Friday, November 2, 2012

Color Block Earrings

AGTA 2013- Earrings entry by Mimi Favre ©.
  Uvarovite, Kyanite, Lapis- 22k

The American Gem Trade Association sponsors The Spectrum Awards contest to promote the use of colored gemstones in fine jewelry. This pair of Color Block Earrings is my entry in the 2013 AGTA Spectrum Competition. 

The purpose of this contest is to explore and feature the full range of exceptional color found in natural precious and semi-precious gemstones. In recent years many designers have been using less precious if not non-precious stones and minerals and winners have produced less traditional fine jewelry. New manufacturing methods like CAD and laser welding have made it possible to execute pieces that would have been impossible to make twenty years ago. This year there were more than 500 entries.

 I chose raw Lapis Lazuli and Uvarvoite (green garnet) squares for my AGTA Spectrum entry this year. Lapis has been used in jewelry for thousands of years and usually set in pure rich yellow gold. I also used deep cobalt blue Kyanite cabochons. Stones like Lapis go in and out of fashion. Blue and Green was a popular 70's combination that is trending again. 

I wanted to make a minimal design that is both modern and ancient. All settings are 22k yellow gold. I set the squares with a thin chasing tool by hand hammering around the bezel. High carat gold is very soft and maleable. 
Sifting through loose stones. Designing earrings. Mimi Favre©2012

Design for AGTA 2013. Mimi Favre ©2012.

Even though I know in my mind how a piece will look, a painted rendering to scale is an important step.

AGTA 2013- Earrings entry by Mimi Favre ©. Lapis, Uvarovite, Kyanite- 22k

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Visiting the Studio of Andrew Wyeth

I have lived near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, home to the Wyeth Family for most of my life. To me, Andrew Wyeth was always a local artist. I am very familiar with his work from many visits to the Brandywine River Museum. Since June 2012, the family has graciously allowed his studio to be open to the public on a limited reservation system. Sadly, no interior photos are permitted.

Andrew Wyeth painted for most of his life near his childhood home in an old nineteenth century schoolhouse that was originally purchased by his father, illustrator and painter NC Wyeth. Andrew’s older sister Henriette and her husband, painter Peter Hurd, lived there for a time when they were first married. Later the schoolhouse was remodeled by Andrew and his wife Betsy for their growing family by adding a kitchen and bedrooms. They lived there as newlyweds in 1940 and later with their two sons Nicholas and Jamie  until 1961 when the family moved to a nearby farm. Andrew reclaimed the schoolhouse as his studio and continued to paint there until his death in 2009

Andrew Wyeth was a fiercely independent painter in that he isn't associated with a particular school or movement and yet achieved notoriety outside of the NY Gallery system. He was taught by his father, NC Wyeth who had made his living from book illustrations, a form of commercial art, but had yearned for the freedom to be a fine painter. As a child, Andrew was encouraged and given the instruction to develop his talent and to paint with his own voice. His body of work is comprised of the natural landscape of the Brandywine River region in southeastern, PA as well as his summer home on the Maine coast along with a small group of local folks who appear again and again. One can see that the work is deeply personal and meaningful to him-- the viewer is left to discern the significance of the moment. 
Studio of Andrew Wyeth, Chadds Ford, PA ©Mimi Favre

The docent brought me (yes me--I was the only visitor) into the newer section of the building. She pointed out the kitchen (circa 1940's Colonial) filled with Betsy Wyeth’s cookbooks and noted a space above the large fireplace where he would hang newly finished work. The walls are filled with family photo's with a few celebrities, like silent film stars, mixed in. The original schoolroom was divided long ago by NC. On one side bookcases are filled with art books on Albrect Durer, Old Masters, Edward Hopper, Curtis photographs and catalogues of past exhibitions. The other side which was the family’s living room is set up as Jamie Wyeth's studio. It is here that he painted Draft Age. On a set of shelves is Andrew's armies of small soldiers and military figures which he began to collect as a child and continued throughout his life. German military helmets line the top of a large wooden Kas. 

Studio of Andrew Wyeth, Chadds Ford, PA ©Mimi Favre

The studio is locked. It felt a bit strange to step inside. No longer a living artist’s space, I felt nonetheless that I was entering as an uninvited guest. Afterall, he worked in this space for more than 60 years.

