Friday, July 9, 2010

Evolution of a Design

A while back a friend asked about one of my signature designs, my "patches" and how and when I started incorporating them in my work. I wrote a lengthy e-mail about it and she suggested that it would make a great blog topic...

I started working with PMC in 2000. Most of my first attempts were crude and simple. I made a LOT of leaf rings and I set a lot of dichroic glass. I worked, I played, I experimented, I made many unsavory pieces, until I began to find my voice. In 2004, I made a piece called Broken World. It was one of the first pieces that I made that I considered to be “art”. Celie had taught me how to construct a hollow lentil bead by making the two halves, letting them dry and putting them together with slip. It was a process that required a certain level of perfection, which made it all the more satisfying to cut into and ‘break’ my little world. But it was sad to see it go from lovely and smooth to damaged and cracked. So I carefully made little patches with faux rivets and patched it back together. Celie called them bandaids. I liked the look so much that I began to intentionally break pieces and patch them back together. My work was going from organic to kind of industrial. I made some simple overlap rings and used multiple patches and big square patches and placed them over the overlap. Those led to my round shield rings with faux rivets. (Please forgive these early photos, they are simply scans from a time before I had a digital camera.)
I double majored in Art and English and aside from writing e-mails and articles I felt I wasn’t doing enough to honor the English major in me. So I started making book pendants. I made them in two sizes big and small and they sold well but they were a huge labor to make. They featured 5 pages of ancient texts. Each book contained a page with a moonstone on it that could be seen from both sides, a page with a hole in it that revealed the moonstone again, a page covered in 24k gold keum-boo and a page where a 'window' was cut out to reveal the gold page. I broke all of the edges of the pages to make them look old and fragile. The book could be worn backwards or forwards and the pages could be flipped to be worn on any side. When Celie and I traveled to Japan in 2005, I was told my book pendant was very wabi sabi.
Robert Diamante took a beautiful photo of one which I featured on the home page of my first website, next to a little animation of the pages flipping. I was so excited to see it among the amazing work at the 2nd PMC Conference in Barbara Becker Simon’s slide show “We're Serious About This!". She also presented her slide show to the Society of North American Goldsmith’s Conference and compiled it onto a CD.
I wanted to have a more affordable version so I made page earrings and single page pendants to sell in the galleries and boutiques that carried my work.
I continued to make my patched rings and I was lucky enough to have one published in Tim McCreight’s book PMC Decade.
photo by Robert Diamante
One of my favorite things to do is to set stones (a lot of Chinese Turquoise) and unusual things. I developed a technique for setting them in PMC (after firing) and wrote a chapter on the subject for Tim’s book PMC Technic. I try to make as many of my pieces reversible as I can. Celie taught me that “the back of a piece is another opportunity for creativity”. I embellish the back of my shell pendants, with my patches and one of them is featured in the book. photo by Robert Diamante
In early 2008, Celie passed some of Bill Struve’s BRONZclay my way. It was love at first sight. The idea of making the ‘thing’ to be set was just so exciting to me. The bronze looked so old and primitive. So I made my own “Modern Relics”. I made my first metal clay cuff bracelet and encouraged it to crack so I could patch it up.
At the PMC Conference that year, Bill gave a slide show that featured some of my first Modern Relics. It was so great to be able to work big with this material so I started making patched bronze bowls. They had a wonderful sound. I made them over oiled light bulbs and when I took them off they would crack but the patches kept them together.
photo by JP Candelier
That year a friend gave me a small bag of Herkimer diamonds that he had mined and I wasn’t sure what to do with them. They were too small and jagged to set and they had no holes for stringing. As I was setting a patched relic into a PMC bezel, I realized there was a perfect little space for them and they could move around and catch the light and be held in place by the patches. I liked the idea of taking my patch design a step further by having the negative space contain something, by having the patches have a purpose, they created a closure. Now the setting was holding the relic and the relic was holding the stone. Tonya Davidson featured one of these rings on her website and continues to use it in her magazine advertisements. (Thanks Tonya!)
I wish I had more photos of pieces with my patches that I've made and sold over the years. Looking back at a decade of my work, I notice it has changed over time but the patches remain a constant.


Susan Dilger said...

Jen - thanks for sharing your "progression". Just when I think I'm madly in love with your work and it couldn't possibly get any better, you push it to the next level. Bravo, girl!!!

Elaine said...

You definitely hit the nail on the head when you mentioned finally seeing your work as art.
For that is certainly what you create, fine art. Only your fine art has the distinction of being wearable, worn on the person, closer to the heart, to the soul and spirit~apropos as so much heart, soul and spirit shines through your beautiful work.
Absolutely in awe Jen.
Big Love

.ava bishop. said...

As always, Jen. You are most amazing.

Jenkahnjewelry said...

Wow! Thanks so much Susan, Elaine and Ava for your thoughtful and encouraging comments!

Margaret Schindel said...

Jen, your designs always amaze me! I loved reading about the evolution of your "patch" motif and seeing so many of the wonderful designs in which you've used it. As always, your writing is a joy to read. Thank you for sharing!