Jewels Made of Paper Bags

For a long time now in artisan jewelry work, all that glitters is not gold. Precious metals, diamonds, and pearls now have competition. Four Berlin-based designers allow themselves the luxury of blazing new trails with unusual materials such as skin, paper bags, cardboard, plant fibers, glue, felt, and fur.

What unites all four of these jewelry designers together is the fact that they learned a traditional artisan craft, but longed to experiment with atypical materials and forms of expression even before they had finished their studies. “Art comes from ability” could be the secret password of these very diverse artists, whose modern, contemporary jewelry objects and accessories are made with great artisan precision.

Sensual Jewelry Pieces Made of Vellum

The finely cut, organic forms of the armlets, earrings and rings by Ulrike Hamm seem alive, as if they were moving to and fro in imaginary water. The material is light as a feather, soft as satin, and yet stable. Hard to believe that these delicate jewelry objects are made of skin, or more precisely, of vellum. The designer cuts the naturally ivory-colored alfskin while it is dry and then colors it with pigments. A mortise-and-tenon jointure connects the wet pieces, which are then transformed into “floral” forms while they dry. Hamm combines some of her jewelry projects with oxidized silver. The resonance of the blackened silver with the pellucid vellum objects focuses the viewer’s attention entirely on the airy, nuanced play of colors.

Cut surfaces, raw interiors: the brooches by Angelika Wolpert from the series “Tubes” are made of papier-mâché and stainless steel

Straw Into Gold

“What I like about papier-mâché,” says Angelika Wolpert, “is that it doesn’t submit to being tamed. The surface structure is never entirely calculable.” But it is precisely the components of surprise and coincidence that provide the impetus for this goldsmith to take up her work with this many-sided and flexible material. The French term is translated as “chewed-up paper,” which graphically describes how discarded paper – dark-green paper bags, for instance – soaks and frays in Wolpert’s “pulp pot.” She thickens the thick paste with asparagus peelings and stinging nettles, binds it with paste, and uses it to shape her beautifully formed and individual jewelry creations. By means of the labor-intensive cutting of the raw surface and the ensuing coating with lacquer, she then teases the inner paper structure out of the dry mass. In her current brooch series “tubes,” Wolpert makes tube-shaped objects with porous interiors glow by saturating them with color.

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Weightless Metal – Scented Felt

The metal designer Michaela Binder proves that diamonds are not necessarily each and every girl’s best friend. Seen formally, her jewelry pieces are clear, severe shapes made of brushed precious metals. But she combines these circles, rectangles, and squares with light and sensually light natural materials such as felt or fur. The weight of the metal is dissolved in the field of tension of these materials. The key point: one can change the colored sheets of felt according to one’s wishes, mood, or outfit, or even sprinkle them with one’s favorite fragrance. This gives these jewelry projects a feeling of playfulness and changeability that befits the creative sense of life in central Berlin. Lovingly crafted details also lead to sensory pleasure in wearing the pieces, because the reverse sides of the medallions and necklace elements are convex-shaped and therefore lie wonderfully soft and soothingly on the skin.

It is a well-known fact that taste is not open to discussion. The watches by cardboard artist Julia Büttelmann are fairly offbeat

Bookbinding Technique for Jewelry and Accessories

One has to look very closely indeed in order not to miss the small basement-level shop in Berlin-Kreuzberg. Then, however, it’s down the pink staircase to find oneself in the endless cardboard kingdom of Julia Büttelmann. The shop is called “Papp-Show,” (Cardboard Show) and the name says it all. Because each of the cardboard objects she creates is a small scene in “a slightly different taste.”

In this way she amazes her astonished clientele with skulls, wobbly eyes, and colorful fish that move in 3-D motion on bracelets, earrings, and amulets. She ironically designs necklaces in the form of an exhibition and places girls’ bottoms, in opulent gold frames, on them. Every one of the equally unusual objects that are “found in my shop has a cardboard core,” the master bookbinder emphasizes. With precise artisan work, she laminates ordinary cardboard to transform things from everyday life, such as clocks, cups, jewelry, and commodes, into subversive and witty objects.

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By Karola Braun-Wanke - © GZ ART + DESIGN - Issue 3, Autumn 2003
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