Jess Starkel


I 3D printed objects with the intention of evoking a visceral reaction from the viewer. The forms suggest the body in a non-direct manner. They reference both the body and bodily interactions. A level of both apprehension and attraction take place for the wearer. My interest in evoking the body has been a long, ongoing theme in my jewelry. For this series, I wanted to see if I could create objects on a computer that go beyond static, cold things. Many artists, who render objects on a computer, display their work digitally, as a suggestion of what jewelry could be. The notion of multiples has always opened a debate about preciousness. Is the jewelry less important because it can be printed an indefinite number of times? When the object is printed and cleaned, does it have less value because it wasn’t made by hand? These questions are at the heart of my artistic investigation, and are always playing out in the back of my mind.
I responded to these objects in the same way I might respond to a found object. The alterations I made were formal responses to the forms. I focused on color and texture, for example, as an academic exercise. That is to say, I assigned myself the task of modifying the printed pieces to enhance them, while keeping the original, printed surface evident. My intention was not to obliterate the printed plastic, as it remains present in each piece. The 3D printed pendants are an amalgamation of forms I created digitally, and my response to those forms.

In this necklace series, I focused on the ornamental and decorative; words that are pejoratively feminine when used to describe a craftwork, and in particular, a work of jewelry. With these words in mind, I chose easily recognizable forms, like paisley and floral decoration. I then wrapped the decorative forms in a repetitive manner. The laborious act of wrapping fiber over and over is associated with domesticity, the decorative, and “women’s work”. I combined the forms and the wrapping to empower the material and bring legitimacy to craft.

In my recent series, I drew from a large variety of different collected samples and left over parts from previous jewelry series. While the inspiration for prior work was private and esoteric, these brooches are more whimsical, and use my immediate response to the materials already present in my studio. This divergence in practice unifies each piece. Bold textures and colors vie with one another to dominate the jewelry. Traditional materials, such as copper and enamel, are combined with less conventional ones, like rubber and plastic. Yet, each piece has been carefully considered and has it’s own unifying theme. I took seemingly disparate parts and contextualized them as new jewelry. It is in this way that the differences unite the work.

In this bracelet series, soft pliable silicone is combined with the rigid skeletal structure of formed metal. In some bracelets, silver rings are pierced through the rubber, in reference to contemporary popular body adornment. In others, the silicone is cast in sheets; then sutured together. The combination of materials makes the bracelets more resilient and functional. It also adds an element of uneasiness for the wearer, as the slightly tacky silicone skin gives and squirms against the silver framework.
I want the wearer’s need to interact with the translucent, gemlike quality of the rubber to overcome their apprehension of it. I want to engage the wearer in this contrast between repulsion and desire within the jewelry.

Jewelry, conventionally, is steeped in beauty and desire. I’m interested in the juxtaposition of jewelry as both beautiful and ugly. I want the viewer’s desire to investigate a piece to override their apprehension of that same piece. In particular, I’ve looked at what’s enticing and repelling about human skin.
Rubber is an apt material to be manipulated by the body. Its translucency lends itself to layering. In part, this quality references skin. I use the addition of color to suggest gems traditionally used in jewelry pieces, and further, embed actual gemstones in the rubber. Questions arise of what is precious and beautiful.
The bracelets and rings are formed from castings of my hands and wrists. They are, naturally, made to fit me. Yet, the elasticity of the material allows them to be worn by someone other than myself. That person is then, in effect, wearing an imprint of my skin. The wearer becomes sensitive to the jewelry piece in relation to their own body.
I’m concerned with the notions surrounding the physicality of a piece of jewelry. The pieces I’ve created bring up uncomfortable associations with the body while referencing the beautiful and decorative aspect of adornment. I created this work in an attempt to engage the viewer in a seduction and subversion of jewelry.


Download Resume


Lincoln, NE