Jewelry of the 21st Century Feed

Fabricating TRUTH - Speaking our own mettle

IMG_20170320_155059415_HDR truth fruit crate label
Since the Inauguration, the political situation seems to turn every day a bit sideways or upside down.
After the Women's
March, I felt paralyzed.  Truth, which I thought was an absolute concept with a clear definition, was being repeatedly perverted, dismissed as fake, and replaced by fabricated alternative facts.

Then I realized that a piece that I had worked on several years ago had more resonance than ever.  It was inspired by a fruit crate label (from around 1930) that signified quality.  The brand name was "TRUTH".   

 

 

Truth-newsletter


IMG_20170221_161211771_HDRThe irony was obvious.  Here I was also fabricating TRUTH.  But unlike the current administration, mine is made by hand, not made up.

Putting everything aside, I started fabricating several companion pieces: ALTERNATIVE FACTS,  Circular Logic, and Web of Lies -- all as bracelets to be juxtaposed with TRUTH.  

Creating tangible artworks with symbolic meaning helped me express my perspectives about the current political mess. But as I sat at my bench spending all my free time on political work to vent my frustration, I wondered why I was dedicating so much time and effort to fabricating TRUTH instead of my other projects or just having a good time.

Would anyone ever get to see these pieces beyond the lone page on my website?

Alternate-Facts-Bracelet-500

To my amazement, my political protest jewelry was shared with a larger audience on the political pages of CNN.  YEP! CNN.   CNN included my work in an article, "How artists are marking Trump's 100th day in office" and it was posted last weekend written by Shachar Peled, CNN.  

CNN actually found my work on the local San Francisco station, KQED, arts series, "First 100 Days: Art in the Age of Trump" where there was an excellent feature article by Cleo Noveno, Fabricating ‘Truth,’ One Tin Can Bracelet at a Time.

In preparation for my interview with Cleo Noveno, I practiced with my husband to articulate the ideas behind this work. It is one thing as an artist to make something based on intuition, but it is another skill entirely to be able to articulate the ideas to a different audience using words.  New work always takes me weeks to months to verbalize and I had one day to figure this out.

Why jewelry inside TRUTH?
Why jewelry to articulate political issues?


It was then that I started thinking about historical jewelry and metalwork that has expressed powerful and important political and patriotic ideas throughout our nation's past. There are many examples.   

Sons-of-liberty-bowl
Sons of Liberty Bowl
Dimensions: 14 x 27.9 cm (5 1/2 x 11 in.) The irregular finish is the fire scale from the original fabrication. 

The most famous American example of metalwork expressing a political and even patriotic idea is the Sons of Liberty Bowl, which is more commonly referred to as a "Revere Bowl."   This silver bowl was fabricated by the famous Paul Revere prior to the American Revolution. It was commissioned by fifteen members of the Sons of Liberty and "raised" by hand (a metalsmithing term for the fabrication of the bowl in metal) by Paul Revere in a patriotic fervor.  It was then engraved by hand with the names of the members of this secret political group. Engraved deeply, it represented a pact, a resolution.

These brave patriots literally engraved their names in history.  "The Liberty Bowl honored ninety-two members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives who refused to rescind a letter sent throughout the colonies protesting the Townshend Acts (1767), which taxed tea, paper, glass, and other commodities imported from England. This act of civil disobedience by the “Glorious Ninety-Two” was a major step leading to the American Revolution."  

Sons-of-liberty-not-to-rescindBut take special note of their engraved pledge at the bottom,  it says, "Voted - Not to Rescind."

There is plenty of additional text engraved on the bowl 
including the provenance of the bowl. It is worth taking a look at the many images and information on the website of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

Metal, work hardened, fabricated with sweat, and engraved permanently with political meaning, the "Sons of Liberty" bowl is described as one of three most important objects in the United States of America. This bowl stands with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  

Throughout world history, there are many examples of jewelry reflecting political sentiments.

