Saturday, March 19, 2011

Van Cleef and Arpels- Set In Style at the Cooper Hewitt

"Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels, the most comprehensive exhibition ever organized of Van Cleef & Arpels’ masterworks, is divided into six themes which resonate through the history of the firm: Innovation, both stylistic and technical; Transformations; Nature as Inspiration; Exoticism; Fashion; and Personalities. This unprecedented assembly of 350 pieces from VC&A’s collection and international private collections, augmented by never-before-seen drawings from VC&A’s design archives and by related objects from Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s permanent collection, illustrates the firm’s celebrated history and places its contributions to design in a broader context." - from the Exhibition Site. 

Sycamore Leaf Brooch.  Paris, France, 1951. Collection of Van Cleef and Arpels.

The exhibit design is very well done. There are six sections or rooms of jewelry. The display and lighting is exceptional. Aside from the wide variety of objects the curators included several cases with job journals. Pages are open to sketches and imformation (like stone weights) of some of the pieces included in the exhibit.  I especially love looking at these.  They usually only show one front view. Having worked in a specialty work shop from designs, I believe that the usnsung heros are the skilled jewelers who extrapolate information and execute the designs. One book has been photographed and installed as an app which allows you to virtually turn pages (works like ipad). Through June 5, 2011.
Mystery-set Brooch. Ruby, Diamond, platinum and gold. Paris, France, 1936.
Typically when one thinks of Van Cleef and Arpels, Mystery setting comes to mind. Each stone has a groove cut in the sides and is then slid onto 'tracks'. The lapidary has to consider minute variations in geometry with each stone in order to make them sit perfectly side by side.

Volutes Minaudiere. Patented design. Black laquer and gold. Paris, France 1935
This Minaudiere is incredible. Notice the watch on the right that slides out to be viewed.

Egyptian Odalisque Evening Bag. Paris, France, 1927.
This bag shows the influence of the discovery of the pyramids in Egypt and the design motifs that influenced decorative arts of that decade.  

Radiator Clip/Pin.

Art Deco Radiator watch clip and pin combination. The design is adapted from the new fast cars of this period. The shutters move.

 Design for Camoratta Brooch. Van Cleef made a series of ballerina pins. This piece is after a painting. 

Late 1950's. Thai influenced design. Notice how basic the rendering is.

Earrings. Paris, France, 1951.

Japanese laquer butterfly form.

Bouquet Brooch. Paris, France, 1938. Private collection.
Beautiful and timeless Floral Brooch. I love the moonstone and ruby combination.

All images are from the exhibition site. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Creative play

Entry with some of the material: acorns, Franklinia seed pod, sweet gum  tree pod, pine cone, eucalyptus leaf, wisteria seed, styrax seed. (not pictured:mustard seeds, peppercorn)

I am a collector of seedpods, leaves and pretty much all range of flora.  Often I find inspiration for my jewelry in the infinite shapes, forms and texture.  This year I was able to use some of my stash to create a piece of jewelry to enter in the Jewelry Class at The Philadelphia Flower Show.  The theme, Un Colleir pour la Reine (a necklace for a queen), is not intended to be worn however it is supposed to embody all the attributes of a real piece.  There isn’t a monetary award or notoriety attached to this, however if you win a blue ribbon you and your guest get to attend the big Luncheon for all the winners. If you live in Philly and/or you are into gardening, this show is a big deal. I do this for my own pleasure and to take a creative break even though this necklace took about twice as long as a real piece to make.

Art supplies, nail polish and dried pods take over the kitchen table. 

I have been designing and making jewelry for others and myself since attaining my BFA in Metals from Rochester Institute of Technology, back when it was The School for American Craftsmen. Finding inspiration for new work can be challenging at times and I have found that working in another medium infuses the creative spirit.  The design process is the same as if this were a commission however the only thing at stake this time is satisfying myself. And once completed, my necklace will be seen by thousands of visitors who slowly file past the lighted cases where mine and the other entries of this unique art form are displayed.

The pieces I didn't make.

Looking back over my sketches and holding the finished piece, I see changes that I could have made to make this a stronger design. If I were to make another I know what I would do differently the next time. This is the creative process at work. There is always something new to learn and put to use the next time.

A few things learned:
Admit that something isn’t working and don’t be afraid to start over.
Don’t get hung up using one element.
Step back and see the whole piece.
Rather than add, simplify- take something away.