Jewellery made of plastic, paper, recycled material, hair... are no longer in the realm of imagination. Abhushan – World Crafts Council's international jewellery summit to be held in New Delhi in February – celebrates contemporary jewellery at its best.

Some have the poetry of Kalidasa's “brilliant piece of paradise”, others a “Rubenesque glow, fire bird darting, brilliant” and yet others seem part of modern art, spanning the abstract and the narrative, melding ancient skills like granulation and enamelling with the latest computer techniques.

This is contemporary, cutting-edge jewellery at its best. And in crafting the story of each piece, artisans drawn from all over the world, explore gold, silver and precious stones and, equally, “the splendour in the grass and the glory in the mud”, the shine of discarded aluminium tin cans and shards of broken glass, the iridescence of shell, of beads bone and seeds, throwaway plastic, stones and pebbles, paper cloth, thread and anything recyclable.

Passion and poetry

Out of all this comes the poetry and passion of contemporary creativity for “Abhushan: Design Dialogues in Jewellery”. The abhushan could be a wondrous paper neckpiece, a delicately crafted lace necklace draped casually over shoulder and neck, earrings of pebbles and silver or a ravishing necklace starring painted bottle caps

Welcome to “Seed to Silver”, a curated exhibition of contemporary jewellery masterpieces, easily the “jewel in the crown of Abhushan: Design Dialogues in Jewellery organised by the World Crafts Council that will go on view in New Delhi in early February. Each of WCC's five regions will participate in the exhibition, curated by world renowned curators like Ursula Neuman for North America, Alberto De Betaloza for Latin America, Martina Dempf for Europe, Dr. Kevin Murray for the Asia Pacific region and Paola Manfredi for Africa. The Delhi Crafts Council has curated the exhibits for India.

With 30-40 pieces per region “Seed to Silver” is easily the biggest contemporary jewellery masterpiece exhibition in history with “an extraordinary approach”, as Paola Manfredi puts it. “So many traditions will come together, a mega learning experience that I feel privileged to be a part of …..”

“Seed to Silver” is about Abhushan or body ornaments, “some more metaphoric than others” as curator Ursula Neuman puts it; each layered with cultural contexts and abstractions, combining local colour with contemporary design insights, connecting with the past through inherited traditions and looking to the future through the prism of modern technology. The collective creative oeuvre of brooches, pendants, rings, tiaras, necklaces, draped stoles, hair ornaments, earrings and more reflect today's jewellery artisans' perspective and philosophy, as well as their sensitivity to the environment.

A visual collage of the exhibits creates a “movable feast”. From Africa come Ghana's necklaces of glass beads, Tuareg jewellery mixing silver, onyx and ebony, Namibia's beads with ostrich shells, Egypt's semi-precious jewellery inspired by Islamic aesthetics as well as those made of seeds and fibre.

Contemporary concepts

The North American and European exhibits are about cutting edge contemporary concepts and art forms. Among them, a crushed aluminium can brooch, a lace halo necklace, a remarkable series of red paper necklaces, incredible thread work necklaces, new age pendant starring precious stones or the poetry of gold-plated copper configurations. Look out for neckpieces made of used insulin syringes, steel wire, bone beads, mica, plywood….

Jewellery from the Asia Pacific region often combines the delicate sensibility of Chinese calligraphy with today's in trend formats. And so, stole necklaces in lace or ebony, filigree like silver motifs, coloured beads, combination of pearl and gold and much more.

The Latin American exhibits combine more classical motifs and fretwork with beads, threadwork and silver. Lovely abstract formations of jewellery emerge from pebbles and silver earrings to combinations of horse hair, precious metals and gems, necklaces embossed, engraved and embroidered, even bevelled silver teamed with espondylus shells and captivating hair ornaments with shells.

And finally there is the music of India's ‘angaprasanga' emphasising the cultural context of each ‘abhusan' for each part of the human body. The focus will be on folk and tribal jewellery. A whole civilisational ethos will be contained in nose rings, hair ornaments, anklets and so much more.

The ‘Abhushan' jewellery summit will also feature a “Rural to Urban Jewellery Craft Bazaar” where Indian and international jewellery designers will sell innovative jewellery created out of materials as diverse as fibre, metal, thread, terracotta, wood and recycled material. Please don't steal away my heart” is the title of a dramatic black and white creation from Europe. At least one can steal away memories of a Hemingwayesque ‘movable feast' of wondrous abhushan or body ornaments spanning much of the world.

“Seed to Silver” and the “Rural to Urban Jewellery” exhibitions are open to public viewing at Hotel Ashok, New Delhi, from February 4-6.

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