Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ring in the New Year

Some new rings for the New Year. I recently showed these for the first time at Metal+Smith in New York City. Claw settings are about as basic and timeless as can be. Stones have been set in claws, also known as a prong setting, for thousands of years. Tourmalines are a favorite stone for my work because they are available in so many colors.

 I created a sculptural Claw ring series using cabochon tourmalines. 

Claw Rings. ©MIMI FAVRE Tourmaline 18k

©MIMI FAVRE Tourmaline 18k

©MIMI FAVRE Tourmaline 18k

©MIMI FAVRE Tourmaline 18k

Sunday, August 21, 2016

My AGTA Spectrum Award Entry 2016

I designed and made the ‘Desdemona’ earrings for the spring 2016 AGTA Spectrum Awards competition in March of 2016. 
Baroque South Sea Pearls, Sapphires in Platinum. 
Design ©Mimi Favre 2016
The American Gem Trade Association holds an annual competition to promote colored gemstones in fine jewelry. Every year a different panel of judges picks winners for the various categories.  I’ve written about some of my past entries on this blog, including my Tourmaline earrings that received a Platinum Honors Award in 2015. There was a subsequent competition this past July which will be the new annual date going forward. No, I did not win this year, but I really love how they turned out.

I acquired two beautiful natural colored silver baroque south sea pearls several years ago. I knew that I wanted to design a pair of earrings with sapphires. The Spectrum competition is always good motivation to create a new piece. 
Design ©Mimi Favre 2016
 A quick pencil sketch was all I needed to get started. Constructing the models in silver: The earrings consist of a top shield shape with four single cut diamonds. Three graduated sections are attached with pins to allow movement. Flipped to make a right and left earring, I added platinum bezels for the sapphires. 
Design ©Mimi Favre 2016
The organic shape of the pearls inspired a soft look. I felt that platinum would enhance the sapphires and the silvery blue color of the pearls and that the earrings needed to be long with subtle movement. To me, the earrings reference the long curvy silhouette of Art Nouveau.
Design ©Mimi Favre 2016

Friday, March 13, 2015

'Arm Candy'- Botanical Jewelry at The Philadelphia Flower Show

Jewelry class, 'Arm Candy'. Philadelphia Flower Show 2015. Mimi Favre.
Creating authentic looking jewelry from dried plant material requires a unique skill set. Aside from the practical knowledge of jewelry design, horticulture and various crafting supplies, the real challenge for me is interpreting the class title and the ensuing design process. This piece is my Philadelphia Flower Show Entry for 2015 in the artistic Jewelery class "Arm Candy"- a bracelet.
  I like to start with a concept sketch first. Arm Candy suggests a big, bold and colorful statement cuff.
Botanical bracelet design. Mimi Favre.
Next begins the process of trial and error of matching botanical forms and applying color. Ideally, the botanical material's physical characteristics should not be altered too much. And, rules state that no mechanics may show. No matter how hard I try to keep to the design, the finished piece morphs a bit as it evolves into a three dimensional piece, which is OK. And, it ALWAYS takes way longer to make than I think it will take. Glue and paint need time to dry. 
Magnolia grandiflora. Mimi Favre

Early making stage- putting it together. Mimi Favre
I wrapped a large Magnolia leaf around a soup can with multiple rubber bands and left it to dry for a month or so. After experimenting with different paints and nail polish, I created a warm silver metallic. I abandoned the two spherical elements (sycamore) in favor of more 'pearls' and other subtle shapes (beech twig
and bud). The dragonfly is in process.
Botanical Jewelry. Magonolia, leucodendrum, beech, birch, holly berry, styrax, fern, maple seed, beauty berry. Mimi Favre

Botanical jewelry ingredients! Mimi Favre
 Next I created my design elements. This step takes the most time since one is constantly balancing proportion, scale and color by sampling to see what works. The deadline is approaching and I start to question the intent of my design or I get too hyper-focused on a particular element. My mind drifts and I hear Tim Gunn of Project Runway, "make it work!" Funny, my amazing high school art teacher used to say this too!

