New York City. Jan. 20, 2020. For 24 years, the elite group of designers that make up the American Jewelry Design Council (AJDC), a nonprofit comprising members that elevate the caliber of jewelry design through educational activities, has released one themed project annually as a way to collectively flex creative muscles. But, unlike most of the group’s jewelry designs, these pieces aren’t available for sale—they are regarded as one-of-kind creations made for the sake of high art and are intended “to stimulate both the artist and the viewer to think beyond common limits and elevate jewelry expression to the realm of art,” according to the group. This year’s theme? Polka Dots.
AJDC members include renowned names like Whitney Boin, Michael Bondanza, Henry Dunay, Michael Good, and Pascal Lacroix, among others.
AJDC executive director Marylouise Sirignano Lugosch offered some insight into this year’s efforts.
“We would like every member to participate (we have 36 members), but, understandably, everyone can’t always complete it,” she explains. “This year we had 29 projects. Some themes pique more interest than others.”
Of course, part of the fun is seeing the finished pieces. AJDC used to display them at trade shows, but that proved costly. This year the group is in negotiations with an interested party to display them prior to the Las Vegas fairs, but the deal isn’t yet done. Next year some of the pieces will have a permanent display case at the University of Arizona’s Gem & Mineral Museum. The museum is moving to the Pima County Courthouse, which is under renovation, and will reopen in fall 2020 under the moniker of the University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum.
AJDC member Paul Klecka, who made a massive black dot cuff, loved the entries of fellow artists Alan Revere, Kent Raible, and Diana Vincent. As for his own piece, he says it evolved from the thought of making something dramatic and bold but not necessarily precious (in materials) to a fierce-looking, warrior-inspired number executed in black nylon.
“I found a website I love that had a menu of printing services for CAD designers,” he says. “The array of choices was amazing—from brass, bronze, silver, or nylon. I made mine in black nylon because it’s one of the things I have learned with the AJDC: removing the precious aspect of a piece of jewelry forces a viewer to consider it from a design standpoint rather than as a precious item.”
Something else he loved from this year’s project? The annual designer retreat weekend, where, for the first time, AJDC members brought their pieces in progress and had a show-and-tell of sorts.
“Many AJDC designers don’t go to the Las Vegas shows, so you never get to see them,” Klecka adds. “So, to get to sit there and hold their pieces and ask them how they did it was great. It was the first time we ever laid out all the projects in a conference room and all converged like that. It was inspirational.”
Meanwhile, Susan Sadler’s inspiration—which is typically a lighthearted one—hails from a moth she spied on her garage door one day. In fact, she wasn’t even particularly inspired by the dot theme until she saw her moth one summer day in 2019.
“Even though dots are in my vocabulary—my mom’s name was Dot and she wore a polka dot robe, and I had a dog named Dot who had polka dot blanket and sweater—I wasn’t inspired until I saw the moth,” she says. “He was big and a taupe-brown color with dots that were a darker taupe. I took pictures of him and decided to make a pin in silver with gold and colored stones like orange sapphires, tsavorite garnets, amethysts, and round peachy-color pearls.”
Her moth is also edged in yellow gold, but a casting incident with black paint instead of oxidation or rhodium plating took a disastrous turn, eating away at some of the moth’s metal. Thus, the moth hasn’t yet been completed. Still, there’s always next year to try again. The theme for 2020? Secret Garden.
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