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RING of Murano blown glass, 9.25 silver and gold leaf; 57 x 36 x 29 millimeters, 2012. Photographs by Carlo Buffa.
Paolo Marcolongo

Finding Harmony In Glass And Metal





Mastering a single art medium is challenge enough for most artists, but mastering two is rare. It was a lovely surprise then, to step into the Aaron Faber Gallery booth at SOFA Chicago and encounter a beautifully resolved and innovative body of jewelry that brought together two disparate materials, glass and metal, in a technically and conceptually balanced and harmonious manner. This work, a series of theatrical blown glass and oxidized silver rings by the Italian artist Paolo Marcolongo, effortlessly takes its place among the handful of artists—and here I am thinking of the Australian Blanche Tilden, the Czech artists Jirí Šibor, Markéta Šílená, and Pavel Novak (now living in the US) and the Americans Linda MacNeil, Karen Gilbert and Kristina Logan—whose explorations in both materials combine an original voice with superb technical skills.

For this The Blow Shadow series, Marcolongo has cleverly devised a system that utilizes two sterling ring shapes attached at one point, to make a shape that roughly resembles the number eight. In most cases the two rings are modeled or carved in wax, joined and then cast in Marcolongo’s studio as one piece. The first ring, a wide band that often has a rough-hewn stone-like texture, serves as the ring shank, and does an excellent job of providing the needed support on the finger for the large blown glass form. As a result, despite their dramatic scale, the rings sit quite comfortably on the hand. The second, narrower band serves as a mounting and constricting point for the blown glass. By placing the glass inside the constricting ring, and then blowing it further, the glass expands on either side of the ring and is thereby trapped in place. This is a deliciously brilliant and direct solution to a design problem, the kind of solution that appears simple and obvious only after it is conceived and executed. Further, a by-product of the nature of this blowing process is that most of the rings are dramatically and wonderfully asymmetrical, with the side the blowpipe was on being much smaller than the other side of the constricting ring. In some sense, the constricting ring and glass form on top of the hand take on the role of a diamond that is set in a traditional solitaire ring. They are the gem.  





Don Friedlich
Don Friedlich is a full-time studio jeweler living and working in Madison, Wisconsin. These days he primarily works with glass and gold. Friedlich has lectured at conferences and universities all over the world. His jewelry is in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Corning Museum of Glass, and others. He received his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1982. Friedlich has served as President of the Society of North American Goldsmiths and earlier as Chair of the Editorial Advisory Committee of Metalsmith. Photograph by Larry Sanders.




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