Art professor’s book named 'Most Beautiful Art Coffee Table Book of 2017'

By Arie Nienhuis | 2/5/18 2:02am

GVL / Courtesy -

Renee Zettle-Sterling, professor of jewelry, metalsmithing and foundations at Grand Valley State University, worked with New York jeweler Jen Townsend to release the book “Cast: Art and Objects Made Using Humanity’s Most Transformational Process” in June 2017. Recently, this book was named the “Most Beautiful Art Coffee Table Book of 2017” by ArtNet News.

“Cast" documents the practice of casting throughout human history, displaying its uses in art, industry, design and daily life. Going beyond Zettle-Sterling’s own craft of jewelry and metalsmithing, the book explores the ways that casting appears in practically every aspect of life.

“This gorgeous tome takes a comprehensive look at casting, touching on fine art, craft, design and everyday objects made in all manner of materials through the use of molds,” said Sarah Cascone from ArtNet News on the top-15 list of the “Most Beautiful Art Coffee Table Books of 2017." “Cast will make you newly aware of the process’ omnipresence, both today and throughout history.”

Zettle-Sterling and Townsend spent three years working on this book, from laying out the design to writing essays and curating content, and the recent recognition is really gratifying to Zettle-Sterling.

“I am thrilled that our book is recognized at this level,” Zettle-Sterling said via email. “Thoughtfully pairing images based on form and content took the most amount of time, and this is why being recognized by ArtNet as 2017’s 'Most Beautiful Art Coffee Table Book' means so much to us.”

Beverly Seley, professor and area coordinator of jewelry and metalsmithing, is thrilled to see a colleague and friend receive such high praise, especially for such a beautiful book. 

“I think it’s wonderful and deserving,” Seley said. “I think that it really shows that two artists composed it as opposed to a publisher. It has sensitivity to what each image does for the ones that are next to it.”

Seley also believes this book will bring significant recognition not only to Zettle-Sterling, but to GVSU as a whole. 

“We have a national metalsmithing society called the Society of North American Goldsmiths,” Seley said. “She and her fellow author, Jen, got a kudo in there for (the book), and we also got a kudo for Grand Valley.”

Zettle-Sterling also hopes the praise will shine a light on GVSU’s Department of Visual and Media Arts.

“I would hope that (the recognition) helps to bring more and more wonderful students (to GVSU) who want to study with artists and authors that produce culture,” she said. “It also shines a light on GVSU and the Department of Visual and Media Arts, nationally and internationally, as a place that supports the production and dissemination of knowledge.”

As for advice to young artists and students, Zettle-Sterling said meeting and working with other artists is invaluable. 

“My advice to younger artists is to spend time with one another and build meaningful relationships that will be with you throughout your life,” she said. “Twenty years ago, I met my co-author, Jen Townsend, at the Society of North American Goldsmithing Conference. We just started talking and never stopped.”

For more information regarding Zettle-Sterling and Townsend’s book, visit It is currently available from Barnes & Noble, and other notable booksellers. 

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