Eventually, its time to start building out the piece and stop my mind from second guessing. I continually evaluate the overall design as the natural elements are added. Crafting technique and skill plus minor engineering are necessary to achieve a clean and detailed piece. The material by nature can be brittle so a light touch is an advantage. 

Arm Candy, Philadelphia Flower Show 2015. Blue Ribbon. Mimi Favre
Botanical Bracelet. Mimi Favre

Design parameters and a deadline call for quick edits along the way, which is good practice. Gazing at my finished bracelet I am reminded once again that entering a competition provides the framework to hone one's own creative process. I am often making one off pieces in my jewelry work, so making a botanical jewelry piece is not so different.
The Philadelphia Flower Show is open to all. Anyone can enter this class no matter the experience. First timers do win. Collecting botanical specimens is an ongoing activity-- I have an archive (boxes) of pods, leaves, seeds and flower petals. Arboretums and nature preserves are good places to find unusual specimens.
Philadelphia Horticulture Society publishes an exhibitor guide in late September every year. 2015 Guide.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hard work and a little luck.

AGTA Spectrum 2015- Platinum Honors.© Mimi Favre

I have won an award! Having entered the AGTA Spectrum Award Competition seven times, my entry for 2015 was awarded Platinum Honors in the Classical category, a distinction from the Platinum Guild of America. I admit…. it feels good! 

The AGTA Spectrum Awards competition was created to promote colored gemstones in fine jewelry. Designers and manufacturers of all levels enter. Many have more resources including access to the newest technology like laser welding and CAD or amazing (expensive) gemstones. It's not hard to feel a bit defeated before starting. Last year I skipped this competition, and I nearly talked myself out of it this time, too. And, like any competition, the process of choosing winners is by nature subjective. 

Nonetheless, I enter for several reasons. Obviously, winners do garner publicity, and recognition is always welcome, but competitions have parameters and deadlines that create a framework, and freedom for the artist to create something of their choice, without the constraints that usually exist when the piece must meet the needs of a customer. So, for me, it’s about the spirit of competition and the personal fulfillment of completing a challenge.

Like many artists, I work alone. I design and make the prototypes in my jewelry. Aside from using some skilled services such as casting, I also do all of the construction and finishing on my work. I bought this group of tourmaline one year ago. I am drawn to green stones and especially the shades found in tourmaline that are found in many colors. I thought the green would show best against white metal. Platinum is the whitest of precious metals and great to work in.

Once I had settled on a long dangle with the two thin marquis stones, I re-arranged the stones over and over.  
©Mimi Favre
©Mimi Favre

©Mimi Favre

©Mimi Favre
The olive green stones are pretty, but I decided not to use them. The faceted prasolite did not belong.

Next I fabricated silver setting prototypes. 10mm, 9mm, 8mm  and a marquis setting. These were cast in platinum.
M. Favre
AGTA Spectrum 2015- Platinum Honors. ©Mimi Favre 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Art Deco Miniature Arrangement Class- Philadelphia Flower Show 2014

This year I made an entry to the Philadelphia Flower Show that is not jewelry! Instead, as I wrestled with my disappointment at being ‘too late’ for the already filled jewelry class, my good friend who is also a competitor, suggested that I enter the Mini-Arrangement Niche class titled ‘Art Deco’. The parameters are to use dried plant material, same as the Artistic Jewelry classes, however it is permissible to also use other non-plant materials. The entry must not exceed five inches in any direction. And, the box is to be lined in mat board color of choice. 
Philadelphia Flower Show- Mini Niche Art Deco, 2014. M Favre©
The only directive to the artist is the title, Art Deco. Though interpretation of the title is important, so are other considerations such as craftsmanship, design, scale and imaginative use of the material. The niche is a lighted box that is staged at eye level to the viewer. As a newbie, I struggled with what sort of object to make as well as how to install it. Flower Show entries always take a lot of time to make—time away from real jewelry making which is my business. I approach each entry as a creative exercise that will re-boot and refresh my design process. It’s great to get a blue ribbon (recognition clipped above your entry for the duration and an invitation to the PHS Luncheon) or even a second or third. This was not a blue ribbon year! Our class of four entries was Commended-- that means all entries had with high high point values and were worthy of ribbons.  

