Human connection defines the art
I find, for the most part that jewellery is made to be product rather than fine art. When you think of fine art (and I know there are exceptions to the rule like Andy Warhol who had a factory of people making his art) and when the general public think of an artist, they still think of a singular human being sitting in a studio and creating a painting or a sculpture because that’s how an artist traditionally created art. When you think of the big names in the jewellery industry nowadays, that is just not the case. It’s either a large historic brand that was once really great and now has an elite designer who probably doesn’t even actually do the designs but who has a team of nameless people working under them in factories in developing countries that are producing every piece of jewellery. Or humans don’t do the production at all but rather computers and computer aided design with 3d printers and castings because that’s how products are made. No, that is how car parts are made and washing machines are assembled.
We have lost the art of human contact, of direct human connection and so when you think of jewellery as art, that human element is missing. Big brands do quite a good job of trying to bring it back to a person but I think consumers are smart enough to know what’s genuine, and what isn’t genuine. If you think of a modern jewel you admire, you probably don’t know the name of the person who actually made it or designed it, whereas think of a painting or a sculpture or a piece of art in a gallery and you have a human connection. It hasn’t been printed from a picture on a computer. There were no shortcuts.
Having something that looks great is important, but to know that it’s been crafted and handmade adds a greater depth to it’s meaning and that goes for all types of art.
In jewellery there are shortcuts and things are being outsourced because it’s easier. Workshops are being hired; computers are prepping pieces because it’s quicker. I think that is why so much jewellery feels like product. It is made to be easier, quicker, cheaper, more affordable and more obtainable and that’s just not the case with art. It’s like the opposite of art. That’s my opinion. Think of someone like Daniel Brush who is very much an artist jeweller with pieces made by him and whole concepts instilled within them. It is definitely art and you can see it, in the galleries and the books filled with his sculpture. His personality and humanity like a modern day Dali or Picasso is seared into the work.
The actual ‘doing’ of the art is probably what I admire the most. Having something that looks great is important, but to know that it’s been crafted and handmade adds a greater depth to it’s meaning and that goes for all types of art. There is a modern pop / street artist called Kaws in New York who does these amazing paintings and very, very large sculptures which have a vibrancy I’m drawn to. Also Dface in England who is like a modern day Roy Lichtenstein, but really it is the colour and the dynamic flowing detail that always capture me. Within jewellery, anything made by Lalique holds magic for me. His work is special because of all the hidden meanings and the symbolism and all the different mediums he employed including glass because he didn’t need the validation of gemstones or expensive materials. He used what was best to simply present his ideas. There is a dragonfly with enamel wings and a woman’s bust with Princess Leia style buns in her hair, which has this amazing delicacy, and strange tiger claws that floored me. I feel very much a part of him and if it were mine I would hang it on the wall inside a picture frame, it wouldn’t have to be worn.
We do it all
David and I are completely self-taught. Neither of us had any formal training. When we started out, I’d make a piece of jewellery and give it to a setter because that is how it was done in our workshop, in the industry and around the world. I remember vividly my Dad’s business partner one day asking me why I didn’t just set my own stones and I’d never really thought of that before. It just hadn’t occurred to me. He said “If you’re good with your hands, you’re good with your hands.” I guess I’ve sort of lived by that motto ever since. That simple comment opened up a whole new world for me and broke down any of the traditional limitations I had accepted. I thought, if I can bend metal then I could bend it over a stone. If I can draw with a pencil, I could engrave metal. It’s the same hand-eye coordination. We all start out as kids, accepting what we’re told but that little comment set me free. All the boundaries and all the fences just fell away.
We each fabricate our own pieces from start to finish. For me the journey is everything. We’ll take a lump of metal and hammer it out, roll it out and solder it together. We both do our own gemstone setting and so basically we don’t work together on any of the pieces at all. I’m designing and rendering at the beginning and David photographs them at the end but we each hand-make our own jewels entirely. We start off together, we’re working in the same workshop but we branch off creatively. When I’m designing he’s talking to me so that he has a reference for creating the watercolours. I tend to get a fixed idea in my mind when imagining a new piece so don’t need the renderings as I’ve already made it five times in my head before it comes out on paper. I love the craft of our trade though and sometimes when I’m putting things down on paper, out come unexpected ideas so the whole process has value.