Design Series, Gallery Events

Capturing Transformation in Her New Design Series

RSVP Online for the “Homage to Klimt” Design Series Opening
Saturday, October 19, 2013 from noon – 6pm at Eve J Alfille Gallery & Studio
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Authored by Maggie Flynn, Medill School of Journalism

The intertwined figures in Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” scarcely look human at first glance. The first clear impression is that of a woman’s face and shoulders floating in an amorphous gold cloak. Only on closer examination does the back of the head bent over her become apparent. The lover’s hands are tender on the woman’s face, and her arm is wrapped around his neck. It’s an intimate, striking moment, captured with amazing detail.

Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss”

However the details of this painting— bits of colors, rectangles and circles in the cloaks, textured backgrounds—aren’t what you’d expect from a depiction of two lovers. From top to bottom, Klimt’s work showcases color and texture in a way designed to evoke the experience of all the senses.

That engagement of the senses inspired Eve Alfille’s newest jewelry series, which draws from the works of Gustav Klimt (1862-1918).

The jewelry art of Eve Alfille has always engaged the senses, but in her newest series, she’s hoping to capture something of that transformation. It’s a lofty goal. Crafting a jewelry piece that achieves artistic purpose and suitability involves walking a tricky tightrope between art and craft.

In 1900-1912, in which Klimt would produce “The Kiss,” movements for the beautification of objects began to gather momentum. European nations were in various states of upheaval. Freudian psychology was making its way around Europe, and interest in primitive civilizations and primal urges was becoming stronger. Dissatisfaction with the aristocracy’s domination of the arts had been growing for some decades, and more and more artists believed that “art had to be for everybody.” Art had begun to move out of academic circles and off the canvas.

Eve’s fascination with the art of that time played a major role in her ‘Homage to Klimt’, but it’s not the first time that 1900-1912 has inspired her. In the fall of 2011, she created a series titled “Dancing Under the Stars,” inspired by the work of Lyonel Feininger, another artist of that period.

Unlike Klimt, Feininger depicted a world fueled by the subconscious.

“That was work was about dreams, images from dreams. It was about surrealism,” Eve explained in reference to “Dancing Under the Stars.”

A glimpse at Eve’s process before metal or stones are worked into magic.

Her newest series, ‘Homage to Klimt,’ draws inspiration from the same time period, but her creative process for the Klimt series has been brewing steadily for some years. It’s part of her creative process- to wait out the initial spark, think about the designs. And when the time is right to begin her art, she knows, though she doesn’t say much about how- merely that when the images start to come, she begins to get a better sense of what to make.

“That’s the chef’s secret, right?” she said with a smile.

Two artistic movements that intersected at that time were surrealism and symbolism. While surrealists, in Eve’s words, “were trying to access the strange logic of dreams,” symbolists were concerned with the senses. For symbolists, the senses were the true source of art, and “it was felt that all the senses speak together.”

Klimt, a true symbolist, drew his artistic inspiration from the academic art which he learned in his artistic schooling, the goldsmith work of his immediate family, ancient golden frescoes, and the societal unrest that had spread throughout his lifetime. His work is marked with symbols and strange sensual correlatives ranging from the Egyptian eye to ovals, color schemes associated with life and death.

Eve finds those symbols particularly meaningful.

“I’m fascinated by his particular- what I call his alphabet,” she said in reference to the symbols.

His alphabet was endlessly intricate and endlessly inventive. In some pieces Klimt would pay the trappings of his subjects more attention than the subjects themselves. With his symbols and lines, he forces his audience to pay attention to how the senses work in tandem to produce a fuller picture of reality than what the eye perceived. Klimt’s use of texture and goldsmith work in his paintings proved how artistic such blending of the senses could be, something that Eve appreciates in her work as a jewelry artist.

“Jewelry is one of the arts, and I consider myself an artist. But jewelry is- in art schools, they distinguish between art and craft. The idea being that a piece of art does not have a useful purpose other than to inspire. A craft can be utilized. So craft has been considered less exalted, secondary. Most museums deal in art, not craft. In art circles, craft is also called the decorative arts or the minor arts,” Eve said thoughtfully as she paged through a collection of Klimt’s works.

