Wednesday, May 14, 2008

On Design and Jewelry

Interstitial Arts charity jewelry auction - Cory Doctorow @ BoingBoing

I have to say that there is an undeniable coolness to the Interstitial Arts jewelry collection. Based around the idea of designing pieces influenced by the first 19 stories from the Interfiction Anthology these pieces are crafted by the authors themselves in an attempt to capture physically some essence of their written work. The collection is up for bid here.
It sounds like a wonderful idea and some of the pieces are well-made and tasteful. But from a design standpoint, some of this is crap. One of the biggest failures I see in so-called jewelry designers is a failure to appreciate how the materials work and what happens, after a piece has been worn for years, when something breaks. Repairing a wire-based piece such as the one shown here will probably never happen. It's all a matter of metallurgy and gemology. The stones used simply will not stand the heat needed to flow solder over broken sections of gold wire, if you could even get the sections of wire hot enough without melting them first. Yes, it is interesting and unique, but hardly a masterpiece.
Ultimately it is the work of professional writers but amatuer jewelers. I do believe in the need for such side projects for those who spend most of their lives trying to bang out on a keyboard some idea in their head. The constrast between intellectual works and material ones is striking, to say the least. Jewelry work has brought me a great deal of comfort when faced with a difficult intellectual project. The simple explanation is this: at the end of it, you have a physical piece in your hands that you know is finished. That satisfaction of completion is rarely found at the end of an intellectual work, whether a novel or a piece of non-fiction. You are always thinking of ways to improve on it and the best advice I was ever given was that you have to find a place to stop and say, "I'm done." That moment is gratifying but not in the same way as holding a finished product in your hands. So while I might deride the designs I do applaud these authors for trying something new and different in jewelry design.