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Sculptural Pieces

MICA alumnae, faculty create wearable art

Posted 11.01.10 by MICA communications

Jewelry is a way of getting art off of the gallery wall and onto the body. 

Kate Cusack, Teardrop necklace

Several MICA alumnae and faculty are working to show the world that wearable art exists for reasons beyond simple adornment, that it can be thought of as a form of sculpture. Zippers, Barbies, wax, macramé: these self-made mavens have experimented with and have successfully used these untraditional mediums to create pieces of wearable sculpture.

Their work-which turns their interests and passions into careers-is much more than just colorfully arranging beads on a piece of string; it is calculated, crafted, and extremely creative.

"Jewelry is a way of getting art off of the gallery wall and onto the body," Margaux Lange '01 said. "Not only does it become more intimately experienced by the wearer, but it also becomes more engaging to those who see the work worn in the context of daily life."


Kate Cusack '01 (general fine arts) sees ordinary items as potential materials that can be transformed into something new and exciting, creating what she calls sculptural wearables. "The body is my canvas: I am fascinated by adornment and excess," Cusack said. "As a jewelry designer, I don't set out to make a necklace with beads or sterling silver; but instead, I manipulate the zipper into shapes that are like beads. I can see the material for what it is, what it ‘should' be used for, and then I can decide how I want to re-imagine it." (www.katecusack.com)

Kim Kaufman, Venetian Locket


Kim Kaufman '94 (Rinehart School of Sculpture) approaches jewelry with the desire to integrate ancient symbols, sacred geometry, and universal forms, while carving into each work a rich meaning. Each of Kaufman's keepsake pieces, retailed exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman, is imbued with a part of the individual who wears its story-and her customers have amazing stories to tell, such as singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan, who wore a Kaufman locket while on tour all summer. (kimkaufmandesigns.com)


Rebecca Irish '94, Ochre- Silver macrame necklace


Rebecca Irish '94 (general fine arts) turns knotting into an art form through her elaborate necklaces. "I love macramé because the patterns you can make are so beautiful. If there are not a lot of intricacies and labor, I'm not interested," Irish said about her one-of-a-kind pieces, which she describes as "eveningwear for the neck." (www.flickr.com/photos/rebeccairish or shinecollective.com)




Margaux Lange, Starburst Hand Brooch

Margaux Lange '01 (general fine arts), continuing the Plastic Body Series project she started at MICA a decade ago, uses recycled Barbie doll parts for her jewelry. The series, a result of Lange's desire to repurpose mass-produced materials into wearable art, is meant to examine pop culture's relationship with the icon. Lange said her fine arts education gave her the foundation for conceptual exploration in her jewelry work, learning that "jewelry could have meaning, a purpose, a message. ... Classes at the Jewelry Center opened a whole world of possibility for my artistic expression." (www.margauxlange.com)


Shana Kroiz, Balck Diamond braceletShana Kroiz began teaching jewelry courses at MICA in 1991 and helped found the College's Jewelry Center a year later. Now she is the program's special events and workshop coordinator in addition to creating her own beautiful pieces. "It is my goal that my students are thoughtful about what they do. It's important that what they create functions and looks good," Kroiz said. "The piece inevitably invites conversation and discourse, enabling the wearer to interact with the world." In her own work, Kroiz enjoys working with elaborate forms that are vibrant in color that can best be brought out using light. (www.shanakroiz.com)


Photo captions (top down): Kate Cusack '01, Teardrop necklace (photo by Frank Cusack); Kim Kaufman '94, Venetian Locket; Rebecca Irish '94, Ochre- Silver macrame necklace; Margaux Lange '01, Starburst Hand Brooch (photo by Azad); Shana Kroiz, Black Diamond bracelet.

A conversation with Margaux Lange '01:

How did MICA influence your work/get you inspired?
My fine art education at MICA gave me the foundation necessary for conceptual exploration in my jewelry work. I learned that jewelry could have meaning, a purpose, a message, and that it could go beyond fashion trends or traditional materials. Classes at the Jewelry Center opened a whole world of possibility for my artistic expression. I was inspired by unusual or found objects in jewelry and the transformation of ordinary materials. My Plastic Body Series jewelry (made of Barbie doll parts in combination with sterling silver and pigmented resins) was the result of my desire to repurpose mass-produced materials into handmade, wearable Art.

I took a lot of classes at the MICA Jewelry Center. I was first introduced to metalsmithing in high school and it was love at first solder, so when I was looking at colleges I was determined to find an art school that offered jewelry courses. MICA fit the bill. I can't say enough about my experience at the Jewelry Center. I studied under Kirsten Rook '91 and she was not only an amazing teacher but also a huge inspiration for me personally. She was a key figure in my decision to pursue jewelry making as a career.

What is your approach to jewelry making?
My approach to jewelry making is to keep it personal and stay true to my own voice. My Plastic Body Series was conceived out of a richly imaginative, extensive history of playing with Barbie dolls as a child. This personal connection to the materials I use in my work makes them immensely satisfying to create with. I think it's ironic that what consumed most of my play time as a child is now what consumes my "work time" as an adult.

What are your thoughts about the idea that jewelry is wearable sculpture?
Jewelry absolutely can be wearable sculpture, no question. There's a lot of conceptual art jewelry out there that is just as thought provoking and engaging as any traditional "art piece" or sculpture. This is not a new concept, art jewelry has been around a long time. Jewelry is a way of getting Art off of the gallery wall and on to the body. Not only does it become more intimately experienced by the wearer, but it also becomes more engaging to those who see the work worn outside in the context of daily life. In this way, wearing art jewelry is one of the best ways of engaging or introducing art to a very broad spectrum of viewers. The best art is that which engages its audience and facilitates conversation. You can't wear art jewelry without expecting and embracing the conversation it inevitably invites.

How do you start off creating a piece? What is your inspiration?
My inspiration and design process varies a lot from piece to piece. Sometimes there's an immediate storyline to my work. I'll have a particular idea I wish to explore and that will serve as the core concept that shapes the piece. Other times it's purely about design and arranging shapes and patterns using multiple Barbie body elements. And sometimes it's both, where I start out with a pattern or a shape and by the end a concept or story has evolved.