Monday, April 25, 2011

The Philosophy of Art (or How to Make an Earpod Pendant)

Enameled Earpod Pendant

The ancient Greeks argued endlessly about the nature of art. Aristotle insisted that the ideal painter would recreate an individual berry so true to its natural form that the birds would attempt to pluck it off his canvas. For Plato, the artist’s duty was to discover the essence of “berry-ness”, and to somehow reveal that form in his art.

Now, it is neither my intention nor my desire to get caught up in the middle of THAT argument. They are both adults; they’ll have to settle it between themselves. However, every once in a while a project comes along that causes me to lean to one side or the other - like when I get inspired to create an artwork based on some “berry” that I have come across. Do I want to ‘imitate’, or ‘extrapolate’?

A few weeks ago I visited the studio of a jewelry artist friend who also collects natural artifacts to use in her work. She had collected some unique seeds from an exotic Earpod Tree in Florida. I admired them, and immediately began to imagine the possibilities for an unusual pendant. Rose Marie graciously gave me one to experiment with.

Did I want to replicate it, as per Aristotle? Or should I throw in with Plato and attempt to capture the essence of all earpods? Not a big deal, I thought, until I began hammering the copper sheet into its kidney-esque shape. That’s when I noticed that Nature had neglected to provide a balance point for the chain. I’d have to tweak that. Point for Plato.

And what’s up with these indents and wrinkles? Are they unique to this particular pod, or does nature just go with the flow? Copper is not exactly elastic, you know! At what point in the shaping process would Aristotle lay the hammer down?

 Now, for the texture: would the ideal artistic earpod be glossy and smooth, or would it allow for some pebbling in the enameling process? So, there I was… did I want to imitate, or extrapolate? Oh dear, what would Socrates do?

Happily, the enamel artist can ‘evolve’ her work in much the same way that nature causes earpod trees to evolve; I used trial and error, multiple firings, patience and timing, until all of my artistic notions were satisfied.

I judge the result by its being as unusual and unique in the jewelry world as the Earpod seed is in the world of nature.
The actual earpod is top right.


  1. These are so great! A couple of months ago when I was in St. Pete, I picked some of these up from the ground. They are so cool! I love what you did with them. You really captured their essence!

  2. What a beautiful way of writing you have! Such an obviously intelligent well read lady - I know I'm going to enjoy follow you!

  3. Thank you Barbara and Sue! I've since found out the Earpod tree is native to Costa Rico where the cattle eat the seedpod! So nice of you both to comment!


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