I had meant to announce the hiatus of the B + C blog. I really had. But, like so many things, it got away from me. I just didn’t write anything for weeks and weeks with no explanation. So, now, with great delay, here is my story.
In my other life, I am an attorney. I work in California but I am licensed in Ohio. My current job, for various reasons, does not require a California license. Nevertheless, I got it in my silly little head to become licensed in California. So, over the last several months, I invested a great deal of time, energy, and sanity that I could ill afford to spend to take the dreaded California Bar Exam. I won’t know until November 16th if it all has paid off. Wish me luck.
All that said, I have missed this activity and all that it represents for me — the looking at jewelry; the thinking about jewelry; the writing about jewelry; and the making of jewelry. It is my life-line to the creative world. Soon new, full blog posts will be coming. In the meantime, check out these fun Etsy finds!
Nothing says traditional jewelry quite like a cameo. Components carved in the cameo style have appeared in every type of jewelry — rings, necklaces, earrings — for a very, very long time. Only a designer with boldness in her heart would try to update the cameo and succeed.
The bold Jessica J. Fein has done just that. She has a lovely line of vintage inspired chunky, playful jewelry and the modern/cameo mashups are very nice additions to the line.
The Shins very thoughtfully let a little piece of jewelry play a role in this awesome video, thus, giving me the excuse to post it.
Did you see it? It’s in there — a necklace which justifies the video’s presence in this blog. Ha. I just love that video. It seems like it could be a dark episode in the history of the Tenenbaum family.
So, with that clumsy segue, I will engage in a little shameless self-promotion.
As I have alluded to here, in addition to learning to make jewelry, I make artwork in my spare time. Although I haven’t always talked about it, it has been a part of my life for years. Presumably as part of promoting their new album, The Shins are running a contest to design their tour poster. I have submitted a few designs and I’ll share a couple of them here.
This first one is an altered photograph of my assemblage piece called “Empty.” While the original piece wasn’t created for the poster project, the above video for Simple Song called this piece to mind. I am pretty sure that The Shins will not want a random piece of artwork to grace their tour poster. Nevertheless, it was a labor of love to turn it into a poster design as I listen The Shins a lot while doing creative work. If you like, it you can vote for it here.
Then, there is this:
This is a photograph of my dad’s awesome vintage stereo. It is literally bigger than the floor space in my tiny little San Francisco kitchen. It is no joke. Anyway, I digitally toyed around with it and, overall, thought that the image would make a fun poster. If you like it, you can vote for it here.
I’ve found a place in this blog to confess some things about my taste and sometimes my character. It seems it is time for another one. While I am not one for a lot of clutter or silly characters, I love garden gnomes. Just for the record, I loved them before they became cool in that ironic sort of way. I have a collection of garden gnomes figurines given to me by my dear husband. And, hear this, I own this collection in a decidedly non-ironic way. That’s right. Like somebody’s grandma. I’m even a garden gnome snob … to be in my collection they have to adhere to illustrator Rien Poortvliet‘s gnome aesthetic (see above).
I must not be alone in my obsession because there is a growing availability of, yes, gnome jewelry.
Here’s a little sampling of what is available by the reliably creative Etsy merchants.
Then, inexplicably, there is this – an interesting enamel gnome charm by Juicy Couture. I sort of love it.
It does not appear that the charm is available anymore from Juicy but there are a number of them out there on the internet for sale. The photo here was from Polyvore.
In my early adulthood, whenever I was sick and had to stay home from work or school or whatever generally occupied my time, I would obsessively watch the movie Fargo. I don’t particularly like that movie but that is a fact that would inevitably escape me when felled by food poisoning or a sinus infection. Go figure. Usually around the third or fourth viewing, I would remember that it was a good movie but it wasn’t that good but, by then, my eyes would be blurry and the remote long since lost and I’d just let it play. Later, it would all seem like a bad dream.
These days I have moved on to another a sick-day entertainment obsession — Jennifer Saunder’s comedic genius in the form of Absolutely Fabulous. I have always been one for British comedy — Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, The Young Ones, etc. I was once told by an Englishman that I was an honorary English person based on my taste in comedy. (On the other hand, that same Englishman also called me white trash.)
In any case, it would only make sense that I would also love the cult classic, Absolutely Fabulous, too. But, for years, it didn’t speak to me. For good or for bad, the characters have now come into focus for me. Actually, now that I am older, I find that all of the women of the show — Patsy, Eddy, Saffy, and even Gran — live in my head. Most days, it’s an all out brawl in there among them. In any case, I get it now and I’ve recently had a sinus infection so I’ve watched a lot of it lately.
