On the occasion of the exhibition “TRIPTYCH: Life, Love, Death”, the blog of LA Joaillerie introduces the artists participating in the exhibition.
– Your work is focused on a single type of jewellery (brooch) often incorporated in free-standing sculptures. Why did you decide to create jewellery (wearable art) anyway when you could have chosen to create art objects ? Does it have something to do with «wearability» ?
It started with our history. In 1985 the fashion style was focused on wearing lots of jewelry, especially brooches. At that time we wanted to purchase a kiln for our individual ceramic projects and so began making brooches to raise the funds. The brooches were made of broken jewelry parts, beads, and tiny
collected treasures. We created more and more brooches paving the way to our current work. We have pondered the pin clasp several times through the years but have always stuck with the idea of the brooch. There is something appealing about having the option of taking the art object with you, having the body be the ” wall “. Over the years the brooch has become our signature work.
– Consequently, would you qualify yourself as artists or art jewelers ?
This is a difficult question, we find ourselves vacillating between the two choices. It is the word jeweler which trips us up. We were never trained as traditional jewelers and have never considered ourselves jewelers. To us the word ” jeweler ” conjures up an image of a goldsmith or silversmith who has received formal training or apprenticeship in jewelry making techniques, at the jeweler’s bench working in precious metals and stones creating traditional jewelry such as wedding rings, etc., although we know the word jeweler encompasses so much more! But if we had to categorize ourselves then we would label us as artists first.
– According to you, what is the place of jewelry among the other art forms ?
We feel jewelry can be just as beautiful, symbolic and thought provoking as any other art form and should be accepted as such, along with paintings, sculpture, photography, etc. With or without the use of precious materials, jewelry should be recognized as a legitimate art form.
– What do you think is the role/function of jewelry ?
Conveying beauty, style, power or message and functioning as symbol in rituals or religion are just a few roles that jewelry plays. Our concern, though, is more focused on telling stories and prompting ideas.
-Why did you choose to work as a binome and what does it imply ?
We started working together over 30 years ago on a singular project, which was to raise funds for a ceramic kiln. In doing so, we inadvertently started a joint jewelry venture where the two of us have become creatively interconnected. Seeing each other most days of the week for decades, we have
become united by work, creativity and emotion, forming a bond between the two of us similar to a sisterhood.
– Your works are sometimes composed of found objects or artefacts. Would you say that you are collectors before being makers ?
We would consider ourselves makers first, then collectors, although collecting is something the two of us had in common and which helped start our collaborative creative process years ago. But after 30 years of collecting there are times when it is overwhelming. Even though collecting is essential to our work, practicality prevents us from collecting too much since we don’t have the storage space. Over the years we’ve trained our eyes to be more selective.
-Which phase do you like the most in the creative process ?
There are several phases which we find enjoyable. Since all our works are distinct, the very beginning phase is exciting, we’re searching for something new and heading down a creative path not knowing what is at the end. After we have discussed a plan and have sketched the ideas, we begin the fun phase of getting started with the fabrication and the joy of seeing pieces coming together. Of course we always
enjoy the completion of the piece. To be able to look at what we’ve accomplished and see it actually made, after all the glitches, the reevaluating, and problem solving along the way, is very satisfying.
-Do you remember the first piece you actually made together ?
We don’t remember exactly which piece we collaborated on. It would be such fun to know now! In our beginning process, the two of us worked across from each other at a small table, each making our own individual pieces. Our brooches were very simple then, however, there would be times when one of us was stumped on a design and needed help, then we would pass the piece to the other. This passing back and forth was the genesis of our collaborative process today.
-Which are the skills and know-hows that are mostly solicited in your works ?
There are many skills we utilize in our works from artists’ skills such as drawing, sculpting, composition, knowledge of proportion and scale, to basic jewelers’ skills. By trial and error we have discovered skills or ways of doing things that my not be the “right way”, but sometimes taking a little risk and not following the rules, you may be able to find new ways to be creative. Once, during a lecture, someone asked if we were engineers. We just laughed and said, “of course not”. But then we looked up the definition of the word engineer and it read as someone who has creative problem solving skills, is resourceful, pays attend to detail and can work as a team. So now we can change that answer and reply, “yes we are engineers!”
-Do you draw or directly work through the material ? Who does what ?
When we begin a new project, we discuss what the project entails, what it means to each of us as well as what materials or objects we might use, and to help get us started, we review thoughts and ideas we
have previously noted in our sketch book or on scraps of paper. Keeping these new ideas in mind, Robin will make a simple sketch and begin gathering materials to consider for that brooch. Next we will have more discussion at which point Kim will create a more defined drawing on an index card which will be used as a place marker for that brooch, then materials (or objects) are placed alongside the drawing. Depending on the total number of pieces we’ll be working on (usually 6-8), we will repeat this process for each one. When all ideas and materials are gathered and all brooches have been diagramed, we start the fabrication process. Patterns are drawn, more discussions are had on how the objects and materials will be manipulated, then we begin cutting and assembling. We have developed our own individual skills over the years, however, we both do whatever needs to be done to create the work.
