ORNAMENT Volume 35 No. 3

Mary Lee Hu. Working with Wire
Jim Cotter. The Unexpected and Commonplace
Juanita Girardin. New Directions
Smithsonian Craft Show 2012
Emanuela Duca. A Passion for Metal
The Last Empress in Qipao. From Manchu to China Chic
Bamboo Jewelry. A Sustainable Resource


A simple line of wire in silver or gold transcends itself in the hands of Mary Lee Hu, as she plaits, twines, knits, and braids its length into woven forms of unassailable beauty. She has kept to this practice since she discovered early that weaving in metal is what she was meant to do. It would be her life’s work, a satisfying way of achieving aesthetic fulfillment for now approaching fifty years as a studio jeweler and metalsmith.


When Jim Cotter travels, he carries coins that he has carefully and subtly modified by erasing details, setting with tiny precious gems, or inlaying with concrete. Friends, fans and patrons covet these (signed!) prizes, but Cotter refuses to sell them or give them away. He follows a self-imposed rule that they must be spent, passed along like regular pocket change. Whether for circulation or personal adornment, Cotter’s coins epitomize his approach to art: unconventional and playful.


Juanita Girardin reels off the names of designers she is drawn to: Vera Wang, Donna Karan, Narciso Rodriguez, Calvin Klein, Ann Demeulemeester. But her true affinity is for the Japanese. Their sensibility, their aesthetics, suit hers. “It’s unisex, it’s not cut and it’s not close to the body—and it’s all based on the kimono.” Years of experience as a lifelong weaver and textile artist have honed her point of view. Sitting in her rural northern New Mexico studio on a crisp winter morning, she continues: “Clothing can be art. The Japanese, Alexander McQueen—those people are artists. The Japanese have an intellectual approach to clothing that really appeals to me. They begin with the fabric; they think it through.”


The Smithsonian Craft Show is a smorgasbord of sights, backed by the soothing susurration of conversation in a cavernous space. As one of the leading craft shows in the United States, the Smithsonian has been undergoing a metamorphosis that reflects overarching transitions in the larger craft world. In 2011, the craft show made a substantial modification in its line-up, jurying in almost sixty new artists.


One of Emanuela Duca’s recent designs is a sterling silver ring with a nearly black patina and a curvaceous profile. The metal itself is web-like in places, as though worn through by a few millennia of geologic maelstroms. Perhaps the ring spent a thousand years under a volcano, bits of it melting into the molten flames. Yet the ring, which is part of Duca’s Notte series, has a raw glamour that makes it contemporary.