Where Hand Meets Metal | Mingei International Museum

“The love and patience required to coax metal into vessel forms is comparable to the joys and challenges of raising children.”

Sharon Stampfer began her professional career working at LUCE et studio, where design was inspired by art, and art was often part of the architecture. A designer with a passion for materials, Stampfer has always been enchanted by metal’s inherent properties and fell in love with metalsmithing while learning how to hammer metal sheets into a vessel form. And in 2022, after already receiving her MArch degree from the University of Pennsylvania, she will earn an MFA in Metals/Jewelry/CAD-CAM from the Tyler School of Art and Architecture.

As an artist, Stampfer embraces the physicality of working with her hands. She uses a spontaneous approach with traditional metalsmithing tools and techniques. Her process invites discovery through improvisation, experimentation, and play. She considers her practice a form of nurturing, allowing instinct to guide her hands to forge, raise, fold, and sculpt while exploring ideas about holding and being held, touch, and self-care. For Stampfer, objects shaped by her hands are extensions of her body and to engage with them is to be held by her hands, a philosophy that is apparent in her commissioned work for the Museum’s transformation, Two Thousand Seven Hundred Twenty-Two Miles Hand in Hand.

In Two Thousand Seven Hundred Twenty-Two Miles Hand in Hand Stampfer created a sinuously sculpted door handle with a recessed pull for the Founders Gallery door. The recessed pull is contoured to receive the hand, evoking an invitation to form a relationship, a bond, forged by human contact. While the door handle maps the physical distance and philosophical adjacency between the Nakashima Studio in New Hope, Pennsylvania, and the Mingei International Museum in San Diego, California. A nod to the iconic George Nakashima table featured in the room. This object of both beauty and function, emphasizes the value of slowing down and deeply experiencing the landscape as the miles unfold. The idea of a long journey also speaks more broadly to the slow and careful work of the craftsperson and the evolution of an object through a thoughtfully measured and deliberate process.

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