Spotlight On…

Jack “Sunny” Halpern



Jack Halpern was an Artisan that loved working with Sterling Silver sheets and Tagua Nuts (vegetable ivory). He would produce pictures by hammering the silver. Also, he hand carved the Tagua Nuts into amazing designs, pictures and figurines.

Oct. 4, 1922 - Oct. 2, 2010

About the Artisan: JACK HALPERN

Latent talent is a natural, mental-creative ability that for many of us lies dormant - to be garnered at a later time. And so it was for Jack Halpern, with his hidden flair for art, when, in 1974 because of an illness, forced him to retire as a Federal Air Safety Investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) - bringing the curtain down on a 34-year career in aviation.

Never having trailered before (1974) he and his wife Eva, bought a 31-foot travel trailer and their final tow vehicle was a Ford van - a superb automobile. They sold their home in Fort Worth, Texas and went full-time trailering around the country as true "snow birds" - wintering in Florida, Arizona and Southern California and summering in the cool climes of the Northwest. Two years after they started trailering Jack became a part-time writer for the Trailer Ute Magazine - recounting the adventures of full-time trailering, hiking through all the National Parks in the lower "48" with extended stays in each park. They followed the 'gypsy' life-on-wheels for 15 consecutive years (1975-1990) enjoying every mile along the way.

In late 1976, during one of their winter sojourns at an RV park in Mesa, AZ, Jack joined a Silversmith/Lapidary class conducted within that park. About a year later, after becoming quite adept in the craft of jewelry making, he found something lacking in the fulfillment to his newfound craft, it was ORIGINALITY. Wanting to make something out of sterling silver that has not been crafted since Paul Revere's time - in 18th century USA - then, the craft disciplines of Chasing and Repousse originated in France. He broke away from the general, but ever so popular, craft of fashioning jewelry from sterling silver and thus created a style that truly can be called "his own." Taking a sheet of 24 gauge 6" x 8" sterling silver and using the Chasing and Hepousse disciplines, accompanied with his own developed "hammering- textured" process, he hand wroughts it into an ORIGINAL one-of-a-kind sculpture in high relief.   .

Besides trailering, Jack and his wife traveled extensively (1975-1993) to foreign countries via Cruises and Bus tours to: Hawaiian Islands, Mexico, Panama Canal, Caribbean, eleven countries of Europe, Egypt, Israel and in 1993 in celebration of their Golden Wedding, they went back to Paris, all of Britain, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, including Northern Ireland. Photography, a life-long hobby of Jack's and from the many pictures of their travels, etc., he made over 250 pencil/pen and ink sketches of street-village scenes, country-western, marine seascapes (all in perspective), ships, aircraft, human figures, dogs, cats, birds, and wild animals in the San Diego Zoo/Wild Animal Park. His book of sketches was always on display in art shows he entered for clientele commissioning his work that was not on hand at that time and place. For almost ten years he participated in many prestigious art shows throughout the country and mostly in the southwest.

In 1991 while purchasing pieces of exotic hardwood (woodworking, another interest of his) at the Woodworkers Store in San Diego, he saw a display of Tagua nuts. He stopped, read the accompanying brochure and subsequently bought six Tagua palm tree ivory nuts. A year later (1992) after finalizing his plans not to be in anymore art shows (too much of a hassle, putting-up and taking-down his displays, waiting and waiting) a state of dissatisfaction and weariness set in. He then embarked on a new field of endeavor; to craft something out of those six Tagua nuts he had bought a year earlier and had not touched since then.    .

In combination of all three methods: Sculpturing, Scrimshaw and Carving, and referring to his same sketches from which he used to hand wrought his sculptures from 6" x 8" sheets of sterling silver; he now sculptures the Tagua nut with equal zeal and dexterity - recreating those same scenes in miniature averaging 3/4" x 1-1/2" in size, on vegetable ivory that has the same hardness, satiny luster and beauty as Elephant Ivory. The first thing he does is pencil the scene onto a smooth/polished faceted side he prepares before hand (usually three faces per nut). Next, using a multitude of his own handmade engraving tools, burs, etc., (same tools and buffs he used to make his silver sculptures) darning/sewing needles, waterproof colored ink and working (labor of love) 3 to 4 days on one scene on one face of the Tagua, the sculptured scene in high relief finally emerges. To date (May 1994) he has Sculptured, Scrimshaw and Carved 53 Tagua nuts for a total of 157 individual scenes.

Jack and his wife, both '72' no longer have their travel trailer or van and now live in a small mobile home in Imperial Beach, California. His wife, with her artistic ability - having pursued the professional field of ceramics, including teaching it, now abides her time creating pine-needle basketry (of museum quality) and flower gardening. Jack still sculptures and carves the Tagua nut and with each scene retrieves memories, though shrouded and somewhat obscured with time, but not lost - memories that stimulates the will while contemplating the past, urging him to continue his creativeness in art with the same feeling for form that gratifies his senses; as he and his wife continue their journey through this world.


Sunny's Signature

Barcelona Sketch






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Newbrunswick, Canada_1




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