The Artist Project

In 2014, a small group of artists from across the country were invited to dive more deeply into the motivations and questions of Radical Jewelry Makeover. These artists, who were all past participants of RJM, were asked to create a series of work using donated jewelry left over from previous donation drives. We asked them to consider a series of questions while making their pieces:

• How have you been influenced by the project? 
• How do you weigh what techniques and materials you will use? 
• How are creative license, personal safety, environment, and social responsibility factored in to your choices?
• How do you anticipate future uses for the materials that you are using? 
• Will a jeweler in the future be able to reuse your piece by disassembling or melting down the metal? 

This portion of the website shares the artists’ brainstorming and decision-making before, during, and after completion of the work. Through the Artist Project (as we affectionately call this off-shoot), we hope to encourage an honest conversation about the difficulties facing jewelers who are trying to employ wise studio practices that cause little harm to both the environment and human health. 

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Julia Barello

I'm always concerned by the rampant drive for consumption that leads life around by the nose, and love the RJM process because I feel like it references consumption but focuses on reuse in a positive way.  I've always been interested in appropriation because of the rich possibilities for conceptual overlay.  Tibor Kalman's book "unfashion" is a book consisting of images Kalman took while traveling over his lifetime and there are so many instances of objects given a new life and new meaning and excitement through reapplication.  

So, when my box came, I was super excited. Opened it and went quickly through everything and then became disappointed - there was too much stuff that didn't resonate with me and which I didn't like, or thought of as cheap.  After a moment of embarrassment for that response, I Iaid all the objects out on my work table and started sorting, shifting and sliding the objects around.  I quickly made a pile of things that I couldn't work with.  They might have been detritus from a past RJM, or a color or surface that I didn't like.  I ended up with a smaller grouping and reconsidered them.. I realized that I needed to look a little closer at the possibilities for modification of each object.  It is easy to take things apart and then put them back together in a new configuration, but to take them apart, reshape and reconstruct allows for more potential.

I'm trying to keep my material use predominantly recycled objects.  So at this point I'm working with recycled clothing, laser cut as the base layer and then building up. I want these pieces to feel clean and crisp and new, even though the materials are all reused.

Raissa Bump

I have a hands-on process, using materials themselves to sketch. Sketching 3-dimensionally, I move things around and arrange the content visually until I am satisfied. It is so much fun to start with something. This is where my studio habit of keeping scraps, cutoffs, seconds, parts and pieces that were unsuccessful for what they were initially made comes in very handy. I find this to be both creative and resourceful.

For RJM I took this same approach. I unpacked the jewelry that was sent to me and started arranging the contents in different ways. Familiarizing myself with what I had. I used what was in front of me—often junky materials—along with nicer materials and occasionally something from my personal studio practice made its way in to a piece (such as handmade chain).What is of value/real/precious/fake? I have enjoyed the mash up in this way, creating pieces that are not innately related to material value, yet fun and even flashy.

In my studio practice I keep my materials simple—recycled silver, glass beads (which are often old and served a different purpose before me), fiber... I use basic jewelry techniques and few chemicals. By nature I am not extreme. I don’t proclaim to be 100% green or knowledgeable in my studio practice but I do make an effort. I have spurts of information gathering and change. I welcome input and strive to be thoughtful about how the things I do in my studio have larger consequences. I use citrus pickle and flux without potassium bifluoride.

RJM makes me think about fashion & trends and the fast moving pace of our culture. Often having little regard for any part of the making process and how the materials were made, how an employee was treated. There is so much junk, discarded, unwanted pieces of jewelry that were once something that casually and for a short time expressed someone’s identity. Excess. Little thought. I want to consider what I bring in to this world.

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The Artist Project continues to travel across the country. Recent exhibitions include, the Baltimore Jewelry Center in Baltimore, MD, and Form and Concept Gallery in Santa Fe, NM.  We are dedicated to representing this work that highlights unique and viable ways to incorporate reuse materials into different facets of the jewelry industry.