Iron-jewelry-19th-century Some very famous patriotic jewelry is a series of Prussian ironwork from the 19th century. 

As Prussia fought wars with Napolean, the government asked its patriotic citizens to give their gold jewelry to the government to fund the war efforts. In return, they were given this finely made iron jewelry.

Antique-Berlin-Iron-JewelryAt a fraction of the intrinsic value, it had another value instead. Imagine giving up your gold jewelry for this iron replacement, but wearing this jewelry must have been a visible symbol of your patriotism in that time.

  

 

Holloway BroochWhile researching for other historical political jewelry, I found this brooch designed by painter, Sylvia Pankhurst around 1900.  Sylvia's artwork and imagery gave the Suffragette Movement, and more specifically, "the Women's Social and Political Union, its coherent visual identity."


This Holloway Brooch (left) was presented (after imprisonment) to ex-suffragette prisoners at a mass demonstration at the Albert Hall on 29 April 1909."

Fabricated in silver it represents the portcullis symbol of the House of Commons in London, including the gate and hanging chains in silver. Superimposed on top was a broad arrow in green, white and purple enamel.  The three colors green, white, and violet were symbolic for the slogan "Give Women the Vote.  

Political activism for women's right to vote was a hard won battle we still seem to be fighting more than 100 years later.  I appreciate the parallel to the political activism and symbolism of the Suffragette jewelry and the parallels to what is happening in politics.  You may enjoy reading more about the Suffragette movement. 

Suffragette-pinFor wealthy women supporting the Suffragette Movement fine jewelry was also sold. This brooch (right) was shown in the Madeline Albright book and exhibition "Read My Pins." The first letter of each color Green - White - Violet were translated into gemstones and pearls.  More information about Suffragette Jewelry.

 

Victory-bakelite-pin Moving into the 20th century, there are examples of patriotic jewelry like this V for victory pin. (It looks a little odd, but the plastic has yellowed giving all the colors including the white and blue a soft yellowish cast.)

 

Vintage-1960-peace-signA final example for the moment is the Peace sign pendant. Considering that the peace movement was generally of the counter culture, I wonder if there ever was a more precious peace sign. 

 


These examples only 
begin to touch on the idea of metal work and jewelry with a political message.  There are more...

I.M.A.G.I.N.E.PEACE-NOW.posterThe recent exhibitions and catalog about gun violence Imagine: Peace Now includes a wide selection of metal work with a political statement that also runs counter to the right wing agenda. 90 decommissioned gun  are transformed into art objects.

Organized by Boris Bally it sends a visual message about the impact of gun violence.

The beautiful catalog includes professional quality images of all the work.


If you think artists have something to say in this political climate, say something.

Catalog-book-IMAGINE-exhibitionOne way is to VOTE for this show on USA today.

Vote here to support the next exhibition venue in a competition sponsored by USAToday.  (scroll down a little for the "VOTE" text.) 

For all the artists and makers reading this post I want us to remember and hold close to our hearts, that a visual image carries the weight of words.   A visual image can represent or unify a vision more readily than a speech. This is why political marches include signs. Our work has something to say, and others of like mind would like to see it and share it with an even larger audience. RESIST!  

Send me an image of your political work.

Options:
Leave me a comment for how to get in touch,
I will reply, and then you can send an image of your political work.  
Email me directly by clicking on the envelope below my profile photo in the left column.  

I will add images to this post. I am thinking about writing an article.

Where is a show about the politics of our time?

Harriete

 

RELATED POSTS: 

Using a Gun in Whole or In Parts - The Meaning of Materials

Vision of the Artist, Vision of the Photographer

"Previously Owned By . . ." ADDS Value IF you have the Provenance

Lineage, Provenance, Maker Marks, & Macchiarini


Read My Jewelry - Jewelry with a Voice and Visibility

Read-My-PinsOriginally, this post was going to be exclusively about the book, "Read My Pins" and the remarkable exhibition at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. There is much to say -- a lot more -- about how jewelry can make powerful statements for the wearer, to the viewer, or from the maker. 

