Reconstructing Our Second Skin: Gender in Contemporary Jewelry


Reconstructing Our Second Skin: Gender in Contemporary Jewelry

In this crafthaus blog, I explore the intersection between gender and jewelry with a three-prong approach: interviewing artists who do not shy away from words like “gender issues,” “feminism,” and “sex”; analyzing the work of said artists and the reach of their work via questionnaires; and reinvigorating conversation about gender in jewelry by putting together an online exhibition.

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Latest Activity: Feb 20, 2017

About this crafthaus blog:

Gender, like jewelry, is something we can choose to wear. Just as wearing a family necklace or wedding ring can become a lifelong habit, so can wearing gender. With each piece of jewelry, whether it be a Tiffany diamond engagement ring or a cowrie shell necklace, comes a set of expectations and values, and the same applies to gender.

The biggest difference, however, is that some people will go through life without realizing that gender, like jewelry, can be taken off before sleep and left on the nightstand. Even fewer people will realize the possibilities of treating gender as a malleable accessory instead of as a second skin you’re stuck in.

In this crafthaus blog, I will explore the intersection between gender and jewelry with a three prong approach: interviewing artists who do not shy away from words like “gender issues,” “feminism,” and “sex”; analyzing the work of said artists and the reach of their work via questionnaires; and reinvigorating conversation about gender in jewelry by putting together an online exhibition.

Discussion Forum

Interpretations of Masculinity: an interview with American jewelry artist, Andrew Kuebeck.

Started by Olivia Shih Aug 31, 2016. 0 Replies

Olivia Shih: Hello Andrew! Could you share with us how you found your way to creating jewelry that deals with gender and interpretations of masculinity? Andrew Kuebeck: Ever since high school, when I started taking jewelry classes, I’ve been interested in working figuratively with my work. Early on, I was really inspired by the works of Chris Smith and Keith Lewis and really enjoyed how they were able to incorporate the figure with richly constructed visual narratives. As I began to branch out into my own work and research, I found that I was constantly returning to certain themes. Narrative, personal history, the nude, and props were all components that really interested me and continually emerge in my work. Brickmason Brooch, copper, enamel, brass, sterling silver,image on enamel, photograph by Andrew KuebeckOS: Your work also incorporates photography, especially images of the…Continue

Tags: jewelry, brooch, humor, contemporary, masculinity

Behind the Scenes with Vincent Pontillo-Verrastro

Started by Olivia Shih Aug 12, 2016. 0 Replies

During my interview with Vincent, we talked about his involved work process and how he utilizes technologies such as 3D scanning and 3D printing to augment his work on gender issues. In this blog post, Vincent generously shares behind-the-scene images for pouch (2016), a new piece of work that reconsiders his series, thoughts on fertility (2013). Model making.Inspiration.Building the form on the computer.Prints.In progress.Photopolymer resin.…Continue

On the Intimate and the Personal: an interview with American jewelry artist Vincent Pontillo-Verrastro

Started by Olivia Shih Jul 26, 2016. 0 Replies

Olivia Shih: Hello Vincent, and thank you for agreeing to this interview! Could you give us a little background on yourself and your work? Vincent Pontillo-Verrastro: Prior to jewelry, I was a classically trained trumpet player studying at Interlochen Arts Academy (a small, intense, and immersive arts boarding school for roughly 400 high-school students in northern Michigan), which is where I took my first jewelry/metals course in 2004.   OS: Was this the class that tempted you to enter the world of jewelry? VP: Definitely. After graduating in 2006, I began my undergraduate studies at CalArts (Valencia, CA), which encouraged a highly conceptualized methodology of making, blending experimental sound production, performance, and visual art. Things happened, and I dropped out of school and moved back home to Lancaster, New York with no set goal in mind… Serendipitously, I learned that SUNY Buffalo State College offered a BFA Metal/Jewelry Design degree and applied for admittance within a…Continue

Tags: contemporary, jewelry, art, gender, reproduction

Taking a Crowbar to Jewelry: an interview with Swedish jewelry maker Tobias Alm

Started by Olivia Shih Jul 3, 2016. 0 Replies

 Olivia Shih: Hello Tobias! In previous interviews, you mentioned that studying gender and queer theories, with a focus on masculinities, has really transformed your work as an artist. Why do you think contemporary art jewelry has potential for exploring gender issues?Tobias Alm: The world of jewelry is heavily gendered, and its history is filled with symbolism and traditions that take an active part in the gender structures of societies. I believe that jewelry artists and makers have a great opportunity to critically address problematic gender issues, and that this is already being done by many great artists with different approaches. A lot has been done, but much more could be done.The perplexing relationship between jewelry and masculinity is something that I especially think should be addressed more.Tobias Alm, The Châtelaine no.11, gilded sterling silver, leather,…Continue

