Traditionally, jewelry functions as an ornament to decorate our bodies. It adds to the beauty of our style and expression. It gives the wearer confidence. It can remind us of something important or deeply personal such as a religious icon, family crest, or wedding ring.
Contemporary jewelry makers are developing new ways to make their jewelry unique. Recently, I found one such way that took me by surprise: jewelry as a literary reference. I am impressed by the frequency and interpretations of this trend. Jeremy May, for example, uses books as the jewelry’s material. Betty Pepper uses books as a display. Jeanine Payer takes advantage of actual, quotes, and axioms in her work jewelry gold design tutorial with computer.
The first artist I discovered was Betty Pepper. She is a British jeweler who has a deep interest in nostalgia and preserving-or perhaps retelling-the stories that are inherent in used objects. Reappropriating textiles, lace, and books into jewelry, Pepper reformats materials into miniature displays of the material’s former life. The visible wear and aging demonstrates the years of use of the object, a patina that is both genuine and personal. In using books as material and as a display, she tells a great story that emphasizes her ideas about examining the whole life of the object.
Then I found another British jewelry artist, Jeremy May. May uses the pages of books as his primary material. This is how it works: He laminates the pages together, and then he carves the jewelry forms out of this utterly original, laminated material. While the finished product is unexpectedly subtle in revealing its former life as a book the references are still there. If you take a close look, you can see the individual pages and, in some designs, May will leave enough of the written content visible so that the original material can be easily referenced.
Then we have Jeanine Payer. Payer uses obscure and significant quotes from well-known and respected authors in her jewelry. Delicate engraving displays the deep and resonating words of poets, storytellers, and thinkers. Payer will douse her pieces with the gems of Proust, Rilke, Whitman, and Gandhi, just to name a few. What’s so fantastic is that the wearer gets to literally wear the wisdom of some great writer. Payer transforms words into a wearable thing.
The last example that I’ll mention is Margaux Kent. Kent makes tiny, wearable books. Let that sink in. Her sweet necklaces are actual libraries of miniature, functional books. The multiple strands evoke a familiar scene in an unfamiliar place-a library of strewn, scattered, and stacked manuscripts dangling around your neck.
There’s poetry in the fact that a new and original jewelry design can be found by using something as old and familiar as a book. At the same time, though, it makes sense. A book is a vehicle to convey stories, thoughts, and feelings. In my experience, and the experience of the designers above, a piece of jewelry does the same thing. When you next approach your bench, do it in the way that Austen or Hemingway approached their desk.
Turning a creative approach into a career doesn’t happen overnight, however. For those new to the jewelry design field, or wanting to take their skills to the next level, looking into courses at a jewelry design school could be a great start. Industry experts can share advice on how to design jewelry that turns a vision into a piece of art. In the end, that’s what this field is all about-creativity as decoration, inspiration as ornamentation, and meaning as art.
Sarah brings a wide range of jewelry making possibilities to the table. Her lifelong passion for beading and wire working is thorough a well as genuine- she simply loves working with beads and creating beautiful jewelry. She also runs her own successful small business in New York City, and her willingness to share her experiences as an entrepreneur and artist will surely inspire and guide the new students through the Sheffield Jewelry Design Course and into their new hobby or career as a successful jewelry designer.
Sarah has participated in jewelry exhibitions throughout the US, Canada and Florence, Italy. Her work is currently represented by Gallery Loupe in Montclair, New Jersey, Galerie Marzee in Nijmenland, the Netherlands, and Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h in Montreal, Canada, and was published in The Compendium Finale of Contemporary Jewellery 2008 and 500 Enameled Objects.