New Jewelry From Oldies – The New York Times
For four consecutive weeks, packages arrived daily. There were large boxes and FreshDirect bags filled with Ziploc bags, velvet cases and Tiffany & Company clutches. Some contained a single clip-on earring, bits of tarnished gold chain, vintage crystal brooches, a macrame bolo tie, a pearl necklace, a grimy Swatch watch and finds from TJ’s clearance bin Maxx.
“It was a lot of fast fashion, disposable items – the kind of stuff people have in the back of a drawer somewhere,” said Rosena Sammi, founder of Jewelry Edit (TJE), a collective made up mostly of independent creative women. which she founded in 2020.
The packages delivered to Mrs. Sammi’s doorstep had been outsourced through contacts in the jewelry business and through an extensive network of friends and friends of friends. And their content – about 100 books in all – was given to designers affiliated with the cooperative who wanted to create new jewelry.
From April 28 to May 7, the recycled jewelry will be featured in an exhibition and sale at The Jewelry Library, a Manhattan reading room and gallery space well known to jewelry enthusiasts and collectors. (Numbers always fluctuate, but Ms. Sammi expects 13 to 16 designers to deliver one to three pieces each, and then prices will be determined.)
“We emphasize the idea that jewelry doesn’t have to be disposable,” said Ms. Sammi, a former lawyer-turned-jewelry designer who started the collective when she became disillusioned with the private label collections she was producing. for department stores and shopping mall retail chains. At that time, she was frustrated with “this fast fashion movement to do things as quickly as possible, as cheaply as possible and only based on trends,” she said.
For example, she said at least one high-profile department store was pushing her to mass-produce her line in China (he thought her jewelry, handmade in Jaipur, India, was too expensive). He was once asked to deliver 10,000 silk cord bracelets in response to 2012’s color of the moment, oxblood. When the product arrived, the buyer thought the shade wasn’t quite right and would have given up on it if Ms. Sammi hadn’t persuaded her otherwise.
“Encouraging people to be more mindful of the type of jewelry they buy is a huge mission at Jewelry Edit,” she said. And the 50 designers on the co-op’s e-commerce platform are also invested in producing ethical jewelry, focusing primarily on small-batch collections handcrafted from recycled metals.
Ms. Sammi’s concept of a jewelry donation drive that culminates in an exhibition was guided by Radical Jewelry Makeover (RJM), a project of the non-profit organization Ethical Metalsmiths. Founded by two artists/instructors who wanted to push the jewelry industry to adopt more sustainable practices, the organization has done similar projects in Boston; Richmond, Virginia; and other markets since 2007.
“People are increasingly aware of the impact their consumption habits have on the world,” said Susie Ganch, co-founder of RJM and associate professor in the department of craft and material studies at the Faculty of Arts of Virginia Commonwealth University. “Universities, art centers and other institutions are increasingly inviting us to come and work with their students. It’s an amazing way to catalyze a community.
The organization’s goal, according to Ganch, is to get jewelry design students, hobbyists and trade professionals thinking about how they can make more socially and environmentally responsible choices by studio, on the bench and when working with gemstone and metal suppliers.
“Collaborating with Jewelry Edit is an opportunity to share the mission and story of this project and to provide strategies that jewelers can use to change their practices,” she said. “If any of the jewelers we work with make different choices in the future? That would be a measure of success for us.
Ms. Sammi’s program, called TJE x RJM, would be the first time the organization’s model was used in New York. “Through the caliber and diversity of our designers, we are taking RJM to a much larger and more complex stage,” she said.
Among the participants is Lorraine West, the well-known jeweler based in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, whose designs have been worn by celebrities like Beyoncé, Viola Davis and Ariana Grande. Ms. West has been in business for 23 years. She doesn’t need the exposure and support system the co-op offers, but she was interested in joining because Ms. Sammi’s support for black, indigenous, or other people of color designers aligns with her own principles.
“I loved that Rosena was focused on showcasing BIPOC designers and local artisan products,” she said over the phone as she worked on a heart-shaped ring in her collection. . “I’m cutting carrots right now,” she said, referring to the casting components. “I let you hear the jingle.”
And there were scratching and filing noises. Later, she would collect dust and debris as part of her efforts to recycle every last bit of metal. “My mum was an avid recycler of clothes, making them look like new, and learning that from an early age influenced the nature of my craft and my business,” Ms West said.
Lauren Newton, a designer based in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, said she envisioned a TJE x RJM design that was “minimalist and structured, something that makes a statement without being too loud because that’s my aesthetic.”
She said she drew on the expertise she gained from earning a wildlife science degree and working at New York City zoos in Central Park, Prospect Park and the Bronx, whether to create a pair of silver tusk earrings or a crab point cuff bracelet. claws (molded from pincers discovered on a beach).
However, “sustainability is not a word I like to use as a business owner because I think it’s kind of a broad trait that can sometimes be exclusive,” Ms Newton said. “If you were trying to find a company that claimed to be completely sustainable, they would be lying to you. I think everyone tries to be a little better with every decision they make for their business and with every product they bring to the public.
Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood is home to Jill Herlands, a jewelry artist who made a career in the music industry before learning various silversmithing techniques on her own and eventually launching her line in 2015. Her experimental approach and her penchant for working with unconventional materials like concrete and silk, made her a natural candidate for Ms. Sammi’s project.
“I make a one-of-a-kind statement because nothing I create can be reproduced or mass-marketed,” Ms. Herlands said.
For inspiration, she often wanders the Meatpacking District and the West Village, where, she says, her imagination tends to soar at the sight of decrepit buildings, cobbled streets and iron fences greening with a lichen-like patina. Construction sites are another favorite place with their wealth of industrial materials.
“I like anything that’s kind of rough or in a state of decay,” Ms Herlands said. “I love rediscovering things, breaking cycles and challenging the status quo. It’s the excitement of the unexpected that excites me.
The three designers said sustainable practices were a point of passion for some clients and the issue of diamond traceability tended to arise, but overall there was a lack of public knowledge about the ills. mass-produced jewelry and non-recyclable materials. (So the TJE x RJM project has an educational component, with in-class events taking place later this month at the Fashion Institute of Technology and a Westchester County public school in April, as well as planned programming. for the jewelry library.)
“We’re going to have an amazing 35-40 pieces at the end,” Ms. Sammi said. “TJE x RJM is an opportunity for designers and collectors, even the people who donated the jewelry, to really think about how jewelry is made. To examine why you bought that cheap plastic cheetah print armband in the first place.