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Volume 30 No.2 2006

Ornament Magazine Volume 30 No 2

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Cover Feature: Prehistoric Mosaic Jewelry of the American Southwest.

Mina Norton A Playful Classicism. Laura McCabe Beadwork Fusions. Devta Doolan An Aesthetic of Simplicity. Breaking the Mode. Kee-Ho Yuen Orchestration of Contraries. Exhibition Uncommon Metals. Venue American Craft Show in Baltimore. Bead Arts Trajectories. Venue CRAFTBOSTON. Exhibition Power Dressing. Marketplace House of Gems

Cover Feature: Prehistoric Mosaic Jewelry of the American Southwest
by Robert K. Liu
Prehistoric Mosaic Jewelry Prehistoric Mosaic Jewelry

Over two decades ago, archaeologist Grahame Clark (1986) incisively examined why precious materials were regarded as expressions of status. Since the Upper Paleolithic, ivory and shell have been accorded such status; for instance, the Aegean mussel, Spondylus gaederopus, was widely used some five thousand years ago for personal adornments in Neolithic Europe, the Balkans and in the Aegean, especially by those living along the Rhine and the Danube basins, providing evidence of both their value and long distance trade of some twenty-five hundred kilometers (Clark 1986, Ifantidis 2006). This mirrors to some extent the use of Spondylus shells and jewelry made from their shells in the prehistoric American Southwest, West Mexico, Mesoamerica, and many cultures along the Pacific coast, from Mexico to Peru (Liu 2005). Here, the longest distance traveled by rafting spondylus traders was about thirty-eight hundred kilometers, between Ecuador and West Mexico (Anawalt 1998). Even prehistoric Hohokam of Arizona covered between two to six hundred kilometers in their expeditions to gather marine shells from the Pacific coast (Bayman 2002: 83, Doyel in Crown and Judge 1991: 241). Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament, courtesy of the Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, California or the Arizona State Museum, Tucson.


Mina Norton
by Robin Updike
  Mina Norton Mina Norton

On an autumn afternoon in her studio Mina Norton is seated behind an industrial sewing machine, head bent over her work as she guides one of her nearly finished knit jackets under the machine’s needle. The machine stitches a delicate arabesque of golden chain stitches onto the front placket. It is the final decorative touch. At Norton’s feet is one of her two beloved dogs, an extrovertish Corgi that likes to keep one ear cocked for the delivery guy. The other dog watches from its perch on a nearby sofa. A radio is tuned to a classical music station and the plangent strains of a piano concerto waft through the room. It is a charmingly serene scene. Photographs by Jacques De Melo.


  Laura McCabe
by Pat Worrell
  Laura McCabe Laura McCabe

With recent discoveries of perforated shell beads, the history of personal adornment with beads is now thought to extend back one hundred thousand years. Beads have crossed cultural lines, geographical boundaries and spiritual divisions to become a tradition embedded in modern times. Beadweaving artist Laura McCabe feels strongly about history and traditions in general, and especially those concerning beadwork. In fast-paced modern times geared more toward computers, manufacturing and instant gratification, beadweaving may strike some as too time-consuming and too exacting. But this enthusiastic artist works hard to keep the traditions, techniques and appreciation of the ancient craft alive.
“In a world of human differences, beadwork is a common link, fulfilling the most fundamental human needs,” says McCabe. “There’s something magical about beads. As objects, they’re fascinating. I just
love looking at them. Beads have such an ancient history, intertwined with humankind. I feel like I’m continuing the tradition in some manner.” Indeed, it is history that links almost every part of her life, from her physical environment and educational pursuits to her passions and her work. Photographs by Robert K. Liu/Ornament (left), and by Melinda Holden (right).


  Devta Doolan
by Carl Little

Devta Doolan Devta Doolan

Well on his way to marking three decades spent in the pursuit of creating remarkable jewelry, Devta Doolan takes a seat in a sunny corner of his Portland, Maine, studio on a Saturday morning in autumn to talk about the evolution of his work. Doolan reviews a rewarding career, with guiding principles, sidetracks and triumphs. It is when he gets to the latest work, what he is working on right now, that Doolan becomes fully engaged. This artist who dislikes repetition is embracing the new once again.
With the exception of a few tangents along the way, Doolan’s aesthetic has always been about simplicity, and his recent work pushes that concept to prominence. While pieces may be technically intricate, the mechanisms are less visible. Someone with knowledge of invisible clasps and laser-welded sleeves might express admiration for what he has pulled off, but the lay person is apt to respond directly: “This piece is really beautiful.” Photographs by Hap Sakwa.


Breaking the Mode. 
by Carolyn L.E. Benesh
Evening Gown by Charles James at  the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Rel Kawakubo at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

In a thought-provoking assemblage of fashion drawn from its vast permanent collection, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art pushes the boundaries, as well as delightfully, but more often forcefully knocking them down, in the assertively titled Breaking the Mode. This recent exhibition (September 17, 2006 to January 7, 2007) joins other books or exhibitions contemplating interesting subversive elements (today often, dare we say, an ironically conventional component of current couture). It examines the formerly entrenched conventions alongside the newest designers with their ever-changing rules about what is aesthetically pleasing and fashionable. This includes Against Fashion, Clothing as Art, 1850-1930, written and published by Radu Stern, in 1992, and re-published by The MIT Press in 2004; and the current Skin + Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture, hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art, also in Los Angeles (November 19, 2006 to March 5, 2007). A spirited, driving need for the dissolution of the customary boundaries of the fashion world is clearly detectable in late twentieth-century fashion's inspiration and eager imitation of the pervasive influences of modern art and architecture. Fashion, like craft, cannot just be fashion (as craft can no longer fit within its traditionally shaped subject), but must join the ranks of art and architecture, as all aspire to reach the ultimate aesthetic of its particular holy grail. All photographs © Museum Associates/Los Angeles County Museum of Art.


  Kee-Ho Yuen
by Glen Brown
  Kee-Ho Yuen Kee-Ho Yuen

Bringing together contrary forms in pursuit of visual poetry can be a risky maneuver for the artist. Like a chemical reaction, the union of distinctly different elements in a work of art may only lead to anticlimactic neutrality, as when a base negates the effects of an acid. On the opposite end of the spectrum, this practice of mixing dissimilar components may generate something volatile and unrestrained that ends in the artistic equivalent of a messy laboratory detonation. Complexity, after all, is a hair’s breadth from chaos, and art can easily fly apart. Ideally, the artist’s union of disparities will produce something midway between an inert solution and an explosive compound: something that bubbles and crackles perpetually but never overspills its borders or splatters itself pointlessly across the wall. For the viewer, this kind of art is always a surprise, a bit of magic, not simply because its effective meshing of contraries is improbable but because in the end it is so successful that despite its unlikelihood it seems to have emerged naturally, even inevitably. Photographs by Kee-Ho Yuen.



Our upcoming issue 37.4 contains


Nubian Jewelry

Kate Mensah

Philadelphia Craft Show


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