For those of you who don’t know, Ab Fab, as it is known, is a show about two drunken women who live on the fringes of the fashion and style industries. To uninitiated, it might not sound like much but it is fun-house mirror reflection what obsesses most of us — whether we’d care to admit it or not. (I write a blog about jewelry for crying out-loud. I’m as guilty as anyone.) The show started in the 90’s and has been resurrected more than once but even the older episodes are all the more relevant for the rise of the Kardashians et al.
It is for all these reasons that this is genius.
Alexis Bittar is the maker of jewelry that is both stylish and wacky — it is grown up exuberance.
It is not too difficult to find old jewelry components that are suitable for being repurposed into new pieces. Your mother’s jewelry box, thrift stores, antique stores — it’s everywhere, really. The trick is in the designing. It takes practice to do it well and have collected components find a home in a new piece. Peiyu Tan, who seems to specialize in repurposed Nepalese jewelry, has done a wonderful job doing just that.
In the fall of 1993, I started college and became friends with Marianne Brown. Through Marianne, I was introduced to many things that would become mainstays of my adult life — art galleries, thrift stores, and jewelry making. She helped form my concept of joy and she is a huge part of who I am today. She once made me laugh until I peed. Under Marianne’s direction, I first held a pair of jewelry pliers and put beads on a string. I recall that I had given her some old costume jewelry of my mom’s and those components came back to me over and over again having been re-purposed into new creations.
Marianne has an endlessly creative mind. She is true artist. She is an artist in a way that I am not — she cannot stop being an artist, she cannot stop being creative. She cannot stop being who she is. I admire that more than she’ll ever know. Her soul positively glows with the need to sculpt, draw, paste, string, or otherwise give birth to things that did not previously exist.
Her artwork lives somewhere in the neighborhood of folk art but with an edge. When she makes a piece depicting a face — human or angel — I find that I can’t look away.
Today, she is Marianne Clouser, mother of two, and continues to meet life with both bravery and style that, frankly, puts others to shame. Today, I am sorry to report that she is also very sick. While I am very far away, my heart and soul are with her.
She told me on the phone, “My plan is to live.” Do you hear that Universe?
So, I haven’t posted a few days … and today’s post isn’t really going to be about jewelry. Rather, it is about an unexpected acquisition from jewelry class.
How did she come from jewelry class, you ask? Excellent question.
Well, the very talented and sweet Gili Assa, who takes classes with me at Scintillant Studio, is also a dedicated volunteer for Rocket Dog Rescue. Included in the time and energy that Gili puts in on behalf of homeless dogs is the fact that she fosters lots of little ones. Sometimes they come to the studio with her. One day, about two weeks ago, this little one appeared and I just sort of knew that she’d be added to the menagerie at home.
After a trial visit of a few days, it became final and my husband and I took in the little one. We named her, Roo, after the smallest, youngest animal in the world of Winnie the Pooh, to reflect her position in the house.
Jewelry designer, GG, was kind enough to share her thoughts with us. It’s poetry.
Enjoy the interview and feast your eyes on her incredible work available at www.ggoriginal.com.
B+C: How would you define “jewelry” to someone from another planet?
Can aesthetic communication be defined to some thing who is not “one of us?” Beauty can be a provocation, a nuisance, for those who cannot taste it. Didn’t the most supreme artist (the one who created human minds, so we can experience beauty, and others can’t) make it this way? Isn’t the human mind can be one of a kind? Jewelry is a medium used for communication, from one person to another; so can this be shared with someone from another planet? Possibly yes, if they can feel what we feel. Let’s define what we can describe to them: Jewelry can enhance the wearer’s persona. It can be a statement of beauty, possibly prestige, sometimes jewelry screams, sometimes it is quiet, sometimes it is romantic and intimate, sometimes it is provocative or funny. But jewelry can be annoying, simple, rich, and colorful, all while offering limitless experience, through its forms and pleasures.
B+C: Please describe the place where you make your creations. What do you like to keep around you for inspiration?
Every day, every place, every new friend, each single glaze, a surprised turn of head following a bright sun reflection – all is leading to new discoveries. Walking on the beach, I see the algae on the stones, dry and old. Those gigantic stones, half buried in the sand, like lost sculptures by Henry Moore, and my sad algae so alone, so nicely curved and lonely, I want to turn this feeling in to the jewelry piece. I want to cast those feelings into a silver line. There is a moment when real form, turning around an orbit which is reshaping that form, this is the moment before it ends up in the sketchbook. Composition plays in your mind, and you hear the still music of floating line playing around with the graphical challenges, a game to attain perfect balance.
