2020 Online Salon

What the Sun Will Bring

  • ​Artist: Jennifer Fairman
  • jenijewelry.com
  • Medium: Sterling silver, nugold, yellow brass, nickel silver, enameled copper, blue stained glass cabochons, antique watch crystals (France, Japan), cyanotypes on cotton, archival adhesive


This piece was created for the 2020 Halstead Challenge, an annual competition that begins with a prompt and a supply kit with which jewelry artists create their interpretation thereof.   This year’s theme was “connection,” a prompt I centered around connecting science and art. We metalsmiths use science to create art all of time by combining alchemy, metallurgy, chemistry, physics, formulas, geometry, oxidation, electroforming, reactions and so on.

Two artists influenced my design: The first is Karl Blossfeldt (1865–1932) who was a German photographer, sculptor, teacher, and artist who worked in Berlin. He became known for his close-up photographs of plants and living things, which were published in 1929 as Urformen der Kunst (translated as Art Forms in Plants). He was inspired, much like I am, by nature and the ways in which plants grow. He believed that, “the plant must be valued as a totally artistic and architectural structure.” The second figure of influence is Anna Atkins (1799–1871). She was an English botanist and photographer often considered the first person to publish a book illustrated with photographic images; she was perhaps first woman to create a photograph. In 1843, she self-published a book called Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. Using the sun’s rays, she vividly captured various species of algae using a photographic process called the cyanotype. These plant forms dance across the pages in a ghost-like white on an ocean of blue paper. The cyanotype captures a beautiful silhouette of something from nature, and that the sun becomes the artist, capturing images using a chemical reaction, recording beauty that becomes a permanent record of what once was fresh and alive.

This work of art was all a science experiment. I had sketched an idea, but that idea evolved as I tinkered at my bench. I found myself “testing” techniques I had learned and pushing them in new directions. The more questions I had, I tested, and learned as my piece evolved. I imagine Blossfeldt and Atkins might have felt the same way about their work.