As I walked around the Fitzgerald Art Gallery with Brooklyn based jewelry designer Christine J. Brandt, something niggled away in the back of my mind. There was a connection here but it eluded until a week later. I was at the Ridgefield Library poring over the new 14-Day Loan books when the perplexing reference I’d been trying to recall revealed itself; Christine’s jewelry reminded me of the late Tony Duquette’s exceptional organic themed pieces.
Christine Brandt’s jewelry has that same raw yet polished quality that makes Mr. Duquette’s so compelling. While I never tire of gazing at perfect Graff, Van Cleef, & Tiffany gems, the unexpected qualities of Ms. Brandt & Mr. Duquette’s work makes me want to touch it & try it on. In fact, by the time I’d left the Fitzgerald Gallery, I’d tried on at least six of Ms. Brandt’s unique rings, marveling over the weight & scale of each one. The rings make you feel a bit like a superhero & it’s no wonder that Elle Magazine chose one of Ms. Brandt’s cuffs [tithonia torch] for Adrianna Lima to wear during a March 2009 fashion spread. Adrianna is the 21st Century version of Wonder Woman, no question!
Then there’s Christine herself. The soft-spoken, Japanese born jeweler is an artist who has the talent to create one of a kind couture pieces of jewelry that are truly special. Undoubtedly, her multi-cultural background contributes to her unique approach & creative eye. As a child, she lived in Europe, Scandinavia, the United State & Japan. These four distinct cultural influences have enabled her to create truly one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces, hand carved from exotic woods found the world over. She explained that she strives to create pieces that are finished in as natural a state as possible. She lovingly stroked the smooth wood on a magnificent ring I tried on & stated that she hand-rubs each one with multiple coats of natural Danish oil. She never stains or varnishes the wood she uses. This labor-intensive approach brings out the wood’s grain & natural colors & shows it to its best advantage.
What’s most interesting is the juxtaposition between the smooth grain of the wood setting & the unfinished semi-precious stones & minerals. The result is a breathtaking hybrid that’s part art & part jewelry. Says Christine, “My work reflects my environment; I need to be surrounded by nature & beautiful objects found within it.” She maintains a mountainside jewelry studio in the country “away from the everyday hustle & bustle” & finds inspiration from shapes & colors drawn directly from elements of the Earth – plants, rocks, insects & animals.
Endnotes: Jewelry is a book written & curated by Mr. Duquette’s partner, Hutton Wilkinson, chock full of magnificent photographs shot by Stephanie Hanchett. Abrams books are a visual fest & if you’re not yet familiar with Mr. Duquette’s extraordinary work, you’re in for a treat.
- Vivian Kelly of TheFashionExaminer.com