For me memories, reflections, observations, experiences are priceless. My Infinite Design Studio is surrounding me everywhere, limited only by passing time.
Next, I create my work in my small space under a big Cedar tree, I believe it is Cedar but might be some other majestic, gigantic Californian beauty.
B+C: Do you have a favorite type of jewelry (e.g. ring, bracelet, necklace, etc.) to make? What is it and why?
No, not a favorite type of jewelry but the technique and type of metal I am using, at the moment, is influencing me. I look at the piece of metal and, suddenly, I know what the next project will be like. Sometimes, I feel I want to make a piece very quickly and simply, maybe brutally naive; other times it takes weeks until I see the idea and project, forming on the bench.
B+C: What is your favorite piece of jewelry that you ever made? Where is it today, if you know?
There was one piece I did – for myself. It was a necklace and earring set made from a simple, forged, rusted iron wire. It’s an experimental set, very modern but also highly ornamental. Small, symmetrical and exposing a lack of exclusivity. I couldn’t display this set in any local gallery. The piece came about when I went to Washington D.C. and visited the Smithsonian Museum. After looking at some strange designs done by my favorite masters, I decided to experiment, myself. I did list this iron set on a jewelry auction, almost as a test. My necklace was sold and to a person from New York, who also purchased a piece by Art Smith on the same day. I do not know who it was, as they were an unlisted “private” buyer, but I realized that even my most crazy and unique creation should be presented to others. Otherwise they cannot come “alive.”
B+C: What is your favorite technique to use in your jewelry making and why?
I love to experiment. Sometimes I work with a simple wire for months, later switching to a torch and kiln, but mainly I look for a melody of the piece. The line composition, emotion, or drama and story behind the piece – some aspect that adds a unique value – which can happen despite the technique I use.
Design is about discoveries. Forging metal is transferring energy and power from the metal into my final piece. So the design is constantly interacting with the metal, searching for its physical limit. Sculpting and casting gives me control over my projected vision, it is much like painting a landscape. I feel all the techniques I use are one of a kind and I enjoy them all.
B+C: What theme or vision do you feel that your line reflects?
I have multiple lines (styles) and multiple “personalities” in my work, but, generally, I classify them into 3 groups: Organic, Modern and Ornamental.
Pieces done with forging, usually have a modern flavor, but often I add organic details or finishes to them. I feel that sculpting shows more organic motives, and the historical knowledge of old artists, I find it so intriguing. I sometimes follow the melody of the old masters to develop pieces which end up in the Ornamental line.
B+C: Do you have a favorite jewelry designer? Who is it and what do you like about his or her work?
Yes, many! Not one, but hundreds. I believe that an awareness of the work of past masters, the knowledge of beauty and innovation of the past, is important to new design styles in any media.
In many of my designs, I hope to reach the contemporary human mind with a modern vision of past beauty. I love art, as I believe that knowledge and appreciation of extraordinary old trends guide and strengthens new creations.
To express what I value the most, I will choose as an example work by Art Smith, Margaret De Patta and René Lalique. The first two are Modernists, while Lalique is an Art Nouveau Master. They each have very different styles, but their work shares the most important and priceless value – it is built upon an Artistic Idea.
B+C: If you could go back in time and observe a specific jewelry making technique (e.g. cloisonné, casting, etc.), done at a particular place and time in history, what would it be and why?
I am currently interested in anti-clasting, synclastic techniques. Forms created in this specific style are so beautiful and so honest. I hope to collect all the necessary tools (sinusoidal stake, specific hammers), soon. Right now I still don’t have these in my studio. There are a few metal smith masters whom I admire, and I wish to be able to join their studios for an internship.
B+C: Predictions? Plans? Are there future projects, shows, or sales that you would like to share with us?
Contemporary jewelry creators should be searching for new styles, new visions. My challenge is, not only, to make more “new” rings or necklaces, but constantly update. Jewelry trends should influence others. Jewelry trends should help to create new and different lines of clothing. I look to jewelry to add a new shine on our futuristic silhouette.
This week I started a new website to document of my past and recent work. I will be looking to network with clothing and product designers in order to cooperate on development of new styles. I am hoping to find more friends and clients ( on Etsy, at shows, in galleries, via web and this blog) who are share these same passions.