On the occasion of the exhibition “TRIPTYCH: Life, Love, Death”, the blog of LA Joaillerie introduces the artists participating in the exhibition.
– Why did you decide to study jewellery design?
We met while studying at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. We were both enrolled in the jewellery/metals program. However, individually we were both making small scale sculptures, stylistically quite different from one another. Lisa also studied Fabric and Scott studied Printmaking. We were both drawn in by the scale, intimacy and the materials associated with jewellery.
– According to you, what is the place of jewellery among the other art forms?
Jewellery is such a loose term – it can be High Art or subtle decoration. It carries a fascinating history, both as ornament and as a status symbol, which still exists in varying degrees today. The most intriguing part of jewellery for us is that it is portable and intimate. We are also attracted to things that are well crafted, whether they be jewellery, a manufactured object, or a painting.
– What do you think is the role/function of jewellery?
The role of jewellery is as a form of expression and exploration of materials and ideas. It is also to be collected and shared with those willing to take the time to further explore what we wear.
– Do you wear jewellery?
Yes. We are not daily wearers of Art Jewellery, but we do adorn ourselves appropriately when we are out and about.
– What do you think of the growing importance of new technologies and 3D design in the jewellery field and education? Do you believe that learning traditional techniques is important?
We are very proud to be “Old School”. We often say that we are 20th Century makers making in the 21st Century. Our view is that there is a place for technology in the field (manufacturing), but find most of the work made using the technology to be cold and predictable. The presence of “the hand”, which is the human element, is generally lacking in printed work. Therefore, craftsmanship becomes a non-issue. We believe everyone should be taught to make by hand before they learn software and technology. The human element/physicality will wither if people only use technology as makers.
– What would you recommend to students?
Absorb like a sponge and be original. Find your own voice. Work for other artists after school to learn as many different aspects as you can to inform your own work.
– How do you conceive the future of jewellery, both as wearers and creators?
The future of jewellery is as it always has been- there are a few great makers that are visionaries and there is everyone else. This is the human condition. It will continue. Technology is fad oriented and will come and it will go (think anodized titanium and PMC). Originality, vision and great skill will always be the key.
– As students, were you influenced by a master or a teacher?
Yes. We were strongly influenced by most of the teachers we studied under, as we were young and hungry for knowledge. Some of those teachers were hugely influential, whether by teaching us techniques or by fueling the idea process. Certainly, Stanley Lechtzin and Robert Ebendorf are two giants who’s shoulders we stand upon.
– What is your favourite typology (ring, brooch, etc…) of jewellery and why?
Since we began making together, the brooch has been our favorite type of jewellery object. We do like making other kinds of works as they present different body and narrative explorations, but we always come back to the brooch. The brooch allows us the scale, narrative presentation and location that facilitate our ideas the best.
– Would you conceive not to make your jewellery yourself?
Never. Everything we make comes from our hands, hearts and minds. That is very important to us!
– Do you like handling materials, working with your brain and hands? Or would you accept to delegate the making to a machine or to a technician?
We are makers. Working with our hands and brains is like breathing – without it, the work would be inauthentic. All of our one-of-a-kind work- material manipulation and processes- are 100% us. We have never considered having others make any part of our work.
– Has your work evolved since the 80’s? Why and how?
Yes, of course! When we began making we were very young and our minds and hands had to learn to work together. The work being made today is the product of almost 34 years of being together and almost 30 years of making full time together. Since we are married, are parents, and full time artists, the pressure to keep producing to survive, kept us on our toes. Once we had established the business part of our making, the one-of-a-kind work began in earnest. The one-of-a-kind works are a result of having already learned to work together and an honest curiosity to create what we really wanted to explore, both with materials and ideas.
– Have you always used mixed materials? How did it influence your designs?
Yes, materials are so very interesting to us. We love the idea of using objects and materials that others have seen or used in one way and changing their perspective. Our main objective is not to just set found objects in a piece like a stone, or simply curating a narrative using found parts- there are lots of folks doing that and we are very careful not to fall into that category. We feel that the materials, once discovered, disassembled, dissected and re-invented present us with a fresh menu. The ingredients change from piece to piece and create fresh challenges of how to re-incorporate these parts back into our designs.