“It’s an artificial distinction and Klimt doesn’t do that.”

pic1Eve’s newest series showcases how artificial that distinction is. Even while the jewelry pieces are works in progress, they evoke the sensual engagement of a Klimt painting through their use of colors and shapes. However she says not to expect mirror images of the Klimt patterns, or the reproduction of accessories in the paintings.

“One of the things that has made me even more cautious is that Klimt has been appropriated so much. You can get a Klimt bedspread that’s one of the pieces- so I realize people might expect that,” she said drily. “I hope they will understand that it is not an appropriation, or an exact replica.”

One of Eve’s expressed goals is to produce pieces that convey intense sensual effects paralleling Klimt’s work, and a small pair of pearl earrings, simply constructed, brings to mind his use of off-kilter patterns and textures. At first glance, the earrings look identical. But the pearls are not quite the same shape and size, and the difference between them only highlights the similarity in their trimmings, which consist of tiny rubies and wire.

The rubies show up frequently in the sketches and completed pieces for the jewelry series. Interestingly, they are almost never the focal point of the jewelry piece; rather they provide a tiny splash of color in the midst of the triangles and spirals that are reminiscent of Klimt’s use of eyes and ‘trees of life.’

“It means plentitude, it expresses fullness. It’s a very expressive stone. It’s the blood, but it’s also the life,” Eve said when asked about the rubies.

She described Klimt’s paintings in similar terms, speaking fondly of the fullness of Klimt’s paintings and how they cover every inch of the canvas on which they stand. There’s no space unused in a Klimt painting, and Eve hopes to convey some of that richness in her jewelry.

pic2“I like to have a certain depth- to express a message in different ways. So you get one impression, maybe from the lushness of the materials, the textures, the cabochon rubies, the warmth of the gold- and gradually also feel- the other things I’m trying to convey- the riches of experiences and the sensuality- I’d like for the whole to be more than the sum of the parts.

“I’d like people to feel when they see the piece that there’s an underlying intelligence at work- that it isn’t merely an object.”

Gallery Events

Sep 22 | Microcosm: Preserving Our Ocean Habitat

Please join us on Sunday, September 22, 2013 from 3-5 pm to see some of the stunning images and learn more about the ocean environment that supports us all, and allows us to wear the softly glowing orbs we so love!  Get Directions

Award winning educator and marine biologist Michelle Hoffman
Award winning educator and marine biologist Michelle Hoffman

Oysters are delicate creatures. Situated midway on the ocean food chain, they depend heavily on the microscopic creatures that inhabit the ocean. Without this oceanic food supply they would be unable to produce the lustrous pearls we all admire. Michelle Hoffman, is an award-winning educator who holds advanced degrees in Marine Biology and law and is currently working on a film about this delicate, microscopic, ocean environment.

Call (847) 869-7920 to RSVP, or use the form below to submit online.

Microcosm is a ninety minute, high definition visual journey into the microscopic universe of the ocean. Within the microcosm dwells the foundation of life as we know it; it is the base of the oceanic food web, generator of the air we breathe, toxins that can poison our food supply, potential medicines that will save a loved one, and the fuels that might someday power your home. There is exquisite beauty and biological diversity in the microcosm that has captivated artists throughout the centuries and provided the foundation for coral reefs so large they can be seen from outer space. Through this film Michele hopes to underscore the artistry of the delicate creatures she calls “living snowflakes” and help people understand that these organisms represent the topsoil of the ocean.

About Michelle Hoffman: Ms. Hoffman began her love affair with the ocean at age five with the gift of a shell.  At sixteen, she took her first life-altering breath on scuba, and by twenty-three she was a fully hooked PADI instructor. Michele’s articles and photography have appeared in international publications including an underwater photo shoot for Playboy, and she has been recognized in several international photo competitions. Some of Michele’s favorite dive locations include Thailand, Ireland, Hawaii, Australia, Honduras, Bahamas, Puget Sound, and the Floridian caves. Currently Michele is an active contractor with Dive Into Your Imagination and a faculty member of Columbia College, School of the Art Institute, and Roosevelt University where she teaches a range of courses that span traditional ocean sciences to sustainability courses that encompass law, policy, and ethics. At the core of Michele’s teaching philosophy is the belief that there is an inner scientist in everyone. She resides in Chicago with husband Bob and young son Ryan (also avid ocean enthusiasts) who share in her research and travel adventures!

