Material Matters: In the Studio with Luci Jockel
Today we’re excited to launch the first of our very own Future Heirloom columns: Material Matters, featuring a behind-the-scenes look into some of our favorite contemporary art jeweler’s studios and interviews about their process. We thought the perfect artist to kick off Material Matters was Luci Jockel, a Baltimore-based contemporary jeweler exploring heirloom, memory, and the natural world through her practice. Before we dive into our conversation with Luci, get to know her a bit more below:
Luci Jockel is an artist located in Baltimore, MD and holds the position as Metalsmithing and Jewelry Lecturer/Coordinator at Towson University. Luci received her MFA from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2016. She has been honored with the 2019 American Craft Council Emerging Voices Award. Her work is in the collections of RISD Museum, ArtYard and Galerie Marzee. She has curated exhibitions including All Decked Out at Towson University, and In-School Suspension with JV Collective. Luci is a member of JV Collective and is represented by Gallery Loupe.
Future Heirloom: Concepts of history, memory, memento mori, and heirloom feel like common threads in your work over the years. Have you always been interested in the history and “memory” of material?
Where did your interest in material arise from for you?
Luci Jockel: Having parents that are antique dealers has had a deep impact on my interest in the memory held within materials and objects. They were and are always on the hunt for treasures, the value of which is determined by its own system.
As kids, they would take my siblings and I to auctions and antique shows that to a kid were places of accumulated, stinky, old junk. Little did I realize how much value these objects held beyond monetary, or that my parents’ passion for junk was being instilled in me- they were giving us “the bug”, as they call it. With each object that my parents bought or sold– a chair, quilt, painting, ring, for instance, there was a story of its origins and past life to be told.
Conversing with customers at antique shows was less transactional and more like sitting by a bonfire with friends sharing lore. There is power and value in an object that retains a story, even if sometimes it’s fabricated.
FH: What guides your material interests in your work? How have you selected the materials you’ve worked with?
LJ: I lean in towards objects and materials that speak quietly of fragility, requiring a soft, empathic touch. Perhaps my mother’s passion and artistic career in textiles influenced that gentle quality.
I also choose materials that gain different meaning in relation to another material or within the context of jewelry. For example, the glisten of honey bee wings catch your eye as if they were gold- holding the same preciousness.
Ultimately, I choose what makes me pause and wish for others to take a moment with as well.
FH: Your use of material in your work is always so intricate and thoughtful. Can you speak a bit about your process?
Is your process carefully planned, more improvisational,
or somewhere in between?
LJ: Thank you, that’s so kind! Much of my work is both planned and improvised. When making a piece that has pattern or when carving stone and there is no room for error, it is planned. Depending on the type of stone or material used to make a pattern, however, will determine how I continue to approach that material. It’s a material’s qualities and its past life that guide how to engage and transform.
For instance, I had originally planned to press bee wings into sheet to create a new material, using mixtures of beeswax, glue or honey as binders, which all ended in a complete mess. This then led me to try a more intentional, careful approach to enhance the quality of the wings. I began with small studies of using archival glue and bee wings to create lace.
Being open to failure and to change a design while in the process of making is important.
My latest bee wing piece and largest one to date, Bee Wing Lace Neckpiece, began as a planned design, stemming from these experiments, but morphed as I continued to expand the scale and wore on the body. There’s an adaptability that I’m constantly learning to embrace when working with found materials.
FH: What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?
LJ: Lately, I’ve been starting with small exercises like quick drawings with pen, colored pencil, and highlighters, that have zero pressure or expectation attached. They are in no way connected to any project I have in the works. It’s so freeing and inspires the energy needed for other projects.
After the exercises, I move on to problem solving a new piece I’ve started until I’m able to find that delicious meditative, repetitive state of working, put on a podcast and dive in! Afterwards I take a break to do a little yoga or, more likely, relax in front of the windows of my Baltimore apartment- the views of the sky are insane and truly decompressing.
If I’m still feeling fresh later in the day, I’ll play with material combinations or even just browse through my collection. I love rediscovering materials whether it’s through pairings or even a shift in light. Many times, I hesitate to intervene with the materials I’ve collected– they are complete as they are.
FH: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
LJ: Everywhere! As of the past few weeks:
Historic jewelry: Roman micro mosaic jewelry, morpho jewelry; exhibitions: Life of a Neuron at Artechouse; books: Wild Souls by Emma Marris, Braided Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer; artists: my sister- Emily Jockel, my students, Julia Künnap, Nils Udo, Helen Britton’s milk plastic series, and JV Collective!
FH: What are you currently working on? Do you have any projects in the works that you’re particularly excited about?
LJ: There are so many things on the roster right now, and I’m so excited for them all. In preparation for NYCJW, my sister, a ceramist, and I are collaborating on a few pieces for our exhibition, Sisterhood: Bodies in Proximity, that are outside of the bounds we typically work within, like adding color, and considering the interplay and crossover of our mediums.
I recently went on a cross-country trip to Oregon with photographer, Lavala Harris, and we’re preparing a few additional projects based on that trip.
I’m working on a piece for the Baltimore Jewelry Center’s (BJC) Community Challenge, inspired by an archer’s ring within the Walter’s Art Museum collection, using the technique of gold kundan- but with honey bee wings.
BJC, Montgomery College and Towson University are working on a collaborative student/artist show together for Spring 2022.
Lastly, I’ll be preparing for a solo exhibition at Gallery Loupe in the near future!
FH: What does The Power of Jewelry mean to you?
LJ: The Power of Jewelry comes from the memory it carries. It holds the memory not only of its past lives, but of the maker’s energy and care, of the wearer who finds new meaning, and of their kin who inherit the heirloom. Jewelry is a chain linking together generations, continuously given new life.
FH: Anything else you’d like to share?
LJ: Please join my sister, Emily Jockel, and I during NYCJW from November 15-21 at The Jewelry Library, for our exhibition, Sisterhood: Bodies in Proximity!
Our sincere thanks to Luci for giving us a glimpse into her studio and process. Text and images courtesy of Luci Jockel; headshot photograph by Lavala Harris. Interview conducted, edited, and compiled by Future Heirloom Editor Jackie Andrews.