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MATRIX EARRINGS AND PENDANT, fabricated from round or square brass wire or silicon bronze brazing rod, and partially or completely covered with heatshrunk Coverlite. The matrix pendant on the bamboo torque is from early in the design process, when I was beginning to combine these neckpieces with either ethnic jewelry components or Coverlite matrix pendants. The chronology of the wire matrix earrings go from left to right, with earliest the X-shaped earrings. The newest red/yellow earrings have only two sides covered, but give the illusion of more. Earrings range from approximately 5.0 to 7.5 centimeters long, weighing 1.6 to 3.1 grams each and are all made in 2014. Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament.


Building Light

and Volume




How are creative ideas and designs generated? Sometimes even the craftsperson involved finds it hard to explain; it is almost as if it were a compulsion that has to be vented, and stems from many influences. My current interest in exploring the construction of light and volumetric jewelry built on wire matrices possibly had its origin decades ago. During my years as an undergraduate student majoring in zoology, I worked most summers as an industrial modelmaker in Chicago. I learned to solder brass and other base metal using a propane canister torch, often constructing miniature bridge trusses and oil tankfarm piping layouts. I remember being enamored with the architectural I-beams used for these models, and making a pair of earrings with them; I liked their strength and lightness. Undoubtedly these initial attractions led me to make metal representations of the Chinese lantern flower as earrings and collaborating with glass artist Heather Trimlett to experiment on blowing glass into wire matrices for pendants (Liu 2002/03, 2007). Because I liked simple and strong necklaces, I started using bamboo for making torques, especially since I wanted to use this sustainable resource, instead of just metal (Liu 2010b, 2012). Having taught a number of bamboo jewelrymaking workshops to students in recent years, and needing a body of such organic jewelry for a recent show at Freehand Gallery (Benesh-Liu 2014) convinced me that wire matrix pendants were an attractive addition to black bamboo torques. The use of heat, whether for soldering, blowing glass, heatbending bamboo or heatshrinking thin film coverings were a common thread with these past decades of my jewelry, culminating in my latest series of earrings, although I feel I am just beginning to explore the possibilities of these materials.









Robert K. Liu
Robert K. Liu is Coeditor of Ornament and for many years its in-house photographer. He is now in final edit for The Photography of Personal Adornment, which covers forty years of shooting jewelry, clothing and events related to ornaments, both in and out of our studio. For perusal in these pages, he offers the latest results from his experiments in volumetric, lightweight jewelrymaking, as well as the thought process that went along with their creation. He also presents an article investigating the most notorious of alkaline etched beads, dZi and pumtek, explaining how collector demand has caused skyrocketing prices of these miniature artifacts, especially in Asia.

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