ORNAMENT Volume 33 No. 2

Contemporary Beads and Jewelry. Bridging the Past and the Future
Set in Stone. Prehistoric Southwest Ornaments
Britt Rynearson. Sculptural Shibori
Trashy Treasures. Beads on the Streets of Rome
Marne Ryan. Trial by Fire
Ancient Trees and Stromatolites. Materials for Modern Jewelry


Contemporary artist-craftsmen are currently creating highly innovative beads and beadwork. Value is related to craftsmanship and the expression of ideas rather than the monetary worth of rare and precious materials. There is no limit to concepts, forms and materials used.


Not often am I so impressed by an exhibition that I become concerned with showing as much of it as possible. Running through February 2010 at the Arizona State Museum, on the campus of the University of Arizona, in Tucson, Set in Stone was just such an occasion. Subtitled 2000 Years of Gem and Mineral Trade in the Southwest, the show is actually two integrated exhibitions, one on the prehistoric Southwest, the other on historic and contemporary Southwest jewelry.


Soft as silk. Smooth as silk. When most people think of silk, images appear of lustrous, drapey, sometimes diaphanous fabric prized throughout history for its luxurious and sensual texture. It is the fabric of kimonos and evening gowns, form-flattering blouses and sexy lingerie. But when Britt Rynearson gets her hands on bolts of silk, she sees sculpture.


Since three years ago, we have been monitoring what happens to beads and other ornaments in the Rione Esquilino, the bead trade neighborhood of Rome. Here, since the 1970s, and with more intensity in the 1990s, grew a large trade community of bead merchants from Asia—mainly from China, Bangladesh and Pakistan. For one year we picked up beads, earring parts, tiny rings, spacers, terminals and other bead components, chains,
and fragments of any imaginable ornament.


From the time she was just a child Marne Ryan has loved fire. Growing up in a large family on a tree farm in Pennsylvania, she discovered her affinity for flame early on as she would watch the family refuse burn to ashes. The excitement and unpredictability of fire remained with her, and became a central part of her process as a jeweler and metalsmith. With her torch in hand Ryan transforms sheets, scraps and fragments of metal into beautiful rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, vessels, and hollowware.