Monday, February 1, 2010


Today we visit the United States' largest municipal building, the Philadelphia City Hall in Pennsylvania.

Scottish architect John McArthur, Jr. designed the building, and at 548 feet tall, it is the second tallest "masonry" building in the world. Pennsylvania is also currently home to featured jewelry designer Hratch Babikian.

Born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, Babikian moved to the United States over 30 years ago. His idyllic upbringing surrounded by painters, goldsmiths and the spectacular Mediterranean landscape helped to nurture his own artistic sensibilities.

His father traveled the world and eagerly exposed Babikian to stone and woodcarvings he collected. "My father would spend time and explain how they were made and who made them," he says.

"Thanks to him I always had a bench and tools ever since 4 years of age. I always kept carving something out of tree branches or bark. I never lost that feeling of excitement each time I start working on a piece."

In 1975, however, Babikian and his family began preparations to leave their homeland at the start of the country's civil war. Within four years, Babikian relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in 1983, he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Philadelphia College of Art at University of the Arts.

"My decision on becoming an artist and running a studio came from my need to add to the quality of life for others and myself. I enjoy becoming better in what I do; cultivating different skills required like chemistry, math, and hand-eye coordination to create a piece. It is exciting when a piece comes together in perfect, fluid harmony."

Babikian's creative outlets oscillate between painting, sculpture, and jewelry making. With jewelry, his approach to design is creating natural, free forms that are alternately irregular, fluid, and streamlined. He interchanges between obtaining high polish and unusual textures in metals ranging from copper to gold to silver.

His sea-urchin-inspired pieces, which mimic the rough-hewn texture of their shells, are a prime example of his varied approach to style and form.  I find the results from this type of experimentation striking.

His soulful design approach renders pieces that have a conceptual, somewhat futuristic appearance. "My interest in the cultural existence of people past, present and future has influenced my work."

Photo 1 (top right): Arabesque Earrings
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Sea Cuff with Freeform Turquoise in 14-Karat Gold Bezel
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