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.
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.
Loek Sia’s pieces are unique and reflect a special vision but it is the stamped designs on her pieces that really got my attention. If you could see music, it would be like that. The patterns that Loek Sia stamps into her work are abstract, well-balanced, and suggest an unspoken meaning — like a beautiful melody.
The very talented and prolific jewelry designer, Mark Poulin, kindly agreed to answer some (slightly odd) questions for Bread and Cake. I think you’ll enjoy this window into his jewelry-designing mind. His work can be found in his Etsy store and on his website.
B + C: How would you define “jewelry” to someone from another planet?
Jewelry is an object we wear on our bodies as an adornment, it can range from the simple and understated to the flashy and attention grabbing. The wearer uses this as an extension of his or her fashion sense and an as expression of their personality.
Jewelry satisfies so many of an earthlings needs. First off, so many of us have a need to collect, and with so many styles of jewelry it is easily collectible. Also we earthlings are a sentimental bunch and jewelry can mark so many of our occasions from our births to our weddings to our deaths. Jewelry also gives us a sense of style and allows us to express our personal taste and sometimes flaunt our status. There are some of us that wear the same jewelry every day of our lives and others who change it multiple times a day.
B + C: Please describe the place where you make your creations. What do you like to keep around you for inspiration?
I love my West Oakland workshop. It has the space to spread out. Separate places for soldering, polishing, enameling, photographing, designing, and for my piles of unfinished projects. All I really need for inspiration is a good sound track and a sketchbook.
B + C: Do you have a favorite type of jewelry (e.g. ring, bracelet, necklace, etc.) to make? What is it and why?
I love rings. I really love rings. Even though I’m known more for making necklaces, there is something about rings that fascinates me. They seem to carry an intimacy with them.
B + C: What is your favorite piece of jewelry that you ever made? Where is it today, if you know?
The first ring I ever made. I still have it. It was a simple cut out of hammers and nails on a wide band.
I just love enameling. Fusing glass to metal will always amaze me, as will the possibilities that that can produce. I think this passion comes from all the years I worked as a ceramicist, clay and glaze, enamel and metal.
B + C: What theme or vision do you feel that your line reflects?
I feel like I’m trend based, but not in a shopping mall kind of way, rather in an underground crafty kind of way. I appeal to the people who like quirky. Everything I make is a little off kilter, made to steal hearts like an old dog at the pound you just have to take home and love. I am that little bridge between the cartoon world and the jewelry world.
B + C: Do you have a favorite jewelry designer? Who is it and what do you like about his or her work?
I’m more inspired by illustrators and painters than jewelers. Right now I’m obsessed with Deth P Sun and with Luke Chueh. In my opinion both painters have elevated a cartoon style to a higher art. Both are prolific and draw all the time. Both are very down to earth.
B + C: Predictions? Plans? Are there future projects, shows, or sales that you would like to share with us?
I’m excited about 2012. I’ll be releasing ten new sterling silver mother and daughter charm sets, a new cartoon glass jewelry line. I’m really expanding my pure-modern jewelry shapes and adding some exciting color combinations. I’m also drawing some images for a puzzle company geared towards kids. That should keep me busy.
My sweet father reads this little blog every day. This one is for him.
In various ways, I have ink in my blood. For his entire career my father worked in the newspaper business. My mother (an artist) and her sister (a writer) had a great love of amateur printing. They had both been members — my aunt a life long member — of the shadowy, sinister organization known as American Amateur Press Association. (I kid, I kid. Check out their website and you’ll see how funny that is.)
In honor of the family love of printing, my dad once played jewelry designer with this ingenious idea.
These are pieces of type once used in a newspaper printing press. I imagine that my dad got these from work when old equipment was being replaced. (If I am wrong, I am sure that he’ll let me know and I’ll issue a correction.) In any case, dad saw the beauty in the shape and the symbolism of the items themselves. He selected a “V” for my mom, Virginia, and a “M” for her sister, Margaret. He had the type plated and a bale added so that they could be worn as pendants and, indeed, they were both worn by two stylish, strong women. Beautiful, stunning, unique items. I am honored to be their caretaker.
We are going to venture beyond metals once again with the playful, sculptural, fiber pieces from Mandy Besek‘s Etsy store . I didn’t think that I’d write something about non-traditional jewelry materials again so soon. But, Mandy’s work really caught my attention with its bold forms and flowing spontaneity.
OK, I know this last one is a purse but just look at those colors. It would be like being able to carry your lipstick around in a watercolor painting.
