Jewelry Metal Arts News

Posted on Thursday, May 20, 2010 by Marion Anthonisen

Positively consumed by the energy of CCA’s end-of-year celebrations, we’re shifting blog gears from the beginning of the undergraduate experience to its conclusion. Through July, I’ll be posting short profiles of this year's graduates, a talented group of young emerging Bay Area artists. Stay tuned!

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Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 by Jim Norrena

California College of the Arts is proud to announce not one but two 2010 Windgate Fellowship Award recipients: Rachael Nyhus and Alexis Myre, each a senior in the Metal Arts / Jewelry Program. Only 10 fellowships are awarded annually, with each awardee receiving a $15,000 reward—making the award program notably competitive!

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Posted on Tuesday, June 16, 2009 by Lindsey Westbrook

Frederick Loomis, The DIOS Neuroprocessor . . . a Proposal for the Cover of the New Yorker, 2008View slideshow 

It's 3 p.m., and the Interface exhibition opens in four hours, but Media Arts chair Barney Haynes is calm amid a sea of laptops and electronics. "It'll all come together," he says. "Well, most of it will."

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Posted on Thursday, January 15, 2009 by Lindsey Westbrook

Victoria Montgomery's earring-back necklace

"Garbage in, garbage out," or so they say. But CCA's students this past fall turned out some impressive exceptions to the rule.

San Francisco was the third city to host the Radical Jewelry Makeover, coordinated by Ethical Metalsmiths in conjunction with multiple Bay Area art schools, galleries, and metalsmithing groups.

First came a Bay Area–wide call for donations of unwanted jewelry. "We filled a table with it," says Curtis Arima, a faculty member in the Jewelry / Metal Arts Program, "not just gold and silver but lots of junk jewelry, earrings without mates, et cetera. The students had a great time picking through everything and selecting parts for their projects."

Every student currently enrolled in a Jewelry / Metal Arts course spent 10 intense days remaking the jewelry into new creations—either collaging existing elements together, or completely melting them down and re-forming them. Their finished pieces were exhibited and sold at Velvet da Vinci in San Francisco, a highly regarded jewelry and metal sculpture gallery. Donors received a discount in proportion to their contributions. Everything that hadn't been appropriated was sent on to the next stop on the project's tour.

Switching up the script

The Radical Jewelry Makeover was a great way to start the semester, as one student put it, by "switching up the script." CCA's program usually emphasizes a balance between concept and craft; weeks might be spent articulating what a new piece will communicate before any physical work begins. The Makeover's 10-day time frame demanded a dramatic shift in both aesthetics and modus operandi.

Many reported feeling a sense of collaboration with unknown jewelers of the past, and with the pieces' anonymous former owners. Sophomore Jean Saung observes, "I wanted people to recognize some of the parts taken from the old jewelry, and to appreciate the recombination of their past and history to create new meanings. I made a necklace from pieces of an old watch by prying apart the metal wrist links and re-forming them into cubes, which I slipped onto a neck wire. I wonder if people will recognize the 'beads' for what they truly are.

"Certain parts, which used to belong to completely different pieces, actually seemed like they were meant to be together. I was also surprised to find myself gravitating toward the costume jewelry and the non-precious materials. I liked the idea of making something that was not very valuable into something someone would want to keep."

Senior student Victoria Montgomery agrees, "Metalsmiths, just like any other artists, sometimes get stuck in their own ways of creating. That week was a way of breaking free from the rut. It felt like a week dedicated to play. The studio came alive with a constant buzz of artists sharing materials and ideas.

"Some of the donated items were over-the-top costume jewelry. They were visually daunting, but once I started simplifying, that's when my pieces started to take form. For example, the donation box contained endless costume earrings from the 1980s, most missing a mate. I started collecting all the clip-on mechanisms and studs and treated them as links in a large chain. I liked the surprise of something so forgettable as the back of an earring suddenly taking the stage."

Mining the drawers

Ethical Metalsmiths views this project as a way to get young jewelers thinking early about their materials—first and foremost mined metals such as gold and silver, but also the stuff at the back of people's drawers that would otherwise become landfill. The organization is working on several aspects of mining reform, including the establishment of standards for certified recycled metal, which can be advertised to consumers who want to buy responsibly.

