Saturday, July 20, 2013

Putting the ART in Art Jewelry - By Karen McGovern

From the beginning of my designing life, I have been attracted to unusual, weird jewelry and art like a moth to a flame.  I have never been very interested in what I considered “department store jewelry”.  Shiny, diamond-y, expensive…just not my thing.  “Fine” jewelry is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, just not for me. 
Instead, I have always gravitated to the “outside the jewelry box” type designs.  Susan Lenart Kazmer and Tessa Rickard Carpenter influenced my work from the moment I set eyes on theirs.  Susan, because she uses so many wonderful found objects and unusual materials in her work and also because she is completely unafraid to create big, crazy, sometimes un-wearable designs.  More on that in a moment… 
Two of Susan's unbelievable works.  The one on the left is a resin doll
creation that comes apart into a stack bracelet set and a ring.  The other
is a fantasitc collar of resin papers and a jillion other things...beautiful!
Tessa struck me with her wonderful, wonderful weirdness.  I am weird.  She is weird.  We are kindred!  Tessa is a master metal smith and jewelry instructor.  She uses things like plastic animals and antique false teeth in her rings, pendants and brooches.  YES, I SAID ANTIQUE FALSE HUMAN TEETH.  She hand constructs amazing settings and puts completely bizarre stuff in them, creating gorgeous, crazy, stunning works of wearable art.  She and I will be friends forever because she traded me a few tiny cast bronze babies a while back.  I used them in some of my most favorite designs to date.  She made me a set of stacking rings created from single, tiny bronze baby chopped up and set in tiny discs.  It is one of my all time favorite ring sets.  I have a photo of one of her lockets pinned over my work bench.  It’s been there for years, a total source of inspiration for me.  Her materials may be unorthodox, but her execution and construction are FLAWLESS.

The Tessa locket I adore....sigh....
Anyway, my point is, that neither Susan or Tessa confine themselves in any way shape or form.  Both create works that some may find overwhelming, sometimes disturbing and not jewelry-like in the least.  True ART JEWELRY by my definition.  I wanted to ask in this post if any of you ever create designs for the pure joy of creating, without worrying about whether or not the finished result will reside within the conventional definition of “wearable jewelry”?? 
SLK inspired rings.  My favorite is the tall
grass ring.  Yes, I kept it, and yes, I wear it!!
I do this quite a bit.  Especially with my “storybook” or Sacred Salvage designs.  These designs are usually accompanied by a short story or poem, and some of them are intended to be shown on their own as art when not being worn.  I create a shadow-box, stand, or some means to hang the piece on a wall.  They are meant to be displayed outside a jewelry box.  Some are extravagant statement pieces, some are just down-right strange.  All were wonderful and cathartic to create.  Some will never be sold, simply because it will take an adventurous individual to embrace them, and also because I find it hard to part with them when I’m done!!!  I’ve added some photos here, including a few of what my husband refers to as my “creepy baby” designs.  While not for everyone, these designs are some of my favorites to date.  They reflect my intention to explore what is possible in jewelry design, my desire to tell stories, and my passion for creating something beyond “pretty”.  Does that make sense?  Does it have to?

Tessa's tiny bronze babies feature heavily here, along with antique
miniature porcelain German dolls I collect. Two of the bronze babies
are attached to antique sterling silver olive serving spoons.
Oh, and a ring made from coyote teeth.

Art jewelry is all about giving three-dimensional life to your inner thoughts and inspirations.  Not being afraid to make a ring that reaches for the sky, break rules, to use materials that others may tell you do not belong in jewelry design.  Oh yeah?  You don’t want to know what I’d say to that person…..hang on to your dentures, Dear.  If not, I can make you a killer pair of earrings or a ring using them… 

If you have explored the limits of art jewelry, please share your works with us.  I’d love to see how far you’ve dared to go….and then encourage you to go farther!! 

I’ve included here a link to a tutorial for one of my most fun rings called a Party Hat Ring.  You can take this ring as far as you want (GO TALL, BABY!), and it is one of the more wearable of my crazy jewelry designs.  I use this ring as a teaching tool to introduce cold connection and it is a BLAST to make.  My favorite element in the ring shown below is a pink plastic polishing wheel—they are FABULOUS for rings (so are the fabric polishing wheels).  Yes, this ring is a party for your finger, and worthy of display anywhere, on or off your hand.

I made this particular Party Hat Ring for myself using an antique
patterned brass band, gears, patina copper, bone, polishing
wheel, enamel steel wire and pearls.  One of my favorites!


Alice said...

What a fun ring! I've never made rings before but now my customers are asking for them. Thanks for the tutorial!

Artisan Beads Plus said...

I love your definition of art jewelry. I would have to agree! I have made some that are outside of the box and did try to where them only to take them off because they were a "little much." I don't make rings, but would love to learn how to one day :o)

NuminosityBeads said...

Great post. I think you've shown some great inspiring examples. Thanks for the tutorial, I may have to try my hand at rings sometime.

Genea said...

Love the ring! I see why you are so inspired by their jewelry! I think you did a great piece inspired by your favorite artists in your style! Great work. xo Genea

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