For several decades, I have been creating jewelry featuring the enameling technique of cloisonné. This ancient art reached a zenith in the Byzantine era, but is primarily known today from Chinese and Japanese examples. With small tools, I bend the cloisonné wires to create a line drawing. Traditionally, each enclosure formed by these wires held a single enamel color. The enamels, which vary from opaque to transparent, are grains of glass colored with metal oxides that can be mixed and layered, producing special effects. Each layer of enamel (sometimes more than 15 in a single piece) is then fired in a kiln, fusing the powdered glass and holding the wires in place. I polish the completed enamel work with wet and dry papers to create a smooth, soft shine.
When I finish polishing, I make the setting for the pendant, brooch, ring, or other adornment from gold and/or silver. I also hand fabricate woven chains of gold or fine silver, a process first developed in the ancient world. My chains and my enamel settings sometimes incorporate colored gemstones to enhance the colors in the enamel.
Education & Exhibitions
I received a B.A. in Art History from Oberlin College and studied Romanesque art at Boston University as a graduate student. I learned ancient jewelry techniques at Kulicke-Stark (now the Jewelry Arts Institute) in New York City. There, under the jeweler Jean Stark, I perfected the refinement of shading with enamels, extending color beyond the confines of wire enclosures.
My work has been exhibited at various venues including the Forbes Galleries, NYC, the Lexington Arts and Crafts Society in MA, North East Enamel Guild shows at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, and at the national Enamelist Society Conference exhibitions of 2013 and 2015. In 2015 my work appeared in a show at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh. Solo exhibitions of my work were held in 2013 at the Brookline Library in MA, and in 2017 at the Newton Main Library in MA.
For a number of years, I volunteered for the Jewelry Curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, working on exhibitions, books, and glossaries, deepening my knowledge of the historical significance and context of jewelry, and inspiring my own work.
"... Strassler has applied her considerable skills into creating miniature landscapes from seemingly intractable materials... The result is an extraordinary body of work that transcends adornment. ... To own one of her enamels provides the opportunity to wear an outstanding work of art." — Yvonne Markowitz* and Jeannine Falino**
Click here to read the full article as a PDF (opens in new window). Adornment Magazine: The Newsletter of Jewelry & Related Arts, May 2005, Vol. 5, Issue 2, pgs 11-16. "The Cloisonné Enameled Landscapes of Toni Strassler."
*Former Rita J. Kaplan and Susan B. Kaplan Curator of Jewelry, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston