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portrait of Shirk

Helen Shirk

Shirk is a Professor at San Diego State University. When that position was announced Shirk knew it was an opportunity to help develop the metals program. She applied and got the position. Initially there were very few tools in the shop. She brought her tools in and others she borrowed. After the first year Shirk held a student exhibition. This increased interest and faculty support for the jewelry program at San Diego State University.

Helen Shirk's early jewelry and hollowware were influenced by her teacher at Indiana University, Alma Eikerman. The Art Deco style was also influential to her work. Her forms were more architectural. Later in her work she employed color through the use of anodized titanium. In the early eighties she became interested in the vessel. Shirk had large copper and brass bowls spun for her. Using these as conical bases, Shirk applied rims to these forms that created undulating surfaces and applied color to them. Coloration was achieved through patinization, gilding and pencils. Shirk later etched the vessels creating a lace-like quality. Her color palette became softer, but the forms were still similar. Shirk also used repousse in her forms to gain texture.

Shirk sees her role in the classroom as being to encourage the development of her student's sense of design and to provide technical instruction so they may carry out their designs. She was involved in the developmental years of the Society of North American Goldsmiths. Her work is exhibited nationally. Shirk is also the recipient of numerous grants and awards.