Craft In America: Jewelry Extraordinaire

comments (0) August 12th, 2008     

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susanstars Susan Beal, contributor
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The cover of Craft In America.
Jan Yagers Tiara of Useful Knowledge from Craft In America.
The cover of Craft In America.

The cover of Craft In America.

Photo: Susan Beal

I had the chance to see the Craft In America show at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts last year, which was fantastic. The companion 3-hour documentary is amazing, too -- there are three intertwined but distinct programs, Memory, Landscape, and Community, profiling American artists in their studios and beyond. And the last piece of the trio is the gorgeous, lavishly photographed Craft in America book.

I am especially partial to the jewelry pieces -- as usual -- but the survey of work is incredible. I couldn't even begin to recount all my favorites, but one piece that I was very drawn to in all three arenas -- in the film, in person at the exhibition, and in the book itself -- is Jan Yager's Tiara of Useful Knowledge. Yager is a Philadelphia artist who uses found objects of all kinds to inform or literally transform into part of her fine jewelry practice -- from drug vials that become surprisingly lovely, vivid beading components to weeds, leaves, and plants picked in a vacant lot near her studio that serve as the templates for her intricate metal fabrication.

The Tiara of Useful Knowledge is part of her City Flora series and uses several plant species, including ragweed, potato leaves, sweet clover, tobacco leaves, and switchback, "each one chosen for its symbolic reference to the disruption, and possible restoration, of nature's balance." She embossed, pressed, forged, fabricated, and cast the leaves, flowers, and stems into this magnificent piece. It also transforms from a single tiara into eight brooches, two stickpins, a tietack, a pendant, and a headband. Part of the process, including her gathering material and fabrication work, is shown in "Landscape," which I wholeheartedly recommend.

To find out where the exhibition will be traveling next, visit the Craft in America website, too.

posted in: book, documentary, museum, craft in america, jan yager

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