As a jeweler, jewelry maker, metalsmith, jewelry collector and avid fan of all kinds of jewelry, I believe in the power of jewelry to express insights, emotions, and meaning far beyond the initial perceptions of beauty and craftsmanship.  "Read My Pins" excels in such revelations showing how Madeleine Albright used an expansive repertoire of her pins to convey diverse signals such as cooperation, dissatisfaction, special interests, sympathy, cultural awareness, or common cause throughout her career.  Much more on this amazing exhibition below.   

But let me start with a contrasting message that came to my attention this weekend to consider even more seriously the power of jewelry to convey a message.

The cover photo of the February issue of Vanity Fair Mexico shows Melania Trump "eating jewelry."  What does this say to you?  How do you think the Mexican readers should interpret the image?

Melania-Trump-Eating- Jewelry

The message seems to be simply about conspicuous consumption and extravagant surplus.  Clearly, the First Lady of the United States, is pleased to show her privilege and position.  Unfortunately at the same time 50% of Mexicans live in poverty and there is a struggling U.S. middle class that is less than 4 months from economic ruin.  This image parallels an infamous historical quote, "Let them eat cake." 

Compare this to the empowering messages of jewelry in the book and exhibition "Read My Pins." The exhibition displayed pins and dramatic brooches worn my Madeline Albright during her tenure as Secretary of State.  To a feminist metalsmith I must remind myself (and anyone reading this post) that Madeline Albright was the first woman Secretary of State and the highest female official in U.S. Government at that time.

Every pin in this exhibit could initiate a conversation about the power of jewelry to communicate a message.  Madeline Albright used these pins and brooches for such purposes very effectively for years.

I loved the exhibition "Read My Pins" for many reasons. The entire exhibition was crowded with energy, enthusiasm, and thought provoking themes.  Over and over, the intrinsic value of the materials was irrelevant.  The "real" value was always based on the message and the context. 

This Atlas pin (below) holds the weight of the world -- symbolic of the United States role in many turbulent political situations in this world.  What message could be more important when worn by the U.S. Secretary of State and remains ever present in my mind during the past week.

Hercules-Read-My-Pins
Atlas Pin purchased by Madeline Albright in Paris. No attribution to the maker. (Photo from the exhibition)

A brooch could represent a concept (e.g. "sting like a bee") in an international negotiation.  Quoting Madeline Albright "I believe the right symbol at the correct time can add warmth or needed edge to a relationship."
C1627UTWEAA4EUC

Suffragette-pin

The pin (left) was from the Suffrage Movement. "The green, white and violet colors of the gemstones and pearls signify, respectively, hope, purity and dignity. The first letter of each word, (GWV) suggests an apt acronym: "Give Women the Vote' ." Jewelry can send an important political message empowering women to stand up and be counted in marches demanding the vote and social change. (Quotes are from the description labels from Legion of Honor exhibition.)

 

 

 

Dove-and-eagle-read-My-pinsBoth the "Read My Pins" exhibition and book provide an important insight into the voice of jewelry. Jewelry can be important in so many ways. The message can be ennobling, enabling, even empowering such as in the next pin with an eagle and dove asserting both strength and a passion for peace.


 

Madeleien-Albright-with-Yaser-ArafatJewelry represented both power and a message when worn by Madeline Albright.  The photo right shows her wearing the bee pin above while negotiating with Yasser Arafat about the Middle East. 

