“How did you get into silversmithing?” is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive.
I discuss it briefly in my Bio posted on my website, but I get the same question so often I decided to share more of my story on my Blog.
Aiken, South Carolina, which received Southern Living’s 2018 award for The South’s Best Small Town, is my hometown. I grew up in my family’s business True Value Hardware & Appliance, which is located on the main street of Aiken’s historic downtown. My grandfather Bill Franklin started the hardware store as a side project when he was an accountant at Savannah River Site. When my parents Det and Lyanne Haislip were married, my father took over the business.
As children, my brother Wylie, cousins Anne and Franklin, and I spent a lot of time there, especially at Christmas. As you can see in the picture below, we had so much fun with the toys, go carts, and window displays!
In high school, I worked in the hardware store and that is when my interest began in making sculpture and jewelry. Being around all of the tools and equipment, putting together bikes and toys, and cutting keys is now an obvious connection to how working with my hands became my career.
When I was in high school, I took the industrial tech class, because I wanted to learn how to make sculptures in metal and wood. Being the only girl in the class did not bother me at all and I took to learning welding and wood working immediately. One of my first wood sculptures is shown below. Displayed in a downtown Aiken park not far from my family’s business, it was my first artwork exhibited outside of a school setting.
I knew by then I wanted to be a professional artist and major in jewelry and sculpture in college, so I sought out a college with a strong jewelry and sculpture program. After careful deliberation, I decided the small liberal arts college Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC would be the best fit for me. Alfred Ward, an English silversmith from London, was head of the jewelry and metals program and I was excited to study under such a renowned silversmith.
The first functional silver object I made studying under Alf was the silver spoon with ebony wood handle shown above. This piece is significant to my work, because it was the first time I laminated silver and wood. I continue to use this method of fabrication for spoon, teapot and coffeepot handles, because it creates strength in the handle and a beautiful line of silver down the center.
From there I was hooked on silversmithing, because it combined my interest in jewelry techniques and sculptural forms. My graduation exhibition with my classmates in Charlotte, NC was my first commercial art gallery exhibit. Pictured above is me with my brother Wylie looking at one of my display cases at the opening reception. After graduating with my BFA in Jewelry and Metals, I moved to Charlotte and started my MFA silversmithing studies under Alf at Winthrop.
While in graduate school, I focused on silversmithing and immersed myself in it completely. During that time, I also taught the Jewelry II and III classes and jewelry workshops at Winthrop. Additionally, I interned and was a docent at the Mint Museum, where I learned up close the history of craft and design and how a professional institution operates. During the summer of 2004, I went to London for a family trip and my MFA thesis research. Alf and his wife were in England visiting family, so he was kind enough to meet us in London and show us around. Pictured above is me with Alf in the stake room of Sir John Cass London Metropolitan University, where Alf was formerly head of the silversmithing and jewelry department.
In 2005 I graduated with my MFA in Silversmithing and Design with a minor in Sculpture. The first teapot I made was Perched Flight and it is silver with an ebony wood handle that is laminated with silver in the center. It was the central piece to my MFA thesis exhibition and after was accepted to five national exhibitions and one international exhibition. I became very attached to it, so it is now in me and my husband’s collection.
Immediately following graduation, I moved to Charleston, South Carolina and established my studio and business. Three years later my husband Matt and I had our wedding reception at the William Aiken House. My hometown was named for William Aiken and he is my great-great-great-great uncle.
My path to silversmithing began at a very young age, but it wasn’t until I started my business and began exhibiting my work nationally that people started asking me “How did you get into silversmithing?”. When I thought about it and shared my story, I realized how unusual it is for a girl to grow up in a small southern town hardware store and become a contemporary silversmith. Really?!
For less lengthy answers to frequently asked questions, visit my FAQ page on my website!
Christmas Gifts for Her
Even though there seem to be many more options for Christmas gifts for her, women can be just as challenging to shop for as men. Sometimes too many options can be overwhelming, so I have highlighted an assortment of suggestions based on popular gifts for women people purchase from me as well as suggestions for the extremely picky lady or gal who has everything.
Jewelry seems like an obvious choice, but you need to know who you are shopping for, her style, and tastes. My silver link bracelets are adjustable, so you do not need to know what bracelet length she wears and I have a smooth finish option (Oyster Link Bracelet) and hammered finish option (Torc Link Bracelet). Bangles are also a nice jewelry gift, because she can stack them with other bracelets. All of my bangles come in two sizes, medium and large, and can be custom sized.
Necklaces are also a great gift depending on the style she likes to wear. A standout, statement necklace is a special gift for the lady with some flare.
A simple pendant for everyday wear is perfect for a woman of any age, from a young girl to a stylish older aunt. My pendants come with the choice of a 16″, 18″, or 20″ length silver cable chain.
Finally for the jewelry suggestions, are earrings.
Earrings like necklaces are also a matter of taste and style. Some ladies prefer to wear large, statement earrings and others tend to be more conservative or minimal with post or stud styles. I have a wide selection of all styles, so be sure to check out the various options.
