The 56-minute video highlights a variety of artists and their perspectives about jewelry and materials. Tom Herman uses precious materials, which is a phenomenal contrast to my use of recycled materials of tin cans and post-consumer plastic; Gabrielle Gould is inspired by nature, Jesse Monongya is a Navajo/Hopi jeweler, and Art Smith reflects an innovative mid-20th century aesthetic. This program also includes commentary by the co-editors of Ornament Magazine.
The range and diversity of aesthetics and materials should provide thought-provoking scenarios for a great conversation. I look forward to hearing what people have to say.
Previous Posts in the "Craft In America" in my studio series.
I must confess -- for more than a decade I've had a wish... that my artwork would be featured in "Craft In America," a Peabody Award-winning series about craft. And sometimes, wishes do come true. This past weekend a six-person crew arrived at my studio and home for a two-day blitz of video.
The experience is still overwhelming, even in retrospect, too much to describe or digest in one post. I am both exploding with elation and trying to get my feet back on the ground. While fresh in my memory and with elevated consciousness, I want to share some of the impressions and highlights through the next several posts with lots of images.
It started in late Aprilwith a surprise phone call asking if I would be interested in being interviewed for a segment on an hour-long program about jewelry in the documentary series, "Craft In America?" The caller, Carol Sauvion, is the Executive Director, Executive Producer, Director, and perhaps, most important, the Visionary who has developed "Craft in America" from the brainstorm of an idea to a 15-year run with PBS.
And this came about largely because of a sequence of three events:
The professional endorsement of Ornament Magazine Editor, Patrick Benesh-Liu
Carol said she wanted to move forward quickly with the shoot on June 5 & 6. This put Harriete into overdrive at warp speed through the month of May. Now I really had to finish the other artwork that I had already started and promised to complete which was overdue two months ago (more on this later), study and take the tests for re-certification as a Certified Group Exercise Instructor (my secret lifestyle), and clean up my studio after 14-months of accumulated "I can just push stuff aside since no one is visiting" pandemic mindset.
My studio was out of control. I had organically let detritus pile up leaving only irregular lilypad-like spots to barely step through. I hadn't cleaned or dusted my studio in more than a year (some parts perhaps for maybe two or three years). Chaos reigned in competition with sedimentary layering. The dust had accumulated beyond my realization.
Hours and hours each day cleaning, sorting, tossing, Goodwill, SCRAP, give away, repositioning, hiding elsewhere (e.g. stuffing the car), consolidating, etc. for over two weeks , soaring past 14,000 daily steps on my Fitbit without ever leaving my house -- I could never have cleaned the studio without the amazingly generous assistance of emiko oye, Jen, and Sara. emiko (my most trusted studio assistant from years ago) helped for three solid days during the two week cleaning marathon.
Anticipation fueled this grueling, intensive effort. Then the excitement morphed into trepidation during the last three days. Was I ready? Was my preparation adequate?
There still seemed to be a lot to do beyond just cleaning the studio to be ready for this oopportunity.
Stay tuned....getting ready for a "Craft in America" video crew. There was so much to do.....so little time.
In the time of COVID-19, daily existence seems fractured. Efforts to move forward feel constrained, challenging, and like a never-ending series of marathons filled with obstacle courses. To cope, I try to focus on the expectation that this will all be a memory some time in the future.
There have been other historical eras impacted by plagues, natural disasters, and political upheavals. In the late 1960's, I was a much younger version of myself, but the daily news brought images of shocking political unrest and social change into every home.
This current intersection of political upheaval, pandemic, wildfires, hurricanes, and social change makes the book, "In Flux: American Jewelry and the Counterculture," especially apropos and relevant. The book covers art jewelry of the 1960s, '70s, and early '80s. (More about this book in another post.) My metalwork from that time period is included because much of it exemplifies the emerging feminist frustrations of the time.
On Thursday, November 19, Cindi Straus will be leading a conversation with me and Joyce J. Scott. The conversation is titled "American Jewelry and the Counter Culture." We will discuss our early experiences as makers in the turbulent and politically exciting period of the 1970s and early 1980s -- and possibly how our past exposure in those social disturbances has influenced our work to the present day. Do the values and issues of our formative years as makers relate to or inform us in these current events?
Zoom makes it possible for everyone to listen in to this one-hour conversation. You don't have to travel to New York or spend any money on hotels. Zoom right into this conversation about how the politics of that time changed us and changed art jewelry and metalwork forever.
Cindi Strauss is the Sara and Bill Morgan Curator of Decorative Arts, Craft, and Design for the Houston Museum of Fine Art. As a curator, she will be asking the questions to me and Joyce J. Scott.
Both artists have art jewelry currently on view in 45 Stories in Jewelry: 1947 to Now at the Museum of Art and Design in New York. We will discuss our early experiences as makers in the turbulent and politically exciting events of the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s.
The online event is free for MAD Members and Art Jewelry Forum members, but anyone can pay a small fee to listen in to the conversation. Learn more by clicking here.