           Art Deco is a period of design from about 1920-1930 that was influenced by modern architecture, King Tut's Tomb and the modern machine age. I began by looking at a lot of images to glean the essence of particular elements that convey the style. My friend gave me a mini-box, built to exact dimensions of the show to use. It’s helpful when you are trying to fill a defined space to see how your object relates to the space. 
Tools of the Artistic Class- work table.MFavre©

      The challenging part for me was manipulating elements into space. I begin by laying out ideas and taking pictures with my phone. This results in two-dimensional designs that still need to have some depth. Until you start attaching and gluing it’s hard to see what is and is not working. And, being able to block out of your head what colors to use, really seeing the forms is more important. 

      Often while I was making my piece I was thinking of the extraordinary small windows of Tiffany in New York City by the lengendery Gene Moore and the effort he made to place the jewelry amongst other elements--all in perfect scale. I know now that I should have been more conscious of the surrounding negative space.

Design progression. Art Deco Mini-Arrangement. Philadelphia Flower Show 2014. M Favre©

This entry took too long this time! I felt a little blocked and just was not seeing a design I liked. It happens. Looking at the designs--I could have done #1 and it would have been OK. I got some things right with the final design but it's good to critique the project.
In retrospect I wasted time on some things:
1. Over thinking. This project reinforces the importance of knowing when and what to edit. 
2. I got stuck on a design for too long--a design I abandoned at the last minute.
3. I got too caught up on determining my Art Deco color palette which includes the color of mat board—I kept switching out between four different mat board colors. I used teal.(I took pictures of my palettes which do make nice wallpaper for my phone!) 

            For some reason I limited my design to maxing out the 5” space and did not see that it was out of scale. It was too big for the space. (Pointed out by the judges!)
Art Deco color palettes. Black mat, teal mat, mango mat, yellow mat. M Favre©

This is my Art Deco entry made from dried plant material. Made with hickory, acorn, leaves, deciduous azalea pod, verbena stem, holly berry, gourd. Gold, Magenta, Silver, Blue.

Art Deco- Miniature Arrangement, Philadelphia Flower Show 2014. MFavre©
Commended Class. Honorable Mention.
The following are the three other entries.
Art Deco Blue Ribbon, by Hollis Bauer.

Art Deco Second Place.

Art Deco Third place.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Franklinia Seed Pod Pendant

Franklinia alatamaha. Photo by Mimi Favre
Franklinia alatamaha is an extinct tree species that was once native to Georgia. It was named after Benjamin Franklin by William Bartram, son of colonial era naturalist nurseryman John Bartram, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Bartrams were the first commercial plant nursery in the colonies and are responsible for sending thousands of native plant species from the colonies to Great Britain.

Their home was once part of a 1,000 acre tract of land along the Schuylkill River south of center city Philadelphia. The site was originally settled in 1648 however excavated archeological finds indicate that this land was also home to native Indians 3000 years ago. Born to a Quaker family, John Bartram spent his life learning about science and botany with boundless curiosity. Bartram’s Garden is open to visitors throughout the year.
Bartram's Garden Program: Twilight in the Garden- Fundraiser 2013. Bartram's Garden©
'Twilight in the Garden' is the annual fall fundraising benefit for Bartram’s Garden. This year, a friend on the event committee asked if I could create a pendant from a Franklinia seed pod that she had collected a few years back from the grounds at Bartram’s Garden. The seed pod is from a living, flowering franklinia alatamaha that been thriving at the garden.