A trip to Malakoff Diggins up in California's gold county is a reminder of how destructive mining is. According to Ethical Metalsmiths, to mine the gold for one new ring creates a staggering 20 tons of waste rock. Mining is a core industry in many countries, and the arsenic, lead, and other chemicals required to process ore cause serious health problems and pollute the land and the water supply. Not to mention the terrible child labor practices and other human rights violations that often plague mining economies. In the United States, hard-rock mining produces more toxic waste than any other industry, and 80 percent of all mined gold is used to produce jewelry.

Senior student Russell Larman found great inspiration not only in the project, but also in the organization behind it. "It's important to remember that the history of our new pieces did not begin with the people who made the donations," he says. "They were only temporary custodians in a larger life cycle. Objects have an inherent history that often becomes separated from them when they are packaged as consumer products. As consumers of gold, silver, platinum, and gemstones, we have a responsibility to make sure we're not supporting unethical labor conditions in the communities that make these materials available to us."

Sustainability in metalsmithing

Surprisingly, even though gold and silver seem expensive, many jewelers do not recycle their metals. The Radical Jewelry Makeover was an occasion for an open dialogue about issues of sourcing, and for Arima to give demonstrations to the students showing how easy it is to melt down gold and silver and reuse them.

MFA student Anna Adair remarks, "The project's focus on sustainability and our ethics as practicing jewelers was, for me, the most important component. It's not something we can afford to ignore, on either a commercial or a conceptual level. A couple of years ago I wasn't thinking about my studio practice in these terms, aside from basic recycling and proper disposal of chemicals. Scrutinizing my studio habits was an eye-opener."

Saung echoes, "I had thought about sustainability and reuse for some of my smaller crafts and hobbies, but I never really had the motivation or courage to incorporate the concept into my studio work. My jewelry metal was always just processed metal I could easily buy. Now I am changing that, and I think it was my experience with this project that gave me the courage."

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Posted on Friday, August 15, 2008 by Kim Lessard

Students and faculty from the Jewelry / Metal Arts Program at California College of the Arts are calling on local residents to donate their unwanted jewelry—gold, silver, or other—between now and September 11, 2008, to be recycled into exciting new pieces for the Radical Jewelry Makeover. A nationwide program, the Radical Jewelry Makeover was founded by Ethical Metalsmiths, an artist-run nonprofit organization that is working to galvanize mining reform efforts and educate the public about alternatives to traditional mining practices and jewelry production.

Jewelry donations can be made at the drop box located in the Jewelry / Metal Arts Program offices at CCA's Oakland campus (5212 Broadway), or mailed to the Richmond Art Center at 2540 Barrett Avenue, Richmond CA 94804. Donations can also be made at any of the other participating organizations (for more information, see radicaljewelrymakeover.blogspot.com).

The unique, handmade pieces from the Radical Jewelry Makeover will be exhibited and offered for sale October 22–November 9 at Velvet da Vinci, 2015 Polk Street (between Broadway and Pacific), San Francisco. There will be a reception on Friday October 24. Jewelry donors receive discount coupons, and all sales benefit Ethical Metalsmiths' efforts to inform and connect people with responsibly sourced materials. CCA students will work together on the project with other participating Bay Area organizations, schools, and studios, including Metal Arts Guild San Francisco, Academy of Art University, City College, the Crucible, Revere Academy, Richmond Art Center, and Scintillant Studio.

The San Francisco Bay Area Radical Jewelry Makeover will be the largest event to date. According to Ethical Metalsmiths, San Francisco Bay is lined with several feet of sediment from hydraulic gold mining that took place more than a century ago, and the waters are contaminated with dangerous levels of mercury as a result. The organization Earthworks reports that an estimated 80 percent of the gold mined each year is used for jewelry, and that a single gold ring leaves 20 tons of mine waste. Mining is currently the most toxic industry in the nation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

About California College of the Arts

Founded in 1907, California College of the Arts (CCA) is noted for the interdisciplinarity and breadth of its programs. It offers studies in 20 undergraduate and seven graduate majors in the areas of fine arts, architecture, design, and writing. The college offers bachelor of architecture, bachelor of arts, bachelor of fine arts, master of architecture, master of arts, master of fine arts, and master of business administration degrees. With campuses in Oakland and San Francisco, CCA currently enrolls more than 1,650 full-time students. Noted alumni include the painters Nathan Oliveira and Raymond Saunders; the ceramicists Robert Arneson, Viola Frey, and Peter Voulkos; the filmmaker Wayne Wang; the conceptual artists David Ireland and Dennis Oppenheim; and the designers Lucille Tenazas and Michael Vanderbyl.

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