Wordsmith: a meeting of jewelry and literature

This spring, Paper Darts Literary Magazine, curator Ann Tozer, and jeweler Stephanie Voegele will present a collaborative exhibition exploring the connections between literature and art jewelry. They wanted work from jewelers “concerned with issues of text, literature and storytelling and writers who engage with ideas that surround jewelry, objects and the body. Displaying these two art forms together, our exhibition will expose where writers’ and jewelers’ work meet.”

Selected entries will be included in an exhibition to be held at Magers and Quinn Booksellers and an accompanying publication. Both will coincide with the Society of North American Goldsmiths’ conference in Minneapolis April 23-26, 2014, “From Grains to Gold.” There will be other exhibitions/shows in the Twin Cities during this time, and many lovely things to see at the conference and elsewhere. I had two friends both make sure I knew of this possible opportunity to have my work exhibited. As a librarian and a beader, this was something that greatly appealed to me. This was the piece I made after returning from the sweet grass basket class.

In the story ‘The Necklace’ by Guy de Maupassant, Mathilde Loisel dreams of a life beyond the means of her family station and income. Her husband brings home an invitation to a formal party of the glamor she envisions as her right and destiny, so Mathilde buys a new dress, and borrows a diamond necklace from her wealthy friend, Madame Forestier. It was the party of Mathilde’s dreams, and she receives the attention she craves. Upon returning home and removing her wrap, she discovers the necklace is missing. Unable to find it, Mathilde and her husband buy a replacement necklace to return, without telling Madame Forestier. The Loisels endure poverty for ten years to repay the loans taken out to purchase the necklace, dismissing servants and taking additional jobs. This hard life damages and ages them. Mathilde happens upon Madame Forestier on a walk one Sunday after the loans are finally repaid, and Mathilde is unrecognizable to her old friend, as her beauty is gone and she looks like any other poor woman. Mathilde tells Madame Forestier that the change was on her account, and finally admits the story of the lost necklace. To that, Madame Forestier replies, ‘Oh, my poor Mathilde! But mine was imitation. It was worth at the very most five hundred francs!’

Heller-The-Necklace-flat

Heller-The-Necklace-detail

Instead of diamonds – or imitation diamonds – my necklace has Swarovski crystals, and instead of precious metal, it has glass beads. Embroidered with these beads is the memorable ending of ‘The Necklace.’ It is 16″ long.

Heller-The-Necklace-clasped

While this piece was not juried into the show, I enjoyed making it, and now I have a flashy necklace I can wear – and explain!

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Blackfoot bead artist Jackie Larson Bread at the C.M. Russell Museum

I remember reading in the last year or so that the Charlie Russell Museum purchased Jackie Larson Bread’s beaded war shirt. It’s a masterful piece of beadwork. It won best of division at the Cherokee Art Market in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and shortly thereafter was purchased by the C.M. Russell Museum.

I actually have been to this museum in Great Falls, Montana. The mission of the museum is to “collect, preserve, research, interpret, and educate on the art and life of Charles M. Russell; the art and life of his contemporaries; and the art of preceding and ensuing generations that depicts and focuses on the culture, life, and country of Russell’s West.​” His name is sometimes preceded by the phrase, “cowboy artist,” to give you a quick picture of his work. I remember seeing beadwork at the museum, and I am pleased that they are continuing to collect more.

On April 10th, Jackie Larson Bread Bread will be giving the lecture, “Learning, Refining and Redefining: Blackfeet Beadwork.” She will compare  images from the exhibition George Catlin’s American Buffalo exhibit, with her own beaded war shirt honoring Blackfeet Chief Curly Bear. Bread will explain her contemporary bead ideas as applied to traditional items. Following a Q&A, she will lead a tour through the clothing galleries.

Bonus: Jackie is doing a UFO workshop at the museum on June 14th. I would love to sit in on that!

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Online inspiration in the American Craft Council Library digital archives

I work as a librarian in two different jobs, one of which is for the American Craft Council Library. The ACC Library has many resources available to the public, if you are able to visit our location in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There are books, periodicals, exhibition catalogs, and artists files (possibly including photographs, slides, resumes, exhibition catalogs, and more). The ACC Library is also home to the archives of the American Craft Council (1941-present), Museum of Contemporary Crafts/American Craft Museum (1956-1990), World Crafts Council (1964-present) and the Craft Students League of New York (1932-2005).

For those who can’t visit, I’d like to introduce the American Craft Council Library Digital Collections. In brief, they contain ACC’s magazine Craft Horizons (now called American Craft) in fulltext from 1941-1965; selected photographs and documents from ACC conferences, exhibitions, and fairs; ACC newsletters; and photographs from the artist files. As of this writing, there are approximately 5,000 items in the digital archives, only a small percentage of the physical archives, but the ACC Library is continually increasing its online content.

The software used for the digital archives, CONTENTdm, is powerful, but not immediately intuitive. To that end, the two of us who work in the library made a series of four videos, each less than five minutes long, to describe the digital archives and how to search. CONTENTdm is able to search the text of the documents as well as the description of the item that is entered for each item. It is well worth your time to view these videos if you are at all interested in finding inspiration for your work in craft history, or if you simply would like to read early Craft Horizons in their entirety. There was no other craft magazine in the United States in the early years of the magazine, so this is an invaluable historical resource.

What can you find? This search for jewelry images (including the terms “jewelry,” “necklace,” “earrings,” or “bracelet”) returns about 200 photos of great shapes and designs. This 1975 knitted silver wire bracelet by Arline Fisch shows her early work in this media. Mary Walker Phillips made this macrame how-to, illustrated in 59 photos.

The ACC Library highlights finds in the digital collections every week with the blog post series “Throwback Thursday.” You can find out about Museum of Contemporary Crafts exhibitions, single works by artists, and more. Please let me know if you have any questions, or feel free to contact the ACC Library.

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Alphabet false starts

I wanted to bead some letters for a possible project, and here are my first attempts. Here’s my false starts, from left to right:

alphabet-false-starts

Because I like to make things difficult, I started with trying to make a curve for a cursive “A” using brick stitch. I’m sure it’s possible, but it’s certainly not easy! If I want someone to be able to read it, I need to do something else. Next, was embroidering a single line of beads onto Ultrasuede for an “A.” Too floppy. Final attempt, a double lined block letter “A.” Not as fancy, but THIS can be read.

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Two new glass exhibits at the McClung Museum in Tennessee

The McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture, on campus at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee, recently opened TWO new glass exhibits.

Glass of the Ancient Mediterranean explores ancient glass with thirty pieces from the Yale University Art Gallery. It features objects from ancient Egypt and the Roman and Byzantine Empires, where glassmaking underwent tremendous developments through periods of innovation and experimentation. These pieces of glass showcase craftsmanship, artistry, daily life, and luxury in the ancient Mediterranean.

Brightly Beaded: North American Indian Glass Beadwork investigates the importance of the introduction of glass beads to the American Indians of the Plains, Great Lakes, Subarctic, and Northeast. The exhibit “explores the techniques, as well as the functional and cultural significance of these pieces. This brightly beaded art served as a highly visible expression of ethnic identity and pride that continues to this day.”

There are various programs planned around the exhibitions. They will be on display until June 1st.

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