Lately, I’ve started noticing jewellery made of materials other than precious metal. The first one I fell in love with was this beautiful necklace by Suzanne Klem. I wanted to make something like this so badly! That was sometime last year. Since then I have started working my way towards plastic.
I started researching polyolefin and came across more work I loved, and many jewellers working with materials I’d never thought of using for jewellery, like this exhibition at Facere. I found it hard to work out how all these amazing pieces were MADE. I wanted to make plastic jewellery, or work with stone, pumice, coral, wood and incorporate it into resin, perspex, polyolefin. What I was seeing reminded me of the sculptures that Louise Bougeois made in the 70s, but they were achieving effects with plastic where I just couldn’t visualise what the process would have been to make them.
I started by buying a grater from the second hand shop and attempting to grate, melt and reconsititute an old lemonade bottle. When my hand got tired (after generating only a few crumbs of plastic), I decided further research and slightly more sophisticated techniques were needed.
It was a turning point when I found this paper on the Canadian jeweller Lily Yung. I read it from cover to cover, and learnt about CAD, 3D printing and prototyping for the first time. At least learnt about it in a way that I could understand, because it was applied to jewellery, something I am a bit familar with, instead of to massive industrial processes, cars and heavy machinery. It was also a revelation that the construction element was completely automatised, although she was creating one-off original pieces, or very very short runs. That appealed to the way I want to work – a strong design element, making complex organic forms that are very durable, yet removing the amazingly time consuming (and sometimes frankly impossible) task of physically creating an object I see in my mind.
This is one of my favourite pieces at the moment, by Peter Chang. I did some good learning from reading this article from Peter’s exhibition at Walker Art Gallery, Unnatural Selection “Although some of Chang’s jewellery is fairly large, it is surprisingly light. The core of each bracelet is made from polyurethane foam carved to shape. Chang then encases this core in polyester resin, reinforced with glass fibre strands. He then applies acrylic and uses heat to mould it to shape. Several layers of resin might then be added and polished”.
Bracelet by Peter Chang.