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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She drew very well and was interested in graphic arts, including various printmaking mediums. She also studied painting at the Massachusetts College of Art. In 1991, Fago moved to her family's home in Vermont, and not long after, a friend sent her some buttons made from a colorful plastic material. She was smitten and went out to purchase her first polymer clay. She read the manual that came with it and was soon experimenting with this flexible modeling clay that had recently been adopted by jewelers. Up until this time, Fago had never worked in jewelry. She had spent a summer at Penland when she was sixteen, but the session was meant to introduce artists to the she felt something was missing. The material felt too light, both in actual weight and aesthetically. "A piece of polymer clay jewelry that is absolutely stunning in a photograph," she points out, "feels light when you actually handle it." To her, the material lacked gravitas. What it needed was more weight. Fago "beat the bushes" for a metalsmithing class. She knew nothing about metal at the time. Indeed, she is embarrassed to recall wondering how one could cut a shape out of a metal sheet. What tools would be used? The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen's Craft Studies program in Hanover proved to be the answer. The studio was (and still is) run by Kerstin concept of "living their lives through crafts" rather than to serve as a study of any single craft. Fago felt that she could do something with the polymer clay. The material had the form and color in one malleable, willing material—and it satisfied what she felt was a long-time, if secret, longing: to work in three dimensions. Using wood gouges from her mother's printmaking kit from the 1940s, she carved into the baked material and rubbed paint in the carved lines. An early lizard pendant in polymer clay shows her remarkable sense of design. At the time, jewelry in polymer clay was somewhat "unfledged." There were a handful of artists doing interesting work in the medium in jewelry, including Cynthia Toops, Nan Roche and Tory Hughes. While Fago followed advances in the medium with interest, Nichols, a classically trained metalsmith—"a wonderful teacher and jeweler," says Fago. She took workshops and classes with Nichols for years and apprenticed to her. Fago learned as much about metalsmithing as she could, recognizing that the artform takes years to master. She learned some fundamentals that enabled her to progress in her jewelry. She quickly began to combine metal with clay; the settings for a stunning ibis pendant were made in the metals studio at the league. In the late 1990s, jeweler and author Tim McCreight invited Fago to Haystack to teach a workshop in polymer clay. While seated in the dining hall one day, McCreight took two packets of Precious Metal Clay from his pocket and pushed them across the table. If, as Fago jokes, polymer clay was the HOLLOW FORM BOX BRACELET of sterling silver, eighteen and twenty-four karat gold (keum-boo), 2002. POLYMER INLAY RING of fine silver, sterling silver (ring shank), polymer clay, brass, 2011. 51 ORNAMENT 37.1.2013 The Vermont-based jeweler is a master at combining polymer clay, PMC and metalsmithing to create new designs.

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