This article showcases various exhibitions published in the [YEAR] Exhibition issue of the Metalsmith Magazine. This features Ken Loeber, Kate Wagle, Flora Walters, and more!
My gold brooches are part of an evolving technical and spiritual process to integrate and magnify observations from very diverse sources: the northern Wisconsin woodland with its climatic extremes and the Australian subtropical rainforest and coral reef.
The pieces are constructed within parameters that I have chosen. I work with gold for its consistency, its strength, and color. The finished piece must be as light as possible and always comfortable to wear. My goal is to create harmony in the balance of design, technique, function and content.
So many references have accrued to this work in my mind that I thought an organizational exercise might help me sort through to what is germane and clear. The sorting has itself become a statement of some kind and I invite the reader to make his or her own judgment regarding clarity and meaning:
Materials: Sterling silver, lucite, paint.
Format: Derives form models of function and adornment. Each piece quotes watches, relicario pendants, 1950s era carved plastic paperweights.
Form: From models named above as well as topiary, flowers, seed/egg; incorporated via texture, shape, and image.
Process: Elaborate fabrication. Texture is carved into lucite dies, pressed into metal or wax for casting. Sheets of the textured metal are cut and formed three-dimensionally, fitted, framed, parts formed, and added individually with torch and solder. The rose images are carved three-dimensionally from the back of a lucite block and filled with paint. The lucite is cut, shaped, and fitted in the topiary/watch frame.
Content: Basic elements of content are already inherent to materials … the preciousness and purity of silver, the contemporary commonness of plastic and acrylic paint.
The forms and textures of the watch, topiary, and rose allude to time and temporality. The watch relates specifically to ordering and the organization of time, perhaps to a sense of understanding of control of it. The pruning of topiary attempts to stop or at least shape the effects of time, even as the potential for change is elemental in the growth of the living plant. The rose, an image I have worked with for many years, represents absolute perfection, fragility, and immanent decay all at once.
The pieces also quote the format of Latin American relcarios, lockets containing miniature religious folk paintings or sculptures, adornment intended as prayer and/or thanks for divine help with ordinary mortal problems. While my subject matter is purely secular and personal, I am generally interested in the idea of miracles, particularly of the small, mundane variety. The reality of a three-dimensional flower suspended in clear plastic is both miraculous and banal. My plastic elements reference the products of at-home hobbycraft produced forty years ago with drill bits and paint to make gearshift knobs and paper weights. The use of this process and imagery may also be seen as a reflection on and celebration of that common urge, certainly shared by me, to craft such objects in an attempt to add numinous beauty and integrity to personal environments; beyond the requirements of working, sleeping, eating, and moving inevitably toward one’s own end.
This last statement suggests that mortality is the subtext of all of these pieces, and so it is. It (mortality) is a condition I have only recently recognized; coinciding with the birth of my son and subsequent death of my mother. I am not, however, concerned with death as a primary subject; but rather preoccupied with a heightened sense of the beauty and miracle of everyday life in death’s recognized presence.
I would describe myself as a visual consumer analyst. I tend to explore underlying layers of meaning and search, sometimes to no avail, for hidden truths. By using familiar objects in my work I hope to create an immediate dialogue relying on recognition. The reconfiguration of those familiar objects, however, is intentional, in very much the same way we are cajoled by advertising campaigns. Seduced by pretty packaging or by clever phrasing we enter unaware of what we are to find and, just as a punch line completes a joke, we are stuck by a rolled up newspaper to our noses.
Although gender and language are influential variables, the subject of my work is power. By taking ideas out of context and superimposing situations and agendas I hope to empower the viewer with a chance to reexamine what may be accepted attitudes or commonplace ideas. By reducing imagery to its essentials I hope to provoke the underpinnings of our casual thoughts with small ironies.
Perpetually peeved by having to perform tasks relegated by gender alone. I wove over 2,500 wedding bands into a chain-mall apron entitled Selective Service. Further on this theme and segregated as if by pink and blue, I found that even the accessories we use in our adult lives are equally gender-specific; in Power Tools a set of six lipstick cases open to reveal screwdrivers, drill bits, and wrenches. Astonished by the names of colognes sold at the corner drugstore I decided to make La Femme Fatale, which is a perfume atomizer that doubles as a hand grenade. Finally in this seemingly militaristic series is 9 to 5 Combat, a make-up compact which opens to reveal a cross-haired mirror and camouflage make-up presented in a jungle fatigue pattern.
Ultimately the goal that I see in my creative path is to offer the viewer a window of opportunity where he may try to see issues from other perspectives. To a captive audience I offer a reprieve from society’s dictations; to the insular, a reticule, to the complacent, a trigger, custom-fit.
My main concern is the cultural dominance of man over woman. The purpose of my work is to express the relevance of women and the role they play in society. My work questions traditional gender roles in Korean culture
In this series of brooches, I question the meaning of being a woman; who I was, my value as a woman, and the cultural value placed on motherhood in my country. I am also beginning to question other cultures as well.
There are many stages of being a woman, therefore, I chose the vessel form. These vessels are metaphorical forms. I compare myself to a vessel. I ask myself: “Am I valuable as a human/woman in my society? What ability do I have? Can I be magnanimous like a vessel which can contain what I want/need?”
I am influenced by Korean traditional paintings which have no perspective. I also use Korean traditional patterns in enameling. They connect our past and present.
In my last pieces I mingled a figure of a female body into a vessel form. They are symbolic forms. I try to express a mother’s love through my memories. This is an invaluable/precious thing in my life. I believe that a mother’s love is very important in our lives.
