Inspiration.

By my calculations, about three years and four months ago, I walked into Manika Jewelry for the first time and struck up a conversation with the owner, Peter Walsh.  I went on and on, as I do, about how much I love jewelry and that, in another life, I should have been a jewelry designer.  Peter, as a I recall, listened patiently to my ravings and then mentioned that there were places where one could take lessons in metal-smithing and jewelry-making.  In particular, he mentioned a nearby school, the Revere Academy.  It was a startling revelation that jewelers — these magicians of art and science — were not born with pliers in one hand and a torch in the other.  Someone taught them … that was something that could happen!

So, my obsession having been seriously ratcheted up by my conversation with Peter, in due course, I began to take jewelry classes at Scintillant and I started this blog.  I am sorry to say that I had forgotten how all this began.  However, it all came back me to me two days ago while out for a stroll in the middle of the day with a coworker friend of mine. (Did I ever mention that I’m a federal employee?)  It was on our walk that we stumbled upon Manika’s new, gorgeous location at 645 Market Street, San Francisco.  As Peter Walsh recalled that I had been in the store before, in a flash, I realized that it all started with him.

With that, allow me to tell you about Manika.

41f1f9_47858a8ca27da20495c931dd0ddc9740The new location is stunning with lots of light and spacious cases that show off the collection in way that is not overwhelming.  The collection itself has a nice variety.  There is something for everyone but it all hangs together — fine craftsmanship being the running theme.

The real secret to the Manika experience is Peter.  He loves what he does and it shows.  He is welcoming and kind.  He seems to genuinely enjoy discussing the collection with those who wander into his store and not simply for the purpose of making a sale.  Call it being a nice guy or call it stealth salesmanship, his time with customers like me is an investment and it is how businesses should be run.  While one might not always be in the market to drop money on fine earrings, when the time comes, he’s the guy you want to give your money to.

During my recent visit, Peter said, “I could talk about what I love about jewelry all day.”  He says it like a fact without a hint of forced enthusiasm.  It is that clear enjoyment of the art that allows him to curate the store so beautifully.  He obviously connects with jewelry artists who are thinkers.  They work the details and take a creative approach to function.

While much can and should be said about each and every designer carried at Manika, I leave that for another day.  Those posts along with one about Manika’s new custom designer GiGi Gruber — a delightful presence in the store — yet to come!

Big, Bold, and Repurposed

It is not too difficult to find old jewelry components that are suitable for being repurposed into new pieces.  Your mother’s jewelry box, thrift stores, antique stores — it’s everywhere, really.  The trick is in the designing.  It takes practice to do it well and have collected components find a home in a new piece.  Peiyu Tan, who seems to specialize in repurposed Nepalese jewelry, has done a wonderful job doing just that.

These and other amazing pieces, which are unbelievably affordable, can be found in Peiyu’s Etsy store, UniqueNepal.

The GG Interview

Jewelry designer, GG, was kind enough to share her thoughts with us.  It’s poetry.

Enjoy the interview and feast your eyes on her incredible work available at www.ggoriginal.com.

B+C: How would you define “jewelry” to someone from another planet?

Can aesthetic communication be defined to some thing who is not “one of us?”  Beauty can be a provocation, a nuisance, for those who cannot taste it.  Didn’t the most supreme artist (the one who created human minds, so we can experience beauty, and others can’t) make it this way? Isn’t the human mind can be one of a kind?  Jewelry is a medium used for communication, from one person to another; so can this be shared with someone from another planet? Possibly yes, if they can feel what we feel. Let’s define what we can describe to them: Jewelry can enhance the wearer’s persona. It can be a statement of beauty, possibly prestige, sometimes jewelry screams, sometimes it is  quiet, sometimes it is romantic and intimate, sometimes it is provocative or funny. But jewelry can be annoying, simple, rich, and colorful, all while offering limitless experience, through its forms and pleasures.

B+C: Please describe the place where you make your creations. What do you like to keep around you for inspiration?

Every day, every place, every new friend, each single glaze, a surprised turn of head following a bright sun reflection – all is leading to new discoveries. Walking on the beach, I see the algae on the stones, dry and old. Those gigantic stones, half buried in the sand, like lost sculptures by Henry Moore, and my sad algae so alone, so nicely curved and lonely, I want to turn this feeling in to the jewelry piece. I want to cast those feelings into a silver line. There is a moment when real form, turning around an orbit which is reshaping that form, this is the moment before it ends up in the sketchbook. Composition plays in your mind, and you hear the still music of floating line playing around with the graphical challenges, a game to attain perfect balance.

For me memories, reflections, observations, experiences are priceless. My Infinite Design Studio is surrounding me everywhere, limited only by passing time.

Next, I create my work in my small space under a big Cedar tree, I believe it is Cedar but might be some other majestic, gigantic Californian beauty.

B+C: Do you have a favorite type of jewelry (e.g. ring, bracelet, necklace, etc.) to make? What is it and why?

No, not a favorite type of jewelry but the technique and type of metal I am using, at the moment, is influencing me. I look at the piece of metal and, suddenly, I know what the next project will be like. Sometimes, I feel I want to make a piece very quickly and simply, maybe brutally naive; other times it takes weeks until I see the idea and project, forming on the bench.     

B+C: What is your favorite piece of jewelry that you ever made? Where is it today, if you know?

There was one piece I did – for myself. It was a necklace and earring set made from a simple, forged, rusted iron wire. It’s an experimental set, very modern but also highly ornamental. Small, symmetrical and exposing a lack of exclusivity. I couldn’t display this set in any local gallery. The piece came about when I went to Washington D.C. and visited the Smithsonian Museum. After looking at some strange designs done by my favorite masters, I decided to experiment, myself. I did list this iron set on a jewelry auction, almost as a test. My necklace was sold and to a person from New York, who also purchased a piece by Art Smith on the same day. I do not know who it was, as they were an unlisted “private” buyer, but I realized that even my most crazy and unique creation should be presented to others. Otherwise they cannot come “alive.”