Jewelry with emotionJewelry can also have emotional resonance. Quoting the museum label:  "In 2006, on a visit to New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina, Albright was approached by a young man who gave her a small box. 'My mother loved you,' he explained, ' and she knew that you liked and wore pins. My father gave her this one for their sixtieth wedding anniversary. She died as a result of Katrina, and my father and I think she would have wanted you to have it. It would be an honor to her if you would accept it.' "

"Albright wears the Katrina pin as a reminder that jewelry's greatest value comes not from intrinsic materials or brilliant designs but from the emotions we invest in them. The most cherished attributes are not those that dazzle the eye but those that recall to mind the face and spirit of a loved one."

CofRlxaUMAM7tvj
This brooch of fused "shattered" glass (designer unknown) reflected the "shattering of a glass ceiling," a significant milestone for all women and reflecting support for another woman Secretary of State - Hillary Clinton.  Women in our country are not reaching the heights of leadership (corporate or political) in proportion to our share in the population.

Hidden-FiguresThe communication power of jewelry often aligns with social change.  In the movie, "Hidden Figures" the painful realities of discrimination against women and African-Americans -- or both -- in the early 1960's are presented in this powerful story.  In one scene, a simple pearl necklace symbolizes the growing awareness, acceptance, and empowerment of one of the female figures.

The "Read My Pins" exhibition and book are engaging, fun, educational, and thought provoking.  Each piece opened new doors or revealed new humanizing insights or highlights on topics familiar from newsreels but often distant and foreign.  I enjoyed almost every aspect.

For the contemporary craft world, I was a bit disappointed that so many of the pieces had no attribution to the maker and that so few contemporary makers were represented.

Many of the pins in the exhibition were antique or vintage collectibles, essentially manufactured costume jewelry. Lack of attribution is typical of such consumer products, but there was a significant number of obviously hand made pins purchased or given to Madeline Albright in foreign countries or purchased in the 20th century.

Many of the 20th century pins had no maker attributed to the work. What a shame? Would a painter sell their paintings without a name or initials on the front or back? To every maker reading this post, be sure to mark your jewelry (or other media) in some way.

Left, 1998; Helen Shirk (US); Sterling silver
Left, 1998; Helen Shirk (US); Sterling silver, 14k yellow gold

My second disappointment with the Madeline Albright collection is the lack of contemporary jewelry.  I am thrilled to say there were pins by Helen Shirk ( left,) Carolyn Morris Bach (below right) and  Gjis Bakker (cover of book), but not many other examples of jewelry by a contemporary hand. And even a smaller number of examples of contemporary jewelry with the maker's name. 

Get the book Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box from your local library or bookstore. It has background for a good number of her pins, and it is very interesting. 

Shaman Bear, 2008; Carolyn Morris Bach
Shaman Bear, 2008; Carolyn Morris Bach (US); 18k yellow gold with 22k gold plating, silver, fossilized ivory, copper

Think about the power of jewelry and the voice that can resonate so much about our politics and social change.

Harriete

Read-My-Pins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


FitBit Jewelry Past, Present Future or "Silicon is the NEW Silver"

Prestigeset_newFitBit is a new kind of jewelry that extends the role of jewelry beyond the past and present and into a freshly imagined future. Prestige, value and identity might be jewelry of the past and present, but there is a new dimension at our doorsteps.

What is pertinent is not how the work is made, but the function of the jewelry. That the jewelry itself has a new role, a bio-monitor function.

ShineOne of points is that jewelers, textile or fashion could integrate the small electronic functional component into more decorative adornment, combining the traditional roles of jewelry, and fashion with this new 21st century utilitarian aspect.

I am especially excited about the functionality of this bracelet and filled with anticipation of the future.  

Cell-phoneI may be revealing my age, but I have seen the future before. I have very strong memories of the first cell phone in my life.  It was the size of a shoe box, a man's shoe box at that. It weighed about 7 lbs. and featured a hefty strap to carry it. My husband had one of these phones and we loved it.  As new parents the mobile phone was so wonderful, allowing us to go out and feel comfortable that our babysitter could reach us at any time. This amazing phone brought relief from worry.  
It was not too heavy or
cumbersome, it was a privilege that
my husband's company
bought this IMG_6536phone for him.
(They were very expensive, and so was a phone call. You paid per phone call and by the minute.) Can you imagine that phones now slide into a pocket? Unimaginable back then.

