This book of rings, Showcase 500 Rings, New Directions in Art jewelry, is a complete celebration of the human urge to communicate and join through creating. As we reach out our hands to each other, we acknowledge that we are separate from other creatures on our planet by our ability to use our hands as tools to create beauty and art. If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then the hands are the doorways to all that we hold to be dear and true in our hearts.
It is a lovely way to begin a new series of Lark books by dedicating it to rings. Rings say so much and in so many ways. They join people in marriage, they commemorate other important occasions, they even serve as seals or crests.
Showcase 500 rings not only gathers together a great collection of classically designed yet modern rings, it also offers the reader the latest creations from the greatest, innovative studio galleries.
As juror Bruce Metcalf explains in his introduction, there is a movement going on right now which validates any and all sorts of materials. This book will show you what he means. Not only are there rings in gold and other precious metals, there are also rings fashioned from all sorts of other materials. There is even a collection of rings which have been made of dried, hand dyed, and hand carved potatoes! And these potato rings (by Julie Usel) are not alone in their unusual nature, in this book. There is nothing which hasn't been chosen which is not worthy to be in this glorious book. You will see silver and gold and gemstones and glass enamel, and you will also see anodized aluminum which has been crocheted and fused. You will be moved by a ring which is almost spiritual in its sensibility, namely "Nest" by Euyoung Park, which is fabricated of resin, ink, and paper only. I was not attracted not only to the more classically styled rings. Rather, I was attracted to all the rings.
I cannot describe to the reader precisely what to expect when he or she pages through this incredible book because what I connect with the most is not necessarily going to be what someone else connects with.
The wonder which I hold as my strongest, most urgent feeling upon reading Showcase 500 rings, and marveling at the creations, will overtake you too, however. That I can guarantee. Here you will find a panoply of all sorts of different rings, created in all sorts of ways. Some are humorous yet have a powerful impact as well, such as Felike Van Der Leest's "Prima Ballerina Hippo-Lolita" , which is constructed of plastic animal, textile, bone, gold, and cubic zirconia. This is one of my favorite rings and employs crocheting, and also metalsmithing. There is nothing like the classic form of the hippo, which harks back to ancient Egypt, when hippos were revered. Add a reference to Disney's dancing hippos from the movie "Fantasia", and combine that with the common knowledge that hippos are among the most vicious animals on earth. "Hippo-Lolita" had this reviewer laughing a little and thinking a LOT simultaneously.
There are a number of what Juror Bruce Metcalf calls "clunk rings". These rings are a commentary on conventional preciousness. According to Metcalf in his introduction, in modern days, Karl Fritsch is the king of "clunk jewelry". I had never heard of this term before and I appreciated Metcalf's explanation of it. He traced it back to sculptor Jean Dubuffet in the 1940's. Clunk was a critical response to conventional sculpture, as Metcalf says. He also says, "Inelegant forms stood in opposition to the outmoded idea that art must be beautiful. Instead, it was proposed that art should be interesting."
This is just a small section of this excellent introduction to this book. Metcalf is a very refreshing observer, and very educated on his subject.
He later says, "I'm pleased to report forward progress in the areas of digital design and rapid prototyping, both of which are finally infiltrating the world of rings." Wow! This reviewer was bowled over by what Metcalf knows and how totally un-pompous he is in his introduction. I could easily take a course from this gentleman and really get something out of it. As a self taught jewelry designer, I usually rely upon myself alone to understand the jewelry world. However he taught me any number of things in his wonderful introduction. Additionally, as always, when Marthe Le Van edits a book, you know you are going to be getting something very special.
I wish to finish up my review of Showcase 500 rings by discussing two different rings which I really liked. The first one is a ring by Petra Class which is untitled. I have chosen it because it is 18 kt. gold, 22 kt. gold, green tourmaline and diamonds. It is a brilliantly colored ring which captures and enhances the beauty of the stones in a remarkably simple way, yet it is very dramatic and elegant. On the other hand, it is also modern and organic looking. The simple bezel settings, and the way the stones network (almost the way crystals grow) with each other, against the sunshine-bright colored yellow gold and the two accent bezel set diamonds is marvelous. It admirably fits into all the categories a beautiful, yet interesting design should fit into.
The other ring I wish to mention is actually a collection of rings, by Emily Klopstein. These are called "Precious Material", and are of all shapes and sizes. They are silvery white, clear, and black in color, and of all sizes and shapes. They are made of sterling silver, found objects, rubber, and water. They are cast and fabricated. The artist explains them above the starkly graceful photograph. "This set of rings questions how today's society defines a community and how our systems of value have the potential to change as natural resources grow scarce. The rings place common drinking water in a position of high importance, examining the value
it might hold in the future, even to the wealthiest of societies."
I was bowled over by this photograph and by these rings.
In the very first photograph, in the interior of Showcase 500 rings, the reader will see a beautifully manicured hand gripping a rock as a person crawls out of the ocean, which is shown in the distance.Upon her hand is a uniquely formed white ring of a plastic-like substance with tendrils waving upon it ending in beaded tips. It is as if the future, and our past...how we began, in this cycle of creation, are melded together. It is at once a breathtaking photograph and a wonderful way to begin this incredible book.
This is a book to treasure, and to look at over and over. I will never tire of this spectacularly photographed glimpse into what is in the hearts of my fellow humans as we journey onward toward our future, telling our story to the children who will follow us in this remarkable adventure which is life.
Showcase 500 rings, by Marthe Le Van and Juror Bruce Metcalf, is today's gift to future civilizations, from our modern artist studio jewelry community. It never follows the rules. What is more, it actually makes that which is interesting into that which is beautiful, at every turn.