MAD Members, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive your promo code for free tickets.
I've been working on my Recycle Series of jewelry for eight years.
As an artist and visual thinker, I'm well aware of the huge investment consumer brands put into their packaging with alluring, beautiful jewel tones and shapes. As an avid recycler I'm also aware that so much of this consumer packaging is for single use -- then just thrown away. Until recently, I was primarily dismayed about the enormous quantity of plastic that gets thrown away, or perhaps recycled (for those who have an activist mindset and a curbside recycling program.)
I've come to realize that the plastic pollution problems are much larger than most people realize.
A lot of single-use plastics go to landfill, and a very small percentage of the plastic is actually recycled. But vast amounts of plastics are improperly disposed of and get washed or blown into the environment where they do not degrade for hundreds of years. A new documentary exposes the huge quantity of plastic that is accumulating in our oceans.
Coincidentally, while working on my Black Plastic Gyre Necklace,I kept wondering how so much plastic gets into our oceans. With heightened mindfulness during the past few weeks, I become aware of how much plastic, including black plastic, is littered on our streets. Yes, in the streets and yards or on sidewalks and shrubs.
As one example, I saw this black plastic takeout tray, black plastic spoon, and cellophane laying in the street while on my way to the gym. I'm always in a rush in the morning and promised myself that I would photograph the trash and pick it up after class. But then for one reason or another, day after day, I would forget.
Each day I was again confronted by the same black plastic takeout tray and made the same promise to myself. After a few days of repeated negligence, I also noticed that the tray inched its way along the curb and soon realized it was inevitably heading toward the storm sewer. Just a little bit of wind or moved by a car tire, it inched its way toward the storm sewer leading to the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
Finally, I photographed it and picked it up. One small crisis averted, but every day I started seeing more and moreblack plastic in the street.I feel like I'm in a weird version of the Sixth Sense movie -- "I see post-use plastic everywhere."
This Sharpie pen laid on the street for days.Crushed by cars, the tube was broken, but the black pen cap proved to be indestructible. I photographed it, picked it up and took it home.
No wonder plastic accumulates in the ocean and waterways. It lasts forever.
Now I am really paying attention. In the two block walk to the gym, I almost always find plastic litter.
This white plastic strap is really tough. You can't break this. You can barely cut it with scissors. There were two of them. This is what they use to strap boxes and furniture so they don't come apart.
Next there was a plastic bottle. There is nothing "Super Green" about a plastic bottle.
I photographed it and then picked it up.This is becoming a very smelly and distasteful experience in plastic waste awareness.
Before I get to my car there is a plastic baggie laying on the storm sewer grate.
So this is how plastic is getting to the ocean....
This plastic baggie was used for perhaps an hour or two but is now on the brink of going into the storm sewer, floating through the waterways, draining into the San Francisco Bay, and suspended in the ocean for centuries.
Where does my responsibility end?
Sure I picked up the plastic along the street where I walk, but every day there is more.
This was on 43rd Avenue in San Mateo. Within these two blocks are several restaurants with takeout food, e.g. Papa John Pizza, Round Table, a taqueria, Molly Stones grocery store, and CVS pharmacy.They all have plastic packaging and takeout food. Every business and every person who walks that two blocks should be responsible for keeping it clean and cleaning up the trash.
San Mateo has a new Adopt-A-Drain program. I've already volunteered to take care of the storm sewer near my house. At home, I have captured a considerable quantity of organic debris and plastic waste from going into that one sewer. Is that enough? By 2022, the City of San Mateo will be required to prevent all trash from entering the San Francisco Bay through the storm drains to meet mandates set by the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, but who is going to help? It occurs to me that we will all pay for this trash left in the street, one way or another.
Future posts will include assembly and progress on the Black Plastic Gyre Necklace and some concrete, but easy steps for reducing plastic.
Scroll down for continued documentation of more plastic that I discover each day in one block of 43rd Avenue, San Mateo, CA.
Daily updates of plastic found on 1 block of 43rd Avenue, San Mateo
Cellophane and a chapstick- February 14, 2018
Pure Fresh Spearmint Gum plastic package - February 16, 2018
"Nice" purified plastic bottle (crushed) - February 16, 2018
Plastic Bottle Cap & Cigarette butt - February 16, 2018 Evidently, someone drove over the bottle (shown above.) The cap burst off and laid in the street until I picked it up. Plastic bottle caps are becoming a huge part of plastic waste in the waterways and oceans. The cigarette but is disgusting (though not part of my project.) Cigarette butts are toxic to fish and marine animals.
Plastic Dental Flosser - February 16, 2018
Ice Breakers Plastic Box - February 18, 2018 This includes both the top and the bottom of the box.
Plastic Bag - February 17, 2018 The plastic bag was obviously driven over a couple of times, but no one stopped and picked it up.