Sometimes, jewelry projects find their way to me and this was a project I was eager to help with. Even though her one and only rare seed pod, would have to be destroyed in the process, she was excited that it would become a pendant to be offered as a Raffle item at the Twilight fundraiser.
Franklinia seed pod. 

Franklinia seed.

Franklinia seed pods. M Favre©.
The mature seed pod has a magnificent structure. Once round, it expands as it dries into  five sections that split, allowing the seed to release. The tip of the seed has a five pointed shape. Unable to mold the entire pod, I decided to cast it. That is, burn it out and fill the void with metal. But thinking ahead, that maybe we would want to make others in the future, I decided to cut the original casting in half. That way we could mold the halves and put it back together later. Also, there was a seed in the middle that had come loose from the outer shell. I gently pulled it through. That piece was also molded. 
Franklinia pod. Two halves. Mimi Favre©
Three pieces, once cast, were re-assembled (soldered together). The sterling silver casting was hand finished to retain all of the interesting textures and the center seed is still loose and free to move.
Sterling Franklinia seed pod. Mimi Favre©

Franklinia Seed Pod. Sterling silver ©Mimi Favre.

Much has been written about John Bartram and his legacy as naturalist, botanist and nurseryman. I recommend this recent book: The Brother Gardeners, Botany Empire And The Birth Of An Obsession,  by Andrea Wulf. Knopf 2010. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Late Summer on The Outer Banks

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC. ©Favre
I love this place.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a stretch of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. It's a premier East coast surfing location which is why our family has been visiting since the mid 70's. It is also a destination for windsurfing, kitesurfing, birding and deep sea fishing. It's a place where you can spend every waking hour of the day in the water or on the sand.  The light changes by the minute and sometimes so does the weather. At night the sky is lighted by stars. 

A lot has changed since my first visit here. There are many more houses and visitors during peak summer months, but the growth could have been a lot worse. The fact that most of the beach is National Park and that the weather can be quite threatening and damaging, challenges even the strongest willed visitors and residents. Hurricane tides and wash over have cut the islands in pieces more than a few times. And the ocean around the point, is known as The Graveyard of the Atlantic. The residents of Cape Hatteras are proud of their maritime way of life.

Weathered tree roots. Cape Hatteras National Seashore. ©Favre 
So, while the surfers are scoping out the best beach for waves, I check for low tide and best shelling opportunities. Over the years I have collected all sorts of shells. Most of them are worn and smooth or I find skeletons and fragments. I have created jewelry from some. It's quite relaxing to sift through the piles--I could do this for hours, and I do! 
Shells, Cape Hatteras, NC. ©Favre
Shells, Cape Hatteras, NC. ©Favre
Driving on the beach is permitted and necessary for fishing at the point. The beaches also face closure for endangered bird nesting sites and sea turtle nests. Or, in this case erosion and high tides. You are on your own here, which is another reason it's a special place. There are only a couple of beaches with life guards. 
Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC.©Favre

The famous lighthouse painted with swirls of black and white is here too. It was moved back from the water's edge in 1999. Visitors can climb to the top. I did this when the kids were young in the old location and again on this trip.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. ©Favre

Interior stairway, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. ©Favre

Cape Hatteras point view. ©Favre
Late afternoon the chartered sport fishing boats arrive back in Hatteras village with the day's catch. We took a seat at the picnic table to have fresh steamed shrimp and a beverage!
Oden's dock, Cape Hatteras, NC. ©Favre

It is becoming more rare to find old houses on the island. Either they are damaged by storms or left to neglect. 
Old house in Buxton, NC. Favre©

Pamlico sound. Buxton, NC. ©Favre
This visit we stayed at the Inn on Pamlico sound. Every night brought a beautiful sunset. The sound is wide and shallow. The coastline hasn't been disturbed with bulkheads which makes it perfect for kayaking. Favorable no-wind made for a very peaceful setting on this particular evening.Taken from the deck at the Inn, looking south west to Hatteras Village.

This parting shot sums up everyday on a surf vacation: the car, surfboards, snacks, etc. Everything for a day on the beach.