Jewelry Designer and Metalsmith
British jewelry artist Jane Adam has been exploring the medium of anodized aluminum for more than twenty years. With a Masters in Metalwork and Jewelry from London's Royal College of Art, Jane Adam's success as an artist, teacher, and lecturer has garnered her worldwide recognition.
Neckpiece with Four Leaves
Anodized, dyed, and crazed aluminum with stainless steel wire and freshwater pearls or semiprecious stones on nylon-coated steel neck cable.
Jane Adam works with anodized aluminum because it is light, durable, and inexpensive, but primarily because of the freedom it allows her in making colors and textures. She is considered a pioneer in the use of aluminum as a jewelry artist's material. Jane has been making jewelry with dyed anodized aluminum since 1980, using her own original techniques of coloring, texturing, forming, and assembling.
Anodized Aluminum Folded Bangles
Anodized aluminum sheet that has been block-printed with inks, immersion-dyed, and sealed. The strips are then milled to stretch them and to create the cracks and the subtle crazed surfaces, and finally, they are formed into the shape of cuff bracelets.
Like an alchemist, Jane Adam transforms this common, non-precious metal into an extraordinary, shimmering new material. During the anodization process, the aluminum grows a thin, hard, yet porous surface layer of aluminum oxide that can be permanently colored with dyes, much like textiles or paper.
Oval Bangles in Textured Fine Silver
Jane is now applying some of the same principles of texturing, distorting, and structuring to her new jewelry in fine silver, silver, 18k gold bimetal, 18k and 22k gold, semiprecious gemstones, and undyed cultured freshwater pearls. She delights in the differences these pieces have from her aluminum work.
Jewelry Making Techniques
To make her jewelry, Jane cuts pieces aluminum sheet that has been dyed and sealed, and compresses them in the rolling mill, often introducing textures and marks. This causes the anodic film to craze and break, revealing the silvery metal beneath to give a shimmery, Iridescent effect. At the same time, interesting forms can be created by the stretching and deformation of the metal. This approach gives the work an organic quality, which relates to the way natural forms change as they grow.
Anodized aluminum cannot be soldered, so the conventional jeweler's repertoire of assembling a piece cannot be used. Jane enjoys the way this forces her to find creative solutions to the fabrication of her jewelry. Wires and findings – whether riveted, held in tension, or stitched through the aluminum – often become a visible and integral part of the design.
The Anodization Process
Aluminum is anodized by suspending a piece of clean metal in a solution of sulphuric acid in water, and passing an electric current through it. This causes the surface of the metal to combine with oxygen in the solution to create a thin surface layer of aluminum oxide – the anodic film. At the same time, this layer is dissolved by the acid to give microscopic vertical pores. It is these pores that absorb the dyes that color the metal. The anodic film is colorless, hard and inert, and is chemically bonded to the metal from which it has grown. It cannot flake or peel off, and is resistant to scratching and abrasion.
After the metal is anodized, neutralized and rinsed, it will absorb certain dyestuffs. These can then be sealed into the surface, usually by immersing the metal in boiling water or in steam. This sealing is the result of a chemical reaction that swells the surface layer, closing up the pores, and fixing the colors permanently into the anodic film, making it impermeable to further dyeing, and to dirt, moisture, and atmospheric corrosion.
Much of Jane's research has focused on ways of coloring anodized metal. She uses dyes and inks produced for the industrial coloration of aluminum, but she is more interested in working in small batches, and in ways of creating rich textural effects, which allow the colors to blend on the metal surface.
Over many years, she has developed a vast array of techniques such as immersion dyeing, block printing, stamping, painting, daubing, monotype and transfer printing. She is constantly surprised and delighted by the variety of effects aluminum can offer – a variety equal to that of paper or fabric.
In the garden, I find myself thinking about how man manipulates nature. Are hybridized flowers natural or not? I realize that I have always tried to make natural objects – shells or plants – but of course this is impossible for me to do. So, rather than exercising total control over the outcome, I work with the metal to create forms such as curves or cracks. Anodized aluminum offers unique opportunities for surface color and texture, and I enjoy its structural limitations, finding myself forced to find original solutions to forming and assembling the work.
I am interested too in the mathematical order of organic forms. I begin with balanced geometrical proportions – though these will be stretched and distorted – and use sequences to create structures. The resulting jewelry comes alive when it then finds a wearer, forming a sensual relationship with her and becoming part of the expression of herself.
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Cleveland Craft Center
Hiko Mizuno College, Tokyo
Aberdeen Art Gallery
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham, England
Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design, New York
Crafts Council, London, England
Royal Liverpool Museum, Liverpool, England
MusÃ©e des Arts Decoratifs, Helsinki, Finland
Royal Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland
'Surfaces', Aaron Faber Gallery, New York, USA, 2008
'Collect' Cockpit Arts, 2008
SOFA Chicago USA (with Patina Gallery), 2007
'From Minimal to Bling', Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston, USA, 2007
'Annual Jewelry Show', Freehand, LA, USA, 2007
'Origin', Somerset House, London, 2006
Patina Gallery (Solo Exhibition), Santa Fe, New Mexico USA, 2006
'LOOT! 2006', Museum of Arts and Design, New York NY, 2006
'Contemporary British Jewelry', Gallery Bielak, Krakow and Gallery of Art in Legnica, Poland, 2005
'Celebrating 30 Years', Crafts Council Shop at V&A, London, 2005
'100 Brooches', Group Exhibition, Velvet da Vinci, 2005, traveling through 2006