Monday, June 20, 2016

Excerpt from "Jewelry Making as an Art Expression"

Adult jewelry making class, Westchester Workshop, New York, circa 1950's.

While going through some old jewelry books that had been given to me and deciding what to add to my collection and what to pass on to others, I came upon a pale blue cloth-bound book with well-worn edges, slick glossy pages, and an unexpected amount of insight into the nature of society, the creative pursuits, and the impact of technology on our health and daily lives. The following quote is taken from D. Kenneth Winebrenner's 1953 text on metalsmithing and jewelry - "Jewelry Making As an Art Expression", International Textbook Company, Scranton, PA.

Finding a Way to Be an Individual

"Life has become so highly mechanized and standardized in our industrial society that the individual finds it increasingly difficult to be an individual. The calm monotony of his stereotyped existence gives way alternatively to feelings of unrest, fear, and frustration as he faces the confusion, uncertainty, and nervous tensions of our times. He searches for peace and security, and purchases it at the price of conflict and insecurity. Striving so hard to be a person, he fears a future which may bring more regimentation and less individuality.

The machine has made the individual almost dispensable. The thrill of personal achievement in his work is lost in a streamlined maze of buttons, levers, gauges, and dials. He searches for relief from this humdrum workaday world, only to confront other mechanical devices to occupy his leisure time. He may turn a button and hear halfheartedly the strains from a distant whirling disc, interspersed with frequent reminders of our commercial heritage, or he may view images of fictitious characters projected from another machine. If he finds boredom in this he may drive aimlessly and dangerously about in another mechanical contraption, or he may seek relief at last by dulling his awareness of the present. In short, the only solution offered him by the mechanical age is a more mechanical use of his free time, more canned entertainment, more of the stereotyped. And yet he would not go back to the days before the Industrial Revolution, for mass production and urban life have brought man a standard of living which he wants to retain. He has more things - to worry about. And more time - to get himself into trouble.

The inborn manual and aesthetic impulses of man are threatened by a creeping paralysis in this new age. Yet he is so constituted, physically and psychologically, that he must find release for his ideas and creative impulses if he is to live a healthy, happy existence. The creative arts are the natural activities for maintaining or restoring the necessary equilibrium. Lately, however, man has come to look to others as the creators, his innate abilities receive little exercise, and his creative capacities become like flabby muscles, impotent from inactivity. He speaks of talent as if it were some supernatural gift, or a quality transmitted by biological genes, only to be active in a given person if the right combination comes up like a row of similar fruit in a slot machine."

Children's jewelry class at the Walden School, New York, circa 1950's.

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