Curator, Artwork Historian, Professor, and Author Sebastian Grant

February is Black Historical past Month in the USA. To honor this, all month AJF is spotlighting articles and movies we’ve beforehand printed about Black makers and/or by Black writers.

Sebastian Grant
Sebastian Grant, picture courtesy of Sebastian Grant

Right this moment we deal with Sebastian Grant’s scholarship. Grant is a curator, artwork historian, and professor at Parsons College of Design. In 2022, he printed the primary article in a collection referred to as Black Jewelers: A Historical past Revealed. The collection began with an introductory article that acknowledged Grant’s objectives:

I’ve been desirous about on the lookout for new ways in which we within the jewellery world might increase our data of the figures previously who’ve formed our world right now. On this collection, we’ll discover the varied tales of various Black artists who had been concerned in jewellery. Some had been full-time jewellery designers, others multidisciplinary artists, and nonetheless others got here from the artwork and trend worlds. They contributed daring new kinds, experimentations with supplies, and new factors of view coming from the African American expertise.

Learn the collection introduction right here

Grant named most of the artists whose work he deliberate to look at. Amongst them: Winifred Mason, C. Edgar Endurance, Patrick Kelly, Betye Saar, and Vaughn Stubbs. He started by penning an article about Curtis Tann (1915–1991).

This artist serves for instance of an incredible identify and a distinguished particular person on this planet of knickknack whose efforts have but to realize the popularity he deserves. Whereas Tann’s identify hasn’t been distinguished on this planet of artwork and design, his contributions and his connections to among the most essential figures in up to date artwork present the quantity of affect he introduced along with his inventive abilities. From his whimsical work in enamel on copper to his early experiments with tie dye and batik, Tann’s profession all through the mid-Twentieth century produced stellar design and inventive triumph, particularly within the discipline of knickknack.

Later in his profession, Tann grew to become the primary full-time director of the Watts Towers Arts Heart. It was the primary group to carry arts schooling to the kids of the South Central Los Angeles group.


Curtis Tann, Pendant Featuring Two Birds
Curtis Tann, Pendant That includes Two Birds, date unknown (more than likely late 60s–early 70s), enamel on copper, picture courtesy of The Jewellery Library

Learn Sebastian Grant’s article, Curtis Tann: Virtually Misplaced to Time, right here

Grant’s subsequent article within the collection centered on Invoice Smith (1933–1989).

For the revolutionary fashionistas of the 60s and 70s, Invoice Smith was there to decorate them in jewellery. He was a designer considered a sensation, awarded for jewellery kinds that captured the liberty and enthusiasm of the period. The covers of trend magazines confirmed his lengthy strings of pearls and enormous spring collars across the necks of fashions each well-known and unknown. But for a designer who gained nice love and adoration from the style world, his story instantly disappeared, and his legacy grew to become a forgotten web page of the nice textbook of historical past. How did he rise to such a degree of acclaim, and the way did he disappear so shortly?


Smith designed a pantsuit manufactured from strings of Turkish cash. An identical pair of bralette and trousers had been made solely of pearls. He designed many different unorthodox issues. “You should use something you wish to,” Smith mentioned in a 1969 interview with The Kokomo Tribune, “however don’t make it seem like what it’s—give it one other dimension.”

Learn Invoice Smith: Prince of False Pearls right here

Bill Smith, Body Ornament
Invoice Smith, Physique Decoration, modeled by Merème, picture: Aida Sulova, picture courtesy of Aida Sulova and The Jewellery Library

Just a few months after his article on Smith printed, Grant went on to interview JoAnne Spiller. She organized the exhibition Invoice Smith: Madison’s Visionary Jewellery Designer, which confirmed in Smith’s hometown of Madison, IN, from October 18–December 9, 2022. It’s great that this artist is as soon as once more receiving discover!

Learn A Hometown Exhibition of Invoice Smith’s Jewellery: In Dialog with JoAnne Spiller right here

Two works by Bill Smith
(Left) Design by Invoice Smith, picture courtesy of Jefferson County, (proper) Invoice Smith, Elephant Pendant, picture courtesy of Jefferson County. The pendant has a protracted chain that holds the jewel at waist degree.

Grant wrote an obituary for Terry Castro, the founder and designer for Castro NYC, too.

Artwork jewellery’s rock-n-roll designer, Terry Castro, of Castro NYC, unexpectedly handed away on July 18, 2022, of a coronary heart assault. He died in Istanbul, the place he was based mostly. Via his originality in mixing antiques with African design, Castro pushed his work to at all times stay as much as his inventive beliefs. He usually went with out business prominence with a purpose to keep true to his imaginative and prescient of displaying Black excellence in jewellery design.

Learn Terry Castro, of Castro NYC: 1972–2022 right here

Terry Castro and one of his pendants
(Left) Terry Castro, (proper) the artist incessantly used each angels and skulls as motifs in his designs for Castro NYC. The fowl and cat skulls had been a reference to medieval plague medical doctors, mentioned his son, Sir King Castro, picture courtesy of Castro NYC

Grant has additionally written for Metalsmith and lectured on the Museum of Wonderful Arts, Boston. We stay up for his subsequent article within the Black Jewelers: A Historical past Revealed collection. In it, he’ll flip his consideration to Coreen Simpson. She started designing jewellery in 1982. Her signature piece, The Black Cameo, launched in 1990. The gathering designed round it continues to be listed on the market on Simpson’s web site.

Coreen Simpson wearing pieces from her Black Cameo Collection
Coreen Simpson carrying items from her Black Cameo Assortment, picture courtesy of Coreen Simpson