Monday, May 4, 2009

Wonderfully Weird - Using the Unusual in Jewelry Design

If I were to write a book about jewelry design, the title would be the title of this post. I really love incorporating unusual elements into my work. There are many names for this type of design--mixed media, altered art, assemblage jewelry, and found item jewelry are but a few. I'll go with assemblage jewelry for the purposes of this post.

Assmeblage art is very big right now. Artists like Susan Lenart Kazmer, Tessa Rickard and Stephanie Lee and have pioneered this artform, bringing everything from doll parts and old dominos to burnt out miniature lightbulbs into fine jewelry design. If it can be bezel set, then by gosh BEZEL SET IT! The results are stunning, as you will see on these amazing artist's websites.

I am a collector of oddities, I always have been. My passion for wildlife conservation and animals is evident in my collection of "weird" which covers everything from glass taxidermy eyes to animal bones of all kinds. I especially love working with animal bones. At my work station I have several boxes and containers of bones from raccoons, opossums, and most recently, an iguana. All these items are found on the 30-acre wildlife preserve in which I live. Sunny south Florida is a great place to bone hunt and I often find great, bleached out bones from animal visitors long past. I've collected bones forever, even as a little kid. I like to think I honor the animal by turning their bones into something unique and beautiful to live on in their memory.

I never really considered this all that strange, until my sister visited me recently and discovered my bucket containing a complete opossum skeleton. I could tell she was simultaneously interested and grossed out. I remember she said, "Oh, I bet you'll do something really amazing with this." I immediately started telling her my plans for the vertebrae and teeth--I use these smaller bones in rings and pendants. She nodded politely and then said, "That sounds really cool. But, when you're planning Christmas gifts, remember this isn't for me!" She was trying to joke, but was also deadly serious. That got me thinking--one woman's weird is another woman's wonderful.

I've been lucky. I have created animal bone jewelry that has been appreciated (and actually PURCHASED) by many people. I've never thought twice about using bone or animal fur/feathers in designs. But I wonder, is there such a thing as too weird? Tessa Rickard, I'm sure, would argue and emphatic, "NO!" Some of her work incorporates human teeth for crying out loud! AND, the results are GORGEOUS as you can see in the Lark book 500 Pendants and Lockets, which features her designs.

I guess it's all about having the courage to put your work out there and not be overly influenced by those that may not "get" it. Art is fluid, constantly changing and open to interpretation. Most of all, it's EXPRESSION that matters. Yes you can use a clasp created from your Grandmother's beautiful vintage button collection to finish a necklace made from copper electroformed iguana vertebrae.

So, do you agree??? I've included a few photos here of some of my "weirder" work and ask that all you assemblage artists out there to send me images of your "wonderful weirdness". I'll post them here with links to your web pages.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hmm...i like the third accessory..very tribal..

website design