Upclose, naked, and there: an interview with Dutch artist Anke Huyben

Started by Olivia Shih Jun 21, 2016. 0 Replies

Olivia Shih: Hello Anke! Before we launch into talking about your work, could you tell me about your background? I know you trained as a goldsmith entrepreneur and attended art school, but what is a goldsmith entrepreneur?Anke Huyben: As a goldsmith entrepreneur, you learn to work with precious metals, to set stones, and to start your own business. But that traditional way of doing things always bugged me. When we had to make a set of jewellery, I came up with a ring and crown that you attached a candle to. When wearing this jewelry, you had to think about the way you walk, so I guess gestures in jewelry has always appealed to me. OS: And how did art school influence you? AH: Art school made me think differently about jewellery. I'm not the best goldsmith, and that way of making wasn’t enough for me. I dropped out early. Two of my brothers were into sculpture at the time, and I became interested, too.When I visited Art Academy Maastricht, it was clear that this was my next step.…Continue

Tags: art, dutch, jewelry, contemporary, gender

Let's Talk Politics

Started by Olivia Shih. Last reply by The Justified Sinner May 18, 2016. 1 Reply

When I was immersed in art school and its countless critiques, I found that people tended to shy away from contemporary jewelry with a political bent, whether it be about gender conformity or democratizing jewelry through alternative materials. The word “politics” brings to mind corrupt bureaucracies, disfigured promises, and the ceaseless bickering between two political parties. But “politics” is so much more than its bad reputation. As writer, educator, and activist Ghadeer Malek puts it, “politics is about power, what we do with it and how.” When applied to our bodies, politics is simply about who controls and defines our bodies.Necklace by Olivia ShihUnfortunately, talking politics is considered a faux pas in many contexts. At my critiques, some shared the sentiment that putting too much political and critical thought into the making process would needlessly over complicate…Continue

Tags: jewelry, metalsmith, contemporary, feminism, gender

Hello there

Started by Olivia Shih. Last reply by Olivia Shih May 2, 2016. 2 Replies

Let's Be Friends, 2013, talking stuffed toy, fabric, stuffing, velcro, recording deviceThe one thing you should know about me, is that I once made a talking “uterus,” complete with detachable eyes, nose, and ovaries. It was my knee-jerk reaction to Congressman Todd Akin's infamous quote on abortion and "legitimate rape." And quite possibly the unexpected culmination of my BFA in Jewelry and Metal Arts from the California College of the Arts and my BA in Creative Writing from Columbia University.In case you are curious, I have no idea how to sew, but I do have a warped sense of humor. I also happen to have a multi-cultural background. Born in the United States but raised on the subtropical island of Taiwan, I’ve shuttled back and forth between the two countries all my life. I was immersed in and grew up with two languages, two cultures, and two sets of conflicting societal…Continue

Comment Wall


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Comment by 2Roses on April 29, 2016 at 9:23am

Linda, my experience has been the same as your's, but from the other side of the gender bench. When Corliss and I are working the booth, customers who don't know us almost universally assume that she is the maker, and I am the sales help for the day. 

I take this in stride and with some amusement as part of a craft landscape that is predominantly female. I also see these interactions as opportunities to engage the customers on a far deeper level than "would you like to try it on." 

Exploring gender issues is interesting artistically, but should we expect customers to be precognitively sensitive to our personal gender issues when they enter our booth? Personally, I am there to sell jewelry.

My feelings don't get hurt when a complete stranger fails to appreciate or acknowledge my depth of experience and accomplishments. Truth be told, I don't know anything about them either. It is simply an invitation to get to know each other better. 

Comment by Brigitte Martin on April 27, 2016 at 10:33am

Now I want to see a picture of you with a feather duster in your hand, Linda. That would totally make my day. Just kidding :)

Comment by Linda Kaye-Moses on April 27, 2016 at 9:42am

My work has not specifically, and really only once or twice been focused on gender issues. I have contemplated more specifically the empowerment I feel that comes from messing about with metals and the tools needed to mess about with metals. My craft has gone a long way to defining who I am as a woman and an artist.

However, frequently, when I describe myself to strangers as a metalsmith/jeweler, I am faced with a surprise that I assume has something to do with a disbelief that a woman could, in fact, use a hammer and a saw (and other equally dangerous tools) to make metal behave. Mostly the questions arise when my husband and I are in my booth at shows, and those asking the questions assume that he is the messer-about-with-metals. Apparently my gender would prevent me from wielding tools heavier than a feather duster. The response that I have often received goes something like this, “Oh, that means you bang around with a hammers and things.”, with the implication that this behavior is something just so darned cute. Now I generally reply in the positive, with a smile and a nod, because the learning curve, in the face of those situations, is so steep, and I’ve spent so many hours, days, years, responding with a long rant about how my hands work just fine for making my work. Also, to be kind, I recognize that there is no intention to be demeaning or patronizing; there’s just no intentional effort to avoid being so. There is just too much misinformation and plain old ignorance out there and it is simply exhausting continuing those conversations.

OK, this rant is over.


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