FitBit-combinationThat is what the FitBit watch represents to me.  It offers similar new world potential that 25 years from now, everyone, or almost everyone, will wear a bracelet that will tell them if they have exercised enough, need to eat less or can eat more, measured their heart rate or blood pressure, and more. Just as a cell phone has become an essential part of our every day routine, body monitoring jewelry will be part of everyone's well being and adornment. This is a fabulous opportunity for jewelry makers too.

Jewelry that takes on a value beyond prestige, or identity, but health, and well being.
Prestigeset_new
Prestige, Value and Identity Bracelets 
 
Bracelets constructed from recycled tin cans as a commentary on the roles of jewelry thoughout history by Harriete Estel Berman.

As an advocate for fitness, I signed up as a Fitbit affiliate. Links on this blog about Fitbit may generate revenue to help this blog to continue.

 


FitBit Evaluation of Design and Function

After wearing my Fitbit bracelet I am still learning about the interface and feedback information.

There is a lot to learn...but I don't need to figure it out all at once. This image shows my Activity, Steps, Calories  and Distance so far today.
FitBit-Dashboard-1

My favorite feature is the feedback on exactly how much activity you had that day.  No need to deceive yourself whether you worked out enough to eat more. Below is the Very Active Mins, Sleep, "Badge" for 10,000 steps, and Calories In vs Out.

Very Active Mins only includes VERY ACTIVE minutes. A casual Sunday walk won't qualify as active minutes which I think is good. To many people think they are exercising, but their heart rate has not increased. 

10,000 steps every day is my goal.

Fitbit-Dashboard2

When looking at your own Fitbit dashboard, clicking on any square reveals more detailed information. 

FitBit-activity

Fitbit is a real motivator to know how much I've exercised every day, not just on my "work out days." 

 

UPDATE: As of June 12, 2015 I walked 1,997 miles wearing my Fitbit!
India-badge-Fitbit


I even walked 30,000 steps in one day!
Fitbit-walking-badges

 

 

 A Jeweler's evaluation of the clasp on Fitbit:

The clasp on the Fitbit is not great. As a jewelry maker, I'd give it a below average rating. It is very hard to close with one hand by yourself when it is new. After a year of wear it is much easier to put on, but the bracelet has opened and fallen off by accident. I think the designers wanted it to have a clean appearance, but I would have preferred something more secure and easier to use for the lifetime of the fitness band. 

FitBit-Tangerine-Orange-TealThe wrist band on Fitbit is attractive with clean lines. That is great as far as that goes, but as solid rubber it gets sweaty or irritated underneath. I which it were a more breathable mesh or fabric.


RESPONSE TO MY PREVIOUS POST

"What is the Jewelry of the 21st Century?" sparked considerable discussion on Facebook Critical Craft Forum and on my Facebook page.

To clear up any misunderstanding regarding my enthusiasm for this bracelet:

The FitBit presents a very clean and minimalist aesthetic.  It is not as "interesting" as most jewelry, ....but I am absolutely excited to anticipate the future of this beginning, in affordable, bio-monitoring jewelry.

Jewelry has a new role, and a new dimension of value beyond materials or decoration. This jewelry empowers fitness in a whole new way. 

The function of jewelry as identity takes on a new role with fitness. Wearing a FitBit, or other bio-monitor jewelry, means that the wearer is identified as a fitness enthusiast. While wearing my Fitbit, it has sparked a number of conversations, as we identify each other as part of an elite groups trading stories of fitness.

Yes, I do consider it affordable as an investment in your health. A visit to the drugstore can easily cost $100. on medicine.  With this bracelet monitoring your activity level and the subsequent motivation for reaching 10,000 steps a day a Fitbit wearer could reduce the need for some medications (doctor approved, of course.)

