Sharon Church: Matriarch of Art Jewelry Power

Sharon Church in her jewelry studio

The first time I ever experienced the power of jewelry was when my professor, Sharon Church, walked into the metals studio on the first day of class.  You knew when she walked in the room.  Her presence commanded your attention.  She was always stylishly dressed; elegant, artsy + super professional.  This woman meant business.  Everyday while I was in school, I remember that she ALWAYS wore 2 pieces of jewelry that she had made; her antler carved diamond wedding ring + her sterling silver hollow formed earrings.  The earrings she wore like a shield, holding her head high, ready to do battle with any of us students' inner demons that questioned our own capacity for creativity + excellence.  As a teacher, she was one tough cookie.  She was not someone you wanted to disappoint during critique.  Her wedding ring on the other hand showed a softer side.  A diamond set inside a flower carved from antler danced on her hand as she taught us about the power of adornment and how to make jewelry.  The combination of these 2 pieces worn together truly embodied her essence.  Armored with strength + integrity, yet feminine + nurturing by nature.  

Sharon Church Jewelry.  Carved Flower Brooch

Empress, 2010-2011

I adored this woman.  She had great influence over me + the development of my work.  She not only guided me as an artist, but she also was the strong female role model that I needed at that time in my life.  She helped to shape me into the the jewelry artist + woman that I am today.  I will never forget my first jewelry class... I was mesmerized by the jewelry that Sharon wore; I had never seen anything like it in my life.  She spoke so eloquently about how jewelry is art for the body + the importance of making something with your hands.  I knew in that moment that I was in the right place.  I had found my teacher + my craft.  

Sharon Church Jewelry, frog brooch

Brooch, 2008

After our first demo in the studio, Sharon told all the students to pick a bench for the semester.  I remember the look of surprise on her face when I asked her if I could sit next to her.  She said, "Really?!  Usually students sit as far away from me as they can!"  She made me laugh.  She also made me cry.  But most importantly, she extracted my best from me.  She helped to make me a better artist + hone my skills as a crafts person.  I know that I am not alone in my adoration for Sharon.  I am sure that many of her other students in the 30+ years that she was an educator at the University of the Arts feel similarly.  

Sharon Church Jewelry, "Forgotten Corsage" brooch

Forgotten Corsage

Brooch, 2007

Sharon's jewelry was poignant, poetic + strikingly beautiful.  She was an avid carver.  I once heard her say that "a pile of dust on the floor was a good day at the bench."  She chose to carve materials that were once alive but now dead; breathing new life into wood, bone, and antler.  Investigating forms from the natural world, questioning the nature of life, death + our ephemeral experience here on Earth.  Her jewelry had a way of piquing your curiosity.  Each piece begged to be held + experienced.

Sharon Church Jewelry, Leaf brooch

Sharon received numerous prestigious awards + recognition as both an artist + educator including:

  • 2008 Smithsonian's James Renwick Alliance Distinguished Educator Award
  • 2015 Master of Craft by American Craft Council
  • 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of North American Goldsmiths
  • 2018 Smithsonian’s James Renwick Alliance’s 2018 Distinguished Artist Award

Check out more of Sharon's impressive body work + accolades on her website:

Sharon Church + Alex Lozier Jewelry at Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show

On Christmas Day 2022, the world lost a precious gem with the passing of Sharon Church.  She was a Matriarch of Art Jewelry Power. She left behind a legacy of beautiful jewels + a bounty of exquisite jewelry artists that she taught.  I am proud to be one of them.  I know she will be loved + missed by many.  Here is a photo of us at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show in 2015.  It was my first big show + I had received the Excellence in Jewelry Award.  I owe this award + much of my early success as an artist to the skills that Sharon has taught me both in the studio + in life.  It was a privilege to have been her student + I will always remember her fondly.  

Rest in power, Teach.