THE POWER OF ART IN THE BEAUTY OF EVERY DAY
Being named “most likely to succeed” by your St. Mary’s Hall-Doane Academy classmates does not guarantee a happy and deeply fulfilling life after graduation. But in the case of Dorian Webb ‘87, the prediction of success was uncannily accurate.
Today, Webb is an award-winning artist and designer of hand-crafted jewelry, chandeliers, and distinctive works of art Michelle Obama has donned her creations and Webb has been featured on NBC’s Today Show, the Oprah Winfrey Show, and in numerous national and international publications including The New York Times, InStyle, New York Magazine, O — The Oprah Winfrey magazine, San Francisco magazine, Real Simple, and Marie Claire.
Now living in Oakland, California, Webb grew up in Pemberton and enrolled at St Mary’s Hall-Doane Academy in fourth grade “My father was a school principal in Willingboro and my parents were looking for a small school that would challenge me They really liked what St Mary’s Hall was about,” she recalls.
At a young age, she became interested in art “I always loved designing and drawing and making things,” Webb remembers “Through art, I could communicate with people and share my ideas and thoughts. ”
By the time she became an upper schooler at SMH-Doane Academy, Webb’s love of art was already deeply felt “My art teacher, Sandy Walther, was wonderful in letting me construct a program that fit my interests She was instrumental in developing my skills and introducing me to a variety of media,” she notes In addition to doing a great deal of painting and drawing while at SMH-Doane Academy, Webb completed a tapestry that won a national award, and was exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC Outside of school, she took classes in glassblowing and jewelry design at Temple’s Tyler School of Art and Architecture and at the Moore College of Art and Design.
Upon graduation, Webb headed to Yale University, where she majored in architecture, a concentration that allowed her to pursue her love of art within a program that leads most of its graduates to a stable career But after spending time learning about Venetian glass-blowing during her junior year study abroad program, it was clear that Webb would pursue a career in the arts as opposed to architecture.
“When I graduated, most of my friends moved on to high-paying jobs in New York I, on the other hand, moved back home, where I designed and made jewelry,” Webb explains Her bedroom served as her studio and business was challenging, as she went door-to-door in Philadelphia, hoping to gain sales Exhibiting at her first New York trade show in an effort to reach multiple stores more easily, Webb was discovered by a buyer for Neiman Marcus, who purchased her jewelry for its luxury department stores Shortly thereafter, Halle Berry appeared on the cover of Essence magazine, wearing earrings that Webb designed and crafted With these developments, Webb’s business was off and running.
Since those early years after college, Webb has expanded her work to include designing and producing chandeliers comprising Venetian glass and semiprecious stones, inspired by her time in Venice Often customized to the specifications of interior designers, Webb’s chandeliers have been shown nationwide in galleries and museums as part of a traveling exhibition that showcased African American polyrhythmic art She works now with artisans in Venice, the Bay area, Bali, and New York.
Webb credits St Mary’s Hall- Doane Academy for nurturing her love of art and pointing her towards her eventual career “I feel lucky to have gone to SMH-Doane Academy because it really did make a difference for me It wasn’t just the smaller classes; it was an opportunity for my classmates and me to come into our own and feel supported It was just a great place to go to school and learn,” she explains.
And for Webb, her high school and college experience extended far beyond becoming an artist She explains, “A good education is important whatever you do—being an artist is not only about producing art It’s also about selling and market research, managing expenses, and inventory and setting targets and goals It’s not limited to just art production.”
Webb’s work continues to evolve During a hiatus from her business, she taught entrepreneurship to women from financially disadvantaged backgrounds and served on the board of trustees of the Museum of the African Diaspora, a contemporary art museum in San Francisco She has expanded the range of her work and recently had a solo exhibition of her paintings and sculptures at a gallery in Oakland.
Thirty-three years after her graduation from St Mary’s Hall-Doane Academy, Webb thinks about her classmates often “Our class was close, so any time we were able to spend time together, it was wonderful Even now, whenever I reconnect with school friends, I am always reminded of how everyone has a wonderful sense of humor and is so engaged in what is going on in the world Conversations with classmates are just as easy and inspiring as they were when we were in school together ” Webb says that she and her classmates are genuinely pleased about each other’s successes; presumably her classmates take special pride in the accuracy of their prediction about Webb’s future.