Journal » A Brooch of Then and Now

Arches Brooch. Polymer clay, ink toner. Jane Pellicciotto

A Brooch of Then and Now

You might have seen my black and white letterform collages on polymer clay using an image transfer technique. These abstract letterforms highlight not just the shapes of the letters but their negative spaces as well. What’s not there is often more interesting than what is there. When I was a graphic design instructor, I’d assign a project similar to these pieces to my typography students. It taught them to become intimate with the shapes of letters without the distraction of meaning.

So I was happy to come across a call for entry for an exhibition with typography as the subject matter. The only problem was that the deadline was right around the corner. There wasn’t much time to create entirely new pieces.

The In Roma brooch above, in addition to two other pieces, was accepted into “Ink & Clay 45: The Art of Type.” In it’s 45th year, this exhibition, at the Kellogg Gallery at CalPoly Pomona, features works in ink or clay, or a combination of the two.

S. Maria in Trasevere

Exhibition calls are a great impetus to stretch, to make something not on your to-do list. I’d always wanted to do something with my photos taken in Italy of ancient carved text. Sometimes these chunks of antiquity are preserved and embedded in walls, like this one on the left from Santa Maria in Trasevere in Rome.

When displayed this way, out of their original context, panels like this take on a contemporary graphic quality, without perhaps intending to. And because I don’t read Latin, I can appreciate the arrangements and shapes of letters and other graphic elements such as the bird as purely formal elements.

In many places in Italy, especially in Rome, there’s a fantastic mashup of modern and ancient. A crumbling frescoed wall is juxtaposed with a plate glass entry to a chic cafe. Women teeter in shiny red pumps across cobbled streets. A bright orange wall sports a broken chunk of the past next to a perfect oval window.


Orange wall in ItalyI thought about these contrasts and contradictions as I planned the brooch. Clean, modern forms inspired by the many arches, vaulted ceilings and stained-glass windows in churches would be the backdrop to ancient carved text.

The color palette is meant to be contemporary, but is also a nod to the warm-hued stucco walls found all over Italy.

As I rushed to finish the brooch in one sitting, I made a few mistakes but it would have to do.

I was happy to discover that they’ve never included jewelry in the exhibition, until now. The exhibition is online for 2021-22 but will be an in-person exhibition in fall of 2022. You can view the selected works here. There is also a virtual walkthrough exhibition that requires a download (and compatible system software) but it does show the scale of works.

I hope you’ll poke around. I’m flattered to be in such talented company.


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