Previous month:
November 2013
Next month:
January 2014

December 2013

Eco Arts Awards Semi-Finalists

The semi-finalists for the Eco Arts Award for "Repurposed Materials in Art and Design have been announced.  The category title was suggested by juror Lloyd Herman.


Trashformations: Recycled Materials in Contemporary American Art and DesignLloyd Herman is the author
of an early book and exhibition on re-purposed materials titled Trashformations: Recycled Materials in Contemporary American Art and Design.

The Eco-Arts entries were due in November. I entered this juried competition which is always a high risk, unpredictable and competitive proposition. AND.... am very pleased to learn that my work was selected as one of twenty semi-finalists. 

After spending some time looking at the list of finalists, there were many names I did not know -- even though I've been working in repurposed materials for over 26 years. Here are some of my favorites. 

Alysia Fischer – Suspended Resources Eco-Arts-mtp_alysia_fisher_scrimm_detail

This is an innovative use of recycled rubber by Alysia Fisher. The photos of her work capture the ethereal essence of her work. Essentially they are curtains or divider screens for interiors.  After looking up her work, I realized that a design blog had picked up her work (as I had seen it before. ) This is definitely a testament to the quality of her photos. Read more about her work based on her background as an archaeologist and anthropologist.

Larry Berger's chest (below) is another Eco Arts Awards semi-finalist. Titled, "United States Rulers" 


Cabinet dimensions are 42" ht. x 35"W x 13"D.

Larry Berger says, "Its name comes from a ruler that on one side lists all the U.S. Presidents. That ruler is mounted on the top of the door frame."  This cabinet was selected as a finalist (annouced January 8, 2014.)


After looking at more work on Larry Berger's website, I couldn't resist sharing another image of  his furniture - a vintage dresser (shown below) covered with rulers. I love the way he uses the rulers to further embellish the dresser in a decorative manner. 

33"ht. x 48"W x 20"D


Bonnie Cohen -- is an Eco Arts Award semi-finalist for this mosaic Pillar of Light. It is wonderful that humble materials can evoke such a spiritual feeling.


"Pillar of Light“ Ark Wall designed by Bonnie Cohen is a 25-foot glass mosaic that includes the Holy Ark doors."  This was annouced as a finalist January 8, 2014.)


Water is an important eco issue. In many places of the world, access to clean, affordable water is a serious problem.   


Deanna  Pindell - We All Share the Same Water is another Eco Awards semi-finalist. View images of her completed project designed to improve an existing stormwater runoff system. While the theme is inportant, the photos of the finished project seem ineffective at making an strong impression and the use of repurposed materials seems irrelevant.  


"Fission 999" is Boris Bally's entry as a semi-finalist in the Eco Arts Award Repurposed Materials in Art and Design." Constructed in Maryland on a parking structure, Bally uses his signature material - recycled traffic signs. This permanent installation was commissioned by Danac LLC (Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA) by Artists Circle Fine Arts for their new MRIS garage building. 


Designed by Boris Bally and HUMANUFACTURED® (hand-fabricated) by him and Project Manager Rob Boyd, assisted by Brandon Bruzzi over an eight week period.  "Fission 999" was completed October 21, 2013.  

The 999 pieces of tile flutter gently in the wind, occasionally making sounds as they gently touch the concrete cast walls of the structure's stair tower. Reaching approximately 44' above the ground, the piece is 14.5 feet wide x 28 feet high x 2.5 inches deep.

In his work with recycled gun parts, Boris Bally has a second entry as an Eco Arts Award semi-finalist with "Brave 4" using gun-triggers, gun-bolts and gun-barrels* (steel) and brass shells, mounted on stainless cord, 925 silver. The weapons were courtesy of Good4Guns Anti-violence Coalition, City of Pittsburgh, PA. (This necklace was selected as a finalist Janurary 8, 2014.) 


Boris  Bally complements technical skill with important content, and he really knows how to design meaning into every last detail (shown below in a different example).


To wrap up this post, this is my entry in the Eco Arts Awards, Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin. It was announed as a finalist selection January 8, 2014.)Berman-Harriete-Pick-Up-Your-Pencils-Begin

This monument to the pencil as a creative tool is a metaphor for the enormous impact of standardized testings on educationThousands of used #2 pencils were sent to me from all over the world, and threaded together to fabricate this bell curve of pencils. 


With a thickness of one pencil, the ephemeral curtain hangs from the ceiling moving with the slightest breath of air – yet the room-size installation stimulates interaction and discussion. The involvement of students, teachers, artists and individuals (in contributions of pencils and labor to assemble) united their voices regarding the impact of standardized testing on education and the arts. 


Pencils are used to fill bubbles on standardized tests, yet are also artistic tools of creativity & problem solving allowing the freedom to make mistakes, erase, and try again. 


The repurposed pencils in the curtain and yardsticks at the bottom are symbolic for how standardized tests measure students, teachers, school and curriculum. But standardized tests only measure quantitative content and skills that can be answered via a multiple choice question. In contrast, the arts teach creativity and problem solving -- skills needed for the 21st century. Find more information about the five year fabrication process, installation, and de-installation on my website. 

Below is a list of semi-finalists in the Eco Arts Awards. The finalists were announced January 2014.  Enjoy doing your own research into the depth of repurposed materials.  If you have a favorite could you share some thoughts in the comments? 



Creative Commons License
Harriete Estel Berman by ASK Harriete is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Based on a work at

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.
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.

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.


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


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!

I even walked 30,000 steps in one day!



 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.


"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?

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.

I want one in every 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.


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.

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

Heart Monitor Necklace by Mary Ann Scherr