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I have come to art jewelry in a roundabout way. As an artist I have a fascination with arte povera materials that I’d discovered in art school and still fascinate me: rubber bands, copper wire from electric motor coils, fabric, garden hoses, the every day materials that slip beneath our notice. As I looked carefully I also saw this same interest in alternate materials in the jewelry exhibitions organized by Barbara Cohen. For years I have worn pieces gifted to me by relatives on special occasions or passed on from mother to daughter. They are decorative and precious and carry memories but the works I saw in these exhibitions verged on the fantastic. Rings, necklaces, collars and brooches made of improbable stuff, bits of melted plastics, paper, driftwood mixed with thread, pieces of shell, metals.

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Gabrielle Desmarais’s piece

I immediately loved the breadth of art jewelry. Here was a focus on form, the material freed from the constraints of presenting precious gems in glittering settings. Many of the works lean more towards sculpture than the stuff of jewelry boxes. They are in so many ways small sculptures but animated and enlivened by wearing. Over the years I have been enchanted by rings made of corn husks with a tiny solitary diamond, of brooches made of rubber, plastics, even soap. Enticing to look at, but once they are worn, they gain another dimension as they move, shimmering in the folds of fabric, draping over shoulders, hands, and wrists.

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Ilze with her masking tape installation

Luckily, last year I was able to bring some of these pieces into my life from Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h in Montreal. Once again Barbara was my mentor and guide. On a visit to the Montreal gallery, she photographed pieces she thought I might like and by texting back and forth helped me to select two pieces that I now treasure – a Miriam Hiller and Gabrielle Desmarais. I wear them and to my delight people are immediately drawn to the pieces responding to the unique forms and materials. Each work speaks with a different vocabulary and expresses the unique vision of the jeweller intensely engaged with ideas and materials.

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Miriam Hiller’s piece

Ilze Bebris