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. Learn more:Gem of a Class