Hanging Around: Necklaces

Hanging Around: Necklaces
Tory Hughes, Armillary,1992 polymer, steel, glass, brass, silver, mustard seeds 13″h x 15″w x 1/5″ d

There are few better ways to frame a face than with a distinctive necklace.   Beyond being decorative, the necklace itself often provides clues about power, status, or some symbolic meaning relevant to the wearer.   The Museum of Art and Design (MAD) in NYC recently opened an exhibition of necklaces from their permanent collection entitled, “Hanging Around:  Necklaces from the MAD Collection”.  The necklaces on display present a range of interpretations on the concept of a necklace and the use of materials.   Artists include well known names in art jewelry such as Robert Ebendorf, Arlene Fisch, Marjorie Schick and Kiff Siemmons as well as late 19th century-early 20th century anonymous pieces from Morocco and southeast Asia.   Within this mix, the museum included three examples made of polymer by artists Steven Ford and David Forlano, Victoria Hughes, and Cynthia Toops.



City Zen Cane/ Steven Ford and David Forlano
Flat Necklace, 1991, polymer, 2″h x 25″w, x 3/8″d


City Zen Cane, now Ford and Forlano’s 1991 “Flat Necklace” is an example of their distinctive cane work.   One of the early examples of CZC’s  masterful mix of pattern and scale, it presents a sampler of the teams’ cane patterns from ikat effects to the shadow pipe/tubes, but all executed within the constraints of a black and white color scheme.

Hughes Armillary detail
Hughes Armillary detail

Victoria (Tory) Hughes’ “Armillary” of 1992 combines polymer with other materials such as brass and steel wire.  It was designed with celestial navigation in mind in that an armillary is intended to represent the relationships between the orbits and positions of celestial bodies.   As a necklace, the piece suggests that the human head, and by extension the human mind, is the center of the heavenly rotation.


Cynthia Toops, Billy by the Riverbank (detail),
Cynthia Toops, Billy by the Riverbank (detail), 1995
polymer, 32″ overall, each bead 2″h x 2″w x .5″d

The third example is Cynthia Toops’ “Billy by the River Bank” from 1995.   This necklace is a prime example of Toops’ lentil bead shape and graphic cane work along with three of her signature micro mosaics as best seen in the “Billy” bead.   Toops carved a series of unique patterns into the opposite side of each lentil and then backfilled the design to create a smooth surface and a totally reversible necklace.   The overall color scheme suits the idea of a marshy river bank with its subtle plays of tonality, as well as being suggestive of the Pacific Northwest where Toops resides.

These three necklaces are excellent examples of different directions taken in polymer art during the early half of the 1990’s.  One hopes that MAD will continue to add more current examples to their collection.   For more on the MAD exhibition click here.

I cannot remember a time in my life that I wasn't interested in looking at art, talking about art and the making of art. In 1990 I earned a Phd in art history at the University of Maryland. My first experiences with polymer clay were in 1992, but I consider my real work with the medium to date from 1999.