
Wolfgang Vaatz’s career as an artist started in 1986, but jewelry didn’t become his focus until years later. Although he was fascinated by gems and minerals as a child, he followed other paths into the art world. From 1990, he was renowned for creating large water sculptures that were widely collected. Then, upon relocating to northern Arizona in 2001, he also revisited painting landscapes of the American Southwest.
Designer Wolfgang Vaatz outdoors in his beloved Southwest.
It was a move to southern Arizona in 2009 that reawakened his childhood fascination for gems and minerals. His skills as a painter and sculptor transformed quickly to work with natural stones, although he did have to learn to get comfortable with the much smaller scale of gems and minerals. He began working seriously as a studio jeweler in 2012, creating exclusively wearable art.
Since starting with jewelry, Vaatz’s work evolved dramatically. “It seems I came full circle, for presently the major theme underlying my jewelry creations is still the natural landscape,” he says. His pieces feature miniature carved scenes such as the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada mountains, California hill country, the southwestern desert, and of course the ocean. His work features minute studies of patterns in nature, created by the action of wind, water, and sun, translated into hammered or carved patterns or composition choices in abstract pieces.
“What drives me is my passion for discovery, for recognizing the potential of my environment and the desire to share my joy about the natural beauty of pristine landscapes through my art work. It’s the way how I observe nature and how I let the creative process guide me and the tools I use.” Being basically self-taught in the field of wearable art, Vaatz works through and admittedly learns from mistakes, while applying modified techniques from my sculpting experience. But ultimately that experience has allowed him to develop a different approach and to come up with unusual work that is collected by individuals nationwide.
In 2016, Vaatz’s jewelry was selected as finalist in the Niche Award and won second place in the international Saul Bell Design Award Competition. In 2017, an Aspen-inspired cuff was selected as finalist in the Saul Bell Award Competition.
Clockwise from left: Designer Wolfgang Vaatz's Landscape pendant, Landscape cuff, Autumn Glow cuff
Tara Hutchinson, San Antonio, TX
Retired Sergeant First Class Tara Hutchinson never planned to be a jeweler. But jewelry literally became the path back to reclaim her life after devastating injury. The Anchorage, AK native studied criminal justice in college before enlisting in the United States Army as a military police officer, deployed to Iraq in January 2006. Barely a month later, her vehicle hit an IED. Flying shrapnel severed her right leg above the knee, while her left leg was sustained third-degree burns and tremendous blood loss stopped her heart for almost 20 minutes, resulting in permanent brain damage.
Doctors in Iraq surgically resuscitated Hutchinson enough to evacuate to Landstuhl, Germany. After more surgeries, she was flown to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, DC and after still more surgeries, transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX, where she is currently located.
There followed indescribable pain, deep depression, and PTSD, plus three years of daily rehabilitation to learn to walk on a prosthetic and live with the brain injury that had affected Hutchinson’s balance, memory, ability to speak and communicate, and left her with a severe movement disorder. In 2009 she put aside (for now) attempts to walk, and instead began to focus on regaining fine motor skills and other abilities. That’s when she discovered jewelry design.
Hutchinson’s occupational therapist suggested that a hobby using fine motor skills could help the movement disorder. At first she could barely string a large bead onto a leather cord, but the fine movements she used daily to make jewelry forced her brain to forge new neurological connections and one day she realized she had almost no tremors in her hands anymore. Making jewelry also helped to calm the depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Designer Tara Hutchinson at the bench. Jewelry started as a therapy exercise and became a passion and a career.
Hutchinson’s style has evolved into an eclectic mix of contemporary and urban jewelry with semi-precious and precious gemstones in silver and high-karat gold. She uses techniques such as forging, soldering, chasing, fusing, and patinas.
Hutchinson has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show as part of a panel of veterans with PTSD, and has also been featured in local, national, and trade media. In 2016 she was awarded the Women’s Jewelry Association Female Veteran Award, and second place in the Streetshares Foundation Veteran Small Business Award.
“Making jewelry has been more than a passage of time or a means of income for me. This unique and ancient form of art has been a precious tool to gain self-confidence. When I lost my leg, I lost the part of myself I most valued at the time: my femininity. I also lost my independence. Making jewelry has given me a way to creatively express myself and help women feel beautiful.”
Cuff, ring, and pendant in hammered sterling silver, gold and gemstones, by Tara Hutchinson.