The experience of having recently lived and traveled in Latin America, a culture in which spiritual and supernatural worlds mingle openly and surrealism seems to be equally sanctioned, has reinforced my interest in symbolism. More specifically, my personal studies of Latin American folklore, popular art, and culture have contributed to my curiosities about devotional art and spiritual iconography as it affects and is affected by popular culture.
My current work involves abstract forms which frequently allude to religious allegory and myth. The pieces also often employ traditional symbolism and have, in some cases, references to art history. Although I find inspiration in genuine religious artifacts and imagery, my figures are not made for traditional devotional purposes. They are contemporary icons, intended to be capricious commentary on modern spirituality.
I have chosen metal as an art medium because of its permanence, durability, functionality, and versatility. All of these attributes are interrelated. Its permanence is exciting because we as artists will not always be around, but the pieces will be. The durability and functionality of metal add to its permanence and also tie into my interest in interactive art.
I have a very active personality and am very involved with sports both as a coach and as an athlete. These activities have given me a great awareness of movement and the body. Because of this awareness, I am extremely interest in interactive pieces. I want to experiment with combining my fascination with the body with my metalwork, creating interactive pieces. Beautiful pieces of art are even more beautiful to me when I am able to interact with them and use my senses of touch, sight, and sound.
Through my Shakers I am able to represent this concept. As one interacts with the shakers, one becomes aware of more than merely visual effects. Touch, hearing, speech (when one reads the directions), and sight are all used together with the user’s motions. The shakers use an etched hand print and instructions to bring the viewer in and to aid them in holding, shaking, and seeing. Many of my pieces use their tactile qualities to draw the viewer in, creating a desire to caress their sleek forms, not only because they are a very intimate size, but also because of their surfaces and the shapes which accept the hand very easily. Soft sandblasted surfaces, etched surfaces, and pristine surfaces all work together in bringing the viewer in. Metalwork is often viewed as a very elite art and I feel that this interactive approach will open up the field to many more viewers. It will educate the public to not be afraid of these pieces and allow them to become familiar with more of what is happening in our field.
In 1992 I came to RISD after a five year career as a surgical research assistant where I was involved in tedious surgeries on small arteries in search of a cure for arteriosclerotic disease. The sacrifice of animals was depressing and though it was necessary to find a cure, my hands could no longer do the cutting, the sacrificing. I realized the need for a change.
I began making objects at home with clays and rough stones. I thought of ways to attach them to the body as ornaments, but was very much dissatisfied with the medium. A friend visiting from his studies at RISD saw the pieces and suggested that I take an evening class in jewelry and metals.
The last three years have allowed me to develop a side of myself and my ongoing goal of defining my aesthetic. When I was nine I took up the sport of figure skating. I was soon moving, spinning, flying etc. and continued doing so until serious injuries forced me to stop skating for a number of years and to stop jumping indefinitely.
Jewelry and metalsmithing have allowed me to put into form some of my reasons for skating; balance, symmetry, and a feeling of movement. One of the strongest concepts dealt with in my work is roundness. Before its incorporation into any of my work, the circle was also a part of my skating career. With each successive pass on the figures tracing the print was of utmost importance and so a very precision-oriented side of me developed.
For the past two years, my work has been an evolution of circled where I use their two-dimensional nature and combine them in ways to give them volume. Realizing that the circle is indeed a universal form, found in nature on microscopic and macro-cosmic levels, I have created a body of work more about roundness, into which I have incorporated a few simple concepts.
Taking my skeleton-like wire constructions from early 1993 and incorporating the technique of hollowform casting, I’ve added a skin which provides a surface for texture. For one group of pieces, by meticulously casting gems directly into the metal, I have suggested a possible yet improbable natural setting for the stones.
Traditionally, precious gems and their use as statements of wealth have had the ability to make substantial impressions on their owners. I have interpreted the word “impression” literally in a second group of pieces by making was imprints of non-precious faceted stones, casting them, and setting them in precious way, some atop flower-like stems, some in prong settings. These pieces also suggest the improbable origins of gems in nature; the growth of gems in faceted form, plucked from their cool, quiet environment for use in impressionable jewelry.
A third group of pieces negates the dazzling quality of stones by reflecting light from their machined facets. These rings have stones sealed under an electroformed layer of metal, putting them back into the darkness in which they were originally formed.
The techniques I have learned allow me to experiment with various jewelry concepts. While technique and idea or concept, are critical to a successful piece of jewelry art, I feel the ability of the jeweler to realize a finished piece, true to their aesthetic and with sensitivity, is crucial.
This is what I do now.
I have been studying the potential of combining soft and flexible material such as nylon with simple silver forms. My training as a painter frequently leads to the exploration of abstract jewelry forms and ideas. At the same time, my instincts as craftsperson lead to the artistic expressions of otherwise practical items of dress such as collars, vests, and coats.
I attempt to make flexible constructions that lend themselves to the human form. The work interacts with the body and its movement, generating a vitality sometimes lost by static display on a shelf. My neck pieces may have interest in the back as well as the front so as to adorn all body planes.
My work truly comes to life when worn.
Robly A. Clover
My current work is a synthesis of my visual, spiritual, and physical experiences relating to the investigation of human and animal imagery. These figural and zoomorphic vessels and small sculpture embody fertility, energy, and movement as their central theme. The resulting forms combine organic, flowing lines suggesting animal imagery. I want the work to project both playful and intellectual qualities which imply the movement and stance that is critical to their visual life. I find the duality of projecting both primal and intellectual energy in these works intriguing. The development of these works has involved the study of many cultures including Neolithic, Cycladic, African, and Pre-Columbian, as well as my own.
David H. Clifford
Is art personal or economic? Does art have to be expensive or made of expensive materials to be valuable? Do you need to possess art to appreciate it? Does it need to be displayed in the gallery/museum arena to receive valuable recognition? Do we even need art, like food or clothing or stereos or housewares or appliances?
