Ornament - Contemporary Jewelry with Mallory Wetherell

Thoughts and Process in Jewelry Making

What made you want to start working in jewelry?
The first pieces I made were after the election.  I was feeling a bit helpless. And in an attempt to not feel totally hopeless, I made some porcelain pendants with safety pin paintings on them.  Only three – for my sister, mom, and I.  And then others began to request that I make more.  From the proceeds, I was able to donate 20% to Planned Parenthood.  I enjoyed the process of making them, so I began to expand the imagery, sourcing bits of pieces from my sculptural work.  I continue to donate portions of the sales from my jewelry to organizations that support causes whose values I believe in. 


How has your jewelry making informed your other studio practice?
My jewelry is quick to make in comparison to my sculptural line of work.  So I’m able to treat them like miniature “canvases” to try out new patterns and imagery.  My surfacing process demands a lot of time, so these smaller items allow me a greater opportunity to play in the studio, and they often provide a needed break when I’m frustrated with a sculpture.  I’m also a mom, so studio time is sacred and I have to take it when I can get it.  I might not have a large window to get a new sculpture started, but I can at least keep my hands busy and be engaged with my studio through making jewelry.  My jewelry has a similar aesthetic to my sculptures, so in a way it makes my work more affordable and accessible as well.

Technical Descriptions
With my jewelry, I utilize the same process for applying imagery as I do with my sculptures.  I will either do a sketch on paper, which I then transfer onto tracing paper, flipping it to apply it to bone dry clay – or I draw with pencil right onto the bone dry clay.  Any mistakes are easily rubbed away, allowing for a fresh start.  I then use Duncan Underglazes, treating them like watercolors, to paint in the details.  I then bisque them to 04, apply glaze, fire to 6 (allowing the underglaze to flux a bit, as it’s meant to stay at a lower temperature), and finally luster them, firing to 018.


For more information about Mallory, check out her website: http://www.mallorywetherell.com/

Curators Thoughts about Ornament - Contemporary Clay Jewelry

Curatorial Statement from Jennifer Allen & Lindsay Oesterritter

Jennifer Allen earrings

Jennifer Allen earrings

Lindsay Oesterritter necklace

Lindsay Oesterritter necklace

Ornament- Contemporary Clay Jewelry is an exhibition of jewelry made by 14 artists from across the United States. It showcases a wide range of ideas, techniques and materials. Pieces included range from atmospheric fired necklace pendants to polymer clay earrings. The collection of jewelry featured in the exhibition bridges the varied interests of the artists represented and exemplifies highly crafted, one-of-a-kind pieces.

The tradition of making clay jewelry is not new to the world, but in recent years has gained popularity in the United States. Ceramics is a craft steeped in tradition dating back thousands of years. The earliest known piece of ceramics in the world, a Venus figurine referred to as The Venus of Dolní Věstonice (29,000 BCE-25,000 BCE) was found at a Paleolithic site in what is now the Czech Republic. This figurine predates fragments of fired clay recently found in China and estimated to be the oldest known pottery at 20,000 years old. It is amazing to realize we have been ornamenting ourselves for much longer. The oldest piece of jewelry created by modern humans is believed to be a sea snail shell bracelet discovered in Israel, dating back over 100,000 years. This ancient artifact revealed that the shells were transformed into beads and made into an ornamental bracelet.

The jewelry we wear has long been a personal and cultural symbol for what one perceives as beautiful. Each piece is a distinctive statement that connects us to traditions that have existed long before us. The artists in this exhibition were selected because of their thoughtful approach of composing clay/ceramic works that speak to personal ideas of beauty and ornamentation.