Nature, the movement of grasses in the wind, ripples on water, the arcing curves of the human body, or the abstract flow of a melodic line all serve as inspiration for Michael and Maureen Banner’s highly inventive designs in silver and enamel. Their exquisitely wrought forms are the result of a close creative partnership between an exceptionally talented silversmith and his equally gifted wife. While their work is conceived and developed collaboratively, through an intuitive back-and-forth design process, Michael typically forms the silver and Maureen provides a counterpoint to the cool lucidity of the silver with richly colored enamel and subtle naturalistic detail.
Michael Banner was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and, while largely self-taught, he studied metals briefly with Frederick Miller at the Cleveland Institute of Art and enameling there with John Paul Miller and Kenneth Bates. Maureen, the daughter of a potter, was born in Chicago, and trained as a ceramist and painter. She studied at several institutions in the Midwest including Northern Illinois University. She also studied sculpture with Nelli Bar Wieghardt at the Art School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the colorist in the family. However, many of the forms the Banners produce emerge from her years of experience exploring the organic, malleable properties of clay.
The Banners have been collaborating since they were married in 1968. In the early years of their partnership, they were best known for the fine jewelry they produced and sold at high-end craft shows throughout the country including the American Craft Council and Smithsonian Craft Shows.
However, since about 1980 they have been producing hollowware forms, including multi-part tea and coffee services with inventive organic shapes and gracefully attenuated handles. For these sets, Maureen frequently produces enamel lids that add vibrant color to their spare, modernist forms.
As they begin to develop the idea for a new piece–a process which usually emerges somewhat organically from a previous work–Maureen creates a preliminary sketch. They then use this conceptual rendering as a point of departure, refining and altering the design as their ideas develop. Once they settle on a form, Michael cuts Bristol board into the desired shapes to use as a three-dimensional model. He subsequently cuts the silver using the Bristol board as a pattern as he shapes and assembles the piece. Maureen then develops a design for the enamel lid and finishes it in rich enamel color. The Banners are both drawn to curvilinear forms and when creating sets, they tend to pair objects in evocative, complementary relationships.
The Banners’ work is in the collection of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire; and the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts.