Mari Shaw is an enthusiastic advocate for art jewelry. A patron in the truest sense of the word, Mary collects, curates, writes, studies, and sells the work she loves. She is particularly drawn to jewelers at the start of their career. This affinity keeps her ahead of the field and in touch with where and how it is evolving. She also has an impeccable eye, so when Mari alerts me to someone new, you better believe I take notice! Emily Cobb is one such artist, and Mari Shaw profiles her in the following blog. Enjoy! – Marthe
Emily Cobb is a storyteller. Each piece of jewelry she makes is a fantasy springing from the imagination of a child and the knowledge of an art historian.
She views myths and images from the past with the perspective of a person born after 1980 into a world of digital 3-D animation. Then, using the technologies of her time, Emily transforms their stories into jewelry that contemplates the future.
Emily began imagining narratives in her early school years:
The illustration I am holding is mysterious. It has a title and caption, but no story. My teacher asks me to imagine the story behind the drawing. To create the before and after… to solve the mystery.
Magical narrative quite naturally accompanied her when she ventured into jewelry making. Emily begins with a fragment of a childhood memory, converts it into a fairytale, and then sculpts and colors it into jewelry. It is not Emily alone that generates the work. The viewer completes the work with her imagination.
I chose to make whimsical and surreal compositions that adorn the body because I want to excite the imagination. My work does not provide the viewer with the beginning, middle, and end of a story. Instead, the title of each piece acts as a clue or insight into its narrative, and is meant to inspire the viewer’s imagination.
For example, Emily’s 2008 bangle One Eyed One Eared Flying Bunny People Eater is inspired by the childrens’ song, “One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater.” by Sheb Wooley. Emily explains, “I imagined the monster’s counterpart: a one eyed, one eared, flying bunny people eater.”
Emily created the piece on her computer using a CAD (Computer Aided Design) program called Rhinoceros, and then 3-D printed it in gypsum using a Z Corporation printer at Tyler School of Art where she is a graduate student in metals/jewelry/CAD-CAM; a technical assistant in the 3-D printing lab; and a graduate instructor of CAD-CAM II.
Rome captivated Emily during the time she spent there in 2007 and 2008.
I felt like around every corner and in every museum there was a historic sculpture waiting to tell its story. It’s one of the many reasons I fell in love with Rome.
She was particularly struck by the beauty and stories of Gianlorenzo Bernini’s myth masterpieces, Apollo and Daphne and Pluto and Proserpina and plans to visit them again when she returns to Rome this summer to study and stroll the streets observing how the early marble and stone Italian sculptures impact the landscape of the city.
Emily’s sterling silver ring Two Birds, One Stone, 2009, is a play on the saying “killing two birds with one stone.” Surrealist Salvador Dali, would happily have worn this beautiful sterling silver ring which captures the dark side of fairy tales. A seductive deep red garnet tops the ring, held high by the bent talons of two fallen birds struck down by the gemstone and splattered onto the base of the ring. Emily set two blue sapphires eyes into the underside of the ring.
About her 2008 brooch Narwhal on the Hunt for Fabric, Emily writes:
I was inspired by my fascination with interesting animals with distinct anatomy, such as the horn on the narwhal that resembles a unicorn. I thought it would be interesting and humorous to create a brooch that looked like a narwhal stabbing into your clothing, as if that were his source of food. I also created a matching brooch that is a unicorn. Both pieces are made from found objects, sterling silver, bronze, and gemstones.
The nylon ring Lily Pad Mouse, Experiment #2 (2010) is one of a series of pieces Emily designed using CAD and printed in nylon with SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) technology. She hand dyed and assembled each colored element separately.
The series is based on imagined scientific experiments performed on mice in a laboratory. These fantasies reflect Emily’s growing up in a time of strange mutations in animals bred by human environmental vices. In the imagined laboratory experiments, scientists successfully grow plants from the brains of mice, and then observe how the different plants affect the mice. In Lily Pad Mouse Experiment #2, the scientists discover a mouse able to breathe underwater because the lily pad delivers oxygen to its brain.
Another piece from the series is a necklace inspired by the “great escape” scene in the story. The strongest mouse fashions balloons from the tips of disposable laboratory gloves and string left near his cage, ties the balloons to an oak branch growing out of his head, and then escapes through an open window in the lab, along with three baby mice clinging to his branch.
In her most recent work, Emily mines deeper into the history of animal/human hybrids and the use of animals to symbolize human personality traits and characteristics. Instead of confining her stories and characters to the jewelry, Emily now also enlists jewelry wearers as characters. Her first venture is The Elk with Antlers that Never Stopped Growing, 2011, based on a child musing about what would happened if an elk’s antlers just kept getting bigger and taller and more complex.
I tried on the glass-filled nylon elk headpiece in Emily’s studio at Tyler. Immediately, I felt constrained, but at the same time, the majestic antlers made me feel proud and important. I started walking deliberately and carefully as if I were a deer in the forest on high alert in hunting season or a human acting as a beast of burden, carefully bearing a heavy-but-fragile ancient urn or a child emperor who will fall if jostled.
What’s next from this brilliant art jeweler of the 21st century? Watch for a giant stag beetle with over-sized horns that pinch around the neck and a King Bird of Paradise fanning brilliant colors of his majestic plumage across the wearer’s back. Imagine!