Interview with Emily Stoehrer, Curator of Jewelry at the Museum of Fine Arts

May 8, 2015 | | View Comments

Design Museum Boston has the pleasure of collaborating with Emily Stoehrer, the Rita J. Kaplan and Susan B. Kaplan Curator of Jewelry at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. As one of the judges for our Rapid Jewelry design competition, Emily spoke with us about the exhibits she’s working on, her thoughts on jewelry, and what she’s excited to see come out of Rapid Jewelry.

Design Museum Boston: When did you first become interested in jewelry and the history of jewelry?

Emily Stoehrer: Probably around the time that I started working at the museum in 2007. The museum had just hired a curator of jewelry who had actually already worked here, but moved into this new position that was formed. That was when the museum started to actively look at jewelry and start building the collection to start making it encyclopedic.

Design Museum Boston: What were you doing before that?

Emily Stoehrer: I was working in the department of textile and fashion arts, which is where the jewelry curator sits, but I was working on textile and fashion related projects.

Design Museum Boston: Can you tell me a little bit about what you’re working on right now at the MFA and what we can expect next?

Emily Stoehrer: Right now I’m working on the next rotation of the Kaplan Jewelry Gallery, which is a gallery that looks at our jewelry collection, and it rotates every three years. The current exhibition in the gallery is one on Nubian jewelry, and I’m working on the next rotation of that which will look at historicism in jewelry in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries—how certain styles, techniques, and motifs repeat themselves historically.


Winged Isis pectoral, 538–519 BC. Gold. Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Design Museum Boston: Do you curate contemporary jewelry as well?

Emily Stoehrer: Absolutely! Contemporary jewelry is a large part of the collection. The Nubian collection—which is on view now—is one of our most important collections. The the other large important collection is the Daphne Farago Collection of studio jewelry. We look at jewelry from ancient to modern here, and in my position I have the opportunity to put all of that jewelry in conversation with one another. I’m not only looking at historical jewelry I’m also looking at contemporary jewelry.

A preview of the MFA’s extensive jewelry collection: 

image1Bracelets with a basket flanked by snakes, about 40–20 B.C. Gold, emeralds, and pearls (modern). Classical Department Exchange Fund. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

image2Suite of jewelry in three parts (pendant), 19th century. Gilded silver, red tourmalines, and seed pearls. Gift of Gordon Abbott, Katherine Batchelder, and Eleanor Lothrop. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

image3Brooch, Eva Eisler (born in Prague in 1952, active in United States), 1990. Silver, black slate. The Daphne Farago Collection. Reproduced with permission. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Design Museum Boston: Does the MFA have any 3D printed items in the collection?

Emily Stoehrer: We actually do. We even have a couple of pieces by Joe Wood, who is a professor at MassArt, and those are part of the Daphne Farago Collection.

Image4Knobby Yellow Bracelet, Joe Wood (American, born in 1954), 1999. Enamel powder, silver, resin on cellulose. The Daphne Farago Collection. Reproduced with permission. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

image5Splatto Red Brooch, Joe Wood (American, born in 1954), 1999. Epoxy resin and enamel powder on cellulose. The Daphne Farago Collection. Reproduced with permission. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Design Museum Boston: What has been the most innovative thing you’ve seen in your work or studies of jewelry—either in design, style, or production.

Emily Stoehrer: I think watching the evolution of techniques is really interesting. For example, if you think about enamel or some of the enameling techniques we have on view in our ancient galleries, and then look at how it is later incorporated by art nouveau artists, it’s interesting to see how those really complex techniques are repeated and refined throughout history.

Design Museum Boston: You study and curate such intricate, hand-crafted, and historical jewelry each day. What are your thoughts on 3D printed and technological jewelry that is becoming more popular now?

Emily Stoehrer: I think it’s an interesting conversation. My colleagues are working on an exhibition on fashion and technology that will talk about some of these questions that are being raised, and I think that’s certainly one of them.

Design Museum Boston: Do you think 3D printed jewelry will fit in nicely in the historical context of the evolution of jewelry, or should it be considered its own category?

Emily Stoehrer: I think so. From our perspective we’re looking to build a collection that takes a complete picture of jewelry’s history—not only where it is historically, but where it’s going. I think from that perspective, looking at 3D printed jewelry alongside other types of jewelry is really interesting and it adds to the conversation. We look at how jewelry is worn, and the relationship between jewelry and the body is really important from my perspective, so I think that if the jewelry is designed to be worn then it’s absolutely jewelry.

Design Museum Boston: What are you excited to see in the Rapid Jewelry competition and fashion show?

Emily Stoehrer: I’m excited to see what people are doing most recently and the latest innovations. I recently had a chance to meet with some artists who were doing 3D printed jewelry, and I think that the use of articulated parts is making it more and more interesting. I”m interested to see how some of the participants in the contest use these materials in new ways to make them more flexible.

The Rapid Jewelry competition ends on April 10th, 11;59pm PT. Submit your design HERE! 

The top 20 design will be featured in our Exhibition-In-Motion fashion show on May 23rd.

Join Design Museum Boston and the Society of North American Goldsmiths for an exciting and alternative Fashion Show of 3D printed jewelry! We will gather in the Imperial Ballroom at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and see the best pieces from the Rapid Jewelry competition strut down the runway, with live modeling by Urbanity Dance! See the jewelry up-close in an immersive showcase of technology-driven fashion! The 3 winning entries will be announced and highlighted at the event. The evening will be hosted by the charismatic Alexander Zafris, with live music by eclectic DJ DayGlow! Stick around for the after-party to enjoy drinks, light refreshments, and mingle with Boston’s fashion and design scenes! Learn more about this event and reserve your ticket today!