All of Joy Stember’s “contemporary heirlooms” feature pewter and brass, including her dreidel.
Steeped in rich tradition, the art of Judaica provides a powerful sense of history and culture. No one knows this better than metal artist Joy Stember. “With my Judaica, I want people to have a renewed sense of spirituality and see my work as a contemporary heirloom for their family.”
As the daughter of a jewelry designer, art has always been a part of Stember’s life. She began taking art classes at age 5, won numerous art competitions, and worked in ceramics and metal studios throughout her teenage years. Originally interested in clay, she attended Temple University’s Tyler School of Art because of its renowned ceramics department. While there, however, she realized that metal was her true calling—“With metal, the possibilities are endless,” she says. She spent her summers supplementing her education with courses at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine, where she was a teacher’s assistant in the metals department.
She completed her degree in 2006 and established the Joy Stember Metal Arts Studio, then took a trip to Israel. While exploring the ancient country, she visited Tzfat, Israel’s art capital, and Ein Hood, an artists community near Mt. Carmel. The experience gave her an incredible reference point for Israeli crafts. “After returning, I realized it was my life’s calling to make Judaica.,” she explains.
Inspired by urban landscapes, Stember’s unique designs push the boundaries of traditional Jewish pieces. She begins her process by creating a working drawing, then tracing the pattern onto pewter, brass, bronze, silver or copper. By adding different textures, the pieces take on a contemporary look. After scoring, folding and soldering the metal, each piece is cleaned and tumble finished to give it a polished look.
A 2011 and 2011 finalist in the NICHE Awards, as well as the Rio Grande Saul Bell Design Awards in 2008, Stember’s future is bright. She just opened a new studio and shop in Abington, Pa., and plans on expanding her line to include non-Judaica items for the home, as well as jewelry she will create with her father, whom she considers her inspiration. As things change, the one constant is her love of metal. “Simply put,” she says, “metal is my life.”