Plastic sushi tray with soy sauce package - February 17, 2018
Red plastic straw - February 17, 2018 Plastic straws are becoming a huge problem as they are dropped in the street, no one cares to pick them up and they end up in the ocean.
I thought plastic 6-pack rings were outlawed because marine animals and fish get trapped inside the loops.
6-pack ring discovered laying on the storm sewer grate - February 20, 2018
Green Plastic Straw with paper wrapper lying in the street on the way to the plastic ocean - February 19
Translucent plastic cup lid with a piece of sand paper and paper litter laying on the storm sewer. This plastic lid is one blast of wind or a rainy day before it arrives in the San Francisco Bay on the way to the ocean. Of course, I picked it up. Why didn't you? - February 20, 2018
More photos coming for each day I visit this one block and document the plastic waste in the street.
Do you know that black plastic is rarely recycled? When I 've asked around, not one person so far has known that black plastic is not recyclable.
Most people think that the recycle symbols indicate that it is "recyclable," so did I, but it is not. This was recently verified by my local recycling center. The recycling center, ReThink Waste, is now helping to bring this issue to wider attention and issued the following message on Twitter and Facebook to help me collect black plastic for a new artwork.
Black plastic is not recycled (even if it is labeled as recyclable) because most plastics are sorted by optical scanners that cannot "see" or recognize black plastic. Essentially black plastic can't be differentiated from other trash, so it goes into landfills, or even worse, goes into our oceans and waterways. (More on this topic in the next post.)
Yet black plastic is used pervasively for catering, take-out, deli containers, and microwave packaging.Pay attention to this issue and you will be shocked! Black plastics in the form of food containers, pen caps, bottle caps, black spindles, etc. -- all go to trash.
Here is one example.Shown beloware twenty 12-inch diameter bowls from one event catered by Lyfe Kitchen. Lyfe Kitchen sells take-out and catered food marketed as sustainable. But there is nothing sustainable about using black plastic containers.
I contacted Lyfe Kitchen about the use of black plastic.They responded: "...we are in the midst of a packaging vendor transition on the West coast. We have been diligently looking to source a more sustainable option for our catered salads container pictured here."
To bring more awareness to the issues surrounding black plastic I made this bracelet years ago.
Now I am immersed in making a "Black Plastic Gyre Necklace" that will be 24-feet long. The "necklace" will wrap relentlessly around a model, again and again, to convey the accumulation of plastic debris that is clogging waterways, strangling animals, and damaging coral reefs. The piece is intended to highlight the impact that plastics are having in our oceans and rivers.
For the past six weeks, I have been frantically cutting tentacle shapes from black plastic containers to create the gigantic Black Plastic Gyre Necklace to meet an exhibition deadline.
The shapes are cut from black plastic forms such as this container (below) clearly embossed "Go-Green" -- yet it is nearly impossible to recycle. This is an example of what is called "greenwashing."
There is nothing green about this black plastic.
I'm finding that the enormous variety of black plastic items allows me to cut out some very interesting shapes.
Interestingly, each black plastic container inspires different shapes.The above photo includes exquisite shapes cut from a Noosa yogurt lid. The lid was soft yet flexible, ideal for cutting curvilinear shapes. I can't imagine why this brand uses black plastic lids.
Why do cookies and candies come with a black plastic insert? Only because I think someone thought it looks good or sophisticated. This is another example of unnecessary plastic waste in packaging.
One of those 12" black plastic salad bowls (shown above) provides a lot of plastic. In the photo below, I am starting to cut it up into pieces for the necklace.
One black plastic bowl can generate so many parts, producing a messy pile of great shapes (below) that will go into the necklace.
Every day I spend hours cutting black plastic for the necklace to meet the deadline.
If you would like to contribute your black plastic to this project,contact me to drop off your plastic or mail it to me. The idea is to raise awareness about plastic in our environment and become an advocate for change.
Stay tuned for more posts about progress on this necklace and the local makers who I hired to help meet a tight deadline.
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".
The 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?
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.
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 basedon 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 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."
But take special note of their engraved pledge at the bottom, it says, "Voted - Not to Rescind."
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.
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.
At 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.
While 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.
For 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.
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.)
A 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...
The 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.
Thank you to everyone who voted to support Imagine Peace Now's 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.
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 2017 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?
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.
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." In the photo (right) Albright negotiates with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
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.)
Both 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.
Jewelry 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."
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.
The 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, 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.
ADDENDUM July 2018 In a comment below, Leonda brought to my attention the jewelry worn by Queen Elizabeth during the three-day visit by Trump. I have added images to this blog post to show this jewelry.
FitBit 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.
One 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.
I 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 phone 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.
That 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.
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 ACTIVEminutes. 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.
The 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
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.)
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.
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 color....so I'm waiting till they sell the combo pack with every color.
The orange, teal, and navy bandsnow 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.
Jewelry 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.
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 moreabout the body monitor jewelry of Mary Ann Scherr:
Televison interview with Mary Ann ScherrI 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!