Micki Lippe: Loosely Hinged
Master jewelry artist and metalsmith Micki Lippe’s retrospective celebrates her 50-year creative journey. Featured are one-of-a-kind and production works from private collections around the country. Lippe’s career includes years of teaching and mentoring younger jewelry artists, and founding the Seattle Metals Guild.
Micki Lippe (Seattle), Wing: Fire in the Okanagan, 2016, sterling silver and glass shard, 11.5″l, (chain); 0.5″h x 3″w (pendant), Private Collection, photo by Laura Zander.
Micki Lippe: Life Journey
My Mother was a master seamstress. She could not draft a pattern but she could combine several to make the garment. When I was a teenager, we would go to a store that was more expensive than we could afford. I would try on a dress and make a sketch of it. Then we would go to the fabric store and buy several patterns and fabric. My mother would follow my sketch and make the dress.
I followed in her footsteps. When I began making jewelry, it was a flat sheet of metal that I was cutting into, rather than fabric… I have always colored outside of the lines. When I was growing up I was given a “paint by numbers” kit. I followed the numbers for starters, but added things I thought were missing.
At my undergraduate program in Washington University (St. Louis, Missouri), the jewelry and pottery classes were not very good. I did not start making jewelry until after college when I moved to State College, Pennsylvania. I met a fellow who needed a label design for the wine he was producing. I designed his wine label, and he taught me some very rudimentary jewelry techniques.
When my husband and I moved to California, I took a graduate level two course. That was enough to get me started. A torch, some metal, and a table… I was ready!
The next place we lived was on a farm outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. I set up a studio in one of the rooms. The next place we lived was Yellow Springs, Ohio, where Bill had a job at Antioch College. I had a studio in the back of the barn. I was sharing the space with the goats when the snow crashed through the roof. I was able to find a better space in town.
When Bill and I moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, I found an artist co-op building. There was a lovely old elementary school that had been converted to artist studios. There was another jeweler in the building named Gabriel Ofiesh. With Gabriel’s advice, I started doing local craft shows and selling my work.
From Charlottesville we moved to Oklahoma. I helped design a wonderful house that had a nice studio in the loft. By now, I was doing the major American Craft Council (ACC) shows, and had an employee/studio assistant who was helping me to make the jewelry. We were shipping jewelry to galleries all over the United States.
When we moved to Seattle, we purposely bought a house that had a space for my studio. I had a part-time employee, and was shipping off so much jewelry that the UPS driver and I became good friends.
When my husband was offered a job in Germany, I began searching for a studio to share. I was very fortunate to share a studio with Andrea Wippermann. This was a learning experience in so many ways. Without studio help, I could no longer do production work. One of a kind pieces became my focus.
Back in Seattle, it was time to move my studio out of the basement of my house. I was very fortunate to share a space with Frances Smersh for several years. When Frances and John decided to open their own shop and studio space, I found more studio partners. There was some shifting over the years, but it was a wonderful space to share. The next move was across the street. My studio was in the Rainier Oven Building, which still exists on Jackson Street in Seattle’s Central District.
In the years before COVID came, I was diagnosed with macular degeneration. I can no longer make jewelry the way I did. I have some ideas for jewelry and other things… we will see what the future holds.