500 Plastic Jewelry Designs

Spiral City (Bracelet), acrylic resin, felt, polycarbonate, glass, silver, 2006. Photo by artist

Throughout history, people have taken creative license in finding and using raw materials in his or her environment. Early civilizations have used seashells for barter and adornment and relied on pigments from plants and insects to color textiles and paint on walls.

In the twentieth century, plastics have been added to the list of available surrounding resources. We can find artists like Damian Hirst, who uses formaldehyde in his work, and Fred Tomaselli who embeds pharmaceuticals in resin on his canvases.

One of the first plastics to become fashionable within jewelry makers was Bakelite. Invented in 1907, it was the first totally synthetic plastic. During WWII, there was a major spike in plastic research happening in the United States and Europe. During this time, synthetics were developed to replace materials that were becoming scare, like metals. Over the decades, numerous types of plastics have been developed -including acrylic, vinyl, and epoxy- and the material’s reputation as a viable jewelry-making component has grown.

Chemist and artist at heart Harry Hollander was an early champion of plastics as a creative media. From the 1950s to 1970s, he worked as an industrial research and development chemist. He later spent time at the Penland School of Crafts and the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, where Hollander was encouraged to pursue his interest  in art using his knowledge of resins and plastics. With his background in chemistry, Hollander was able to develop the necessary formulas which made resin feasible to use by artists.

From that Harry Hollander wrote the book Plastics for Artists and Craftsmen and Plastics for Jewelry.

The book 500 Plastic Jewelry Designs illustrates a collection of jewelry illustrating some of the best examples by artists who use plastics as a fundamental element in their pieces. Some even make cleaver use of everyday plastic objects.

When I looked through the book, I found that some of the jewelry was meant for everyday wear or making a specific statement. Others told narratives or just gave straight-forward aesthetic pleasure. This might be something for me to consider in my designs. The book shows a lot of awesome forms you can create out of plastics, but the ones I posted focus more on the material and method it was made from, as well as feasibility.

Le Van, Marthe. ed. 500 Plastic Jewelry Designs: A Groundbreaking Survey of a Modern Material. New York: Lark Books, A Division of Sterling Publishing Co., 2009. Print.

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