op·u·lent adj: 1. characterized by an obvious or lavish display of wealth or affluence 2. in richly abundant supply
The Opulent Project is a Portland-based designer/maker collaborative founded by Meg Drinkwater and Erin Gardner a handful of years ago. Drinkwater and Gardner make “jewelry about jewelry” — and they’re of particular interest to us in this moment not only because their work is stunning, inspiring all sort of covetous, curious thoughts — but also because their 3D Ring has us thinking about the metaphor of 3D printing in the era of DIY, “makers” and the conflation of art and fashion. Culled from Google Image Commons, the ring is a stack of digital images never intended to see the light of day IRL. Having broken this unspoken contract, they’ve made something beautiful, thoughtful and slightly dangerous.
“We like to make objects. We are curious about the relationship our society has to its objects. We ponder infatuations. We are interested the nature of possessions. With that, we become a factory.”
The term ekphrasis refers to the act of “making art about art” — it comes to mind when you mention making “jewelry about jewelry” in that both practices invoke translation, cynicism, celebration and a sort of intentional nonsense-making, calling into question the social, aesthetic and material scaffolding around “real,” “fake” and “meaningful.” How cerebral do you get in your process — does it touch on these points or is more about play? Or both?
This is a great question and I think it considers our process and approach very well. Our process is absolutely rooted in a cerebral investigation of a subject matter, however the outcome, or the product, is very much about play. We try not to take ourselves too seriously. But the viewer/wearer response can be varied in relation to this question. We recently had a bit of a debate with our gallerist in New Jersey about this exact subject. She was wondering if people were ever insulted by some of our projects. Where I had thought we were blending all of the above: translation, cynicism, celebration and intentional nonsense making, she seemed to think some of our work could be more on the cynical side. She thought some of our projects could be seen as a bit more of a sarcastic representation of jewelry than a celebratory one, as though we were saying, “Oh you want a fancy ring; I’ll give you a fancy ring.” We can be pretty cynical and we are of course critical of the established system of value related to commercial jewelry and luxury objects, but we regard this culture with fascination, not necessarily disgust. Our work is not angry, but curious… We are asking questions, not making statements.