March 2015 archive

Maker and Muse Part II

| Jewelry

Hello friends, its been pretty quiet on the blog front but I wanted to make up for it with this second post on the Maker and Muse exhibit. Part I featured jewelry from the British Arts and Crafts and the French Art Nouveau movement.

Today, I wanted to feature the Jugendstil movement from  Germany and Vienna, the jewelry of Louis Comfort Tiffany and the Arts and Crafts jewelry from Chicago.

Jugendstil or Youth style drew their inspiration from the movement that was sweeping Britain and France.  Its goal was to integrate the different disciplines of architecture, fine and decorative arts into a cohesive and elegant whole.  Similarly to their French counterparts, women could not establish themselves as artists and designers as successfully as the male designers.  German and Austrian societies were still very much patriarchal ones.  And because industrialization didn’t hit Germany and Austria as quickly as it did in Britain, the adoption of the Arts and Crafts principles were more on the aesthetics rather than its guiding philosophy.

Creations from this movement are characterized by their clean, pure lines.  There is hardly any superfluous or unnecessary detailing.

Some of the examples on view include the following:

A gorgeous collection of brooches made variously with silver, enamel and rhodocrosite. The big silver and green object to the right is actually a spoon, literally a silver spoon!

DSCN4505  I particularly liked this pretty necklace circa 1914 by Hans Bolek (and manufactured by Oskar Dietrich) made with yellow gold and gemstones.

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I don’t wear brooches but given the number of really beautiful brooches on display, it’d be hard not to wear them! Just look at this wonderful mermaid brooch made with gilded silver, coral and pearl.  This one by Karl Rothmuller and dates back to 1900.

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From Germany, the exhibit makes its way to the shores of the new World. We start with Louis Comfort Tiffany, the son of the founder of Tiffany and Co.  Louis, didn’t start out with jewelry. In fact, he started making jewelry, 20 years after he had already established his own reputation in the decorative arts. After his father’s death,  he finally joined the firm and he found a well developed studio system of design and manufacture.  There were a good number of women workers and designers employed by the firm.  Even though they were never formally or publicly credited with any of the jewelry, they were recognized as integral to the success of the company. Julia Munson, was appointed head of the new jewelry design department when Tiffany finally came on board.  Tiffany had one rule when it came to the women designers–they could stay as long as they stayed single.  Julia Munson, who was his chief designer for many years finally had to leave when she got married and Meta Overbeck another lady took over her post. Together, Munson and Overbeck designed  some of the most spectacular Tiffany pieces.

The first thing you see when you walk into the room is this stunning gold cross which Tiffany designed for the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  It was commissioned by Tomas R. Keator in memory of his wife who was a member of the congregation of the all Angles Church in New York City.  Hidden at the back of the base of the cross is a small secret compartment containing a photo of the late Emily Keator to whom the cross is lovingly dedicated to.

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This glass cabinet contained what is easily, three of the most spectacular pieces of Tiffany  & Co.  The gold filigree necklace designed by Julia Munson uses 18 k gold, pink sapphire for the clasps and plique-a-jour enamel. It is magnificent!

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This fabulous 1908 green and gold necklace makes use of jade, pearls and of course high karat gold.  It is both striking and elegant.

Then of course there is this stunner of a necklace composed of the bluest blue Zircon I’ve ever seen, platinum, diamond, demantoid or green garnet, chrysoberyl and amethyst.

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From New York, the exhibit takes us to Chicago where there was a thriving community of women jewelers.  In 1906, Chicago was at the peak of the Arts and Crafts movement.  At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, there were more women than men. More importantly, the decorative arts were considered as suitable employment for women.  The four  most celebrated pioneers of the movement were Madeline Yale Wynn, Leonide C. Lavaron, Bessie Bennett and Jessie M. Preston. Another woman,  Elinor Evans Klapp was the only female artist who exhibited at the Paris Exhibition under her own name.  She went on to found a successful and lucrative jewelry business.