B+C: What is your favorite technique to use in your jewelry making and why?

I love to experiment. Sometimes I work with a simple wire for months, later switching to a torch and kiln, but mainly I look for a melody of the piece. The line composition, emotion, or drama and story behind the piece – some aspect that adds a unique value – which can happen despite the technique I use.

Design is about discoveries. Forging metal is transferring energy and power from the metal into my final piece. So the design is constantly interacting with the metal, searching for its physical limit. Sculpting and casting gives me control over my projected vision, it is much like painting a landscape. I feel all the techniques I use are one of a kind and I enjoy them all.

B+C: What theme or vision do you feel that your line reflects?

I have multiple lines (styles) and multiple “personalities” in my work, but, generally, I classify them into 3 groups: Organic, Modern and Ornamental.

Pieces done with forging, usually have a modern flavor, but often I add organic details or finishes to them. I feel that sculpting shows more organic motives, and the historical knowledge of old artists, I find it so intriguing. I sometimes follow the melody of the old masters to develop pieces which end up in the Ornamental line.

B+C: Do you have a favorite jewelry designer? Who is it and what do you like about his or her work?

Yes, many! Not one, but hundreds.  I believe that an awareness of the work of past masters, the knowledge of beauty and innovation of the past, is important to new design styles in any media.

In many of my designs, I hope to reach the contemporary human mind with a modern vision of past beauty. I love art, as I believe that knowledge and appreciation of extraordinary old trends guide and strengthens new creations.

To express what I value the most, I will choose as an example work by Art Smith, Margaret De Patta and René Lalique. The first two are Modernists, while Lalique is an Art Nouveau Master. They each have very different styles, but their work shares the most important and priceless value – it is built upon an Artistic Idea.

B+C: If you could go back in time and observe a specific jewelry making technique (e.g. cloisonné, casting, etc.), done at a particular place and time in history, what would it be and why?

I am currently interested in anti-clasting, synclastic techniques. Forms created in this specific style are so beautiful and so honest. I hope to collect all the necessary tools (sinusoidal stake, specific hammers), soon. Right now I still don’t have these in my studio. There are a few metal smith masters whom I admire, and I wish to be able to join their studios for an internship.

B+C: Predictions? Plans? Are there future projects, shows, or sales that you would like to share with us?

Contemporary jewelry creators should be searching for new styles, new visions. My challenge is, not only, to make more “new” rings or necklaces, but constantly update. Jewelry trends should influence others. Jewelry trends should help to create new and different lines of clothing. I look to jewelry to add a new shine on our futuristic silhouette.

 This week I started a new website to document of my past and recent work. I will be looking to network with clothing and product designers in order to cooperate on development of new styles. I am hoping to find more friends and clients ( on Etsy, at shows, in galleries, via web and this blog) who are share these same passions.

Yours, GG

 

 

Concrete Facts

DrCraze is doing some amazing things with an unusual jewelry material — concrete.  By filling in his pieces with pigmented concrete, he creates an effect that is somewhere between enamel and mosaic.  The results are clean, colorful designs.

Golden Orange Bracelet

Olive Green Concrete Teardrop Necklace

Pink Ruby Heart Necklace

These and other pieces are available in the DrCraze Etsy store.

“There’s a certain shade of limelight …”

(Extra credit to anyone who can name the movie from which I took this post’s title.)

When I first got engaged, I would come home and report in what light my ring looked best.  I experimented for a while but, as it turns out, it was the elevator in the building where I was working at the time.  It had that low-bright light of a good jewelry store.

The memory of my early engagement got me thinking about jewelry photography.  While I am sure that there are people who specialize in photographing jewelry, I am not informed in that regard.  So, I will have to leave the topic of famous jewelry photographers for another day.  Instead, I would like to talk about some of the things I like to see in photos designed to sell jewelry — the information I think the pictures should impart.

As the pictures below make clear, I think jewelry should be modeled on a person.  As I have mentioned, as far as I am concerned, the fact that it is worn is what makes jewelry a special art form.  It is an extension of the human body like nothing else.  Secondly, when photographed on a person, the jewelry’s scale and proportion becomes clear.  Of course, the up close, magnified shots are useful to show quality and I understand why jewelry designers take them — it is damn hard to make a piece of jewelry and one wants to the show the detail.  But, at the end of the day, that is not how we truly experience jewelry.  We experience it on people and in the world.  Movement.  Light.

Silver Custom Initial Ring by Soo on Etsy.
English Rain Necklace by Sarah Rock on Etsy

The Year of the Dragon

The Chinese New Year was on January 23, 2012.  This year is powerful in the Chinese zodiac — the year of the Dragon.  In honor of this, I went on a hunt for an elusive beast — tasteful dragon-themed jewelry.  Fortunately, I am happy to report that it exists!

So, to all my dear Dragon friends, Happy New Year — make it a great one!

Don’t Forget Valentine’s Day!

Hearts?  Um, no, not usually.  It is a perfectly lovely shape but it does not normally speak to me from a design perspective.  However, Sandra Russell took the heart and made it her own by turning it, elongating it, and adding texture and pattern.

Perhaps, the more common the shape, the bigger the challenge it is to breathe new life into it.  Sandra has managed it with the heart.  Her designs are dynamic and eye-catching and wearable.  The great pieces featured here and more are available in her Etsy store, slradornments.  Just in time for Valentine’s Day.