Professional artist Aleksandra Vali, who is continually taking metal smith classes at College of DuPage, won grand prize in the prestigious Niche design competition for the second consecutive year. Her entry, "Chocolate Dessert" -- a rotating ring -- earned first place in this year's Jewelry: Fashion category.
Sponsored by Niche magazine, a trade publication for retailers of artist made and American made products, the awards program began in 1989 to celebrate excellence and innovation in U.S. and Canadian fine craft. Judges selected 58 artworks by both professionals and students to receive top honors from nearly 1,000 entries. During the awards ceremony, more than 200 artists and their family members gathered at the Buyers Market of American Craft in the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Vali is also a recipient of the Buyers Market 2013 American Made Merit Award. In 2012, she won a Niche Award in the Silver and Stones Jewelry category and was a finalist in the Cast and Holloware category. She has also had her art displayed in the Natural History Museum and Science Exhibition Center in Novosibirsk, Russia, and has been widely exhibited internationally.
Vali, whose passion for her work has been described as palpable and contagious, said Niche award winners receive no money as part of the prize, but the recognition offers compensation of a different kind.
"It's so validating to receive recognition for your work from the industry," said Vali, who first attended College of DuPage in 2003 and continues to take classes at the College whenever possible. "You're never sure people really like your work, or if they're just being polite, but winning the award confirms that you're on the right track."
During her acceptance speech at the ceremony, Vali noted that the real reward comes from the creativity and inspiration the work provides.
"We are all winners here, because we love what we do for a living," she said.
Vali said she hopes to one day exhibit her work in Milan, Italy. She views art as a journey rather than a destination, she said, and enjoys experimenting with the process to find new ideas. In particular,
Vali is intrigued by the contrast between rough textures with smooth and shiny surfaces, and creates pieces using unusual combinations of organic found materials such as coral, lava and shells with precious metals such as gold and silver. Her love for beauty found in nature juxtaposed against her affection for the detailed lines found in graphic art has informed a unique style resulting in stunning, wearable art.
Vali earned a master's degree in Art from Novosibirsk State University in Russia, and went on to work as a ceramics artist for seven years, eventually becoming head artist for a large company.
After moving to the U.S. in 2003, she enrolled in a jewelry class at College of DuPage and discovered a new passion.
"I was so glad to find the opportunity to explore new things at College of DuPage. My education included covered all art, except metal and glass," said Vali. "I had wanted to work with metal and found that once I started. I couldn't stop."
She credits the Art program at College of DuPage with giving her the freedom, support and tools to pursue her passion.
"College of DuPage has been great. The instructors have all been professional and supportive, and there's a real sense of community here," said Vali. "I've visited classes and conducted workshops across the state, and the facilities here are the best I've seen."
Not one to rest on her achievements, Vali said winning the award has inspired her to continue exploring and pushing herself to greater achievements and artistic expressions. She hopes to one day open an art school and studio where she can share her knowledge with students and continue her artistic journey.
More about Aleksandra Vali.
More about the Art Program at College of DuPage.