The images of all of the Wyeth paintings I have seen, knowing as only an outsider could of some of the controversial nude paintings and other work that was done in such secrecy, I felt like an intruder. The docent assured me that Mr. Wyeth agreed to open his studio. Sketches (facsimilles) are strewn about but I know that it is in private moments, over time, in thought, that compositions are worked out. A large freestanding mirror is positioned so that the work can be viewed in full or rotated in the reflection. This was a method to critique the lights and darks and overall compostion.
Studio of Andrew Wyeth, Chadds Ford, PA ©Mimi Favre

The studio space has huge windows that face North, paint is peeling off the walls and the ceiling has been plastered and restored to look as it did before necessary restoration and repairs. Jars of pigment line the window sill. Empty pans and egg cartons remind us that Andrew Wyeth was a master of egg tempera. Uncut gessoed mason board lines the walls. A few old military coats hang about. This once personal private workspace is now a museum. The artist has left the room.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Recycle that gold!

In case you haven't noticed, gold prices are at an all time high. If you are lucky enough to have some old gold jewelry that you never wear or never liked it can be very tempting to cash out. But it can tug at ones heart strings to sell your mother's favorite bracelet or worse, something that you received as a gift! So, instead you decide to hang on to this valuable stash, well, just because.

Or.... recycle it and make something new. Just melt it!

Ingots from old jewelry. 

Gold has been passed through a rolling mill to form square wire.

In the past the Gold Council ran ads with a tag line that said "nothing else feels like gold". So true. The beauty of gold beyond it's intrinsic value is that it can be reshaped and remade. Much jewelry has been created through the ages by melting down old gold to make something new.

A client came to me with this very dilemma. There was enough gold to yield several Mother and Daughter bracelets. Each bracelet is infused with sentiment and the jewelry stays in the family (sort of).

Recycled gold made into bangles. ©Favre

Hammered 14K gold bangles from re-cycled gold.

A new stack of hefty 14k bangle bracelets- each one unique. Hammer marks convey the artistry of genuine handmade. Nothing feels like real gold--for sure. This was a fun project!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The New Barnes

The extraordinary Barnes Foundation has officially been relocated to its new home on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after a prolonged dispute in Orphans Court by certain parties that sought to move the priceless private art collection of Dr. Barnes from Merion, Pa. Volumes have been written about how Dr. Barnes made his money, acquired the art and the legal battles that have plagued the Foundation in the past decades. This post is only about the new home of this extraordinary collection.

I visited the original Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pa many times over the past few decades; first, as an art student and later for pure enjoyment. What made the Barnes special was the intimate viewing experience created by tight spacing on the walls filled with mostly Post-impressionist, Modern and Impressionist art displayed in human scale rooms. Paintings are arranged alongside antique fabricated ironwork, early American decorative arts, Navajo jewelry, pots and rugs, African art and sculpture and early European religious paintings. It is evident that the visual placement of every object in each room is intentional. This is how Dr. Barnes chose to display his collection. It made sense to him and if you go room by room it's not hard to see why he placed the paintings and objects this way. No matter what opinion of the 'correct' way to display art whether by chronology or by artist or whatever, I respect his intention as the owner and collector. 

Sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly
Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pa.

I viewed the collection during the opening week in its new Philadelphia location near the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum. The new Barnes architects, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, have essentially designed a limestone paneled shroud around a replica of the Merion Barnes. On the exterior I detected iron plates beneath the limestone as if this priceless collection is encased  within a huge vault. The building is spare although interior details in the textured limestone, tile floor and unpainted wooden divided light windows provide a welcome reference to the Merion home.
Mosaic tile floor. Entry of Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pa.
Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pa.

View to an interior room. Renoir's Sailor Boy is visible in the center.

Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pa.

Once inside the new modern building, one enters the collection through a massive iron gate that is positioned where the original front door would have been. Every room has been carefully copied and the collection is displayed exactly as it had been. The walls are again covered in a linen burlap textured fabric. Overall, the experience is mostly the same. Visitor entry is carefully spaced so that one has ample room to take in the amazing art. One noticeable change for the better is the improved lighting.

