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The ornament is a very rich and complex cultural phenomenon. The need for decoration and ornamentation has always been an essential part of mankind, from the earliest civilizations until the present day. The ornament is present in every discipline of the Arts, and closely related to the world of jewellery, in which the need to decorate the body forms the main reason for its existence. A piece of jewellery is always an ornament, but an ornament is not always a piece of jewellery.

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The ornament can have a symbolic, aesthetic or social function since there is an intimate relation between ornaments and the way people express their life. Feelings of joy, lust and grieve are all materialized in ornaments. Although being attacked for the first time in history in the early 20th century by the architect Adolf Loos and by the philosophy of the modernists, the ornament clearly survived and has now proven to be a subject for contemporary developments in both Fine Art and Design.

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During the course the students will investigate the origin of the ornament, its meaning and full potency. The students will be encouraged to connect the world of jewellery with other disciplines, and to search for a relation between the past and the present. Through short exercises and assignments, both individual talks and group discussions the students will develop a personal and contemporary vision on the ornament which will have to result in finished pieces.

I strongly believe every student has to become aware of the relation between the mind, the heart and the belly during the creative process. To form a strong and personal vision, concentration and deepening is necessary. During the workshop the students will be challenged to go the whole way with an idea, to stretch it as far as it can go.

The workshop will take place from July 11 to 15, 2017.

For more information write to: info@alchimia.it

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Evert Nijland is a Dutch jewelry maker. His work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions world-wide, including in the Galerie Rob Koudijs, Galerie Louise Smit, Coda museum, Gorkums Museum, Textielmuseum and Stedelijk Museum (NL), Galerie Spektrum and Cranach Haus, Museum fur Kunst und Gew,  Internationale Handwerksmesse ‘Schmuck’(DE), Oratorio di San Rocco (IT), Cheongju International Craft Biennale (KR), Fondation Bernardaud (FR), MAD Museum (USA), Victoria & Albert Museum (UK) among many more. He is the recipient of several awards among the many the Dutch Design Prizes and The Sotheby’s Award and his work has been acquired by public collections such as the Nationaal Zilvermuseum, Nederlands Textielmuseum, MMK Museum, Coda Museum and Stedelijk Museum (NL), Mima, Middlesbrough Intitute of Modern Art and Victoria & Albert Museum (UK), Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum of Arts and Design, New York and the Mint Museum of Crafts & Design, Charlotte NC (USA).

 

 

written by Aniya Dunkley

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Akis Goumas, bracelet “shell”, forged silver, wires Flickr, Bracelets Cuffs Bangles, 2015

Just before the Winter holidays, the second-year MFA students of Alchimia participated in a three-day workshop in Anticlastic Raising (a technique of metal forming whereby a sheet of metal is formed directly with a hammer on a sinusodial – snakelike – stake) based on ancient Greek concepts and techniques.  The course was taught by Akis Goumas, a Greek jewelry designer by trade who also works with a team of archeologists studying and researching prehistoric metal technology in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.  Akis, who has been designing and making jewelry for over 35 years, emphasizes the importance of understanding the journey a piece of jewelry takes through the process of its making. He believes strongly in the power of our rational and logical thinking, in the idea that we all have the ability to teach ourselves how to make things through a careful consideration of the materials we already have at our disposal and what our desires for an object are.

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Over the three days, students learned how to design and create tools made of raw wood and metal, and then realize three (or more) anticlastic pieces of jewelry, ranging in size and dimension. This was meant to guide the students towards an understanding of the proper functions and uses of the tools they use, and how to personalize and shape them in relation to both themselves and the objects they imagine to create.

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Each student walked away with its own specially-designed hammer, etching pens and tweezers, hammering techniques, and memorable pieces of jewelry.  It was a lot of hard work, but Akis was an excellent guide, eternally patient and very attentive to everyone.  His warm spirit and drive kept the students going at a steady pace and eager to learn more each day.  He left a lasting impression on everyone and we all look forward to having him back again some time soon.

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What can you do with the notions of repetition, pattern and rhythm?

Alchimia’s first year BFA students are happy to present to the blog the outcome of a five-days workshop with Alchimia’s former director, artist and jewelry maker Doris Maninger.

How about starting with a potato?

By using only a potato students created hundreds of black and white patterns and collectively realized a wonderful window installation.

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How do you work with a group?

The building of a sense of (temporary) community with fellow students and faculty is a central aspect of  Alchimia’s pedagogical method, as it strengthens self-security and encourages experimentation. Hence a second exercise during the workshop was the realization of a 1 minute music video revolving around the three magic words.

 

What is the size of a necklace?

The last exercise was about collectively realizing a necklace for the Gods, creating a piece of overly exaggerated size, moving from the micro dimension of jewelry to the space of a window.

