Jewelry in a New Costume

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This article was originally posted on Userblogs on 10/2/2017.
By Katja PoljanacMore from this author

Experimentation with traditionally female handicrafts has playfully led to refreshingly new statements in jewelry. Interwoven with subtle hints, the particularly sensual attraction of the materials reveals many levels of tension; confusing, enthusing and entirely pleasurable.

new costume
Objects by Célio Braga. Pure white silk, thread, filled with felt, covered with sparkling glass beads

"Her virtuous gaze turned downwards, she sits and sews; intent that no mistake should creep in to the purity of the works…" C. Brentano

Objects by Célio Braga. Pure white silk, thread, filled with felt, covered with sparkling glass beads

At first glance, traditional handicrafts appear in their figurative harmlessness to be little suited to lofty art. However, within the framework of a feminist-driven appreciation of art, artists such as Judy Chicago was, at the end of the seventies, and later on Ghada Amer were at pains to place question marks above the traditional image of women. The typical working techniques stewarded by women that can be used as expressive artistic styles include in particular knitting, crochet and embroidery. At the start of the nineties, the object and video artist Rosemarie Trockel, one of the most famous proponents, took an ironic look on the apparent female urge to suffocate everyday objects in embroidered quilts with dubious diligence in her machine-knitted pieces. Conversely, in her installation "Kitchen", Liza Lou transforms the place of cooking into an extravagant monument to glamour with her comprehensive, endlessly gaudy pearl embroidery. At the moment, the macabre, scenic presentation of everyday occurrences by Patricia Waller is being greeted by mirth and horror in equal measure. The sculptress intentionally plays with the innocent harmlessness of the crochet form. She induces in observers an ambivalent attitude towards the everyday objects, which appear familiar and homely, but which are presented by her in such a questionable form, for example the crochet fire extinguisher.

Rings by Karen Kathmann. Plastic, felt, nicki, fleece, lining, glass beads, yarn

Generally apportioned to the field of handicrafts and kitsch, these manual skills have since become established elements of an artistic context. Textile work opens up broad spaces for association and offers a surface area with which to approach substantial topical subjects. The individual jewelry and object artists pursue within this context very different philosophical approaches, although their paths do cross in places. Knitting, embroidering and sewing merge to produce their metaphorical vocabulary.

Necklaces by Evert Nijland. Linen, brass, silk, sealing wax, iron thread, pearls, gemstones, glass

In her new jewelry objects, for example, Iris Eichenberg turns to extremely complex questions. Although during the late nineties the starting point of her considerations was the human body and the inexplicability of its inner, organic procedures, she is currently focusing on a difficult and complex topic of "Homeland". "Homeland" is the title of this new series; the German title, "Heimat" has no adequate equivalent for origins and home. In many cases, these places have no precise, geographical location; they are instead places of longing and of memory. Eichenberg creates jewelry objects that represent an abstract presentation of localities from her childhood. Materials have their own language. Quality and workmanship provide information and create allusions. An open seam and the consequent perforation of the material or metal surface in Eichenberg's brooches can also most certainly allude to where a thread was once located. Forming contours, she is able to describe a past, to symbolize what once was true and where a path once led, which now appears to have been washed away.

Necklaces by Evert Nijland. Linen, brass, silk, sealing wax, iron thread, pearls, gemstones, glass

The tactile properties of precious materials, yarns and pearls communicate directly with the senses, conveying fragility and preciousness. Célio Braga conjures incredibly delicate embroidery on to silk. Veins of pearls crisscross the surface, while fragile pink hues overlap; despite this, the objects convey discomfort. Braga's objects are inspired by human organs and naked flesh. Given this consciousness, there is an immediate transformation in the interpretation of the contours and therefore in the emotional response to the objects. It suddenly appears as if the jewelry objects were laid bare on the coroner's table, helpless, still holding a fresh glow, white and innocent and possessed of morbid beauty. Braga is interested in the relations and value of the transience in human life and the ritualized attempts to beautify the physical shell and to heal and protect it. Jewelry has always pursued these attempts, whether in the form of protective amulets or of ornaments.