-How do you conceive the future of jewelry, both as wearers and creators ?
We are already witnessing more integration with science and technology which we would like to utilize in our work at some point. As wearers of jewelry, even though we each wear a wedding band, it may come as a surprise to learn we don’t often wear jewelry.
-As students, were you influenced by a master or a teacher ?
It would be interesting to fantasize about what our work would look like if we were influenced by a master but we were not. Our educations barely included any jewelry training, Kim was immersed in graphic arts and Robin in ceramics.
-Are you influenced by other artists or art forms ? Where do you find your inspiration ?
We are influenced by so much, and how can anyone not be in the age of the internet? We could be influenced by many artists or art forms but could easily be inspired by walking through a flea market or antique shop or searching through the history of an object (hats, fans, T-pots, etc.). Our inspirations range from the Brothers Quay animations to Faberge (there is a great Faberge collection here in town at the VMFA which we visit). But so often our influences have not been revealed to us until much later after our brooch is completed and we look back. For example, there is a brooch which incorporates a pregnant dress form which we created when Robin was pregnant. There were several of our brooches revolving around “hunger” at the time Robin’s baby was born and needed feeding during our work day. Years after completion we discovered one of our brooches resembled a box label, a label in our studio which we looked at every day for years and must have absorbed into our subconscious. So as you can see you never know what will spark an inspiration!
-Has your work evolved since your beginnings around 1985 ? Why and how ?
Yes, our work has very much evolved since our beginning. Our early brooches were quite simple, more decorative than narrative and we were barely manipulating our materials. As time went on, and as we
integrated more and more vintage objects, we wanted our raw materials to “marry” with the patinated objects so there became less of a distinction between the “found” and the “fabricated” and more focus on
surface treatments. At some point, early on, we began using watch cases as small windows. Inside these cases we would place objects, which became more of a story. This began a more narrative approach. To encourage the owner to display their brooch when not being worn, and to further enhance the story of the brooch, we often took another step by creating a stand or base to house the brooch, thus creating a freestanding sculpture. Naturally, with time and experience, our skills grew and ideas developed which led to our narrative brooches of today.
-How would you define your creative universe ? What makes your work so unique and recognizable (in other terms, what is the Kranitzky & Overstreet touch) ?
The Kranitzky-Overstreet works can be described as window-display narratives in a mixed-media frame or a miniature “story in a window”. Our creative universe, aside from the fact that we are a true
collaboration, which we find unusual, can be seen as our ongoing investigation of materials and techniques and the combination of these.
-Is there any material or technique left that you’d like to explore ?
It is exciting to discover new materials and techniques and we’re always searching and experimenting. (At the moment we have sausage casings in the refrigerator that we’re anxious to try.) There are so many
materials and techniques out there that we have not touched on. We are waiting for the invention of a clear, malleable material we would love to incorporate in our work. We would like to explore animation and ceramics as well. We are also interested in the idea of incorporating light, sound and other technologies into our brooches.
-What do you think of American art jewellery today ? Comparing it with the European scene, do you see significant differences in orientations ?
We have found much American art jewelry as well as European jewelry innovating and inspiring and, of course, we relate very much to the jewelers using repurposed materials. At present time though, with the internet at our fingertips, there seems to be such a cross-pollination of ideas which often confuses the boundaries of origin. We certainly find this an intriguing question.
-What is it like to be a woman evolving in the art world today ?
We have been fortunate to have our work recognized and being women has not seemed to hinder our “success”. Many women have issues with working while raising a family but we were fortunate. Our studio has always been at Robin’s home which served her well when raising her son. Early on we had a baby monitor in the studio and she had the freedom to care for him when needed while still being able to work. This was an advantage too when he was home throughout his school years.
-How did you approach the subject of the exhibition ? What did you like about it ?
We can get much enjoyment from having a theme to work from instead of a blank slate so we were excited about the triptych idea. Approaching the idea, we first discussed our own views of life, love and death then went on to talk about what a triptych could be (a moveable alter) and how we could represent the words Life, Love and Death (3 windows with a central window being the wearable). Next we discussed the materials we would use, with the jumping off point being a wooden bellows (our found object), which would become the base, which then spurred the idea of using the recurring materials of wood. Lastly we discussed symbolism (rain/tears & repeating image of the eye), color (fading from one window to the next, getting darker with Death) and construction (how all the pieces would fit together as a whole).
-Can you tell us more about the artwork you have created ?
We have created many pieces over the years and we love the idea that our works provoke dialog, prompt questions and hope people can discover their own personal stories in the brooches’ many layers of meaning.
-What are you working on currently ? What’s your upcoming project ?
Currently we are fabricating new pieces for a miniature narratives group exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art.