Sharon Church’s creative process is a sensory leap of faith. She navigates between the rigorous precision of her craft and the desire to pursue an open inquiry, believing in art’s power to seduce, to approach the sublime. Manifest is her devoted embrace of beauty – its power and capacity to embody the human spirit. 

Myra Mimlitsch-Gray, 2018.

SHARON CHURCH (1948 – 2022) was a studio jeweler and Professor Emerita, Craft + Material Studies, School of Art, The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She received her B.S. from Skidmore College in 1970 and earned her M.F.A. at The School for American Craftsmen at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1973. Her work has been in exhibitions across the globe, and her influence on contemporary jewelry is pervasive and persistent.

“I really believe craft has within it the key to valuing a human life,” she says. “To make something with your hands, to know that you exist, to see that that existence has value – even for someone who just likes doing it, it has enormous value.”

A Master of American Craft (American Craft Council designation, 2015), Sharon was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Craftsman’s Fellowship Grant and was twice selected for a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. She received the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award, the Richard C. von Hess Faculty Award, and multiple Venture Fund Awards from The University of the Arts. The Smithsonian’s James Renwick Alliance’s 2018 Distinguished Artist, she also received their Distinguished Educator Award in 2008. In 2018 Sharon received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of North American Goldsmiths.

Her work is in the permanent collections of Yale University, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Arts and Design; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany; The National Gallery of Australia; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Nationalmuseum of Sweden, Stockholm; The Museum of Fine Arts Houston; the Delaware Art Museum; The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In 2022 the Smithsonian American Art Museum acquired and included her work in the Renwick Gallery’s 50th Anniversary Exhibition.

She is considered one of the United States’ greatest treasures of contemporary jewelry.

Sharon Church is a consummate jeweler whose work is admired for its poignant and evocative beauty. She describes herself as a carver, as subtractive methods are integral to her practice.  Virtuosity is evident in Sharon’s beautifully carved jewelry made of exotic woods, especially boxwood because it so closely grained, and antler, which carves like ivory. Both are ultimately accented with diamonds and silver. Perfectly articulated by a silver structure based in movement and her college studies of sculpture, the work comes alive on the body.

 Her jewelry has evolved from configured elements toward figuration. Imagery emerges mostly through intuition, as Sharon unequivocally creates “from the gut”. Work, for Sharon, begins with a cut, along with trepidation and tremendous respect for nature’s gifts. For her, process inspires creativity beyond the self and toward greater, universal awareness: Sharon invites the possibility of magic, wonder and spiritual discovery to enter through the rigors of her craft.

Sharon’s creative process is a sensory leap of faith. She navigates between the rigorous precision of her craft and the desire to pursue an open inquiry, believing in art’s power to seduce, to approach the sublime. Manifest is her devoted embrace of beauty – its power and capacity to embody the human spirit.

While Sharon’s jewelry encompasses the highest standards of aesthetic inquiry, her long career at the University of the Arts/Philadelphia College of Art is perhaps her most profound and celebrated achievement. Many artists attest to her generosity and vitality in the classroom, her undying belief in her students and insistence on their commitment to personal growth. That so many are actively working today is a lasting testament to her outstanding accomplishments.

– Myra Mimlitsch-Gray, upon bestowing the 2018 Society of North American Goldsmith’s Lifetime Achievement Award