Objects by Iris Eichenberg. Material sewed and knitted

Jewelry that is ornate for the human body is also the focus of Evert Nijland's work. He combines "poor" and "rich" materials within an extravagant framework, including rough linen bearing pearls, dark, shimmering velvet, gold thread and even woven nuns hair. Choice and with historical affectation, Nijland's colliers induce covetousness. They satisfy the expectations originally associated with jewelry that is to provide ornamentation. Fascinated by the portraits by Lucas Cranach, presenting beautiful women with beguiling eyes, whose nakedness is draped simply in jewelry, Nijland is entirely focused on this group of Renaissance painters. His work is a tribute to the suggestive power and sublime beauty that grows from the confrontation between taboos and eroticism.

Objects by Iris Eichenberg. Material sewed and knitted

Ilka Bruse is entirely caught up in the joyous wantonness in form and color. Delicate material collages, nestled gently, made of angora and mohair and decorated with pearls and silken flowers have an inherently and playful girlishness about them. They demand the atmospheric and dreamlike pursuit of crochet, which can be used almost playfully to create figurine forms. In an equally uninhibited fashion, Felieke van der Leest steals us away into the thicket of a surreal zoo, where deer wear flowers in their antlers and even flounce with a snobbish gaze through the red, knitted trousers; alternatively, lions have shaggy, woven mains and golden sunglasses, assuming the exultant pose of a pop star, dangling off a weighty necklace. Uninhibited and extravagantly comic-like, these jewelry objects exude a breathtaking charm. Felieke van der Leest is extremely careful in how she drapes her miniature, sculpted animal motifs in magnificent color "This is the revolution I had been waiting for, everything is possible in textiles; No expensive tools are needed, just some needles, threads, a chair and a TV and off you go!"

Sheriff star by Annie Kuschel. Crochet, cotton thread and cotton wool

Handicrafts celebrate the lust for action, although they seem consumed of simply inherent purpose. Knot for knot, line for line, an arbitrary start winds round to an open ending. This is perhaps also the reason why the jewelry items "The Red, The Black" and "The White" symbolize for Anna Unsgaard the endless cycles of life. Instead of thread, she uses very thin metal wires, joining Ines Schwotzer and Cornelia Sautter in following in Arline Fisch's footsteps. Working on a very high technical level, the jewelry designers translate crochet, lace-making, knitting and weaving into the goldsmith trade, thus creating a very independent sense of aesthetics. As a pioneer in this field, Arline Fisch started as early as the late sixties to make comprehensive use of the specific opportunities offered by twisted metal. Inspired by ancient cultures from Egypt and South America, her work can be defined as somewhere between fashion and body jewelry Ines Schwotzer hails from the Ore Mountains on the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. She is inspired by the local tradition of lace-making, which is still very much alive today. Using a tiny whisper of nothing, she describes air in her laced work. Her language speaks of free, organic forms, just like the woven and crochet work by Cornelia Sautter. However, she does enjoy drawing on classical jewelry forms such as the solitaire ring, translating it into the world of embroidery. She uses extravagant quantities of tiny peridot pearls, among others, thus lending her encapsulated strings a weighty and fresh vivacity, almost like exotic fruits in a garden paradise.

Crocheted jewelry "The Red", "The Black" and "The White" by Anna Unsgaard
Rings by Cornelia Sautter. Silver, crochet, synthetic aquamarines
Necklace by Cornelia Sautter. Woven silver wire, textile, latex

The generous, expansive sculpture that embroidery, knitting and lace-making permit in metal is combined by the artists in their work. After all, the use of metal wires injects the almost ethereal jewelry objects with the required form stability. Endlessly delicate and yet hard as metal, the lightness is contrasted with the weightiness. The filigree texture of the respective techniques lends the jewelry objects their delightful liveliness. Tradition and innovation are frequent bedfellows and a source of inspiration for contemporary jewelry art. Every material, each technique has its very own, inherent potential for the artists to access. Even the atypical selection of methods can transform something mundane into something entirely new and surprising. We can look forward to a whole wealth of novelty. The artists are represented in the most important international collections and galleries with their cut to measure products - just waiting to be discovered.

Collar object by Ines Schwotzer. Laced, blackened silver
Spiral object by Ines Schwotzer. Laced, blackned silver
Coral necklace by Felieke van der Leest. Viscose, polyester/polyamide, felt, crocheting. Purchased by Dutch Textile Museum, Tilburg, the Netherlands
Brooch "Flamenco Deer Señor Señorita del Sol" by Felieke van der Leest. Viscose, polyester/polyamide, plastic, 18 karat gold, crocheting, metalsmithing, deer from shop
Jewelry by Ilka Bruse. Colorful wool, crochet


by Katja Polianac

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Katja Poljanac

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