When I was in NYC on my fall buy, I had an interesting conversation with a vendor who has been in this trade for years, one whose opinion I highly respect, regarding what he termed, "the new jewelry."
In his day, if you produced jewelry, you followed a formula. You knew how to run the heavy machinery, you learned how to production solder and plate. Things were cast, stamped, formed. Designs were first produced on paper to precision, finely; you can see such drawings as they have been collected and published in beautiful coffee-table-style books on vintage jewelry. Those behind such jewelry were either trained bench jewellers or had been raised in the trade, worked in it for years, knew the tool and die machine work inside and out---perhaps had even developed facets of it.
Not so today. And my esteemed colleague marvels, along with so many others from his time.
"They come in here, Brenda Sue, and they bring the stuff they are working on. I have to look at it again and again. I don't understand it. At first, I thought, how can you call this jewelry? They break every rule. They have no training, no background, no knowledge of right and wrong. They just DO it.....and I've come to realize, it's wonderful."
He's talking about MANIPULATED JEWELRY.....and he's right. You do your own thing. You have a vision, and you force it to work.
And like all great inventors, if it doesn't work the first time, you move on, until it does.
Here is a simple example of manipulated jewelry....I did this with a piece I picked up on my buy. It's an old filigree, deep gingerbread rusty patina (gotta love this stuff) about 79-80mm long.
I simply formed it to fit my wrist, wider ends toward the middle, bending back the narrow back ends. Then I took another piece and formed it in the center, tightly, with a soft-jaw pliers,to hold it together. It was really AMAZINGLY secure, when I finished.....and it looked like this:
If you know a little bit about vintage jewelry, you realize, however, that the idea of manipulated jewelry is nothing new. Back the beginning of time, when people first started to make body adornments, all that existed were raw materials and imagination. As time went on, things became more refined, regimented, if you were....formulaic.
Old Bohemian, or Czech jewelry, as well as some of the W. German filigree pieces, contained manipulated elements. Miriam Haskell Jewelry was manipulated jewelry. You make the filigree do what you need it to do. The results are striking---fresh, fanciful, unique. I love it.
I especially love that nowadays, it's okay to break the rules, come out of the mold, do your own thing. I recently read a statement in Orchid, an online newsgroup about the jeweller's trade, referring to a book on polymer clay jewelry. The man said he at first thought of polymer clay jewelry as low-end crafts material.
Oh my dear....where has HE been for the last ten years?
Stuck behind the bench, I suppose.
There again, the 'new clay' is part of the 'new jewelry'. You manipulate it by hand, you make it be what you wish it to be. You don't have to go to school to be taught how to do it; honestly I'm not sure it CAN be taught.
But if it's in your heart and in your fingers, you can do it. Dunno 'bout you, but it doesn't get better than that.
Check my photo album for some additional shots of a manipulated, caged corsage brooch I made several years ago. No solder, very little glue---just bending and wiring--and it's solid as a rock.