Dresser or Vanity Objects
A pretty silver vase she can put flowers in for her dresser or vanity, a lovely silver dish to hold small items (see first image on post), or an elegant silver box to store jewelry or other small things all make thoughtful Christmas gifts for her.
Entertaining and Serving Utensils
Entertaining is year round and not just around the holidays, so for the hostess with the mostess and the lady who likes to entertain in style a lovely silver serving utensil or spoon is the perfect gift. It is a lasting gift she can use often for serving all the delicious dishes and appetizers she makes. I like mixing and matching styles and patterns, so do not be afraid to pair traditional silver styles with contemporary pieces.
A silver napkin ring is a wonderful gift, because you can start her on a collection. Then you have a go to gift for each birthday, holiday, or anniversary. Personalizing with hand engraving is a thoughtful touch with initials or to commemorate which occasion or date it was given on.
Finally, a festive silver Christmas ornament is a fun gift for all women. I offer a wide range of designs and most of them can be hand engraved. Choose one that fits her personality best!
All of these lovely silver Christmas gifts for her can be found in my website Shop, plus many more. Happy Holiday shopping!
Christmas Gifts for Him
Christmas shopping for a man can be difficult, because jewelry options are limited, clothing is hard to fit, and unless a man has a specific hobby, it is hard to come up with an exciting gift for him. Knowing this from the many clients who have come to me over the years asking for suggestions for Christmas gifts for him, I decided this year to do a Blog post with some suggestions for the challenging to shop for male.
Silver Bar Accessories
Silver cups, bar spoons, pitchers, wine coasters, and personalized decanter bottle tags are all great gifts for men. They are lasting gifts they can use when entertaining or making themselves that special drink.
Personalizing a silver decanter tag with his favorite spirit or poison is a thoughtful gift he will enjoy year round.
Other bar accessories he can use year round and display include a silver beaker or cup, cocktail pitcher, and wine coaster.
All of the silver cups, pitchers, and wine coasters can be personalized with hand engraving for a special touch.
Appetizer Serving Utensils
Appetizer serving utensils such as a cheese knife, spreader, appetizer fork, or condiment spoon are all great gifts for Foodie men. My husband loves a good cheese plate with charcuterie and enjoys as much as I do using our silver serving accessories for each yummy item. Once again, they are gifts that can be used year round!
Cufflinks & Collar Stays
Cufflinks add sophistication to a man’s attire and are a creative way he can express his personal style. Jewelry options tend to be limited for men, so cufflinks are a fashionable accessory to spruce up his look. Most of my cufflinks can be personalized with hand engraving and custom initial cufflinks are also a unique gift option.
Silver collar stays are another original gift idea that also can be personalized with hand engraving.
Dresser and Desk Objects
A silver box is a very useful gift for a man, because he can put it on his dresser to store cufflinks and other small items or on his desk. My husband has several silver boxes he uses and it is a classy way to store things and keep your desk tidy.
A silver dish like my Oyster Dish above (available in two sizes) is wonderful for a dresser or desk as well. They can be used to hold small items, such as change or keys, and function as a pen tray.
Finally, a festive silver Christmas ornament is a fun gift for all men. I offer a wide range of designs and most of them can be hand engraved. Choose one that fits his personality best!
All of these fun silver Christmas gifts for him can be found in my website Shop, plus many more. Happy Holiday shopping!
Night of 1000 Lights – December 3, 2020
Kaminer Haislip is participating in the annual Night of 1000 Lights in historic downtown Aiken, South Carolina on Thursday, December 3 from 6-8pm. Sponsoring businesses will stay open late, thousands of gorgeous luminaries will line the streets, and there will be wide variety of fun holiday activities taking place. This exciting event, organized by the Aiken Downtown Development Association, is a festive tradition not to be missed.
During the event, Kaminer’s handcrafted silver jewelry, functional objects, and Christmas ornaments will be displayed for sale at her family’s business, True Value Hardware & Appliance, located at 121 Laurens Street. Stop by True Value to see her work and enjoy some holiday cheer!
Private appointments before the event are available. Please contact Kaminer directly at email@example.com to schedule.
Helena Fox Fine Art – Charleston, SC
Helena Fox Fine Art, who represents my handcrafted silver designs and regularly carries a curated selection of my silver hollowware, flatware, home objects, and jewelry in their stunning downtown Charleston art gallery, is hosting a special Open House event featuring my artwork Friday, November 13 and Saturday, November 14 from 12-4pm. During that time the gallery will be open to the public and there is the option for a private viewing. Please contact the gallery to set up individual appointments.
You can read the full press release about the event on my website Press page.
I will exhibit a wider variety of my silver objects, original jewelry designs, and Christmas ornaments than what the gallery usually shows during this unique event. I hope to see you there!
Helena Fox Fine Art
106A Church Street
Charleston, SC 29401