All You Need is Telstar: a collaborative international necklace

INTRODUCTION

A temporary, transatlantic, creative partnership between Poppy Porter and myself sprang up for the purpose of generating a piece of wearable art for the Crafthaus Co-Operation:Garnish project.  The project is a traveling, juried exhibition that called for makers with very different working sensibilities to pair and cooperate on a piece. Poppy is an Abstract Artist/Jeweler based in the United Kingdom who I approached from a list of interested parties.

Our response to the theme of Co-Operation:Garnish is based on the structure of two specific songs and how they played their part in communications history. We have taken the rhythm and bassline to be the foundation and the melody and vocals to be the “garnish”.  One artist works with the foundation the other works with the garnish.   The two songs were written either to be transmitted by or in praise of the first communications satellites, thus starting a communications revolution that makes our co-operation and collaboration possible.

Poppy and I have very different styles of working. Poppy is synesthetic, and has a visual response to music and sound that resembles a colorful, abstract animation.  She takes her inspiration for her jewelry and painting from the drawings generated while listening to music.  Poppy uses a variety of techniques and materials to make jewelry, usually creating or finding a form that will be painted using automotive custom painting techniques.

THE COLLABORATION

We were strangers at the beginning of the process and to date have never met or spoken in real time.  In fact, as Poppy made her half first, it is possible that she will never see the finished piece in person! The entire project was conducted and made possible in the time available via social media and email.  The constraints of time and distance focused the making process considerably.

This transatlantic communication sparked the idea for the piece.  We decided they wanted to work with music to use Poppy's synesthesia.  I suggested we use “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles which was commissioned by the BBC for the first live global television transmission
 in June 1967 and Poppy suggested “Telstar” by The Tornadoes, a 1962 instrumental piece about Telstar, the first communications satellite.

After email dialogs and starting a Facebook group to document the process and ease communication of ideas they decided to make a necklace.  This would be comprised of 12 ovals, each oval will be around 4x6cm, half of the ovals would be inspired by "Telstar".  The other half of the ovals would be inspired by "All You Need is Love."

They decided to look at the structure of the music and use that to reflect the theme of “Garnish”.  Poppy (a bassist among other things) began by laying down the groove.  Creating the foundation of the piece by responding to the rhythmic structure and basslines of both songs.  It was agreed that I would then look at the melody and vocals to “garnish” the foundation.

Poppy listened, looked and drew several abstracts for each song.  The main color of the basslines for both songs was purple with distinct white shapes superimposed over the top, cubes for “Telstar” and star shapes for “All You Need Is Love.  There would be twelve purple ovals, six with white cubes and six with white stars to represent each song.  There was also a very sci-fi sound effect at the beginning and end of “Telstar” clearly meant to represent the satellite itself. This was a very dominant shape and Poppy decided to include it as a central motif with the ovals coming out from it as if they were the transmissions. She airbrushed these abstract shapes on to pierced out aluminum composite panel using automotive custom painting techniques for vibrant colors, adding a little stardust for sparkle at the end.  Each piece was designed to be elements that I could arrange in any way I wanted once I was working on the necklace.

As teleportation is a thing of the future there was an anxious wait for the UK and US postal services. I received the elements and respond to Poppy's groove with my own interpretations of the melody and vocals to "garnish" the foundation. Although I had made a variety of abstract sketches based on the impressions of both pieces of music, my elements were also considerably changed as a result of Poppy’s painted imagery. Not wanting my elements to obscure too much of the white painted forms jumping off of the painted ovals, I strove to position my complimentary elements around the baseline-inspired pieces, creating a harmony. I was further inspired by Poppy’s sparkle finish to include fine light-catching textures on her dimensional garnishments.

The success of the piece comes from the conscientious merging of the disparate strengths of each contributor. The merging of Poppy’s colorful approach with my dimensional methods has resulted in a fun and wearable necklace. It is a fitting expression of international communication, representing the cordial and encouraging working relationship that developed between two strangers.

Soulcology: exhibition and award

Plumb Bob: Shelter and Plumb Bob: Loving and Faithful were both accepted into Soulcology: An Exhibition in Metal at the Guilford Art Center in Guilford, Connecticut. It is a national, juried exhibition and will be on view from June 6 through July 27th, 2014. It was organized by Lanette Barber and adjudicated by Robert Dancik. I am additionally pleased to announce that Shelter received the third place award! Both pieces are part of a series of plumb bobs that either hang from forged wall hooks or may be worn as necklaces.

 

The following is the statement which pertains to these pieces:

 Plumb bobs have been used to find “true” vertical lines as well as depth. These plumb bob pendant necklaces come from the understanding that hard decisions must sometimes be made and those things upon which we base our decisions are reflections of what we value. “Shelter” references the idea of a secure home as a concern around which major life decisions may be built. It is not difficult to see great significance in the ability to access a dependable shelter, and the gold key is an exact duplicate of the back door key to my first house. “Loving and Faithful” is about a commitment to another in a partnership as a foundation for decision making. My husband and I were married according to the traditions of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and our vows were to be “with divine assistance, loving and faithful” unto each other.

 

Plumb Bob: Shelter (detail)

 

Dumbarton House Commission

Dumbarton House in Washington, DC, is commissioning works from a handful of jewelers and metalsmiths, to have been inspired by something in their collection. The project was envisioned by Scott Scholz, the Deputy Director & Curator. The pieces will be exhibited along with their inspirational counterparts this fall at the historical house and then auctioned as a fundraiser.

I was honored to have been invited to contribute to the project. It is a great opportunity to try something new and stretch out a bit. After the significant struggle of choosing an inspirational piece from the large decorative arts collection, I settled on a linen and Point de Gaze needle lace handkerchief from the first half of the nineteenth century. The drawing above is of the necklace that I have proposed to make. It combines various decorative elements from the handkerchief and will also be featuring a white-on-white palette of fine silver and mother-of-pearl. I have never used mother-of-pearl and can see a lot of riveting in my future! I purchased several “large” sheets (1.2 x 2”) from a custom luthier supplier. Luthiers, pronounced ˈlo͞otēərs, I learned, are makers of any form of stringed instruments. The finished piece will also incorporate the techniques of piercing, hydraulic die forming and chasing and repoussé.