While living in Malaysia and working as a Chemical Engineer back in 1996, a short family holiday to Northern Malaysia and a stroll through the town of Kota Bharu lead Milt Fischbein into a fascinating jewellery shop with an amazing array of silver filigree jewellery. In that shop Milt was kindly invited into the workshop by the shop owner and given a thorough demonstration of this specialized filigree making process. At that moment Milt decided he wanted to work in filigree, and purchased several ounces of filigree wire with plans to start working with it very soon.
After returned to Canada in 1997 and re-established his studio in Calgary, the Malaysian filigree wire sat forgotten in a corner of the studio gathering dust while Milt developed his skills in a variety of areas of silversmithing and jewellery fabrication. “One day I came upon that small spool of Malaysian filigree wire. I remembered that visit to the shop in Kota Bharu and decided that now was the time to start working in filigree. I purchased some additional supplies and made my first piece of filigree a few months later, early in 2014, nearly 18 years after my first encounter with this lovely technique.” His studio practice has now shifted almost entirely to the design and fabrication of filigree. The filigree wire he purchased in Malaysia still sits waiting to be created into something special. “Maybe I need another trip to that little jewellery shop in Kota Bharu to help inspire me again” he adds.
The word Filigree, comes from the Latin words Fila (thread or wire) and Granum (granule). Historians have documented filigree jewellery from Greece and the Egypt as old as 300 BC. In Milt’s Calgary studio, he makes filigree jewellery using many of those same ancient techniques. His main tool for working with filigree wire is a simple pair of tweezers. While he hand fabricates many of traditional designs such as the filigree flower and the filigree ball, Milt has also created many more modern designs using these ancient techniques. Two of his most popular modern filigree designs are Surfing Moon and Silver Slipper.
Tree Of Life
Milt Fischbein has been making jewellery since 1993. His business started when he made a pair of sterling silver earrings for his wife after taking a beginner jewellery making course through ACAD. A friend who then saw the earrings asked him to make her a pair. When he delivered the earrings she offered to pay for them. Milt had not thought of charging her for the earrings, but she insisted on paying and actually ended up paying him twice the amount that he had asked for. Milt tells us “That was when I decided to turn my hobby into a business”. Since that day, thousands of pieces have been created.
Milt has extensive knowledge and experience in hand fabricating jewellery and metal sculpture with most of his formal metalsmithing education from more than 20 courses and workshops taken through the Alberta College of Art and Design, the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco, 92 St Y in New York and several other Jewellery/Metalsmithing Schools.
Prior to creating jewellery, photography was Milt’s creative outlet, but over the years his passion for jewellery and metalsmithing left him with little time for photography. Those skills and techniques are not lost though and have been helpful in marketing his jewellery.
Working primarily in sterling silver, which he favors most, he will often use gold accents in his work, as well as semi precious stones like amber and ammolite, and freshwater pearls. Excitedly we await his latest design, a filigree neck piece featuring a fresh water pearl in the center. He is also planning a series of new and more complex filigree designs which he will release in 2017.
You can also see Milt’s fine silver crafts at Alberta Craft Council Gallery Store in Edmonton, The Glenbow Museum Shop in Calgary, and Gust Gallery in Waterton Alberta. If you can’t get to those places be sure to check out his website www.mfmetalarts.com and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MFMetalArts where you can follow up to date information and schedules on a number of shows he participates in throughout the year.
Make sure to check out this exquisite collection of silver filigree jewellery, along with some of forged bangles at Motion Gallery this month.
Written by Sandra Montgomery
Edited by Renee Laferriere