(Click on an image to enlarge it.)
Sterling silver, citrines, spinels, garnets, sapphires, and the best plastic button
49mm diameter x 8.6mm thick.
(Measured at the thickest point.)
I felt that the predecessor to this brooch, Viking 1, failed to meet expectations on the technical level—but the ideas behind it were good ones which could still work with proper execution. Thus, I reasoned that the best course of action was to remake the brooch entirely. So I began studying the brooch to figure out exactly what went wrong and how I was going to correct it this time. I figured out most of these problems in relatively short order, but I soon realized that there was a problem: the plastic button that I had incorporated into it was in short supply; I found it years ago at a closeout jewelry warehouse in Rhode Island and only bought one or two of them for a laugh. This was a big deal, as the entire design of the brooch is based off that plastic button in the center: the outer ring was based off the button's shape, each line was determined by following the tangent of the lines on each button, and the color of stones set within these lines are determined by that line's color.
The obvious solution to me was to go back to that warehouse (A place in Rhode Island called Wolf E. Myrow for those curious.) and look for more of those buttons. So that is exactly what I did, and eventually I found them in a corner of the basement stacked underneath several boxes and covered with a thick layer of dust. I carefully dislodged the box and looked inside, but that is when I discovered an even bigger problem: this box contained thousands of these buttons, and they were all slightly different. I needed to find the perfect button for this brooch's successor, so to me the only solution was to buy the entire box.
So I did, and when I got back to my studio I dumped all of the buttons into a bin and began checking them, one by one, to find the perfect button. Looking through these buttons made me feel like some kind of gem sorter that separates the good diamonds from the bad with a keen eye and a strict set of qualifications. Only, my qualifications in judging these somewhat worthless buttons were based upon my own subjective parameters: these were the quality of line, the coloring, and the condition it was in. The lines could not be too busy or too boring, otherwise the brooch would follow suit. The colors needed to be varied; otherwise the stones would be repetitive and uninteresting. But most importantly, the button needed to be in good shape—as many of these buttons had dents, scratches, and manufacturing defects. Six hours later, I narrowed it down to five candidates. I made a mock-up for each of these buttons in Rhino, printed out said mock-ups, and studied them at my desk by placing the plastic on top of it and visualizing how the finished product would look in my mind. Eventually, I had a winner—and from there I began to make a new brooch, this one named Viking 2 after the NASA space probe that followed Viking 1.
With that lengthy bit of backstory out of the way, here is a section of the written thesis which relates to this brooch:
I was initially drawn to this plastic button due to its anachronistic aesthetic and semi-chaotic yet orderly design elements. When looked at within a historical context, this design originates from what we now call the “retro” aesthetic of the 1980s’. Being someone who grew up a decade later I was not privy to much of this context, (if movies are to be trusted, there was a lot of synthesizer music, lasers, and cocaine involved.) However, the formal qualities of this unassuming piece of plastic still excited me greatly, and I felt compelled to present this button within a form which accentuated them. So I took this idea and ran with it, creating a brooch where every design decision originated from that one plastic button. The outcome was a brooch where this button became an integral, inseparable part of the whole; a value “loophole” where this seemingly worthless piece of plastic has been elevated to a new status through its association with the preciousness of jewelry.
This brooch also relates to my emphasis on craftsmanship and the high standards that I believe in when it comes to making. I strongly feel that it speaks volumes of my neurotic, anxious, and borderline obsessive determination to make things live up to these standards. I could have easily selected, at random, just one of the buttons within that fifteen-pound box and spontaneously created a piece based off it—but I did not. I had to invest the time and money into finding just the right button to base this brooch off of. I felt that this button was important, and I couldn’t bring myself to not consider finding the one that would create the best possible brooch—something which would adequately impart the value that I had placed upon this tacky little lump of plastic.
When displaying this piece, I took a departure from the neutral white pedestals which are common place within galleries. I felt that this display needed to both formally reference the piece, and adequately communicate my manic six hour delve into madness whilst searching for the perfect button. The solution was actually surprisingly simple: I took a clear acrylic tube, fabricated and affixed an opaque cap for the top of it, made a round wooden base which it slid into, and filled the whole thing with the thousands of buttons I had gone through to find the right one for the piece. I also made sure that the materials list calls attention to this as well, as it credits “the perfect button” as a material within the center of this brooch.