These are questions that are addressed in the Thrift Store Art Project.
Enriched with a history of their own already, I use thrift store aluminum housewares as a canvas to engrave and anodize my own history. The pieces are the exhibited in galleries once. Here, the pricing of the artworks reflect the customary pricing structure of the gallery. If the artworks are never purchased from galleries, they are simply placed back in the thrift store and photographed quickly and unnoticed by the clerks and clientele.
Back in the thrift store, my pieces become a history again, devoid of fine art, and become another’s treasure. The same pieces are then priced to reflect the relative cost of a used housewares item in a thrift store. An address and inscription are engraved on each piece to facilitate interaction of lives with the purchaser of this thrift store art. Future exhibitions of the pieces are the photodocumentation. “The usual expectations of the gallery-goers is inverted: the art audience gets the cheap imitation, while the thrift store shoppers get the really thing.”
To date, I have distributed 40 pieces in the Lost Angeles area, 39 pieces in the San Francisco Bay area, and 20 throughout New York, Pennsylvania, and Canada. All of the pieces have been purchased from the designated 19 thrift stores; yet, I have only received responses from three people, Doris, and Brad-Jose, both from the Los Angeles area, and Tina, in Olathe, Kansas. I am deeply grateful for their curiosity, courage and time. This work is intended to be a catalyst for interaction. Interaction is an assurance of one’s existence. Giving my art away is a means to communicate my experiences with others.
*Metalsmith, Fall 1995, “Observations: Thrift Store Art: David Clifford.”
Over the last 15 years I’ve worked exclusively with opaque polymer clay. So to give myself a kick in the pants, this last year I started playing with translucent clay body. The challenge was to exploit and enhance the translucent qualities of the clay and to keep the beads light weight. To help reflect light there is a grid of foil leaf layered into the color gradated blocks of clay. Thin slices of the clay blocks are used to cover aluminum foil bead. The shiny foil core adds strength and flexibility to the wormy shaped beads and the chain links. I also found I had to relearn what I knew about working with the polymer colors. Instead of graphic images and hard-line edges of canework done in the opaque clay, the translucent allows for softer blurred edges as in a watercolor wash.
In my most recent work I’ve returned to the hand once again, this time in the form of sets of rings. I’ve long been interested in tools, instruments, and devices as indicators of function, and of function as an indicator of intent. Tools also embody a contemporary issue of loss and replacement. I am interested in the many shifts in connotation of the phrase, “made by hand”.
I began imagining tools that would fit right on the hand – always there when you need them. I first constructed a set of four rings as tools, one for each finger – tools for writing, drawing, measuring: Digital Tool Box. When not worn, these rings reside in a small double-hinged box with holes on each end for air when the lid is closed. The next set, Hand Tools, represent tools more literally – the wrench, hammer, pliers, square. Subsequent sets became more abstract – in Metabox and Overruled I tried to interconnect several rings in different combinations for the same finger. Now that I’ve made the tool rings and have seen them on my fingers, they seem almost vestigial, as if they were receding back into the hand, the original tool they were all designed to extend.
By utilizing pre-existing values and ideas attached to traditional jewelry and metal objects, I am able to convey the content of my work. These traditional forms create a format that allows my work to contain social, political, and personal issues.
In recent works I have used bracelet and compact mirror forms to explore ideas based on eating disorders and self image. The work Bulimia Bracelet is a huge bracelet that is meant to be cumbersome and a burden much like a shackle. Bulimia is a disorder that begins with unhappiness of self image. Gaining control over one’s own body through rituals of binging and purging ultimately become the shackle of this eating disorder.
Investigating the connection between food and self image further, Chocolate Relationship is a compact mirror that depicts the love and hate relationship one may have with food. The chocolate truffle enclosed in the compact is protected as well as confined. Within the compact you are able to view yourself in two reflections, one mirror reflects your true image while the other reflects a distorted image of the viewer. This visual distortion relates to the guilt of consumption and the inner image of self.
Continuing with the compact format and ideas of self-image, Narrow Focus is a pendant that examines self-scrutiny. The mirror inside this compact is only large enough for the viewer to see one facial feature at a time. Opposite the mirror is a lens set up like a miniature magnifying glass, that reduces images and turns them upside down. This inverted view of one’s image relates to the lowering of self-esteem as one scrutinize flaws.
As I create these works I wish to bring attention to traditional jewelry/metal formats and create a new dialogue between the viewer and the object.
Cloisonné enamel is the perfect medium for a jeweler who loves color. I admire the Russian Constructionists who have influenced my work, and am fascinated by the relationship between jewelry and fashion – or clothing, the interaction of which is a major focus in my work. I have come to accept the labor-intensive task of making enamel jewelry because this process gives a unique result.
The location of jewelry informs its meaning and value: absence may have stronger implications than presence. The primary reference for jewelry is the body: because this relationship is conditional or temporary, I am interested in the meaning of the absent moments, the condition and location of the piece when it is stored, and the secondary references of the object away and apart from the aspect of ornament. The Stigmata series borrows from religious mythology and a contemporary youth culture that have a preoccupation with marking the body in a permanent manner. In this series, brooches of copper and gold imitate collected fragments of natural materials that are woven and twisted into archetypal shapes. They are poised in steles, often with other didactic material such as plans or handwritten notations. When the brooches are removed to be placed on the body, their nesting place is revealed as a woundlike concavity. The ache for what is gone or missing emphasizes the bond between the piece, its location in the stele, and its secondary didactic function as cultural artifact.