I highly recommend investing in a new you with a Fitbit (or any other activity tracker.) 

Imagine a future where your doctor can determine a prescription of lifestyle or activity to your Fitbit dashboard. The doctor determines the program and you can then work to achieve possibly lifesaving results at any time -- all monitored online by both you and your doctor!

Update July 2015:
My Fitbit has lasted 19 months even though I wear it every day. 
When the electronic component finally wears out I am definitely getting the new model with the heart rate monitor. (My current version does not adequately capture effort expended during biking or floor exercises.)

Next post: 

FitBit Jewelry Past, Present Future or "Silicon is the NEW Silver"

As an advocate for fitness, I signed up to be a Fitbit affiliate. The links to Fitbit may generate revenue to help this glog continue.


What is the Jewelry of the 21st Century?

ASK-Harriete-Estel-Berman-Wearing-Fitbit
Harriete Estel Berman wearing Fitbit bracelet.
Photo Credit: Eric Smith

While recent tendencies of avant-garde and art jewelry seem to be following a collective drift toward "string and anti-technique," my observation is that jewelry of the future will combine style and digital function.  This prediction arises from what I am wearing right now...a FitBit Bracelet (and other styles available).  The competition in this field will unquestionably bring more imaginative forms and new functions.

The bracelet goes far beyond decoration. This jewelry of the future is telling me how many calories I've burned, steps taken, distance traveled, activity level, calories burned, heart rate, and monitors my sleep patterns.

Mary-Ann-Scherr's-bracelet-life-saving.A much older distant cousin of the body monitor function in the jewelry world is a one of a kind Heart Pulse Sensor Bracelet from 1973 by Mary Ann Scherr*.  StarTrek, Dick Tracy, and Captain Nemo also foretold of jewelry and communicating functions.  

What does it say when I buy this FitBit bracelet for $99 instead of contemporary, handmade jewelry by my craft kindred community? 

The battery lasts up to five days and survives showers and sweat. It seems that FitBit actually sells additional "colorful bands to fit your mood." Check out the accessory band colors below.
  FitBitcolorpack

I want one in every color....so I'm waiting till they sell the combo pack with every color. 

FitBit-pink-green-tealThe orange, teal, and navy bands now available as a 3-pack are not enough for my jewelry maven personality. I want more colors, more options, and the answers to the technical issues regarding fit and materials.

 

FitBit-Tangerine-Orange-TealJewelry makers out there; Are you ready to make a niche in your jewelry for the FitBit component? I am not kidding. 

The entire functional component in the FitBit bracelet is about 1/2" long and 1/4" wide. See it below. Fitbitcomponent

Below is another view from a FitBit Flex Teardown on iFixIt. This one single water tight component is the only working portion of the bracelet.

FitBitcomponent-quarter

I see no reason why jewelry makers could not be integrating these and related products into their jewelry. Look at these functional components and think about how this could change your jewelry in the future.
FitbitLOCKET

I am thinking hard.
How about collaboration between jewelry makers and FitBit!
A whole show of the FitBit jewelry and a tribute to the pioneers like Mary Ann Scherr. Who knows....I already wrote to Fitbit. They are based right near where I live in San Francisco, CA. (Links to Fitbit products are affiliate links.) 

*Learn more about the body monitor jewelry of Mary Ann Scherr:

Televison interview with Mary Ann Scherr  I recommend watching the television interview first. Consider that in this interview she is an astounding, energetic 90 years old. Near the end they talk about how her body monitor jewelry was before its time. How ironic!

Oral history interview with Mary Ann Scherr from the 

Mary Ann Scherr Designer, Educator, Goldsmith, Jewelr from e3motion.com

Mary-Ann-Scherr-Heart-Monitor-Necklace
Heart Monitor Necklace by Mary Ann Scherr