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“My work consists of creating images from a variety of materials not normally associated with jewelry such as steel, concrete, rocks and sought after everyday objects. By combining non-precious materials with precious materials, used to create intimate jewelry objects, I seek to challenge notions and assumptions of how jewelry is perceived and what jewelry can be.
It was in 1964 that I first incorporated rocks into my jewelry although they didn’t reappear in my work again until 1984. I began seriously collecting rocks along the edges of rivers in Colorado during adventures with my family. I have always found them to be a challenging material to work with; one cannot erase mistakes left by the mark of the maker. Another intriguing aspect is their similarity to diamonds in that no two are exactly alike. By grinding away certain areas of the rock’s surface I expose the beauty hidden below its skin. By further grinding and notching the surface I change the exterior of the form. In a number of the pieces I set the rocks as a traditional jeweler would set a gemstone. In other pieces the entire rock is used and carved into a ring with diamonds embedded into its surface. In these rings a thin band of gold lines the interior where the wearer’s finger penetrates the opening. While most jewelers set stones in metal I set metal in stones. I respect nature and merely join to nature my personal touch while also challenging common notions of value, preciousness and jewelry.
Cement is another material I often use in my jewelry. I am interested in this material as a medium for jewelry because of its association with industrial processes and architectural structures and because it is not a material normally used in creating jewelry. I am intrigued by the notion of taking a material used to build massive and powerful architectural structures and breaking it down into a delicate sensuous piece of intimate jewelry. The concrete is cast into sculptural ring forms with precious stones such as diamonds and pearls embedded directly into the concrete. In other rings the concrete is set in a place where a precious stone would normally be set. The cement becomes the stone and the setting where diamonds and pearls are caught. Sought after objects such as recycled engagement rings, wood, steel, plastic and glass are set directly into the concrete. These dissimilar materials collide, confusing the surface.
I’ve often been torn between loyalties to art and craft but have come to the conclusion that the distinction really does not matter and is no longer necessary. Just as one does not buy a painting because of the number of tubes of paint brushed on the canvas, jewelry is not merely the sum of its intrinsic materials. The design and idea embodied in a piece of jewelry captures the energy and makes the statement, not the costly materials it is made from. I enjoy the idea of combining disparate materials to assert that jewelry doesn’t have to be precious metal or gemstones and can survive outside the common perceptions of what properly constitutes jewelry.”
Find Jim Cotter's Resume here.
Photo by Brent Bingham for Vail Valley Magazine.