 

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The first year BFA is: Silvia Bonardi, Thomas Catry, Yara Diaz Salles, Yu Fang Hu, Daniel Jirkovsky, Ashleigh Mc Culloch, Sarah Ordóñez, Sarah Poupart, Alessia Prati, Yanqi Wuang, Shuang Yue

 

 

How do we handle materials, what is their known and usual use, how can their qualities be defined? These questions were at the core of Material and Rules, a five-days workshop tailored for Alchimia’s BFA program by Doris Maninger with the assistance of Carla Movia. The workshop dealt with acts of defining, ordering, categorizing and in essence has the aim to encourage the students to think about how they look at things, and how their own act of looking defines what they see.
During these five days students used play as a form of investigation, understanding the importance of experimentation before final decision making, how that moment of freedom is paramount while keeping an absolute respect for self-imposed rules.

An important part of the this year’s course was the visit to the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology of Florence, one of the most significant in Europe. The Museum owns a very important patrimony, through which it is possible to trace the history of research methodologies adopted by anthropologists in the 19th and 20th centuries, and to gain knowledge over the colonial methods adopted to study any non european culture. The most spectacular section of the collections is the more than 25,000 artefacts deriving from exploratory journeys and scientific missions conducted in many regions of the planet in the late 18th – early 19th century. They consist of all kinds of objects: garments, clothing accessories, jewellery and ornaments, masks, architectural elements, boats, equestrian vestments, idols and amulets, offensive, defensive and hunting weapons, tools for farming, fishing and cooking, decorative items from houses, musical instruments, religious objects of different cults, books, paintings and manuscripts. These objects are all made out of natural materials: wood, bark, leaves and plant fibres both in their natural state and as components of fabrics and woven objects, fruits and seeds, bones, ivory, horns, shells, metals, stones, clay, natural dyes, skin, feathers and hair.

The colonial gaze vis-à-vis early scientific methods gave an important inspiration to the students projects, as did the incredible techniques developed to master natural materials all found in the museum’s collection.

Enjoy the visuals yourself and remember, mind your look.

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Alchimia

 

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The second year BFA is: Roberta Consalvo, Elisa Cassaniga, Lisiane Hilario, Kristin Knoll, Chloe Leigh, Victoria Matsuka, Ginevra Montoschi, Uta Myazawa, Luisa Quartin, Cosima Rohden, Piera Shi, Sophia Taul, FuYu Tsai, Ian Lai Wen.

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We are happy to announce some exciting new additions to our dream team of staff members.

Jorge Manilla will be the new main tutor of Alchimia’s first year MFA program, while Benjamin Lignel will be the new tutor in curating and creative writing for Alchimia’s second year MFA program.

Read below about their stunning professional experience. For more information Alchimia is at your disposal (easy: info@alchimia.it).

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Alchimia

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Jorge Manilla is originally from Mexico but lives and works in Belgium.
Grown up in a family of goldsmiths and engravers, he studied visual arts at the Academy of San Carlos, in Mexico and received a higher technical jewellery training at the Academy of Craft and Design from the Mexican Institute of Fine Arts.
In 2003 he earned a Bachelor degree in sculpture at The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent and one year later he enrolled at St Lucas University College of Art and Design where he received a Master degree in Jewellery and Silversmithing in 2006.
Alongside his professional activities as an artist, he is right now working as researcher and doing his PhD under the title Other Bodies Design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. He also teaches at different Art and Design universities around the world .
His work investigates his environment – religion, emotions, relationships and the meaning of life.
His dark forms and shapes create a barrier between the meanings of the objects and the outside world. Black implies self-control and discipline, independence and a strong will. It gives an impression of authority and power. To the artist black relates to something hidden, the secretive and the unknown, and as a result it creates an air of mystery. It keeps things bottled up inside, hidden from the world. For Manilla black is the end, but the end always implies a new beginning.

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Benjamin Lignel is an artist, writer and curator. He is a co-founder of la garantie, association pour le bijou, a French association with a mission to study and promote jewellery. In this capacity, he co-curated “Also known as jewellery”, a exhibition of French contemporary jewellery that traveled seven cities, and helped program and organise the 44th Zimmerhof symposium (2012) in Germany as well as “Bijou(x). Les Pratiques contemporaine à l’épreuve de leur discours” (2014) a two-day symposium hosted by the Paris College of Art, in Paris. in 2014, he organised Différence et Répétition, a research-by-exhibition project that was shown in Norway and France. He became a member of Think Tank. A European Initiative for the Applied Arts, in 2009, and was appointed editor of Art Jewelry Forum in january 2013. He has just edited a third book under AJF’s imprint, dedicated to jewellery in the wider cultural realm, titled On and Off, and is currently working on a book on jewelry an gender with Namita Wiggers. Ben conducts workshops extensively on writing, curating and jewelry, and is a guest teacher at the Nürnberg Academy of Fine Arts since 2013.