The jewelry I have created has been constructed by using simple and uniform shapes derived from medieval armor and Victorian undergarments. I am particularly interested in the mechanical quality of these objects and their structural similarities. My intention is to create jewelry that functions as modern garments. These pieces are developed by manipulating the structure of the undergarment such as a corset or crinoline, and combing that with forms that mimic the body’s natural movement. I am using rubber and nickel wire in order to reinterpret the undergarment from a contemporary viewpoint.
All of my pieces are very aggressive in scale in the way they are placed on the body. My pieces allow the wearer to gain control over her sexuality. When my pieces are worn the person is not soft or alluring but sharp and dangerous. All of my pieces represent a game of play and defiance. My jewelry refers more to garments in the way that it relates to garments in the way that it relates to the body structure and in the way it can influence the wearer’s personality.
My work is conceived and constructed based on fantasy and needs. My intent is to create jewelry that carries the same sense of masquerade and play that clothing can express. I want to focus on these issues in my work, because I feel movement stands for eroticism, and because materials such as rubber and metal indicate fetishism. Masquerade is change from every day life. I feel those issues are important in our culture and are for the most part unaccepted and misunderstood.
Alyssa Dee Krauss
What inspires me is not so much jewelry as body ornamentation, but the potential of jewelry as metaphor, and the relationship that can exist between a piece and its wearer, an object and its holder; the idea that people can develop personal, sentimental, or intellectual affinities with objects.
To encourage this rapport, I use text; fairy tales, poetry, biblical or commonplace expressions to build simple, archetypal structures. The historical associations of each form, material, bodysite, type of object (i.e. ring, vessel etc.), or box it is stored in, comments on, or relates to the words. The meaning of the text provides a conceptual ligature between these elements.
In nature, order and reason can exist beneath what at first appears to be chaotic. By constructing my work accordingly, I also try to create a metaphor for this natural phenomena.
My aim is to weave together these archetypal constructions, forms, and concepts to create truly personal objects from universal components.
Deb Todd Wheeler
In the studio I rely on intuitive questioning and form making. I try not to be in total control of where I am going, but rather to let the work surprise me. This group of works from 1995 stemmed from a single idea: to grow. Only when it was finished was I able to assign meaning. I think that the work is about protection and the breaking down of a person’s self-imposed psychological walls. If the metamorphic armor we wear to face the world would crack then, perhaps, something might sprout from underneath. And perhaps it would grow from our hands, the place where the symbol of love is located: the ring finger.
I gave this work a title usually reserved for the musical arena because I felt the seven rings should be seen as an ensemble instead of as individual pieces. Each one informs the other, making one complete idea. I draw a significant amount of inspiration from classical music. For example, Beethoven’s sonatas are derived from a single theme and stretch in all direction, all based on the logical, unrambling exploration of harmonics. Although this work, Seven Variations on a Theme, should never be compared to that of a Beethoven sonata, its variations and explorations are inspired by them.
I gain a certain satisfaction in the repetition of a form. The process of metalworking is, at heart, a meditative and repetitive action. When looking at the life work of Constantin Brancusi, I learn from his concentrated focus on a few simple forms. I am inspired and amazed that his exploration was so lovingly contained. Looking at the many bronze versions of the Sleeping Muse I imagined the sculptor cradling each head while sanding the surfaces. It is this moment with which I most identify in the studio.
I rely on these various influences for inspiration and guidance. Of course, one cannot compare the work of geniuses to one’s own, but one can learn from their pursuit.
Nina Lane Neily
My creative process is a type of psychic journey. I use this term differently from its typical use in the 1990s. After discovering a need to break my creative stagnation in the studio, the past several years have been filled with intense self-evaluation. I am addressing emotions, states of mind, and how I struggle to feel a sense of wholeness, confidence, and balance in my life.
One of my journeys has been the exploration and creation of special Shields that investigate life’s vulnerabilities, coupled with the erosion of daily life. These shields are for those who wear their hearts on their sleeves, exposing their souls and emotions.
Excavation Shield #6 shows the beginning stages of emotional healing. Despite the fact that they have endured exposure to the ravages of life and have subsequently eroded, their will to exist is demonstrated by their remaining beauty. The stitches sewn at the edges of a shield are proof that the desire to live is greater than the power of vulnerability and the erosion that takes place so often throughout our daily lives. Both of these shields express a resolute protection of the fragile yet strong, timeless inner spirit and soul that dwells in us.
During the exploration of vulnerability and erosion, the discovery of self and childhood has come to me. From the time I was a child I have thought the shape of a heart, as we know it, was wonderful to see and draw. There is something warm, romantic, and familiar about seeing this shape. It is a shape, like the cross, that is universally understood. While growing as an artist and addressing emotional issues, I have come to accept the heart as a legitimate creative shape. It expresses different feelings and vulnerabilities. Actually, it may express the most child-like, primitive, emotional states. It doesn’t have to be intellectualized. It is a raw, comfortable feeling and shape I can create with. It’s like eating great comfort food: mashed potatoes and gravy!
Discovering and allowing myself to create from both sides of my being, the mature adult and the formidable child, has been quite a challenge for me. These pieces have been exhumed from the burial ground of emotions; they are self-portraits of my feelings and experiences in life. These works are exercises in remaining honest and soulful.
The forged iron fruit bowls illustrated here are tied closely to the origins of my blacksmith training as a boy in agricultural tool forging and repair. Like the patchwork repair of various tools before them, they too are made from selected fragments too short to save and destined to be discarded or recycled. These individual parts are wrought together into a patterned matrix which is forged into shape while hot. Often the forgings are folded like kneaded bread to reveal and conceal its story simultaneously. This gesture references cultivated soil turned up and under by the plow whose agricultural function inspired this body of work.
I want people to get the meaning of my work by looking at it, unencumbered. Therefore, I decline to make an artist’s statement, and offer the following as an explanation of my position:
Mayers: It seems to me that we have lost the art in our society of thinking in images.
