Adorn is a bi-monthly magazine dedicated to luxury jewellery

The Creative Eye

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BY JEAN DRUESEDOW
Director of the Kent State University Museum in Kent, Ohio

The necklaces featured in “Arthur Koby Jewelry: The Creative Eye” were lent to the Kent State University Museum, in Kent, Ohio, by a number of private collectors as well as by the artist himself. Most of them date from the 1980s, a decade in which Arthur Koby collaborated extensively with fashion design luminaries such as Geoffrey Beene and Oscar de la Renta.
Arthur Koby is known for necklaces that draw inspiration from architecture and sculpture, bringing together unique and surprising materials as three-dimensional collages. Each of his one-of-a-kind creations is equally suited to accent evening wear or a simple t-shirt.

Bronze lion’s head, antique  green ivory, 1983.

Bronze lion’s head, antique green ivory,
1983.

Artist’s statement: “I couldn’t resist buying the bronze lion’s head from an antique market in France, and I knew it would be a central piece in a dramatic necklace. It was a risk to pair the lion with the opaque antique green ivory shapes. The creaminess of the colour excuses the sheer enormity of this piece and I still am pleasantly surprised that I was able to pull off such a heavy necklace without turning it into an albatross. It certainly proves my belief that without a willingness to fail, you cannot expect to have any success with your art.”
(Lent from the collection of Marcia Robbins-Wilf)

Coloured inlaid wooden beads, African sandblasted beads, 1982.

Coloured inlaid wooden beads, African sandblasted beads, 1982.

Artist’s statement: “This necklace has a cheerfulness that is sometimes hard to convey with the earthiness of wooden elements. However, the combination of coloured inlaid wooden beads with African sandblasted beads gives a sunny disposition that, in fact, makes it Mrs. Marshall’s favourite piece in her collection.”
(Lent from the collection of Alexandra R. Marshall)

Red scallop shell, metal French lampshade, resin, stone beads, 1985.

Red scallop shell, metal French lampshade, resin, stone beads, 1985.

 

Artist’s statement: “Nature meets industry in this necklace with a red scallop shell embellished with the metallic section of a French lampshade and a variety of resin and stone beads.”
(Lent by Barbara Tober)

 

 

 

 

“I’m drawn aesthetically to combining beautiful materials in unlikely ways,” Koby says of the process. “The element of imaginativeness is what’s most important to me.”
His necklaces have incorporated countless disparate artefacts – often within the same piece – to create striking juxtapositions. drawing inspiration from his worldwide travels to some 30 countries, Koby has repurposed antique figurines and household knick-knacks as materials for his jewellery, along with more traditional components such as shells, metals and precious stones.
The 48 necklaces on display at Kent State, in their component bits and pieces, amount to a veritable anthropological survey. They incorporate milagros (or folk charms) from Mexico, pearl shoe buttons from the Mississippi river region, and a Chinese opera mask inlay from a powder box, among other found objects. Materials such as these, says Koby, lend his necklaces a historic and cultural richness that captivates clients.
“The origins of objects found in my jewellery can be a great source of conversation,” he remarks. “I think it’s important for the customer to know the history of the elements at work.” At the same time, he maintains that the original use or purpose of an acquired object is unimportant to him. “Period and place are irrelevant to my method of combination. I strive to be objective towards objects, evaluating them for their pure aesthetic qualities only.”

Natural pinecones, silk beads, 1984.

Natural pinecones, silk beads, 1984.

Artist’s statement: “This necklace was in Vogue and was called ‘an object lesson’ in combining the ordinary to make something extraordinary – in this case, I used natural pinecones and silk beads to create a richly textured, yet light-hearted necklace.”
(Lent from the collection of Alexandra R. Marshall)

Arthur Koby’s singular approach to his artistry is partly a by-product of his education. Trained as an architect at the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture in New York, he was working in a gift shop when he decided to try his hand at jewellery making. As his work developed, it quickly took on a greater complexity of engineering that recalled both architecture and larger form sculpture.
In 1981, a window-dresser at Bergdorf Goodman in New York paired one of Koby’s creations with a Geoffrey Beene outfit. When the fashion designer stopped by the window display, it was Arthur Koby’s necklace that captivated and enthralled him. “He contacted me to create necklaces for his spring collection,” Koby recalls. “I spent a month coming up with 15 new designs based on sketches and swatches that Geoffrey sent me. The results were a great success.” So began a decade-long working relationship between arthur Koby and Geoffrey Beene, which Koby says galvanised his career. His jewellery has since graced celebrities ranging from Gloria Vanderbilt to Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Green and yellow amber, citrine  beads, handmade resin, 2007.

Green and yellow amber, citrine beads, handmade resin, 2007.

 

Artist’s statement: “This playful necklace is a sticky sweet treat with candy-toned green and yellow amber, citrine beads and handmade resin.” (Lent by Linda Miller)

 

 

 

 

In the past three decades, Arthur Koby’s work has retained a unique structural signature and affinity for collages, while at the same time the artist continues to progress. “My necklaces in the 1980s were more powerful and chunky, and these days they tend towards the lyrical and light,” he says. “I’ve also developed engineering abilities — weaving and cantilevering — that I did not have back then.”
The Kent State University Museum has been pleased to present Arthur Koby’s work for the past year. Both the university students and the general public have found it fascinating and inspirational.
The Kent State University Museum houses one of the largest collections of contemporary and historic fashion in the United States. Meanwhile, the closely allied fashion school at Kent State ranks among the top in the nation. The museum has eight galleries with changing exhibitions that cover a wide range of subjects. Currently the exhibitions include “Entangled: Fiber to Felt to Fashion”; “The Great War: Women and Fashion in a World at War, 1912 – 1922”; and “A Timeline of Fashion,” which places objects from the collection in their historical context. Welcoming visitors from around the world, the museum serves as a cultural gateway to the university.

Stampings from Providence, Rhode Island, 1988.

Stampings from Providence, Rhode
Island, 1988.

Artist’s statement: “A departure from my typical whimsy-meets-chaos fashion, this banded structural necklace is a bold, organic, free-form sculpture.”

(Lent from the collection of Marcia Robbins-Wilf)

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