– Do you draw or directly work through the material?
We draw, make models and take copious notes together so we are on the same page at all times. A single piece will go back and forth between us a dozen or more times, and we work on 2-4 pieces in a group, so we had to invent a method to keep track of everything.
The exception to that was our series called “Blinding The Cyclops” in 2015. We purposely made this body of works without drawing or models, but rather worked directly with the materials. We let things happen more organically (which was actually a lot harder to do than we had anticipated) and learned a lot about ourselves, and making, by taking that new direction. Currently, we try to mix it up- with drawings, as well as with spontaneous making.
– Is there any material left that you’d like to explore?
There are so many materials remaining to be explored! We are always out looking for something new – at flea markets, hardware stores, etc. as well as on the internet. We purchase the things we see and identify with and then they find a way into our works. It may be instantly, or take many years for them to make their way into our creations. We rarely know what it is we are looking for, but we know it when we see it.
– You sometimes use found objects or recycle objects thus changing their initial function. Does collecting occupy a large part of your work or do you leave it to chance?
The collecting happens in small swells. We are always on the look out for our standard menu items-broken musical instruments, tools, plastics and woods. But we have to set time aside to actually go out and find new objects to hold, feel, and gauge size to move forward with “new work.” We never know what we are going to find, which is good sport for the two of us!
One of the most important things for us is to not make obvious the use of the found object, but rather to manipulate, disguise and re-invent it as a material or form. We are challenging the viewer to go beyond the surface of the piece and think about our work on a conceptual level, rather than as simple ornamentation.
– Some of your creations are displayed in a box. How did this came about? Do you conceive the jewel as a object of contemplation, besides its ornament function?
Since many of our brooches are quite large and not worn on a daily basis, the box displays came about as a way to always be able to view a brooch without having to put it away in a drawer. We feel this is an interesting dichotomy between art and craft objects. Many people who collect our work are interested in them as jewellery and as an “object d’art”.
– What do you think of American art jewellery today? comparing it with the European scene, do you see significant differences in orientations?
We see a shift in American Art Jewelry towards a more European aesthetic and also towards production oriented works being shown as Art Jewellery. As with any Art form, there are a few really good makers and then the rest.
– How important are functionality and wearability to you?
Very important. All of our works have function or implied function. Historically our work is mostly wearable, but we are currently making boxes and small table sculptures that function as everyday curiosities!
– Are you influenced by other artists or art forms? Where do you find your inspiration?
Besides loving the Arts & Crafts movement and the Moderns, we are really inspired by painting and sculpture, films, architecture, music, scientific phenomena and most things 20th century. Lately, we harken to times and objects from our youth that cull universal memories. Fabergé, Lalique, Max Beckmann, Matisse the Cubists, Ed Wiener, Sam Kramer, Claus Bury, Ken Cory, Manfred Bishoff, Richard Serra, Martin Puryear, Terry Gilliam, Orson Welles,…to name a few!
– How did you approach the subject of the exhibition? What did you like about it?
Well, the triptych is such a powerful framework historically and we felt excited about the challenge working in that format. Avoiding the pitfalls of the obvious with both format and theme were a super challenge. We began to look at our favorite painters and found a common ground between their influences and our current mode of thinking. Our Triptych is a hybrid of an Art and a Craft object, which has been a thread that has been running through our work for the past few years.
– Can you tell us more about the piece(s) you have created?
This project fit nicely into our repertoire, enabling us to create a narrative using a vocabulary that we have been honed in on for some time. We decided to use the guitar as our vehicle to carry the narrative through the three panels, depicting the “life” of the instrument, from youth to death. Each panel is an homage to 3 of our favorite painters (Matisse, Beckmann, Picasso), who all incorporated guitars in their works. Our concept is to re-appropriate the Craft objects (guitar, table, fabrics) that the painters have represented in their works.
– What are you working on currently? What’s your upcoming project?
We are always making new works. Currently, we have a group of small sculptures on the workbench, as well as making small table top sculptures/trinket boxes. We are working on 2 separate ideas for new bodies of one-of-a-kind jewellery works. We are more and more interested of late in making jewellery that is abstract and representational simultaneously, as well as being acutely aware of the political and cultural climate of today.