Campbell: Oh, we definitely have. Our thinking is largely discursive, verbal, linear. There is more reality in an image than in a word. *
*Campell, J. and Mayers, B., The Power of Myth (New York: Doubleday, 1988)
My sculptures are images depicting the female experience in a culture that polarizes the sexes. Through my art I fulfill a personal need for balance and reality, wanting to bridge that gender gap that is exposed to us every day. The use of contrasting materials and techniques symbolize the male and female characteristics within each one of us.
The Bra series combines women’s lingerie with construction materials like electrical conduit and plumbers tape. All are crocheted by hand from metal filament and represent a variety of women and bodies. Their beauty is inherent, not restricted to style or size.
The Busts are a series of figures, hand stitched out of screen wire. They incorporate pattern cutting and sewing with non-traditional materials. Found objects are added in the form of necklaces, hairdos, or body parts to enhance the character’s personality. The sculptures are witty responses to issues like personal adornment and beauty standards, gender, fashion, and dress codes.
My art work consists of a wide variety of materials such as metal, wood, Plexiglass, paper, rubber, plastic, gold leaf, tar, enamel paint, oil stick, and mineral pigments. Works range from one to nine feet in height and sometimes combine planar elements (the illusion of space) with the three-dimensionality of sculpture. These structures depict my reactions to phenomena such as physical appearance, importance of image, and adoration of beauty and youth. Even though subject matter can be serious at times the presentation is always humorous.
Most people like to wear ring but almost no one likes to size them. If a ring could self-adjust to a range of finger sizes, people on both sides of the bench would be happy.
The adjustable series is an exploration of this problem. The parameters for this study are as follows: The method (i.e. mechanism) would be the rings. Wearability would be secondary and would improve with the refinement of each design. Metal would be the primary material for this particular series. The pieces must be aesthetically pleasing. In regard to the aesthetic I have found that if any of the following qualities are present: honesty of function, elegance of simplicity, or cleverness of design, the aesthetic has already been taken care of. Craftsmanship is a given.
This simple exercise has given me years of pleasure. There is no better feeling than the AH-HA!, followed by a trip to the workbench to verify one’s conclusion.
Ben J. Cunningham
Body adornment and body language have been very important in my life. As a child, understanding and recognizing the adornment of other was a matter of survival for me. The color of the shirt, a bandanna, a jacket insignia, or a tattoo, were worn by members of certain gangs for identification. My need to understand adornment hasn’t diminished. On a daily basis I still interact with individuals from subcultures who use body adornment as a form of identification and communication.
This innate understanding of body adornment was further enhanced as I began my studies in psychology and later fashion merchandising, which provided me with invaluable historical background. This exploration has strengthened my conviction to use it as a medium of expression.
Body adornment has an incredible power to depict human nature. To observe human behavior is like reading and re-reading a great novel, each time discovering new intricacies and unexpected nuances. What propels my art is this fascination with people – interacting with them and confirming what unites us, as well as what separates us. Fear, love, joy, humor, sorrow, strength, weakness, isolation, anger: these human emotions form the basis of my work. I believe body adornment, as a medium of expression, is successful in three aspects: (1) It is appropriate to use the body to represent issues of humanity; (2) Humans have an innate desire to adorn themselves; and (3) It creates immediate dialogue between wearer and observer.
Body adornment should act as a conductor and stimulate a dialogue between wearer and observer, thus providing others with a more accurate reflection of the wearer’s commitment to himself as well as to social issues. Body adornment’s rich history from ancient times to the present, proves its power to communicate both social norms and personal ideology.
My work is a combination of organic and inorganic inspiration. The organic comes from the aesthetic interpretation of organic shapes, vegetation forms, sea organisms, and animals. I make these ideas visible through inorganic 20th century materials and technology. The exciting transformation of ideas and inspiration into an art form has always led me to new and challenging experiences and environments.
My work usually takes a couple of different directions which allow me to put one of them down and change my train of thought to the other. I enjoy this reciprocating stimulus which helps me to formulate new ideas. The most common approach to creating jewelry or hollowware is two-dimensionally oriented, having only a front and back. I approach jewelry as being three-dimensional. A main concern of mine is not that the piece is always wearable, but that it conveys the right idea. I would like to think that my pieces are not for everyday use, but are striking in their appearance and are for more special occasions. I tend to focus on jewelry that has a confining quality with limited mobility, however not inhibitive when worn. I would like the wearer to become more aware of the space around them and the active role they play within that space.
My latest jewelry is a direct response to a year in Australia on a Fulbright Grant, where I studied at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. It is architecturally inspired and I have never done anything architectural before. I was interested in relating some of my figural work to some structural building forms. Primarily I was thinking about windows. Whenever I pass a house or building I am intrigued by what I can see in the windows. I hope looking into them will give me some clue about what kind of person/s live, work, or pass through that particular environment. It is a voyeuristic approach that concerns me. The pieces all have their own structure for the pins to be displayed when not worn. Gothic Interpretations is the most complete of all the building structures. There are four in the series. All the buildings have an etched drawing on the back panel: linear elements and three-dimensional parts of buildings, some of which are pins. Line Definition is the most spatial, concentrating on relating the etched linear and three-dimensional elements which are placed in succession as panels.
The windows are a step further in my voyeuristic approach. When the pin is worn, the wearer is actually the person in the window. They physically become a part of the piece. Home, Shop, and Church are named for common windows we all see and associate with every day. The latest pieces from my Architectural series are the Portholes.
