Nora Fok & Arline Fisch

Following on from discovering Mary Lee Hu in Jewellery using Textiles Techniques by Sarah Keay, I really enjoyed the pieces by Nora Fok & Arline Fisch too.

Nora Fok has a distinct ability in translating ideas into delightfully delicate, and intricate compositions that one can easily associate with her. All her work like Hu, is made using just her hands, and basic tools. What I love most in Fok’s work is that it’s not scientific, it’s purely how she feels and what she discovers intuitively.

Fok experiments with nylon monofilament fishing line for her pieces. This is a fishing line made from a single fibre of plastic. It is manufactured in different colours, even fluorescent ones. Fok spent a lot of time with fishing lines by knitting or knotting it . If it wasn’t dyed, she would do it herself . She decided to focus on using nylon thread because in Hong Kong, there wasn’t a lot of studio space so she couldn’t work with anything that needed large equipment. But the nylon was special to her and she loves how tactile and warm it is against the skin.

Using natural forms as inspiration for these pieces, Fok produces these vivid and subtly sculptural forms (especially the red one on the right).

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Using knitted nylon, Fok creates an incredible piece that is almost as if it emerged from a computer screen- because it looks like it was drawn digitally due to the  clean fluidity the piece carries. It is beautiful as a single art piece, but it’s also wearable, and transforms the wearer immediately. The jewellery demonstrates a play on “magic” or a”dreamy state” and everyday wear, as it re creates the memory of seeing her son’s toy marbles, or childhood bubbles. It is sculptural and it truly is innovative.

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The first neckpiece seems to be using a more disordered technique with nylon than the others. It seems like it could be crochet with very thin nylon thread, to the point where it resembles the delicacy of a white dandelion and their seed heads. I’ve never seen an intricate piece as this, and it carries a very calming, beautiful quality, which is what Fok sees the universe as- something infinite, intricate, and where everything cannot be without the other, just as one nylon strand cannot be joined without the other strand. The second piece is more ordered, perhaps it is a weave, yet the large presence of it on the neck gives the same attractive attention as the first piece.

Arline Fisch was one of the earliest American post-war jewellers to be shown and collected in and outside of the US. Many other jewellers studied under her, and she is known best as the jeweller who started using textiles techniques.

She was never interested in rings or earrings, but searched for dramatic possibilities instead. Like Mary Lee Hu, she wove and knit directly in metal, producing woven gold, braided silver, loom woven patterns in silver, machine knitted collars and bracelets and more recently, installations of sea forms and hanging flowers.

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This installation displays a selection of pieces which reflected Fisch’s journey to the nearby waters of Lake Michigan. The ocean creatures are made with colour-coated copper wire that looks similar to yarn. Using these textile textures, one can almost inaging they are actually viewing the coral reef under the sea. She was determined to fill this gallery space, working for a year and a half to finally create 100-130 separate forms that were either spool knitted, hairpin lace crocheted or machine knitted.

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I really like how this piece excels on many levels- it is wearable, soft, light, vivid, organic, manipulating shape and form, and overall stylish in a sense. This sort of “cuff” design is so distinctive and it’s almost unbelievable that this much intricacy can be achieved with copper.

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What strikes me most about the first piece is the effect of layering. This rich structure works even better when layering because of the weightless, thin cylinder forms of knitted wire, and for my Pitt Rivers neck pieces I want to achieve the same effect as it will be attractive when worn, and draws all the attention around the neck with its large, dramatic presence. These pieces are also so vivid that I feel like it could be enhanced against a dark background, perhaps this can be experimented in a photography studio if I create bold colourful pieces. Yet black can also drain the colours, so I will try both white and black backgrounds at that stage.

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The peculiar form of this collar is like an attempt at making the Elizabethan ruff in an organic style. The long strands of knitted wire pouring down is like the tentacles of a jelly fish, and Fisch has created a captivating, rare combination of an ordered structure (the neck collar) and something loose and more uncertain (the strands).

Both Fok and Fisch are brilliant in using such distinctive approaches to jewellery with their clever use of textiles. However Fisch fits more into my ideas of creating the woven neck pieces and bracelets, and I can foresee my piece to subtly have her rich, tangible and dramatic techniques with the weave, crochet, knit and layering of wire.

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