 

NEW CRAFT

Curated by Stefano Micelli

Fabbrica del Vapore, Via Procaccini 4, Milano

02.04 – 12.09

XXI Triennale International Exhibition

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Entrance to the exhibition at Fabbrica del Vapore. Photo by Federica Sala

 The Milano Triennale International Exhibition is back after 20 years with a challenging program of exhibitions, special events and lectures that are happening all around the city since early Spring inside museums, universities and important cultural spaces. The aim of this project is to try to analyze from different perspectives the world of design in its contemporaneity.

New Craft is an exhibition that belongs to this intense and very ambitious program and takes place at the Fabbrica del Vapore, a former industrial building today devoted to contemporary culture, nearby the Monumentale graveyard of Milan. The aim of this endeavor is to share with the audience a reflection about one of the biggest and at the same time most exciting challenges design is facing nowadays: innovation through craftsmanship. In fact, if on the one hand we are facing the never ending opportunities offered by new technologies, on the other being a relevant designer today seems to mean also to go back to craftsmanship. Here, what becomes clear is that the unique essence of craft has finally been reconsidered (hurrah!) as something more meaningful and more valuable  than what can be achieved via mass production. Being able to produce new products using old techniques seems to be the objective many designers are trying to achieve. Thus the big challenge for a new generation of designers is creating a new type of technology to produce new forms of craft. The purpose of using old machines and studying traditional techniques is to give birth to new industrial/craft projects in which the speed and precision of the machines is combined with the uniqueness and customization of handmade piecesMany design theorists are raising attention on these new aspects of the discipline, trying to understand the how and the why of what is better known as a “self-production phenomena”, “fab-lab” and “makers”. At the same time, it’s important not to forget the industries that have invested into the design & engineering field, trying to merge mass production, with the high quality of the final outcomes and technical research towards innovation.

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New Craft – central hall exhibition at Fabbrica del Vapore. Photo © Inexhibit

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A large x-shaped concrete table located in the middle of the great hall. Photo © Inexhibit

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Photo by Federica Sala

 New Craft tries to didactically organize and narrate all the manifold aspects that are part and parcel of this research field today, showing products as diverse as bicycles and clothes, pots, cars, site-specific installations, processes of production (3D printing, 3D cutting, new typography machines) and (Yes!) jewelry piecesThe audience is able to interact with different tools, creating objects that become part of the exhibition too. 

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Artifacts made during the exhibitionPhoto © Inexhibit

 If the general aim of this event is pretty clear and well organized through a very defined path, sometimes the choice of the objects is too much. What I mean here is that the selection of pieces seems to be presenting too often objects belonging to the same collections, designers or brands rather than trying to really show the different possible outcomes the use of new craft techniques can lead to by involving a wider range of practitioners. Furthermore the amount of objects is overwhelming, so for me the famous “less is more” would have worked better on the overall, giving to the different pieces more space to breath but also more importance. 

 The jewellery section featured the work of Stefano Marchetti, Monica Castiglioni, Paola Volpi and Stefania Lucchetta.  While the first represents the highest form of goldsmithing skills rethought into more contemporary forms, the others base their work on the use of new technologies such as synterization and 3D printing together with a deep experimentation with new materials. I perfectly know and understand that each of the products presented in the exhibition is no more than a hint to a bigger world, but also in this case, the selection and the variety of the jewellery pieces could have been better shown and presented: Marchetti’s pieces are detached from the others and in the case of Lucchetta and Volpi the display seems to refer to a shop window rather than to an exhibition space. This means the the particularities and values of each piece are not highlighted, making it very hard for an audience to really appreciate the nuances of each piece.

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Exhibition view of the jewellery section. Photo by Federica Sala

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Exhibition view of the jewelry section. Photo by Federica Sala

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Stefano Marchetti’s pieces. Photo by Federica Sala

For instance Lucchetta’s work is the result of complicated 3D sketches and repeated patterns that could be nice to show close to one of the pieces. This is because the material choices she makes are relevant, and a consequence of the production process in relation to the visual final effects she wants to achieve. I know this as a professional in the field, but who else?

Anyhow, looking at the jewellery presentations from a distance, the contraposition of these images gives a strong feeling, especially looking at Marchetti’s work whose presence in this exhibition is remarkable and important for all of us: contemporary jewellery exists here and could also be like this!

Federica Sala is a jewelry artist based in Milan. In 2015 she graduated from Alchimia’s MFA program and recently won the Marzee Price 2016.