These are windows that are in many houses and have no real purpose except to let in light. They are small and often remind me of an eye piece for a telescope or kaleidoscope which are objects that invite closer investigation and when looked into, reveal small details. With these windows I wanted to focus on details of a house that are ornamental and often forgotten. Portholes are a fragment of a house and are more three-dimensional with the addition of the bar-structure that protrudes from the front. Again, the actual windows is removable and worn on the body, making the wearer a part of the piece or letting viewers have a small view of you.
The jewelry I make is designed to challenge and engage the wearer, making them an active participant; an initiator of sounds and of continual reorganization of the jewelry’s visual structure. When at rest, on or off the body, my work has a visibly defined rhythmic structure. The kinetic qualities found in each piece turns this structure into an ever changing visual chaos when the jewelry is worn on a body in motion. The original visual rhythm returns only when the body becomes motionless and the jewelry quickly realigns itself to a static structure of order.
In my work the metal forms and the enamel imagery work together to make a whole, with the two techniques complementing each other rather than one being visually more important than the other. Technically as well as visually, the pieces are a unit. Almost all the metal work is done first, using extra hard solders and techniques that can withstand the high temperatures of the enameling kiln. The enamel is then applied and fused into place on the completed metal form. When the enamel is also complete, it is ground down to the desired level and the final finish is applied. Using this method, the final sanding and finishing steps for both media are accomplished concurrently, making the surface a uniform level and texture.
This striving for unification is not just a matter of taste or aesthetics, but one of personal philosophy as well. My theme is relationships between things, primarily the relationship between people and the natural world.
The forms, colors, and imagery in my work basically derive from three sources: metal technology, landscape, and the human body.
I feel a strong affinity for metal and am fascinated by its permanence, malleability, strength, and surface qualities. I use directly or copy in enamel some of the colors and surfaces which naturally occur through the various working processes. It is also important that some metal show on the surface, rather than being simply the support mechanism, because I want to show that the finished piece is a relationship between and a collaboration of two media.
Relationships between people are also an issue in my work. This is especially apparent in the cups. The social and ceremonial aspects of drinking are referred to with these pieces and it is important that they are completely functional, whether they are ever actually used or not. The scale is consistent with this, as are the warmth and softness of the forms and finishes which invite the viewer to hold and investigate the work with both eyes and hands.
My work reflects my emotional response to my environment. It refers to the general idea of landscape, body part, or event rather than a specific, identifiable thing or place. The comparison between the human body and the landscape or Earth is one which has been made repeatedly throughout history. By using this comparison, a sense of connectedness and completeness can be achieved.
I am inspired by the scientific impulse to explore, observe, and describe. My jewelry combines plastics, metals, and electronically generated light and color. I am drawn to these material by their unique characteristics which allow me to create objects of transparency, depth, and moving light and color. I leave these artifacts behind as record of my discoveries.
Jewelry is an art form loaded with traditional meanings: it is an investment, a symbol of power and wealth, a token of love. It is an art form which implies the human presence revealing the subjective nature of reality – what we see is actually determined by how we choose to look. These associations fascinate and attract me to jewelry making as a means of personal expression.
I have always been fascinated by the intimacy of small-scale objects which jewelry provides. It is the only art form which provides direct contact with the body, creating a symbolic relationship between the work and the person wearing it.
As a sculptor, I see myself constructing shapes that are self-contained, uncompromising, and singular, often thinking in different scales to explore an idea. I refer to my pieces as visual objects that express a logic and order connected to Japanese culture and creating associations of contemplation and meditation related to Zen philosophy. My inspiration is drawn from Minimalism and the stability and refinement of geometric forms. I prefer certain formal vocabularies, especially the circle and the sphere, because of their symbolic reference to wholeness and their magical link to the physical and spiritual world. Balance and proportion are significant factors in the compositional process and because of the reduction of form, every element is of absolute importance. The color black is always a constant, incorporating a strong influence of the East, symbolizing mystery, elegance, and serenity. I use subtle surface texturing and layering to achieve a sense of depth. I have tried to imbue modern industrial materials, such as aluminum, steel, acrylic, and rubber, with the same aesthetic qualities as silver and gold.
The motivation for my work is a continuing search for innovative ways to express ideas and test convention, always with the desire to break the boundaries between fine art and craft.
These works are a selection from a series titled Memento Mori, 1994-1996. They relate to traditional themes of death in jewelry and stem from a personal need to provide a ritual for mourning the deaths that surround my life. The materials, oxidized silver and pearls, have been used as a historical reference to the materials found in some mourning jewelry. The aesthetic reference to anatomical imagery is a continuing theme from my previous work, establishing a direct visual relationship between jewelry and the human form. By creating an imaginary visual representation of the process of death through illness, I have tried to manifest the intense emotional impact of death into an intimate and wearable object. In a world of pandemic disease, the jewels of Memento Mori attempt to satisfy the primal human need for understanding death as part of life itself.
The five rings are part of a series that were dealing with a symbol: Crown. This series developed form formal research into the idea of a jeweled representation. I evaluated my interpretation of the crown. I examined such factors as form, color, weight, and structure in order to understand the significance each one has in relation to the subject.
Generally my work questions both physical and spiritual levels in jewelry. I try to find where these levels meet and how I can use them as a starting point for a piece. This quest serves as a source of inspiration, an energy which feeds my work and the reason for it.
The work pictured was created specifically for a three-person exhibition at the Lenore Gray Gallery in Providence, RI, in November of 1995.
Measuring 18’4 x 18’4 x 3” (thick), this floor piece was constructed from 35 interlocking panels. Each panel is fabricated out of a plywood and 2 x 3 subfloor, laminated with 20 gauge galvanized sheet metal and secured with 3/16” aluminum pop rivets. There are five hatch doors, some of which are propped open and contain various elements or objects. In addition, 28 6 x 6” steel framed mirrors are inlayed into the floor according to a specific arrangement.