Readers may also wish to attend the Microcosm: An Evening of Art & Inquiry fundraising & education event at Columbia College of Chicago, October 17, 2013 from 6:00 to 9:00pm. More information is available on their website:

Custom Design

Rings of Great Significance

Eve has been quite busy designing beautiful engagement rings for couples all year long, and we thought you might find the following info-graphic on engagement ring history, interesting and fun.  Might I add, that not all of her projects were for young couples.

Eve has designed several rings for couples who are seeking more unusual and custom rings, making Eve an obvious go-to choice.   Another trend, which continues this year is the use of non-traditional gems for engagement and wedding rings.  Just like Princess Diana and Duchess Kate’s, sapphires are another popular choice and, not all are of the blue variety.  But sapphires are not the only distinction.  Once you see Eve’s gem room and begin exploring, you will be amazed at all the gemstone alternatives.  Just be sure to select a hard gem, that can stand up to daily wear and tear.

“Refresh Your Wedding Rings!” says the husband of one woman who is redesigning her wedding ring with Eve this season.   After 50+ years of marriage she opted for an updated, sleek and modern Eve Alfillé design which Eve is currently working on.  The gallery this year has seen a surprising number of women doing just that!

At the gallery, we refer to these projects as transformations and are not limited to wedding jewelry.  Eve has undertaken transformations throughout her entire career and every transformation is a fascinating process.  The best part happens when the redesigned ring or heirloom piece is complete and clients look upon their new creation for the first time.  The look of sheer joy as she sees her redesigned ring in its new form. “I have to caution them to be careful while driving, and not let their newly refreshed rings distract,” Eve says.


Custom Design, Eve's Insight

Romancing the Stone (in May)

Green with Envy Emerald Necklace by Eve J Alfille
Graduated emerald necklace adorned with Eve’s 18 karat green gold “Antiquities” series hook clasp

Some of you may become green with envy as we introduce the birthstone for May: Emerald.  For a closer look at both finished Emerald, stop by the gallery and ask to see some Emeralds.

Emerald is a variety of Beryl, which gets its green color from the presence of trace amounts of the metal elements chromium & sometimes vanadium. As these two elements do not play particularly well together, they can cause minute stresses, creating the typical inclusions seen in most emeralds. The French give these a pretty name: Jardin (garden).

Most emerald are mined in Colombia and Brazil, although a newer source of fine, relatively clear Emerald has been discovered in Zambia, Africa.  Emerald in various concentrations have been found in places all over the world including the U.S., but ironically have not been located in Ireland which fancies itself “the Emerald Isle,” for its lush green countryside.

More than 2,000 years ago, Egyptian queen Cleopatra had a passion for emeralds and wore them in her jewelry, and they have been in demand ever since.

Liz Taylor's Emerald & Diamond Necklace
Liz Taylor’s Emerald & Diamond Necklace

Speaking of Cleopatra, one famous actress who portrayed Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor, is quoted as saying, “Oh my god!! I’ve got to have the emeralds!” And so she did… check these out! Not understated, but very WOW!!

In 330 BC Egyptians began mining emeralds, and buried their mummies with emeralds around their necks to symbolize eternal youth.

During the sixteenth century Spanish Explorers discovered emeralds in South America and introduced them throughout Europe. It was said the Spanish conquistadors discovered and overtook the emerald mines in present-day Colombia. But it took them fifty years to finally overpower the Muzo Indians who occupied the area and refused to reveal the sources of their mines to the greedy Spanish, even under torture!

Legends claimed that emeralds had power to cure diseases such as cholera and malaria and to make the wearer quick-witted and intelligent.

Emerald found in its natural state
Emerald mined in its natural state, originating from a mine in Muzo Columbia.

Emeralds are less dense than diamonds. This means that a one-carat emerald is larger than a one

-carat diamond.