Dates: 25 to 29 July 2016
30 hours
Cost: 700 euro + 22% VAT
Deadline for enrollment: June 20, 2016

Due to popular demand and success, Alchimia offers again a workshop on filigree from July 25 to 29 2016, with Susanne Matsché (www.susannematsche.com), an Austrian-American-German jeweller, specialized in this very particular method adapted to contemporary jewelry.

Take some time, just like this ancient technique requires, to carefully read Susanne’s account over her encounter with filigree, and the richness of its possible creative uses, in contemporary jewelry and beyond.

* When I went studying to Moscow as a young exchange student from Vienna (previously I had studied design for 2 years), I came across filigree which was hugely popular in the jewelry department there, and at first it seemed oddly exotic…but a good teacher managed to draw my attention to the magic of it. He taught me its secrets and I dived into the world of silver ornaments – one year of intense technical training. When I came back to Austria I experienced a cultural shock, and the pieces I had made were shocking for the department (not their style at all)! It took me a while, but after creating a few special pieces, I processed this clash. 

Ever since, filigree has played an important role in my works. Up to this day I am directly or indirectly influenced by this experience. Handing on my knowledge in the filigree workshops I teach, and introducing the technique to students of contemporary jewelry, is so interesting because I can perceive the wide variety of approaches to this ancient technique and the amazing different paths on which the students are taking the fine wires.

* The fine silver wire with which we work in the workshops is very soft, it has an almost textile quality, suggesting associations with techniques usually untypical for metalwork, like stitching, weaving, binding, wrapping…

Due to its softness the wire/the fine silver elements can also be used in a very organic way, as if the parts of the piece of jewelry were growing and flowing. Sometimes I see a vine and I think of various wires winding around the rigid structure of the fence…

* I find it intriguing to start out from a thin plain wire, like a first line in a sketch, and to first build a two dimensional surface from there, then moving on to the third dimension. Working with filigree is also about the excitement of working up all the elements from scratch (even the special solder) into a delicate, three-dimensional piece, which is a great source of inspiration for the students’ work and an opportunity for them to integrate this knowledge into their own previously acquired set of skills.
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* In contemporary jewelry there is an overall tendency to create large, sculptural pieces. Working with this fine technique is definitely a challenge, because one’s attention gets drawn to the detail. A colleague of mine, who had never seen my work in real life, was amazed to find that some of the pieces he had seen in pictures were actually smaller than he had thought. The intricacy of this technique and the effort and time it takes to create large surfaces, can be an interesting motivation to “think smaller” (and this doesn’t necessarily have to always refer to the physical size of the piece).
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* The roots of the filigree technique in jewelry lie in ancient mediterranean cultures (the Phoenician, Etruscan and Greek Empires). With the rise of the Constantine Empire in the first millennium BC, the technique was introduced to Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. Filigree was, and still is, used in many parts of Latin America (as introduced by the colonial powers) and the Oriental world (from Northern Africa all the way to the Arab peninsula) as well as Asia. Filigree was also practiced throughout Europe (from Portugal, Spain and Italy, through the Alpine regions, all the way to Scandinavia, the Baltic states and the Balkans). In many parts of central and Western Europe today however, the technique is barely used anymore. The high cost of labour made it hard to produce and its distinctive style became generally unpopular in mainstream jewelry in Europe during the 20th century. 

Since ancient times the challenge of this technique was “to use minimal amount of precious metal to create an object of maximum size” (Oppi Untracht, “Traditional Jewelry of India”) and it remains an interesting challenge for today’s young jewelers and a sure source of inspiration!

*Among the things I always find inspiring is to look at traditional pieces and costumes from all around the world. Often they involve filigree. It is not only inspiring to study the actual pieces, but also the context and the way they were worn. One of my favorite examples is the national costume of Zeeland (a region in the Netherlands) where women wear the most amazing headgears.

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* In today’s world full of efficiency and simplifications, it can be rewarding to take some time for a closer look at such an ancient and intricate technique, which is so slow and so loaded with ornaments. I find that taking this step “backward”, can lead to unexpected steps forward/sidewards/inwards,… or it can lead to an in-depth examination of the present (work), with its underlying ideas and approaches.

* The word “filigree” is often used not only in relation to jewelry, but in general to poetically describe something fine, light, fragile and delicate, regardless of the dimensions. Many things, from sugar decoration for cakes to the work of the ingenious engineer Gustave Eiffel are all associated with “filigree.” When entering the German word “filigran” into an internet search engine, apart form jewelry one finds entries about insects, botany, tattoos, even construction of concrete bridges. No matter what size, “filigree/filigran” is a fascinating principle dealing with the use of the structure’s lightness to create space. Therefore, I believe that inspiration for fine pieces can be found anywhere, on the streets, in a hardware store, on a map, in a forest…

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