The intention of this piece was to challenge my natural tendency of creating and placing sculptural objects, however large or small, in a gallery setting. I liked the connotation of the floor mat: something to wipe your shoes on, something to walk on, something looked down upon, and not particularly respected; all felt from the feet up.
The overall concept of a cold, calculated, and precisely fabricated floor, appeals to me as a metaphor symbolic of our current culture and its obsession with technology. Corporate and governmental projects of enormous scale and cost continue to develop, worthy of respect for their engineering wizardry, yet equally worthy of suspicion and grave concern.
Once the space is entered one cannot avoid the work. You are on it. Scratching its surface with the grit on your shoes, changing the piece as you walk. Looking down, you see fragmented reflections of yourself, framed and set off by the patchwork of steel and rivets. Some of the hatches invite a close inspection, others deny access, leaving their contents to the imagination.
I consider myself a jeweler using traditional techniques to create pieces of adornment. Wearability is a primary concern in my work. In the past several years I have been engaged in experiments with color using enamel techniques to realize these ideas. I am trying to bring into this work a certain light-heartedness and ambiguity that allows the wearer and the viewer room for personal interpretation.
This work is a continuation of my study and contemplation of form. Planes and curves, static and kinetic, hard and soft, yin and yang; all of these questions of balance are evident in the resolution of form. Through the manipulation of these various elements movement, energy, and vitality become apparent.
A vessel is a container of space and a definition of form. My recent forms have gradually become more sensual and volumetric; these rounded, full, pregnant shapes are achieved though deforming. A variety of texture, hard and soft, plain and rich, enlivens and enhances the surface of these forms. The scale is kept conservative to promote an intimacy of relationship with the object.
My intent for this body of work was to combine function, craftsmanship, and content into a collection for the table, to continue the historical traditions of the craft and to challenge myself technically in order to expand my options for expression.
I wanted to create a beautiful body of work that reflected the uniqueness of the natural plant world. These pieces are intended to make the viewer feel good and to feel a sense of awe and respect for the images they represent.
The natural world has always been an important inspiration for my work. For this collection I wanted the plant forms themselves to be the vessels versus making forms and decorating them with plant images.
I have strived to obtain the highest level of craftsmanship possible. I have a reverence for quality work because I feel that the message I am trying to convey is much clearer and more potent when said with skill and caring. I derive as much satisfaction from working the metal as I do in creating the images.
Function was also an important component in the work. I believe the tradition of function in craft to be one of the key elements that define craft and I am striving to continue that tradition.
Melissa M. McGrath
The objects I create stem from my love of natural science. My psyche has always been drawn towards science and nature and this duality has allowed for great visual and mental stimulation. I am especially excited by organisms found within microbiology. The fact that microbes are profuse yet invisible in our everyday existence awes me. Obscured by their size, these creatures are elemental in the harmony and balance within our ecosystem. By creating these objects I hope to permit the viewer a glimpse into the fragile yet powerful nature of our world. My education has allowed me a modest but broad understanding of a wide range of various biological sciences. This fact, along with the liberty to experiment, has assisted my ability in the synthesis of different essential qualities of each science within each piece. I have the freedom to invent morphological objects. These personifications of nature may resemble single celled organisms, sea creatures as well as insects trapped in resin. Lately my favored medium has been plastic. However, I hope to incorporate soft fabrics, metal, and wood; materials which will help me to discover a multi-textural matrix in which to form layered and profound objects.
I plan to intensify my research by interviewing those who work in the field of science. My intent is to obtain access to the specimens found in the entomology and zoology departments. Studying these creatures will allow me to have a detailed grasp of their structure and character. I will then have a greater range of information with which to draw from when composing my own work. I also plan to continue reading pertinent articles and books which inform and inspire my art.
Fundamental to my work are the concepts that the body is central to experience and that there exists in an object a point where function and meaning converge.
These ideas were initially explored in a series of liqueur cups. These works focused primarily on the implications inherent in the vessel form when it is employed for symbolic purposes. The symbolic potential of these objects is carried forth in a constructed visual narrative of form associations. It is the use of these vessels however, and the suggested union that ultimately complete the concept of the work. The visual narrative contained in the forms of these vessels united with the act of their use result in an expanded meaning where the work now embodies the idea of the physical body as host or conduit through which spiritual experience is made manifest. The work, then, functions to intercede between the physical and the spiritual.
Further development of these ideas has led to work that carries compound associations linking body function and object function whose syntax signifies desire, interchange, and transformation. The implied function of these objects asserts corporeality.
My brooches are abstract compositions involving concepts of tension, balance, and gesture. In my recent Interference Series brooches, I start with a stable, geometric form and create a sense of tension by violating or interfering with that stability. In some pieces, I begin with a piece of slate and interject a metal element; in others I do the reverse.
These pieces are studies in contrast. They are rough and smooth, geometric and organic, precious and non-precious, positive and negative. The forms are monumental but the scale is intimate and appropriate for the human body.
While I don’t draw directly from other artists’ work for inspiration, the design tenets of the Bauhaus had a strong impact on my early development. In addition, the stone sculpture of Isamu Noguchi and the natural site specific sculpture of Andy Goldsworthy are both close to my heart.
My inspiration is drawn from the simplicity and order of the Japanese garden, the stability and refinement of geometric forms, the delicacy and texture of handmade paper, and the monumentality and power of geological formations.
As an artist and jeweler, I create three-dimensional forms that have identity and power as objects, yet transform into wearable jewelry. The concept was inspired by my desire to create pure, simplified forms that could also be worn. My intent is to integrate the authentic essence of form with the intimate ritual of wearing jewelry.
