Friday, March 6, 2009

Jewelry Department

Amy Arguedas

Bright light. White. Sterile. Linoleum floor. Ventilation booth. Rubber gloves. Piece of burned wood . . . biology lab? Nope. But close. A mini kiln, I believe, has replaced the Bunsen burner, turning this space into a lab for resins and enamels.

I turn and am immediately confronted by a low table lined with wax routers in a room the size of a recording studio. Bolted into the wall behind me is a minerals list, charting the strengths of some of our beloved gems. And in the corner, below the sink’s super-sonic water filter, is a spaghetti strainer tilted up against a shallow basin filled to the brim with those itty-bitty rocks we’re familiar with seeing in fish tanks.

In a studio space across the hall, dangling from the ceiling, are giant vacuum hoses –canary yellow, coiled in black and looking as if they rolled off a page of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. Adjacent to these odd creatures are the most peculiar of them all: a display of orbital buffers and sanders, which happen to be stationed in front of welding masks tacked into the wall.

You’ll need muscles, not a mouse, to operate in this department. No where will you find a computer. Instead, prepare to dig through heavy drawers filled with containers of delicate tools used for making the tiniest of silver knots. Then scan carefully organized walls in an impeccable fashion to grab hold of a massive, wooden handled instrument in hammering out some magnificent alloy.

Power fills this place in every sense of the word. Energy takes form from the electrical outlets spaced at regular intervals throughout each room, to the time it takes in sourcing material, all the way to the effort one makes in salvaging scrap pieces of dust. My modest understanding of jewelry making tells me there is something embedded between the formal operation of making and the intrinsic processes of working with metals, resins and enamels that can be applied to our new generation of ‘crafts people.’

The success of a piece be that it purchased and worn. Aside from any aesthetic judgment, its desire links back to the creator’s skilled knowledge of material and fine attention to detail. These also being the two main ingredients of our design challenge in conquering what ‘ecologically responsible design looks like.’

To take and frame this with C.Rose's observation exercise in drawing everything but the intended object analogous to constructing ‘green’ design principles, how do we evaluate by not looking at it aesthetically? How does purchasing power change if considering the color, cut, clarity and carat of a gem is no longer of value or fashioned?

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