Friday, January 10, 2014

Mastery of Design: A Ring by Gerda Flöckinger, 1969

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here's a charmingly peculiar bauble dating to 1969.  It's a ring, the body of which is pierced and intentionally darkened in areas by oxidation. Sections are adorned with irregular scrolls, wires and small balls. The ring is set with a large, pale citrine carved with a floral design and a smaller pink tourmaline. Attached to the ring, below the tourmaline,  a circular gold disc with a small opal set in it, is mounted and from the disc hangs a 'tail'-- a stem of silver decorated with a spiral of gold wire.

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This is the work of Gerda Flöckinger, CBE, one of the pre-eminent artists in the alternative jewelry scene in London. She was born in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1927, and emigrated to Britain in 1938 where she studied fine art at St Martin's School of Art, and jewelry and enamels at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. 

In 1956, she made the brave step to work as an independent designer and maker, and, in 1962, established a pioneering course in experimental jewellery at Hornsey School of Art. where much of the next generation of cutting-edge British artist-jewellers were taught.

The encrusted, organic textures of this ring typify Flöckinger's work. In 1969, when this ring was crafted, large, unusual stones - cameos, soft-colored cabochons, veined turquoises and irregular pearls were incorporated to give glowing pools of color amidst, irregular planes and intense contrasts against the swirling, differing metals.

The ring was purchased from the artist from an exhibition of her work held at the V&A in 1971.

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Updated on April 4, 2014:

I had the honor of being contacted directly by Gerda Flöckinger, a Commander of the British Empire.  

She wrote the following to me:

My ring is not pierced in any part of itself. The ring is built up from different sizes of silver wires, with fusion techniques and additional details soldered into position after the completion of the main fusion.
This particular ring may have been typical of my work in 1969 and a period of a few years before and after, however it is not at all typical of my work earlier, so probably not typical until the later ‘sixties to maybe early to mid ’seventies.
I did not discover the possibilities of precious metal fusion until 1963, so all my work before that date is very different. My later work after my solo exhibition at the V&A (which was a landmark show in the sense that it was the first solo show at the V&A of the work of a woman during her lifetime) has also undergone considerable changes throughout my working life. I hope.

I'd like to point out that I'm thrilled to have heard from the artist herself, and, I'm also interested that her personal statement is in direct contrast to the description of the piece which is listed in the online catalog of the V&A as seen here wherein it is stated, "The body of the ring is pierced and deliberately darkened in places by oxidation and decorated with irregular scrolls, wires and small balls."

I'm most grateful to Miss Flöckinger for taking a moment to describe the process by which she created this remarkable piece, to provide an opportunity to correct an error in the online catalog, and for taking the time to write to me.

No comments: