Reviews: Legacy: Jewelry Techniques of West Africa by Matthieu Cheminée

Art Jewelry Magazine
November 2014, Hazel L. Wheaton

I once took a coking course with a professional chef. In our first class, he held up a 10-inch chef's knife and proclaimed,"This is the only tool you need." We didn't believe him -- until he started his demos. In his account of journeying to Senegal with Matthieu Cheminée, the author of "Legacy: Jewelry Techniques of West Africa," Tim McCreight wrote: "It is a thrill to see what these talented craftsmen achieve with such basic equipment. Let me change that: it is a humbling thrill." McCreight's reaction to the West African jewelers he met was the same as mine to that talented Philadephia chef.

The product of a decade of travel, research, and interviews, Cheminée's book is an amazing window into workshops and processes that are far removed from -- and yet familiar to -- jewelers working in modern studios. Cheminée profiles individual makers, highlights specific techniques, and takes readers through the making of a range of beautiful objects, including handmade chains, an intricate wire filigree bracelet, a neckpiece of silver inlaid into ebony, and traditional Tuareg engraved pieces. Along the way, Cheminée records and preserves traditions passed down from one maker to the next. Such inspiring craftsmanship is the product of a network of endlessly interwoven relationships sustained across hundreds of miles and generations of makers. This book is simply not to be missed.