Category Archives: Articles

Gray matter

Since recently reading Jamie Bennet’s article, In the Midst of Color: reflections on color’s inescapable presence, I have been thinking a lot about the color gray. More of a tool than a color, it is a utilitarian mix of black and white created to determine the value of other colors in its proximity. Gray is a ‘service color’ which allows other ‘real’ colors to appear more potent. Bennet comments that if you are interested in the strategic use of color, you must address gray.

The color gray is a neutralizer, allowing for the material to succeed to form, and for the viewer to view the form of an object without obstruction. Gray can also erase history, pretext, and interpretation. It is a democratic tool, subsidizing an object in to its more primal elements.

Despite the intrinsic qualities associated with gray, it seems that our contemporary culture is adverse to this color. We spend hour dying gray hairs, movies won’t be watched if they are black & white (gray), gray days are percieved as dismal, and gray suits are associated with a conformist and boring life style.

Personally, I have long since stopped trying to hide my gray hairs, and feel that it’s time to embrace this wonderful hue into our aesthetic vocabulary.


The end of summer means that it’s time again for Metalsmith Magazines exhibition in print. This years exhibition, Saturated: Color and Metal, focuses on the visual experience that color brings to jewelry. In addition to displaying the work of 34 artists, Jamie Bennett wrote an article, In the Midst of Color: Reflections on color’s inescapable presence, that accompanies the exhibition.

The thesis of Jamie Bennett’s article is that color is incrementally and strategically determined, from conception to reception. Color comes preloaded: if you are working with concrete or pollen, the chromatic value is there, but just as significant is the material’s associative meaning. Color is colored by the conditions of its embodiment, yet when transformed by inventive and knowing artists it can gain powerful new significance within the context of contemporary metalwork.

Bennett also distinguishes between the use of color as an aesthetic tool and as a conceptual indicator. After reading his article, I decided to map out the characteristics of the two different methodologies. It’s interesting how many connectors there are between concept and aesthetics, the two categories pushing against one another, with the only divider between them being intent.

On The Street…

Bill Cunningham is a fashion photographer as well as a style anthropologist. He is a habitual presence in New York City, Paris, and London, and has documented the trends and fashions of the urban woman for over 50 years. A shadow with a camera, he quietly stalks the city, waiting to document beautiful ladies in beautiful clothing. He now works for the New York Times, where he now produces On The Street, a muti-media editorial that recounts and foretells the currents of popular fashion.

This summer he posted an episode of On The Street titled Fashion Fireworks, which highlighted the summertime inclination of women to wear gigantic pieces of jewelery made out of imitation stones and plastic.

These playful and surreal pieces that Cunningham shows remind me a little bit of Alice In Wonderland, and you can check them out here…

Bill Cunningham, On The Street – Fashion Fireworks

Resurgance of Ornament

In the most recent issue of Metalsmith Magazine, there is an interesting article titled Mining History: Ornamentalism Revisited. Contemporary jewelers and designers usher in a revival of ornament, but with a twist.

Authors Lena Vigna and Namita Gupta Wiggers focus on the evolution of ornament, and its resurgence within the field of contemporary jewelry. There are many artists who are inspired and energized by the past, and who also exploit the familiar and resituate traditional historical elements into new, contemporary pieces.

The article states that a contemporary vocabulary is emerging in which the baroque, the rococo, the curvilinear and the unabashedly ornate features of historic jewelry are taking a new, redefined center stage. Artists are … democratizing forms and patterns previously preserved for royalty through a range of new materials and unexpected vehicles.

This relationship with the past is articulated in five senses: fragmenting and abstracting historical forms, employing new technologies, creating updated versions of familiar jewels, neutralizing markers of luxury, and examining the relationship between jewelry, the body, and space.

Contemporary makers are intervening in traditional concepts of jewelry, subverting and responding to notions of worth and value. Through the democratization of materials and identity, jewelers are making adornment more accessible physically and conceptually to the public. It seems appropriate that in an era of hyper awareness and scrutiny, that artists are able to use their work to question class, taste, and materiality.

I appreciate that this article does not consider the current use of ornament or explorations of the past to be a passing trend, but acknowledge it as an inevitable awareness of the identity of the jewelry field. The work discussed in this article explores the mediums own identity, it is jewelry about jewelry. Not only does it acknowledge and pay homage to makers that came before, but this vein of contemporary work challenges current notions of value, material, and wearablility.

From the New York Times

I recently came across an interesting article in the Fashion and Style section of the New York Times. The Jeweler’s Art’ focuses on an exhibition of 12 contemporary art jewelers at The Goldsmilths Company of London. The exhibition, titled Creation II, brings together work by twelve of the most distinguished art-jewelers working in Great Britain.

Traditionally, jewelry making was dominated by famous couture houses that focused primarily on the value of precious metals and stones incorporated into the
designs. However, this exhibition celebrates the rise of the independent art jeweler. Participants in this show articulate a desire to move beyond technical or design challenges and explore stimulating ideas and mediums.

Creation II gives an insight into the mind of the modern designer-jeweler, while focusing on a group of elite craftsmen actively working in the UK today. Open at Goldsmiths’ Hall from Friday May 29 to Saturday July 11 it follows on from the exhibition Creation I held in 2004, which concentrated on silversmiths.

Pictured above: arch ring by Anthony Roussel in birch wood, Pictured Right: necklace by Eric Lopez.