When Joan Michlin and Skip Ennis met 46 years ago, they clicked as two Yankees in the deep South. They were students at Memphis Academy of Art, both serious about their craft. She was a Michigander, who, at 16, had a booth showcasing her Sterling Silver rings at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. He hailed from Cape Cod, rejected the Ivy League path and had recently returned from a life-altering scholarship program in Florence, Italy.
The sculpture and metalsmithing major (Joan) formed a friendship with the painting and printmaking major (Skip) in 1976. That morphed into a 40-year marriage and an even longer business relationship that dates back 44 years.
“We moved to New York after art school with $100 in our pockets, a beat-up Volkswagen and a dream,” Skip says. “We moved to the edge of Harlem and lived in a one-bedroom apartment on the ground floor.”
Eventually their dream would be realized as Joan Michlin Galleries. The Sarasota, Florida, business carries the award-winning, handcrafted pieces that have been referred to as “wearable sculpture.” Many of the iconic designs are featured in several museums, numerous galleries and private collections. The couple will have a booth at Rose Squared’s Spring Brookdale Park show on June 18 and 19, the Anderson Park’s show on Sept 17 and 18, and the Fall Brookdale Park show on Oct. 15 and 16.
Expect to be wowed by their earrings, rings, bracelets, pendants and more — handcrafted pieces that boast timeless wearability, each “dedicated to the people that matter to us — our customers,” Skip says. While creating their jewelry is a collaborative process, Skip refers to his wife as “the most prolific artist I’ve ever met. She goes into the zone, and I have to feed her!” Final pieces reflect their fascination with light, energy and powerful form by using nature’s finest elements to produce a collection “that sings with the same excitement we feel,” he says.
The jewelry elements consist of 14K and 22K gold, diamonds, Boulder Opals, Lapis, numerous colored semi-precious and exotic gems, and pearls. Their techniques involve casting, construction, fabrication, and carving. Skip is Joan’s “toughest critic,” in her words, and as a painter and colorist, assists with the stone decisions.
Joan Michlin Designs is also renowned for its Sterling Silver Art Boxes that feature their jewelry designs wrapped around and embellishing the tops. These distinctive boxes often feature a single earring as a decorative element on the exterior of the box, with the other earring hiding inside. Collectors are encouraged to “think outside the Box,” and experience the joy of wearing the pieces and later displaying them as an art object.
Joan and Skip travel throughout the year to premier shows that include the ones at Lincoln Center and Coconut Grove in Miami. While they have exhibited at Rose Squared’s Brookdale Show previously, this is the first time they will be part of three shows.
Their sense of humor has been a staple along with way as has their commitment to customer service. It’s not just important that their customers leave the booth happy with their purchase. They take pride in promptly responding to inquiries about one of their designs and are happy to repair a stone that has become loose or a broken clasp.
Stop by their booth, talk with them about their inspiration and take home a future heirloom that’s one of a kind, a Joan Michlin Design that’s sure to be a conversation starter for years to come.