ORNAMENT Volume 34 No. 4

Sarah Hood. The Power of Landscape
From Roadside To Runway. A History of Chenille in Fashion
Lisa Vershbow. The Art of Diplomacy
Polymer Clay. A Modern Medium Comes of Age
Linda Threadgill. The Structural Origins of Ornament
Cristóbal Balenciaga. Fashion as Refined Art
Prehistoric Southwest Jewelry and Their Sites

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Spotlight: Polymer Timeline

 

Polymer clay has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a dollmaking and modeling material. In the decades since it was created, innovative artists have secured this modern medium a rightful place as a respectable form of expression in the art and studio jewelry movement.


 
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Seattle jewelrymaker Sarah Hood is well aware of the power of landscape to shape those who live in it. For more than a decade she has been making art that evokes landscape and the natural world. “I’m trying to create new landscapes that deal with the human condition,” states Hood. “I want to consider where we fit in that landscape."

 

The humble material chenille plays an important role in the history of the modern tufted textile industry. The often-told story of the industry’s genesis begins in northwest Georgia with a young woman named Catherine Evans who saw an antebellum candlewick coverlet (a form of whitework embroidery) owned by a cousin in 1892 and a few years later decided to make her own.

 

Metalsmith Lisa Vershbow says “Necessity is the mother of invention—I am living proof of that.” For the past thirty-five or so years, Vershbow has accompanied her diplomat husband Alexander to Russia, South Korea and other foreign posts, transporting her streamlined metalsmith studio across oceans.

 

The idea that ornament is superficial and superfluous, merely a skin-deep addendum to the utilitarian objects that it adorns, is a strictly modern invention that can be traced in particular to dissatisfaction with Art Nouveau flourishes in the early decades of the twentieth century. With the dismantling of the modernist aesthetic in the last decades of the twentieth century, artists such as Linda Threadgill felt liberated from the design constraints that had dominated the studio production of metalwork and jewelry for so many years.

 

The name Cristóbal Balenciaga has become a definition of timeless, classic elegance, synonymous with the exquisite beauty and rigorous perfectionism that his designs exemplified within the realm of twentieth-century haute couture. He is often credited with having elevated fashion to the level of a refined art. His life and dictums of style are a fascinating study in contrasts, an interplay of nostalgic Spanish themes and provocative innovations, which he synthesized and transformed with the consummate skill and brio of a masterful precision tailor.

 

The prehistoric American Southwest consists mainly of the present states abutting the Four Corners area (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, although southern Nevada and northwestern Mexico are also considered part of this cultural region). Situated in some of the most beautiful landscape offered by our country, this area contains the largest amount of archaeological ruins in North America.