Ornament Magazine

VOL37.1 2014

Ornament is the leading magazine celebrating wearable art. Explore jewelry, fashion, beads; contemporary, ancient and ethnographic.

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W hen asked about how she develops her designs, Celie Fago states that the process is nonlinear—"I'm not methodical in that way," she says. She works in what she calls "painfully small increments," one aspect of an idea leading to another, "one little embellishment to the next." As an example, she describes a hinged box she is working on and how she might decide to make it with a copper hinge pin—one small change that will move her forward. Some of Fago's work is driven by the materials she is exploring. For the past couple of years she has been working with Mitsubishi's new sterling Precious Metal Clay, which was produced for the durability it adds to silver. To test it, she started doing a number of pierced designs—covered with holes, "like Swiss cheese," she says—something that could not be done in fine silver. That idea of making little openings in something led Fago to create tiny books, which feature those Swiss cheese holes and minute hinges. They are pendants, although the artist first conceived of them as charms. She has found that the term charm can be off-putting; in any case, the book pieces were a little too big and restrictive to be labeled as such. She has designed some larger ones and is even thinking they might at some point be free-standing objects. Fago has discovered that students are as fascinated by the idea of books and hinges, so she has built a class around their fabrication. The motif not only has a certain mystique at its heart, it also makes economic sense: PMC has become expensive so small is good. Unlike a locket, the books have very little volume; they are more like two covers. For a number of these pieces, Fago employs the tear-away technique invented by Gwen Gibson in the early 1990s for use with polymer clay. This transfer process entails burnishing a photocopy of a design onto the clay, letting it sit, and then tearing it away. The photocopy toner binds with the polymer so that when the paper is pulled off it bears a layer of clay. At the same time, the clay from which the paper has been torn bears a relief of the image. Fago uses both the paper and the textured relief in her book pieces, depending on how they work with the design. Sometimes the tear-away design is drawn from texts, which heightens the "bookness" of the object. She cuts up and collages different examples of typeface—Asian, old English, etc. "It's important that it's writing," she says, "graphically, visually." She will photocopy the text and then convert it and reverse it. Sometimes the resulting writing resembles petroglyphs. Fago is thinking that the next step for the book pendants may be to incorporate an actual tiny bound paper book. She plans to study bookmaking and discuss the idea with book artists. While she considers herself "centrally located" in PMC, she is always considering new materials. In addition to being stronger, Mitsubishi's sterling PMC has a slightly different binder that gives the material a longer open working period and greater flexibility when it is dried (before it is fired). Fago exploited these characteristics in a simple and striking diamond ring: the surface of the piece was whittled with a scalpel and a straw. "It's like frozen butter," she says of the clay. The ring is activated in part because it took no time to carve: it is fresh and immediate. One of Fago's favorite materials in recent years are tiny twigs she picks up during long daily walks in the woods around her home in the town of Bethel, in central Vermont. "There are little stacks of sticks everywhere in my house," she relates with a smile. Back in her studio, Fago will take those that are special for one reason or another—their hardness, their texture, the quality of moss fixed to them—and Opposite page and above: BOOK LOCKET of sterling silver, eighteen and twenty-four karat gold (keum-boo), 1.9 centimeters high, 2013. All jewelry photographs by Robert Diamante. 49 ORNAMENT 37.1.2013 Carl Little

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