Today’s post is a sidestep from jewelry. Although Audrey Hepburn’s image in popular culture became intertwined with one of the great jewelry houses of all time, this post is about what she, and her most iconic role, have meant to me.
Audrey Hepburn died 19 years ago today. She resides in our collective imagination and, perhaps, always will. There isn’t anything that I can say about Audrey Hepburn that hasn’t been said before and said better. Of course, she was a style icon and devastatingly beautiful. She was made all the more beautiful by her humanness and kindness and generosity, which are all well-documented.
The only thing that I can add to the world of sentiments about Audrey Hepburn are my own.
Like so many people, for me, the line between Audrey Hepburn and Holly Golightly is a blurry one. I first saw Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1985 with my dad. I was ten years-old. We were able to see it on the big screen because the old, fancy theater, where the local orchestra played, had started also showing classic movies. At that time, I did not appreciate what a rare treat it was to see Breakfast at Tiffany’s in a theater. I fell in love with the movie. I was young enough to forgive the movie some of its flaws, such as Mickey Rooney’s horrendously racist portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi, and I just focused on the chic, yet goofy, world of Holly Golightly. I think it was also lost on me that she was a prostitute.
Seeing Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the first time was more than just a cinematic experience for me. My little, ten year-old, mourning heart became helplessly attached to Audrey Hepburn or Holly Golightly or both. At that point, my tall, thin, stylish mother had been dead about two years and I couldn’t help but draw comparisons. I felt like I had been thrown some sort of life-line in the form of Audrey Hepburn. It’s strange, I know, but Audrey Hepburn and my mother have always been a little blended in my mind. I hope they know, wherever they are, that it is a credit to them both.
As an interesting aside, I read once that the character of Holly Golightly is a motherless daughter archetype. I think that goes for both how she is portrayed in the movie as well as how she was written by Truman Capote in the novella of the same name — perhaps that is the only similarity. From what we know of the character’s life, which is not much, she’s a survivor but basically feral. In addition to the fact that Audrey Hepburn reminds me of my mother, the character of Holly Golightly as a motherless daughter resonates with me as well. There is just something disorienting about losing one’s primary example of womanhood. Once an adult, you can end up feeling a little like you sprung, fully formed, from the ground and there you are — a woman — and not entirely sure how it happened. Holly Golightly acts as if she feels like that.
I maintain that I can pick out a woman who lost her mother in childhood at a hundred paces.
I’ve seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s countless times. I know every Audrey Hepburn line and, when drunk, I’ve proven it more than once. As a result of loving the movie, I began a love affair, from afar, with Tiffany & Co., the brand, as well. Honestly, Tiffany is not something that would normally appeal to me. While it’s true that their quality is legendary and their customer service unparalleled, it just isn’t something to which I would naturally gravitate, as it would strike me as too elitist. But, because of all that I have written here, about Audrey Hepburn and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Tiffany has always pulled at me from the heart. Successful branding? Perhaps. But, I don’t care. It’s part of my internal world and always will be.
Knowing what all of these things have meant to me, my sweet husband gave me a less complicated reason to be emotionally attached to Tiffany. He proposed at the Tiffany here in San Francisco and, right then and there, we purchased the beautiful engagement ring that sits now on my hand — bringing a long and sentimental story about my childhood, my mother, an actress, and a movie full circle. The ring didn’t come out of a Crackerjack box but I love it all the same.
I have mentioned the wonders made by Midwest Alchemy in the past but that incredible Etsy store really deserves its own post. I am utterly amazed by the effect created by electroforming the metal around beautiful raw stones.
Midwest Alchemy helpfully describes electroforming for us on Etsy:
Electroforming, in the simplest terms, is the intricate process of controlling a metal deposit of copper and onto a conductive surface whether it be an organic or inorganic material. This process is similar to plating…but is done over a much longer period of time – and can be anywhere from 2 – 12 hours. Basically a thick “skin” of metal is built up into a rigid surface – which in this case is the ring or pendant form. Various patinas and finishes are possible after the initial electroforming process is complete.
I love that electroforming manages to make the rings look like they were chipped from a crystallized rock. They look like natural items that happen to be suitable to be worn.
Here is a sampling of Midwest Alchemy. It was hard to pick just a few — each one is as amazing the next. While I am at it, allow me to add that I love copper. I love to see it used in jewelry.
Hey, Midwest Alchemy, I’m a native Ohioian! “Midwest Ohio” where? Just curious.