In 1900, the Kalo Shop was founded in Chicago by 6 recent graduates  of the Art Institute with the goal of creating objects that were Beautiful, Useful and Enduring.   It was so successful that it allowed several silversmiths of the Kalo shop to open their own shops.  What was striking about the work produced by the Kalo Shop, indeed of the Chicago movement was their determined used of materials that were previously not considered rare or expensive.  Materials like pearls and semi-precious stones were considered for their aesthetic value rather than intrinsic value.

An example of such a piece is this necklace composed of gold and Baroque pearls.

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And while there was a good number of pieces that used innovative materials like the Baroque pearl necklace pictured above, other pieces used more traditional fine materials like this beautiful gold and coral brooch.

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Other stand out pieces included this fabulous gold and black opal necklaces by Frances M. Glessner who made jewelry but never sold them.  Instead she gave away her pieces to friends and family.

Another piece of Ms. Glessner is this fabulous gold and yellow stone necklace which is now housed in the Chicago History Museum.

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Maker and Muse (Part 1)

| Events, Jewelry

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Over the weekend, I had the immense pleasure to view Maker and Muse, the new exhibit on Women and Early 20th Century Art Jewelry at the Richard Driehaus Museum.  I can’t tell you how wonderful it was.  The words sumptuous and gorgeous, among many superlatives come to mind when trying to describe the 250 pieces of Art jewelry that is on display.  The exhibit is spread out over 5 rooms in the museum (which by the way, merits a separate visit) and is divided into 5 themes–British Arts and Crafts, American Art Jewelry represented by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Jewelry as Art in Germany and Austria represented by the Jugendstil movement, French Art Nouveau and Chicago Arts and Crafts Jewelry.  These different movements were unified in their rejection of  industrialization and their desire to return to the artisan and the handmade.  More importantly, they made extensive use of materials like silver, semi-precious stones and enamel that were previously considered not good enough for fine jewelry.

The exhibit is particularly resonant for me because it celebrates the work of some of the first women to work in the field of jewelry.  Prior to the early 20th century, making jewelry wasn’t considered proper work for women.  It took a significant cultural shift before it became acceptable for women to work in this field. As a jewelry designer, I owe a great deal to these pioneers.

Fortunately for us, the Museum allows photos to be taken as long as it is without flash so I can share with you some of the highlights.  The exhibit will run until 2016 so if you have the chance, to see it, I highly recommend that you do so, you will not regret it.

Here now are some of the pieces on display. As this is a picture heavy post, please read on after the page break…

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A throwback Thursday in honor of World Book Day

| Bead adventures, Reading pleasures

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Hello friends, today is World Book Day and I thought I would do a related Throwback Thursday post. By now, you’ve probably guessed that I’m a little obsessed about beads.  I’m all up for bead adventures, whether its digging for beads in some small French town, or dragging the family on a 7 hour drive to see a bead exhibit.  This obsession extends to bead books.   Now there are a good number of books on beading and how-tos but the ones I’m most interested in are the ones that deal with the stories and histories of beads and those are a little harder to come by. As I got deeper into studying  beads, it became important to build up my bead library. And I got a little obsessive about  a book called Middle Eastern and Venetian Glass Beads by Augusto Panini. It is this big and gorgeous book on antique beads and had a fairly limited run.  It was of course not obtainable in any of the bookstores I called. Looking back now, I wonder why I just didn’t look for it online but I have to confess that it didn’t occur to me at that time. Luckily for me it didn’t because what I finally did was to write to the author to ask if he had any copies left to sell. And lo and behold–he wrote back to say he had one or two left and that he would be happy to sell me one. Even better was the news that he was coming to Paris for a visit so he could actually give me the book in person. That just about made my day, as you can well imagine!

I even got him to sign my book!  Needless to say, its one of my most cherished books.

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Bead photo of the day: a symphony in blue

| Beads

Today’s bead photo features all shades of blue. There are Venetian beads– trade beads, feather beads, fancy aventurrine striped beads, wedding cakes and a strand of Bohemian Russian blues. And the age of these beads range from the mid 1800s to the 1940s.

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