Abstract Assessment

Fall, 2014

The Industry Bakelite Brooch
The Industry Bakelite Brooch
Silver and SLA Pendant Brass and Asphalt Pendant
Silver and SLA Pendant Brass and Asphalt Pendant

(Click on a thumbnail to view the piece.)

Artst Statement:

     In the realm of jewelry, it is extremely common for the "jewel" portion of "jewelry" to take precedence over the metalworking. In extreme cases, gemstones are shoved into every nook and cranny of the work, creating an object which I believe is garish, overpowering, and downright offensive to the senses. More often though, the powers that be will decide to go the route of "quality over quantity" and one big stone will act as the centerpiece- the main event if you will- of the work. It is pretty obvious why this continues to be a trend: it greatly increases the monetary value of the work and creates an object which displays its value that much more efficiently. However, this "display value" is by no means a recent trend- for as long as we have been adorning ourselves with whatever birc-a-brac we could get our hands on, there has been a crafts arms race to create and wear things which are more valuable than whatever the other person is adorning themselves with. So naturally once the technology allowed us to effortlessly pack the display item full of rocks which our society has deemed precious, we were going to do just that.

     In this body of work, I intend to subvert and mock this "display value" by replacing that centerpiece with something which I think is worthy of attention, but may not be conducive to a high market price. The work consists of four pieces of jewelry: A brooch, two necklaces, and a ring. Three of these (the two necklaces and the brooch) share a similar form: a jewelry object which has been formed by arranging four bars with curved ends in such a manner that they form a diamond-like shape. The curves of these bars are either radiating towards or away from the center, which houses a round hemispherical material held in place by a traditional stone-setting method. Four faceted gemstones (or a gemstone-shaped material) dot the recesses in these curves at each cardinal direction.

     The two necklaces are almost identical, save for a few minor details. One is made up of a brass alloy reminiscent of gold, and has a piece of asphalt prong-set in the center. Asphalt is an extremely practical material, one who's importance cannot be overstressed- it is responsible for transit, commerce, and much more within our modern day society. It is an extremely efficient material too as it is abundant, easy to make, and has an absurd 99% recyclability rate. But as far as important rocks go, it isn't considered to be anything special.

     The other necklace formally resembles the previously mentioned one almost exactly, except that it is made of sterling silver and has 3d printed elements adorning it; these light blue resin elements were made utilizing the same technology which virtually all mass produced commercial jewelry uses. The relationship to assembly line jewelry does not end there however, as unlike its handmade brass counterpart, this necklace was created using a computer assisted design program. It was then sent out to a company which specializes in printing, molding, and casting jewelry. Nothing, from the store-bought chain to the pre-fabricated bale was made by my hand. Instead, it was all pre-made by automated machines and then assembled by me. Being a classically trained jeweler, I take issue with this method of making. It is a stubborn value judgment on my part which doesn't even register to most people, and as such has been represented in a manner which visually, is not immediately apparent.

     The brooch has a slight variation in its formal qualities compared to the two necklaces: While it too is made of sterling silver, and is adorned with four faceted garnets at each cardinal direction, its bars are much larger and radiate towards the center- which contains a large chunk of Bakelite set in an embellished silver bezel. Bakelite is a plastic which I hold to a rather high esteem for its robust physical properties: It is strong, it is tough, it is resistance to heat, electricity, and most acids- and it has a pleasingly heavy weight to it. This material also has the distinction of being the thing which made me realize that I don't hate plastics all that much.

     Last, but certainly not least, we have the ring. It stands apart from the rest as an oddball piece that at first glance doesn't quite fit in with the rest on a formal level: An enormous, clear, emerald-cut stone sits atop a large sterling silver ring band. It is set with heavy gauge silver wire and flanked by several clear stones. It has a vaguely industrial appearance, and makes no sense in terms practical jewelry design. It is an aberrant abomination which I hesitate to call a ring. It is an absurd joke befitting the mockery that I consider contemporary jewelry to be. It represents all the contempt which I hold towards the gem encrusted standard created by the likes of companies who care more about their bottom line than creativity. It is the next logical progression to the ungodly "centerpiece" gems which are so often the focal point of their jewelry items. It is absurd, it is comical, and it is how I view such jewelry