Despite the controversy, more people will get to see this collection than previously when it was housed in Merion.  An impressive landscaping plan by Olin is incorporated within the site in  homage to the original Barnes which is known also for it's Horticulture program and extensive gardens. The interior windows now provide a view to the new garden on the site. I feel that the new Barnes is welcoming facility and I look forward to repeated visits and time spent enjoying a meal out doors on the terrace overlooking the garden.

Photographs have never been and are still not permitted. However, a new publication Masterworks, the Barnes Foundation has been published by Rizzoli. 

Of Interest about The Barnes Foundation
Art of The Steal Documentary about the Barnes Controversy. 
Tales From The Art Crypt, By Richard Feigen. Alfred A.Knoph, New York, 2000.- There is a chapter on the Barnes in this book.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sentiment- A Love Story

Again, I am reminded of the deeply personal nature of jewelry and the sentiment it represents.  And, like many artists through the ages, a wonder of nature is the inspiration. This time it’s a Seahorse that inspired a very special pair of earrings.

I met with a couple that asked me to create a pair of Seahorse earrings in 18k gold. They showed me a dried seahorse that was lovingly kept in a clear plastic box filled with cotton that had yellowed with age. Now married more that fifty years, they told me the story how it had come into their possession.

 Both were young Americans living in Italy when they met. She was a recent college graduate, daughter of a Naval officer stationed in Italy, who traveled to be with her family. He was young man in the US Navy, also stationed in Italy, who had interrupted his career to serve his country. They met and fell in love. On a beautiful day of boating in The Bay of Naples they came upon a fisherman who asked for a cigarette and in return he gave them a seahorse- this seahorse. 
Seahorse from The Bay of Naples 

Hand carved wax protoypes. ©Mimi Favre 2012 

I carved a stylized version of the actual seahorse in wax. The tail and body had to be shortened yet the curve had to be prominent. Also, I compressed the nose slightly so that they would be wearable and more attractive as earrings.

18k Seahorse Earrings. ©Mimi Favre 2012

Jewelry, in this instance a pair of golden seahorses, becomes the tangible representation of sentiment and a symbol of a moment in time. I thank the client for bringing this wonderful project to me- it was hardly work at all.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Heirloom Rose Ring

Some years ago I planted a single pink antique rose in a newly landscaped area of my yard. It is most likely a species and unfortunately I have lost the tag. My interest as a gardener is in heirloom varieties which are often species and usually not as flashy as hybrids. This old rose variety has five single petals and dark green tooth edged leaves and is fragrant.

I was inspired by this lovely flower to carve a new ring for my Etsy shop. Through the ages flowers have communicated romantic and emotional messages and the Rose is no exception. Roses mean love.
Heirloom Rose. M.Favre©

I used this photo as a guide while I carved the wax.
M.Favre © 2012

M.Favre © 2012
Once cast in Sterling Silver I added an oxidized finish before the final polish.

Mimi Favre© 2012

Mimi Favre© 2012

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Lanai Hair Ornament-

Again,  I have created a botanical jewelry entry for The Philadelphia International Flower Show- March 4-11, 2012. This year's theme is Hawaii- Islands of Aloha. My entry is in the Artistic Jewelry Class titled  'Lanai Gathering- A Hair Ornament'. The entry must be made from plant material only such as seed pods, leaves, flower petals and nuts. Although the piece can actually be quite fragile, it must appear to be functional in scale and design. 
Concept Sketch. Favre
The first thing I do is research photos and the topic. Lanai is one of eight Hawaiian islands where tropical flowers and lush green foliage grow in abundance.  Hawaii is orchids, plumeria and exotic blooms. I decided my Hair Ornament would be a comb with fresh flowers. The next step is to find dry plant materials of various shapes and texture.
Boxwood leaves as Plumeria. Favre.
Dried Rhododendron pods- painted as flowers. Favre.

