Monday, March 15, 2010


Today we take a trip to New Zealand and stroll along the picturesque grounds of the Wellington Botanic Garden.

It is a beautiful area with winding hills, an expansive rose garden, and a large Victorian-style glass house. New Zealand is also home to featured jewelry designer Ruth Baird.

There is no denying that natural surroundings, particularly flora, provide us with a great source of tranquility. Our attraction to flora's minute details like leaves, for instance, is of particular interest.

Aside from their various medicinal purposes, leaves have become powerful emblems representing such countries as Ireland and Canada. Leaves from different types of trees respectively symbolize the bond of friendship, healing, and faith.

Baird's love for the indigenous plant-life of New Zealand is represented in her colorful assemblage of leaf-inspired jewelry based on the Pohutukawa, Mapau, and Kawakawa leaves.

Like fellow New Zealand designers Tania Patterson and Lynn Kelly, Baird's leaf items, in some instances, are vivid replications fashioned from anodized titanium.

These pieces capture the leaves' precise form and idiosyncrasies with shadings of deep gold, yellow-green, and deep blue. These organic, life-like structures are clean, elegant simulations.

In other instances, Baird creates diamond-shaped pendant necklaces by carving out a specific leaf shape in plain titanium with a colored piece of niobium metal peeking through the cutout detail.

Baird then suspends the pendants from finely looped stitches of gorgeous, thin silver wires evoking the image of a shiny single leaf caressed by a glossy, silver web.

The shimmering threads of silver do not end here; the self-taught designer devotes a separate collection to more exquisite items of crocheted silver wire.

Reminiscent of work by Haruko Sugawara (Japan) and Natalia Khon (Russia), Baird's pendant necklaces and cuff bangles are simply a marvel of form and technique with accents of tourmaline beads, pebbles, pearls, or a single piece of abalone.

"I had a craft background as a child and did a lot of knitting, sewing, crocheting, and embroidery," says Baird. "Although I have no formal training in art or design, I enjoyed looking at the jewelry I saw in museums. I loved seeing the artifacts from the time of King Tut, and the sinuous details of Art Nouveau jewelry by Lalique," she explains.

"I prefer simple techniques and using my hands rather than machines. Knitting, crocheting, twining, and weaving form a large part of my work.

I try to make my jewelry wearer friendly and comfortable and reflect shapes and textures in nature."
Photo 1 (top right): Silver Crochet Cuff Bangles with Pearls and Gold-Plated Edges
Photo 2 (bottom left): Silver Crochet Pendant Necklace with Abalone Stone
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