The forms have become softer, more sensuous as I express my current experience with fertility and mothering. These pieces also explore feelings of connectedness, protection, fear, and love. My awareness of emotional relationships and experiences in my life is explored through formal and spatial relationships in my work. For instance the object is constructed of separate parts that must interrelate structurally and proportionately to become whole. This process of relating forms enables me to express emotions that I may not fully understand or even recognize.
Pendant/objects come apart, revealing a chain within. Earrings, also, are integral forms that spin on standing wires connected to hidden spheres, or some other related form. In some pieces, a smaller form is encased within a larger one, further exploring feelings of protectiveness, while also depicting containment and the fertile state.
For ten years I have been combining precious materials, making jewelry and functional hollowware. I want to create works that have a sense of beauty, fantasy, and femininity, that might exist in an idealized world. The materials and processes used in traditional metalworking lend themselves to the creation of these fantastic objects.
Plant life has been a major source of inspiration for me. I have been attracted to and draw from the distinctive blossoms of orchids and acacias and the leaves of various plants. I hope to capture their gesture and grace. Healthy plants are strong living organisms yet their forms can be delicate and intricate. I find this contrast between delicacy and strength a compelling element of nature and use this contrast in my work.
In the spring of 1993, I traveled down the Amazon River Basin in a dugout canoe. Being in the primary rain forest was an amazing experience and I was completely intrigued with the sights, sounds, and scents of the jungle. The plant forms I saw were very beautiful and different from anything I had seen before. The unusual plants were enhanced for me visually by the way they grew together and intertwined with other plants and flowers. They were dependent on each other for life and most were strong and healthy. The visual combination of various plants, their strength, and the support structure they provided for each other inspired a series of work, my Jungle series.
The artwork of several cultures has been influential in the development of form and content in my work. Ancient Egyptian and Indian artwork have influenced me most. I am interested in the intricate, regal, and stoic forms in Egyptian jewelry and objects, the sophisticated technique and fine craftsmanship employed by the artists. Indian watercolors of the 17th century depict romantic scenes using stylized forms and decorative borders. They are delicately painted with incredible attention to detail. The artworks of both of these cultures possess spiritual qualities. I hope to capture these sensibilities in my work.
My works are constructed predominately in sterling silver to accentuate preciousness and create an elegant character. I have used various materials in conjunction with sterling silver, such as bone, coral, ebony, and 24k gold foil. These materials complement each other in color, texture, and surface. They also define shape and detail.
It is important for me to make functional objects and jewelry. The fact that my works can be used or worn to adorn the body creates an intimate relationship with the viewer/wearer. The pieces I make are intended for use in very special or romantic occasions.
j. e. Paterak
Remove from your thought the exterior of words, seek the interior until you understand.
My interest lies in an exploration of materials, their tactile qualities as well as their intrinsic properties of meaning: fineness of gold, edges of paper, weaving chain from fine silver wire. The pages of a book are known to us visually as well as through the sense of touch, and further still, as the primary source we gather knowledge from. When worn as jewelry, they contain verbal knowledge yet seem to express an understanding beyond the surface of words, perhaps concealing a secret on the wearer.
Object creation is being redefined by the evolution of the computer environment. As an artist/craftsman I wanted to be among the first to pioneer this new way of making objects in my field. I came to Tyler in the fall of 1993 to study CAD/CAM (computer aided design/computer aided manufacture). At that time I was already aware that the jewelry industry, among others, had been using CAD/CAM technology for the past decade. I believe that the Crafts, due to their historical association with the development of technologies, could possibly be in the best position to encourage artists to take on the responsibility of interpreting, through the creation of art, society’s technological evolution.
I believe strongly in careful consideration concerning the appropriateness of designs, aesthetics, and processes and how they should be employed in this context. What part of the old do we bring with us? What part of the new is not in our best interest to embrace? What is the role of the maker of objects in this new environment? As we discuss the merits of art objects existing and art experiences occurring in virtual space we know we have entered a new era. In this time of enormous change I look to the history of the discipline from which I come for guidance and perspective.
In the two decades following World War II a group of artist/craftsman came of age and founded the Craft programs in the colleges and universities in this country. They developed aesthetics, researched technologies, and produced work that lifted the American artist/craftsman to new heights in the world Craft community. It is time for those programs to take a step forward and enter a new era. I believe we are on the verge of generating another such Golden Age in the Craft/Art community today. It will be the result of artists/craftsman entering an entirely new environment within which we will have the opportunity to redefine ourselves and redirect the field of Crafts. That environment is available to us presently in the form of computer aided technologies. These technologies aid us presently in the form of computer aided technologies. These technologies aid us in realizing ideas that we could not have realized otherwise and encourage us to conceive and create with a new freedom. The challenge of defining values and delineating philosophies for the artist/craftsman in the computer environment will fall to those who choose to embrace the opportunities presented. They will be the authors of the new paradigm.
The pieces I make exist as three-dimensional objects, fully described, complete with accurate dimensions and precision mechanisms. The images are renderings of three-dimensional objects existing in virtual space, The bracelet Batear was specifically created in such a way that it could be realized through the use of a 3-axis CNC (computer numerically controlled) milling machine. The remainder of the virtual objects in the enclosed portfolio were not designed with the intention that they would be realized through a particular process. Their value is purely as virtual objects.
My purpose is to teach. By combining teaching with research I will be in a position to open my students up to new approaches to the creation of Craft. I strongly encourage students to study the history of their chosen disciplines. In order to develop and expand the aesthetic of our times toward the electronic age of art we need to have a sense of the continuum of art history as it applies to our specific fields. With this in hand I encourage my students to cross the traditional boundaries between disciplines.
My preparedness to teach is a result of the broad-based education I have pursued, from the philosophy of art to the traditional techniques of jewelry and metalsmithing, to my involvement in the research that will move craft alongside the fine arts into the electronic age.