Chestnut and Onion skin Orchid. Favre.
A Chestnut with red onion skin and pieris leaves makes a perfect paphiopedilum orchid! Boxwood leaves become a plumeria flower. Dried Rhododendron pods split open to become an exotic bloom. The piece is slowly coming together.
Adding the gourd 'comb'.
A dried gourd has the perfect contour and material strength to be the comb. After cutting the rough outline I drew a pattern to be cut away. I also modified the comb design from my original sketch. In the background is a photo of an orchid that I used for reference.
Worktable. Pods, paint, nailpolish, etc.

Almost finished but lacking in fullness. Using my iPad app, Brushes, I drew over a photo of the piece in effort to visualize what I could add to make the piece stronger. More lavender flowers, more white Plumeria, and more 'green'. Also, need to bring more orange or yellow into the design. I used spray shellac on the gourd comb--I think it suggest tortoise shell which has a native Hawaiian look.
The Ingredients
 I am always on the look out for dried material to collect. Often these little treasures inspire jewelry designs. The Mesquite pod came from the grounds of the Tucson Convention Center during the AGTA Gemfair 2011!

Hair Ornament- Mimi Favre© 2012

The finished Hair Ornament for a Lanai Gathering.

I found Barbaraanne's Hair Comb Blog which is a very useful resource if you want to go deeper into the subject of Hair Ornaments.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Remaking a family heirloom

Jewelry designers are often asked to redesign outdated jewelry by making something completely new from the stones and metal.  However, in this case I was asked to reproduce a family heirloom- a rather large diamond brooch.
Mimi Favre

Several identical brooches were made for the family nearly a century ago. I was told the design is a stylized side view of a blooming rose to honor a family members contribution to the founding of a prominent Garden Club and design of a famous garden. Several generations later, my client desired to replicate this special heirloom for his family.

Mimi Favre

We decided that rather than make a replica of the original large brooch, a pendant adapted from the design could retain the significance and still honor the original design. The original brooch is approximately 2 ¼” in diameter.

Pendant models-Mimi Favre©

 I began the process by printing a reduced image of the pin to approximate the pendant. However, simply reducing the size by percentage does not yield a template. This photo shows two potential widths of the finished piece. Two handmade models are placed along side  reduced images of the original. 
Pendant model -MimiFavre©

The adapted design needs to be strong enough and wide enough for stones to be set and retain the subtle curvilinear form of the original. Providing visual information to a client is essential in the design process. 

Platinum and diamond pendant. Mimi Favre© 2011
Platinum and diamond pendant. Mimi Favre© 2011

Platinum and diamond pendant. Mimi Favre© 2011
The finished pendant is made from platinum and is approximately 1 1/4" wide. Platinum chain is attached at the sides.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tourmaline and Pyrite Necklace

 The American Gem Trade Association sponsors The Spectrum Awards contest to promote the use of colored gemstones in fine jewelry.  
This necklace is my entry in the 2012 AGTA Spectrum Competition. 

Green tourmalines with pyrite beads. 18k gold.  ©Mimi Favre 2011.
 The necklace features two cushion shaped green cabochon tourmalines and faceted pyrite beads.  Pyrite isn't a gemstone--it's iron. However I loved the warm metallic color and used it as a compliment to the two large tourmalines. The larger 22 carat tourmaline is a fine mint green color with flash of aqua. The smaller 10.9 carat square tourmaline is strong blue-green. 

Pre-stringing- spacers, clasp, center pendant. ©Mimi Favre 2011.

I was sifting through my collection of stones not entirely certain of what type of jewelry to make. However I knew that I wanted to use the two large tourmalines. Combining the mellow gold pyrite with the cushion shape cabochon tourmalines suggested a vintage color combination--like a vintage piece from the 1920's.

Tourmalines 18k gold. ©Mimi Favre 2011.
 The somewhat irregular hand faceting of the beads suggested to me that the settings also needed a hand applied textural element. I created settings for the tourmalines in 18k gold which have a deliberately unrefined sawtooth edge and prongs. Five strands of varied size pyrite beads form a flat ribbon affect. Stringing was a bit challenging because each line had to be a different length to fit the contour of the human neckline. I added 18k gold spacers also with sawed texture and set with smaller square tourmalines to guide the five individual strands. 

Tourmaline and Pyrite Necklace © Mimi Favre.

Finished Necklace is 18-19"(not including pendant).