About emeralds, Roman historian Pliny said, “No stone has a color that is more delightful to the eye, for, whereas the sight fixes itself with avidity upon the green grass and the foliage of the trees, we have all the more pleasure in looking upon the emerald, there being no gem in existence more intense than this.” Following Pliny’s advice, the Roman Emperor, Nero, watched gladiator fights through emerald-encrusted sunglasses.

Eve's Insight

A Royal Romance

Napoleon & Josephine's engagement ring
Napoleon & Josephine’s engagement ring

Napoleon’s Engagement Ring Sells for $1.17 million dollars, (actually for $949,000 plus the fees which made a total of 1.17 million), to an anonymous buyer. They timed the sale to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Josephine’s birthday.

The French auction house, Osenat, gave the sapphire & diamond ring a pre-sale estimate of $23,500 to $26,000, primarily based on the market value of the materials & design of the ring.  It is a simple ring, featuring 2 pear-shaped gems, a blue sapphire and a white diamond, each weighing less than a carat.  The golden ring is in an 18th century setting called “toi et moi,” “You and Me,” with opposing tear-shaped jewels.  It is not the most exciting of designs, but apparently has enough cachet to run up quite a major premium for its provenance of belonging to Emperor Napoleon & Empress Josephine!

In my wildest dreams, I did not think we would outsell the estimate by more than 47 times,” Emily Villane, an auction house spokeswoman, told  “We based the estimates in our catalog on the actual market value of the ring, minus Napoleon and Josephine provenance.  It is not our job to tell bidders how much they should pay for the historical premium.”

Joséphine de Beauharnais was the first wife of Napoleon.  Interestingly, she was imprisoned and her first husband, Alexandre de Beauharnais, was executed by guillotine during the “Reign of Terror” at the beginning of the French Revolution, as an “enemy of the Revolution”.

Joséphine had 2 children from her first marriage, a son, Eugène, and daughter, Hortense whom Napoleon later adopted.  As a little aside: Napoleon’s step-daughter Hortense (Josephine’s daughter with Alexandre) later married Napoleon’s brother, Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland; their son became Napoleon III, Emperor of the French.

Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon Bonaparte. Source Time/NewsFeed (

Josephine was then released from prison after the fall of Robespierre and she had affairs with a number of political figures.  According to Napoleon’s memoirs written at St. Helena, he met Josephine when her son Eugene came to ask him for the right to keep his father’s sword.  Napoleon said yes, and Josephine invited him to her apartment in Paris to thank him.  Napoleon was immediately smitten, and within the first couple months of their relationship had fallen completely in love with her.  As his mistress he wrote to her many love letters.

A few days after they were married, Napoleon left to command the French army near Italy.  In the following months, he frequently wrote, expressing how much he missed her. On July 17, 1796 he wrote:

“Since I left you, I have been constantly depressed.  My happiness is to be near you.  Incessantly I live over in my memory your caresses, your tears, your affectionate solicitude.  The charms of the incomparable Josephine kindle continually a burning and a glowing flame in my heart.  When, free from all solicitude, all harassing care, shall I be able to pass all my time with you, having only to love you, and to think only of the happiness of so saying, and of proving it to you?”  — Source: Top 10 Famous Love Letters / Napoleon to His Wife

Napoleon Bonaparte
Josephine’s Ring. Source Time/NewsFeed

The auction house described the 18th century ring as a “simple” band decorated with two pear-shaped gems, a blue sapphire and diamond, which face opposite directions.  “At the time, Napoleon had very little money,” Osenat’s Jean-Christophe Chataignier explained to the Daily Mail.  “The ring is a very ordinary one.”  An ordinary ring, save for the fact that the man who gave it to his beloved went on to become the emperor of France.  Though their marriage ended in divorce after 14 years (because Josephine was not able to give Napoleon any children), Josephine was said to have cherished the ring and continued to pass it down as a family heirloom.  And Napoleon still wrote love letters to her even after they divorced.

Related Articles: Napoleon and Josephine’s Engagement Ring Sold at Auction for $949, 000
(Source: Time/Newsfeed)