Jenne Rayburn

July 28, 2021

Jenne Rayburn-Pistachios

Jenne Rayburn is one of seven artists featured in Pistachios Summer 2021 Exhibition 'Timeless Cure' 
Enamel is a technique dating back to the 18th century. These artists use a timeless craft to create contemporary pieces that connect materials through centuries. To shop the entire collection CLICK HERE
June 19th, 2021 - September 18th, 2021

 

Q: Where did you study Jewelry/Metalsmithing and when?

A: University of Washington, Metalwerx School for Jewelry, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts

 

Q: What inspires your work?

A: My creative inspiration comes from many sources - vernacular design, ancient and indigenous handicraft, and vintage textiles to name a few. Stories that involve mysticism and superstition, and the boundary between civilization and wildness intrigue me. My use of talismans, totems, amulets and mementos relates to the symbols and characters in mythological stories that are reiterated in every culture in every era. To me, these stories reveal our collective effort to understand and come to terms with the world that surrounds us and our place in it. I am fascinated with myths and folklore that recount heroic adventures and connect us to a larger purpose – stories that express the mystery and complexity of the human experience and the relationships that influence and inspire us.

 

 

Q: Do you have a favorite piece you've made?

A: A Constellation Pendant Necklace. Stars have been a constant inspiration for humanity. Ancient civilizations saw stories in the relationships of stars and for them the night sky came alive with gods and goddesses, animals and mythical creatures. This pendant is inspired by the majestic and untouchable heavens above, the journey of life, and the Latin phrase Per Ardua Ad Astra, meaning “through adversity to the stars”. Created with powdered glass and 24k gold, set in a sterling silver bezel with gold accents.

 

 

Q: What made you want to start making jewelry?

A: I've always been a maker of things. I think I realized this when I took shop class in middle school and really excelled at wood working and welding. I grew up in a small farming town with a land-grant university, which combined access to arts and culture with rural community and agriculture as a way of life. As a kid I spent summers going to Girl Scout Camp and Pioneer Camp – making shelters and navigating hiking trails while learning the history and skills of pioneers and the culture and stories of the indigenous people of the Northwest Plateau. I always enjoyed designing and building, and after dabbling in many different craft disciplines I found I gravitated to creating jewelry. I was intrigued by the symbolism of status and storytelling mixed together with fashion and style.

 

Q: What is your favorite process? Why that one over others?

A: For me, the process of creation, from researching and brainstorming to sketching and modeling, selecting materials and fabricating, is in itself inspiring. As someone who studied architecture, I am really committed to Process with a big ‘P’ — the preparation, the quick sketches, color studies, testing, discarded ideas, experimenting, and exploring. Contrary to what people may think, the process of making art does not involve a strike of lightning that immediately leads straight to a beautiful, sellable, artwork. It involves a lot of trial and error, or better put - research and development: mapping out the design, testing ideas, making mistakes and learning from them, choosing which mistakes are innovations, slowly progressing and ultimately finding insight because of all the hard work and time you have put into it. All this is behind the scenes, and sometimes not realized or appreciated by the public - but it is so important to understand how art is created.

 

 

Q: Who is your favorite artist/who do you wear?

A: I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to take a workshop with the goldsmith Michael Good at Metalwerx in Waltham MA, an incredible artist and instructor, and very charming. My go-to jewelry is pair of gold Torque hoops that look to me like ancient goddess earrings, yet feel timeless and chic with every outfit.

 

 

Q: Is there an artist on your personal wishlist that you hope to own one day?

A: Pat Flynn’s work is spectacular, with meticulous details like tiny hinges and precise clasps. I took a workshop with Pat at Metalwerx in Waltham MA, and he has a warm personality and is so down-to-earth, but also a little rebellious - I totally love his rocker glam esthetic.

 

Q: What is something you would want someone to know about your work that they might not know?

A: As a child I was an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy - this genre, with its wonder, imagination and, of course, gadgets, exposed me to science and technology, and is probably one of the reasons I became a jewelry designer. I wanted to wear the jewelry from Star Trek and have the purse from Escape to Witch Mountain!

 

 

Q: When you're not making jewelry, what are you doing?

A: I love to travel, and to meet people and hear their stories. Travel is an opportunity to challenge myself and to learn from another cultural perspective, and is fundamental to my design thinking. A few years ago my husband and I had an opportunity to travel to Chiapas Mexico on a textile tour with Tia Stephanie Tours, learning about the textile traditions and cultural expressions of the Highland Maya people. They are amazing craftspeople!

 

 

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: Fundamental to my design is the idea that when we feel connected to our past and present, we can have an easier time facing the future. I really believe that personal history has staying power and that it never goes out of style. Because jewelry is imbued with the stories and emotions that connect us with our beliefs and to our ancestors, it can be a powerful symbol, transporting us to our memories and dreams. That is what makes jewelry great for marking important moments in your life. I think jewelry of different styles, eras and esthetics can look beautiful together and I love looks that are layered, mixed with different materials and metals, and that are high/low. Jewelry can transform an outfit, so be fearless and tell your unique story.

 

Q: What first drew you to enamel and it's process? Enamel has many different techniques, do you have a favorite? 

A: The incredible range of vibrant colors is what drew me to enamel, and the idea that I could create and control unique focal points for my work. But immediately I realized, what I found really exciting with enamel is the ability to create the most beautiful textures and layers with luminous depth and seductive reflections. The luminosity of glass has a mystical quality I really love. To create layers in glass requires that each distinct layer be applied and fired in a kiln, step by step.

Q: Why do you think enamel is unique and stands out compared to either bare metal or another color process on metal? 

A: Luminosity! Enamel is such a dynamic and alluring medium. Glass, and the combination of glass on metal, can catch and reflect light, creating an inner glow especially when translucent or transparent enamels are used. Opaque colors with bright glossy surfaces or luscious matte finishes have beautiful depth as well. And once fired, the intense colors never fade.

Enameling is one of the oldest forms of surface decoration, and was probably used to add color without having to rely on gemstones. Over the centuries it has evolved into such a versatile medium, in technique, scale and spectrum of colors, and in the range of objects it can be applied to. And, enamel is an incredible story telling medium. Pictorial or abstract, graphic or painterly, you can express so much with enamel.

Q: We haven't had as much enamel work in our gallery. Can you briefly describe your process to our clients? 
A: I like to combine graphic design with a painterly style, using hand drawn illustrations with saturated and contrasting color. To achieve this I use colored powdered glass that is sifted, painted, stenciled, sponged or inlaid onto metal. The glass design is built up incrementally with multiple intermediate firings, each time fused in an electric kiln, between 1400 -1500 degrees Fahrenheit. I gradually build up layers, sometimes scratching or grinding down to reveal the color below. Lastly I draw glyphs or add highlights in gold. Through repeated applications of color and multiple firings, I strive to create richly textured, curiously evocative surfaces that take advantage of the depth and luminosity in glass. On some pieces, I work on the metal prior to the application of and firing the enamel, such as hammering, folding or twisting the metal to create dimension and form, piercing and texturing to create relief and interesting surfaces, and utilizing appliqué or ‘stitching’ with metal wire or mesh, to create layers and contrast. 
Q: What would you like for everyone to know about enameled jewelry that possibly they don't know if they've never worked with or purchased any enamel work?
A: The technique of enameling, or fusing glass in some form onto a metal substrate, is ancient, and yet something we still encounter every day. The first example of enameling is from Cyprus, which at the time was one of the earliest producers of copper in the world and had a flourishing metal industry. Here, in the eleventh century B.C., Mycenaean artists combined glass, an innovation already 2000 years old and created in Mesopotamia, and metal. Enamels, colored with metal oxides and in the form of crushed glass fragments, are laid into a pattern on a gold scepter using the Cloisonné technique, which is a design made from strips of metal attached to a metal base to form a network of small raised cells, before being fired and fused together on a hearth. Just imagine discovering that, when you melt the enamel, it turns into a brilliant glass-like substance that also gives the metal a hard, long-lasting surface! Frankly, I feel the same thrill of discovery every time I take a piece out of the kiln.
Today, 3000 years later, artisans continue to employ this same unchanging technique and have discovered many more ways to create intricate, luminous designs in glass and metal. In addition to high karat gold, enamel can be applied to most metals including fine silver, copper, low carbon steel and brass alloys. There are hundreds of colors to choose from, however the color of the enamel powder is different from the effect when fired, so it is necessary to create a sample of each color, showing what it will look like with several applications and on different metals. Enamel can only fuse to metal that has been cleaned and degreased, so preparation is everything! And one of the trickiest aspects of glass is that glass and metal expand as it heats and shrink as it cools. Care must be taken to equalize stresses throughout the piece and to allow the glass to cool slowly after firing. Every time a piece goes into the kiln, there is the risk of irreparably damaging it.
Up until the eighteenth century, most enameling involved the production of commissioned artwork including weapons, equestrian accessories, domestic items and jewelry, and religious objects such as reliquaries, altar-screens, caskets, chalices and crosiers. In the mid-1800s, the Industrial Revolution brought about major innovations in enameling of iron, valued for its resistance to corrosion, durability and longevity, and subsequently the large-scale industrialization of the enamel process made possible its application to many metal consumer objects, including sinks, appliances, cookware, signage, and building cladding. To achieve the painterly designs of my work, I typically use liquid form porcelain enamel that has been specially formulated for industrial use on steel. While the medium has endured, technical innovation continues to make enameling relevant and exciting.
Q: Our show theme centers around the idea that enamel has stuck with us throughout the ages. Do you feel connected through this long-standing tradition when you create your pieces? If so, can you speak a little to that feeling? 
A: In my 20s I had the opportunity to travel to Greece, which was a trip I took solo. For a week, I walked around Athens hoping to see every museum I could, as well as traveling to different Greek islands. As a child I loved Greek mythology and it was always my dream to see first hand the settings of these ancient and magical stories. Experiencing Greek art and architecture, for the first time really because I had not even seen it in picture book, was amazing. And the Greek jewelry and Roman gilded glasswork deeply inspired me. The design sensibility, sense of color and contrast, and high level of workmanship were all interesting and beautiful, but really what I felt as I stared into those cases was a longing to be connected to the people who had made these beautiful things, to reach in and travel back in time. 
I think this is art’s superpower - and not just to inspire curiosity and connection, but to elicit relationships, to reveal our humanity. Seeing the brilliance of the gold leaf bolding contrasting with ancient matte glass, the intricate jewel-like enamelwork, motivated me to spend more time planning, daydreaming and researching in order to make my work multilayered and connected. The connection I feel to past civilizations when using the ancient techniques of enameling and goldsmithing is as much about building bridges between cultures and connecting people, as it is a passion for making jewelry. 
But jewelry and the practice of adornment, far more ancient and primordial, has been with us from the beginning, and exists not only in advanced civilizations but also among the earliest people. Our human instinct for personal ornamentation is universal and connects us all. I think there is hope in that; it's an idea I hold on to.

 

 

 

Jenne Rayburn
She/Her

Boston, MA

 

CLICK HERE to view Jenne's collection

 





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