Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Art to Wear

ArtWear, 1981
I first saw Artwear while I was schlepping a suitcase full of jewelry that I had made around SoHo. I was looking for other jewelry artists and their studios, hoping to find somewhere that I could pull up a chair to a bench and work. I had no money yet I was imagining that I could clean someone’s studio in exchange for bench time.
The large windows caught my attention from across the street and I was pulled to the store like a magnet. I stood outside, afraid to enter such a wonderful, beautiful, intimidating world. I’d never before seen such interesting metal work displayed as art. Art to Wear. Artwear. “What IS this place?” I wondered. It wasn’t long before I began to hear about Robert Lee Morris. He was the first jewelry designer to educate us to think of jewelry outside of the box. Robert created this concept of Art to Wear. I felt as though I had found a kindred spirit whom I didn’t even know. He created a magical and wondrous world of which I wanted to be a part.
It wasn’t long before I heard through the grapevine that Robert held “open Sundays” at ArtWear and this is how they worked: A hopeful jewelry designer would stand in line with samples in hand and have a look-see with Robert. It was formal. The line was long and no one really talked. I was nerve-wracked and overwhelmed. Next thing I knew it was my turn and Robert was very silent and very tall. He looked at my work intently, turning it in his hands and peering at every detail, every flaw. At the time, I had been working freelance for Carlos Falchi, collecting scraps of leather in pinks, blues, reds and black. I would sew the skins together, stuff them with trapunto and rivet shapes of copper and silver with semi-precious gemstones onto these creations to make large gauntlets, cuffs and belts. I would engrave the metal with “graffiti” symbols I had picked up from the streets of the East Village. These pieces were true Testaments to the 80’s.
Robert suggested quietly but firmly that I should do this, change that. He looked at me and never smiled. He said I could come back once I had made these changes and meet with him again. I left, crushed. I went back to my studio and stomped around for a bit. I didn’t get it, this was MY vision! After a week of this I realized he had insight and I made these changes. Another open Sunday session and he greeted my effort with a clap of his hands and invited me into his gallery for a collective show. I was overjoyed! This was the very first time I began to sell my work and to develop a collection. This was the beginning.
I will always credit Robert Lee Morris for raising our collective jewelry consciousness. Jewelry became Art to Wear. The art that is worn closest to the body. And by the way, thank you, Robert, for giving me my first break. It’s been the ride of a lifetime and I’ve loved every minute of it!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Elves & Fairies

I first met Evie when I was 5 years old. She was my mother’s friend and she looked like an angel. Evie was 63 years old when I first met her, with a glow of blond hair piled atop her head in loose curls held in place with pronged combs and amber-colored bobby pins. Evie always wore dresses because she was a tailor and made suits from Butterick Patterns inspired by Chanel Couture. Her blouses were cut from sheer organza with pearl buttons that she wore with fancy camisoles layered underneath. I loved Evie. She was married to Ray and they lived in a small storybook cottage in Akron, Ohio. Ray was Santa Claus every year at Unity church and he looked just like Mr. Claus: a medium-set elderly man with piercing blue eyes and a mantel of graying blond hair who had a jovial laugh. These were the grandparents I never had.
Often my mother would send me off to Evie and Ray’s when she could no longer tolerate me. I would stay in the room which was Evie’s sewing room. All the colored spools of thread were arranged on a wall board according to color. Her half-sewn suits in luxurious materials were neatly folded atop her sewing machine. I would gaze out the window of this small bedroom and see the small woodlands of their backyard with neatly trimmed hedges and gardens full of violets and forget-me-nots edged with lilies of the valley. It was magical.
Evie was a beautiful, mysterious creature to me. She would often take my hand and escort me through the halls of Unity which had been the original home of one of the founders of Firestone Rubber in Akron, OH in the 1900‘s. Unity was not your average church. For one, it bought the mansion and held services there. The minister lived with his family in the coach house. Nothing had really been changed in the mansion except for the conversion of the large living room into a hall with a podium, stage and seats. The original kitchen had been converted into a small bookstore. All the other features of the mansion were in tact. These included a ballroom on the third floor, a food-service elevator that traveled 3 stories, two kitchens and a basement theatre, complete with a stage that rotated for the easy exchange of scenes. The congregation consisted of few children with an abundance of odd adults. Odd to me, that is. The teachings were metaphysical in nature in the 1960’s: biofeedback, meditation, astral projection and the belief that the Bible was symbolic and metaphorical. This attracted a small group of individuals who lived outside the box.
I would roam the halls with Evie or alone, running my hands over the smooth mahogany railings, hiding in fur closets and trying to crack the codes of two locked wall safes. Other times I wiled away the hours in the nursery, an expanse of rooms with built-in cupboards, assisting in watching my nephews.
Evie had been a professional ballet dancer in her youth. She was still graceful and beautiful but had the history of a lineage of mediums in her family. When I would stay with her, she told me not to come into her bedroom at night regardless of what I might hear. Once I heard loud groans and moans and was frightened. It sounded other-wordly.  Later I found out that she was a “traveler”, one that left their body while their soul would visit far-off places. Seems her grandmother had taken such a trip and returned two weeks later, just as they were getting ready to bury her.
It was Evie who told me about the Elves and the Fairies. She would explain their habits and their powers to me while we planted the violets along the edge of her wooded garden. She would point out their habitats and leave the ground covering “just so”, with great respect for these tiny, invisible beings. I would look out the window of that little bedroom and think I saw them flying and scurrying about bathing in the morning dew.
Today I still believe in Fairies and Elves. They help me find the stones that drop in my studio in-between the floorboards. They give me the right tool at just the right time. I adore them and leave little offerings of flowers and magical gemstones in little piles all around my studio for our eyes-only.
I need these little beings. They help me make magic and dance around when I am blue and stuck in a snowdrift. Magic is a necessity of life and completes the circle, the dewdrop of creation. You often see them turning the corner, over your shoulder. They’re there, just look.

Pictured:   1.) My elf, walking to work in the snow.  2.) Little Josephine's garden Fairy House. 3.)  Orange Drusy Necklace in the snow with some bits of copper ore strewn about…