Retail Gallery

Opening Soon: Paper Jewels at Paper Hammer

A conversation with Dorothy Cheng, who curated the show and runs the ship at the Second Ave shop.

By Laura Cassidy January 19, 2012

SLIDESHOW: A preview of the work on display at Paper Hammer in February during their show, Paper Jewels. Here, Alejandra Koreck’s (Buenos Aires, Argentina) neckpiece.

People who love paper love Paper Hammer, the Second Ave shop that celebrates tactile memories, note taking, decor, books and texts, and loads of other offline pursuits.

It’s a great place for grabbing unusual gifts, stationery, and mood boosters, and beginning Thursday, February 2 and running through February 25, it’s a good place to get your mind bent around a new sort of jewelry.

Shop manager and studio curator (and jeweler in her own right) Dorothy Cheng brings together six artists using fibrous pulp materials to craft wearable accessories.

Check out our conversation with Cheng here, and click through the slideshow to take these new jewels for a spin. And do plan to stop by the store to see these intricate and innovative pieces in person.

WWW: What was the impetus for showcasing jewelry made of paper?
Cheng: Paper Hammer hosted an exhibition of jewelry artist Sondra Sherman’s work last May and we got great feedback. So when we were brainstorming ideas for the gallery space, we wanted to revisit that theme. This show also complements our mission at Paper Hammer: to present expertly and carefully handcrafted functional objects to the public and to celebrate a union of traditional craft techniques with modern design.

The show consists of artists from all over; were these folks you already knew or did you discover new artists in your curation process?
I encouraged the artists I knew and admired who made work from paper to apply for the show and we sent out calls for entries to various art jewelry organizations. From the 50+ entries, [Paper Hammer owner] Ed Marquand and I narrowed it down to the artists that we both thought made interesting work.

What do you hope viewers will see and understand as they approach the work? Should we be inspired to wear jewelry? To see paper differently?
We’re just hoping that viewers will approach the work with an open mind and think about jewelry and paper in other contexts. And if that inspires people to wear more unconventional jewelry or to make their own jewelry from paper, that’s great!

How can we evaluate the preciousness of paper jewels? Would it be strictly time spent on each piece or is it more abstract? Without the rating system of karats and weights and so forth, how can we value this work? Is it even important to attach specific value or can we ditch that for this new medium?
The intention is not to ditch the idea of value altogether, but to present the idea of “value” as something that doesn’t inherently exist, but is contingent on a variety of factors.

I think jewelry has always been about more than the sum of its parts. And the value of those parts is also constantly changing. Aluminum at one point in the 19th century was more expensive than gold, because the process of extraction was so tedious. The high price of diamonds is a miracle of advertising and a monopolized market. Silver was more expensive than gold in ancient Egypt since it was never native to the region.

Since jewelry also takes on individually attributed meaning so easily, its value is often determined according to how well it conveys these messages. I know many people have pieces of jewelry that have been passed down through generations or as gifts from loved ones. These pieces may not be worth much to a metal refiner or gemologist, but they can be precious for other reasons.

So with the paper jewelry, we’re hoping to bring to prominence these other factors that influence value, such as craftsmanship, personal sentiment, and artistic presentation.

There are so many novel materials entering the jewelry and accessories
scene? For instance, retailers, shoppers, and designers are
obsessed with that rock
climbing rope.
Are we in the process of deconstructing metals and jewels and the traditional notion of jewelry?
Yes, in a way, non-metal materials in personal adornment have become quite mainstream and readily accessible. But on the other hand, the human quest to adorn oneself has yielded pretty daring jewelry-making practices throughout time. Victorian human hair jewelry, anyone? And in non-Western cultures, materials such as beetle wings, kingfisher feathers, hair, and natural resins have been used and worn for ages. I think designers now just have more access to other jewelry traditions to mine for inspirations.

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